During the shoot of Monarch (7th to 25th October 1996) my small cast and modest crew would receive daily film stock supplies directly from Kodak HQ in Hemel Hempstead. A refrigerated van would arrive to bring us our daily ration of 35mm camera negative (Kodak stock no: 5287). One other production was receiving a daily delivery from the same driver, for Stanley Kubrick's final film, the epic eighteen month shoot, Eyes Wide Shut. When we received Mr Kubrick’s invoice after a clerical error, I was shocked and amazed at the amount of the invoice. More than the total cost of my shooting budget.
Now nearly twenty years after I made this film Monarch it is to receive a full High Definition restoration. But this was not simply a case of running the film through a telecine machine. The original camera negative was in a film vault and this took some finding. When we located the project we found more than we bargained for with over fifty two cans of various footage, from film trims, cutting copies and work prints. We didn’t know if the original camera negative would be amongst all of this haul. After a close examination I was delighted to find all of the original camera negative was there and is good shape for its age. The negative was cut onto A & B rolls which meant the film was not truly together as one cut of continuous action, but we had what we need to put the film together.
During the film's extensive cleaning and restoration process at Premier Film Restoration. Every frame of film was scanned in high definition and had over ten thousand particles removed by hand. Along with this a new 5.1 sound mix was created from the original elements. The film is now looking and sounding clearer and sharper than ever before.
The process of storing and preserving original materials is one that the film and TV industry is famously inept at. During this process I was surprised to find that many of the twentieth century's major film titles have lost their original elements and the restoration process starts with old battered projection prints that may have been around many cinemas. Often the original camera negatives have been lost, junked or is one famous case for the Oscar-winning Cabaret, burnt!
Some films, like Monarch are still out there to be found. Perhaps they have been mislabelled or are in a vast vault that has not been checked for years. Either way the HD processing of my film will “future-protect” it and will give a today’s audiences the chance to see the wonderful performance of Jean Marsh and the towering presence of TP McKenna, regarded as one of the great of his generation and rightly so in one of his most outstanding performances.
Time is against the restoration teams as many films are fading and decaying in poor storage conditions. Some films are considered to be lost for all time. From Alfred Hitchcock films to TV episodes of Doctor Who and Tony Hancock. The Holy Grail of lost films for collectors is London After Midnight. The 1927 silent horror- mystery film starring Lon Chaney and produced by MGM has not been seen for almost fifty years. With HD remastering of classic films a money spinner for film and TV companies alike, the race is on to uncover hidden gems before they are lost forever.
John Walsh, January 2014