Sunday, 19 September 2021

On Blu-ray - David Hare slavers at the prospect of the forthcoming JET PILOT (Josef von Sternberg, USA, 1950/1957)

The images are from Sternberg's Jet Pilot made in 1950 but not released by Howard Hughes until 1957 by which time he'd added over ten minutes of meaningless aerial shots with abstractedly de-synchronous dialogue and wacky sound effects (including wolf whistles) to simulate the jets fucking in mid-air. Kubrick would go on to pinch the idea for Dr. Strangelove of course.  


The shots above are from the 1995 Universal Laser disc which was taken from an open matte 1.37 full aperture master. Which is of course how Jo and the great Winton Hoch shot it. The three below are from (more or less) the same shots in the 1.85 masked version which is how Hughes released it in 1957 and how it was released a few years ago on German Blu-ray by Explosive Media.

In every instance the open matte is essential to see what and how the film was composed. To my endless relief Frank Tarzi at Kino Lorber has listened and is finally releasing the title in November, in both open matte and 1.85 widescreen formats. The 1.85 version DOES have limited legitimacy if only for the fact this was how it was originally screened theatrically. The laser obviously came from a non-matted source/print/master. 


What I was concerned about was that in all these years Universal

had not kept a 1.37 master. Evidently they have. 

One just hopes they haven't just done a 1.37 "cut down" of the 1.85!!!!


The film itself is perhaps a prime example of Cold War Camp out of the Hughes rabid anti-Commie factory, and while it might not have the narrative dynamism of, say, Robert Stevenson's superb I Married a Communist for the FBI/Woman on Pier 13 from 1953, it remains, still, a Sternberg picture with endless felicities, not least the sometimes mind-boggling three strip Technicolor composition and palette which is given the full Jo key light and hand cut filters over the kliegs treatment. The combination of John Wayne with Janet Leigh is in itself remarkable and extremely watchable.


The Kino Lorber disc will be released in mid-November. 


A more than small joy for the demented amongst us.

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