Restoration Case Study

Special thanks for their valuable contribution to this restoration project: Enno Patalas and Paolo Cherchi Usai
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Reconstruction

During the first half of the 1920s big films like The Loves of Pharaoh were presented to audiences in tinted colors, a scene-by-scene coloring method emphasizing the dramatic expression with a matching color tone. Due to this laborious coloring method a only small number of copies were made for projection in selected cities for a limited release. Only a few years after the premiere, the projection prints usually became very damaged through wear and tear and often they were disposed of. On top of that, with the onset of the sound era silent films were no longer deemed commercially viable. As such many films simply disappeared.

It was long assumed that Lubitsch’s Pharaoh suffered this very faith. The film was completely lost to audiences until in the 1970s Enno Patalas, then director of the Munich Filmmuseum, found a fragment of The Loves of Pharaoh in the Russian Gosfilmfond archive. Patalas could secure a low quality copy of the 1923 Russian release print and was able to show the incomplete film at the Munich Filmmuseum. In 1995 this fragment was even transmitted on the Swiss TV channel RSI accompanied by the original music score.

It wasn’t until the 2003 restoration by the Filmmuseum Munich in collaboration with the German Bundesarchiv Filmarchiv that efforts to find more material were initiated. The Russian nitrate prints were traded to Germany for original material of the film Battleship Potjemkin and rights were acquired to launch the restoration project.
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The Russian nitrate print of The Loves of Pharaoh was visibly incomplete with missing scenes and gaps in the storyline. The 60 minute fragment was not printable as it had suffered too extensive damage. But the quality of the images was striking and the tints were preserved in vivid colors. Experimental alterations to the scanner at ALPHA-OMEGA allowed for the damaged material to be scanned in 2K resolution, even with the use of a wetgate technology.
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With the help of production documentation such as set photos, the script and the music score by Eduard Künnecke an EDL (edit decision list) of the original German version could be compiled. The EDL served as a roadmap for the subsequent restoration efforts. More contextual material was available in the form of press articles from the time of the release in the USA and Germany, newspaper reviews, censorship notes with the complete text of the intertitles and drawing of the costume designs.

Intensified research yielded another copy of The Loves of Pharaoh – an Itlalian release print acquired with the Pallme collection by the George Eastman House in Rochester, USA. This material, four reels of a 1923 original nitrate positive print, came with Italian intertitles and exhibited a very different edit version – it seemed an entirely different film! And indeed the Italian copy completed the Russian print to a astonishing extent, adding approximately 30 minutes. The film now had a total length of approximately 100 minutes at a running speed of 20fps. The inclusion of the Italian fragment was critical to re-establish a comprehensible plot. The encounter between Ramphis and Theonis, for example, was entirely missing from the Russian version. Equally, each scene in which the Pharaoh was seen to be suffering or vulnerable was consistently removed, thus obscuring the underlying crucial theme of the Pharaoh’s love for Theonis. The ending of the film (Pharaoh’s death) could be completed by another find in France which also supplied a sample of the original titles. Small plot fragments are still missing from the final version. These were substituted with photos or explanatory titles.

Restoration

All material was scanned in 2K resolution with a wetgate C-Reality telecine scanner, mostly in frame-by-frame mode. A software, previously developed by ALPHA-OMEGA for the restoration of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, was applied for automatic and manual retouching of damaged image areas.
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The restoration was undertaken in black&white and color proofs were made based on all source material, for later colorization (digital tinting). The Russian print contained scenes and parts of scenes from three different copies. The final color and age analysis study and conclusion was supplied by the German Bundesarchiv Filmarchiv.

Comparison of tints found on Russian release print nitro_viragen.jpg

The tints were applied digitally with a software especially developed for this project – a groundbreaking process at the time. The restored material was printed back to film and the restored film had a limited release at various occasions, including the 2005 Pordenone Silent Film Festival

The short fragment found at the French archive in Bois d'Arcy contained the last minutes of the film with German intertitles which proved to be original. To generate the missing intertitles, the type font was chosen according to the eight surviving titles. For the home release version the full-screen intertitles were adapted in ten languages:: English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Chinese, Arabic, Thai and Japanese.
Original Titleoriginal_title.jpg
Reconstructed Titlenew_title.jpg
Since the newly recorded original music score by Eduard Künnecke was not satisfactory, no further distribution efforts were made until 2008, when Alpha-Omega acquired the rights for the film. In 2010 an agreement was reached between ALPHA-OMEGA and ZDF (German national TV) to adapt and record the original score to the film again, with changes in speed and intuition. The WDR Rundfunksorchester recorded the original score conducted by the renowned expert on musical accompaniment to silent film, Frank Strobel.



News
About the Film
Restoration Case Study
Music
DVD & BluRay