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Author Topic: Watching Digests Without Watching the Feature First?
Steve Klare
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From: Long Island, NY, USA
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 - posted June 27, 2016 03:35 PM      Profile for Steve Klare   Email Steve Klare   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
-as I said on "What did you watch last night", I have this 800 Foot compilation of the songs from Singing In The Rain I bought at CineSea the last time. This is of course a major classic among film musicals: every time there is some compilation of classic films you simply can't avoid seeing Gene Kelly soaking wet swinging that umbrella on that famous cobblestone street.

I've watched it a couple of times, and I really enjoy it, but in my disturbingly lengthening life I have never, ever seen the whole film! (I intend to fix this soon...)

Digests and extracts are a staple of 8mm film: you'd really be hard-pressed to avoid them if you decided to! They have a place in many shows: just a sample of what the feature is like, kind of like those little glasses at a beer tasting!

Because they are so widespread, it's basically inevitable we will see some of them many, many times before we see the feature, assuming we ever do!

What are your experiences with digests, extracts and full features? Did seeing one of these shorts first change how you watched the feature? Did seeing the feature change how you enjoyed the digest? (Did it ever ruin the digest for you?)

Years ago I got the Walton/Derann extract "Wildlife Interlude" which is nature scenes culled from "When the North Wind Blows". There is basically none of the feature's story left here, so when I found it feature length on five reels about a year later, the scenes in the extract became kind of an echo of the story that was missing. I also notice where they moved in sequences to blot out the actors. (No humans were shown in the production of this movie...)

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All I ask is a wide screen and a projector to light her by...

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Tom Photiou
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 - posted June 27, 2016 04:32 PM      Profile for Tom Photiou   Email Tom Photiou   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Well Steve, they certainly hold a place in our household, in our early days of collecting the digest was the norm, you could hire feature films,(we never hired a cine film all our lives), or if you were very well off there was a handful of features you could buy.
I have several types of film showings, basically they are all what i want to see, ive eraned them so i show all sorts and not in any particular order,The thing with digests is that you can watch many films inside a few days, and for the ones which are edited properly you do feel as though you have seen the whole film. Quite often a good 400 foot digest will be a support to a long evening ending with a full length feature, it will begin with a trailer, an advert reel, or maybe a cartoon, then a supporting film which may be a newsreel or a 200 or 400ft digest, then a full feature. Quite often it will be a 200, followed by a 400, then a 600 and end with 3 x 400 abridged feature.
The point is the digests are great, a whole evening of universal classic horrors, westerns, war or adventure/action, they allow you to get so much in during one evening. I for one love them, of course we do have many full lengths, but as has been said before, the likes of GWTW or T2 romancing the stone etc can only be viewed now and then, i know some people will watch there favourite reel of a feature but then isn't that the same as watching a digest? We did go through a period of buying only full features for a while but i kept looking at the lists and just had to get some of those well edited 400 or 600 footers. Recently we have added the 400s of Boys from Brazil, The Medusa touch, porridge,Saturn 3 and Dirty Mary Crazy Larry, all with good colour, all from ebay and each one a good price, not some of the ridiculous prices being asked on here and other places of late, and all very well edited, and easy to view all these films in one evening. [Wink]
The two digests we bought that did prompt us to get the features were Dark Star, (a well edited 2 x 400) and the Derann 400ft digest of Texas Chainsaw, this particular digest was very inadequate and not a good digest in my view, i never saw the iver 400 version but i understand it was much better, it did show all five killings where as Deranns cut out the first and best two. We opted straight for the 4 x 400. [Wink]

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Daniel Macarone
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From: Summit NJ, USA
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 - posted June 27, 2016 05:19 PM      Profile for Daniel Macarone   Author's Homepage   Email Daniel Macarone   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I'm afraid I just can't get into the digests. They feel so rushed to me, especially if I've seen the entire feature before. I save up my money to buy the full-length features because I'd rather have only a handful of those than a lot of digests. I guess I'm not old enough to appreciate the tradition or nostalgia of those old 400' or 800' condensed versions. However, what I can enjoy is a 200' that is one entire scene intact, such as "The Dapper Dalmatian" from 101 Dalmatians because it is like a great short in itself.

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Jason Smith
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 - posted June 27, 2016 06:04 PM      Profile for Jason Smith     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I really enjoy watching digests. Being a little bit younger, there"s a lot of movies available in the digest format that I"ve never seen. My time is quite limited but being able to get a little "nugget" of entertainment from a film is great. If I enjoy the digest, I can always go back and watch the full feature.

I think of digest/features being similar to a movie based on a book/book. The book is usually going to be better than the movie.

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Steve Klare
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 - posted June 27, 2016 06:57 PM      Profile for Steve Klare   Email Steve Klare   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
My preference between the two kinds has always been extracts: one complete segment without a lot of loose threads dangling. For example, I'm a big fan of Derann's Fantasia extracts. When I see the feature in this case I enjoy the sections I have on film even more.

Making a digest is a work of art in of itself, kind of like plastic surgery! You need to know where to cut and exactly how much, or risk having a film that makes no sense (-or a patient with only one nostril!)

For me the best part of digest film is hanging out among connoisseurs of it. They are like wine or food fans: they know the bad ones and the good ones and the differences between them. You mention a title to 'em and they talk about the studios that did their digests and why one is better than the other. There aren't arguments about it: this is a matter of taste and you get either nods of agreement or maybe an informed rebuttal.

(Here's to dinner talk at film conventions!)

-You imagine 'em at home: watching a few and breaking for cognac and cigars!

"-Superb!"

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Graham Ritchie
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 - posted June 28, 2016 02:43 AM      Profile for Graham Ritchie   Email Graham Ritchie   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
In many ways a mix of Digests, say on a 1200 reel done right are more fun to watch than a single feature.

Longer digests 3/400, like 'Where Eagle Dare" "War Of The Worlds" and especially "Airplane" the editing is really well done [Cool]

This cover says it all [Smile]
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Gary Crawford
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 - posted June 28, 2016 06:34 AM      Profile for Gary Crawford   Email Gary Crawford   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
As a child growing up in the 50's, we only had three tv stations...so seeing a lot of classic films, especially Universal horror films, was almost impossible. One local station began carrying the Shock series in 57 and 58, but it came on after 10pm...past this 8 and 9 year old's bedtime. So when my parents gave me for my birthday a Brumberger hand cranked projector for my birthday, my second film was the Castle Headline edition of Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. Three minutes of bliss (or longer if I cranked slowly). I didn't see the feature until three years later. The same with Bride of Frankenstein. I only had the "complete" silent version of that film . Both were well done...and left me satisfied, but with a whetted appetite to see the features. Those Castle films were my entrance to the wonderful world of film.

Today I look at the digests with more of a critic's eye. How well does the digest "satisfy"? Did the editor actually like and respect the feature and treat it with respect? How did the editor rearrange scenes and even change dialog dubbing to fix any obvious missing plot lines? How good was the print quality?
I still have digests of features that I've never seen. Many are very very "satisfying" in all respects. Others obviously were slapped together without care. Digests are unique to old time film collectors...unlike most anything else in any hobbies that I know about. They are the Cliff Notes of movies.

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Tom Photiou
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 - posted June 28, 2016 06:58 AM      Profile for Tom Photiou   Email Tom Photiou   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Daniel, i can see exactly where your coming from there, if my first Digest was either the first Derann 400ft version of Texas Chainsaw or Columbia's Close encounters i would probably never buy another cut down again unless it was at least 3 x 400,(or 2 x 600). Many people speak highly of the Close encounters cut down but i for one thought it was abysmal, when you watched it up to where the mother ship arrives its quite acceptable but the whole ending for us was mared by those incredible shots of the mother ship rising over the mountain and the full shots as it begins to turn around, these were among the best hold breath images in the film, were not included. More than once the obvious cuts on the soundtrack made some of my audience to turn around to see if the projector had gone wrong. It was an awful cut.
However, we also have two odd reels of features, reel 6 of singing in the rain and reel 5 of Master & commander, both are great reels on there own,(especially M&C).
A trailer of the film snapped on at the start can help make it much ore complete. On the other hand marketing generally did an OK job with there 3 x 400 mini features on some superb titles but i have to say they also completely lashed many titles up, how the hell you can have 50 minutes to an hour to make a decent version and lash it up is beyond me, as Graham states, MGM did superb jobs on Mutiny on the Bounty and Where Eagles Dare,(among others), using fades and dissolves to help with the cuts. Its one of the very best on 8mm along with Deranns excellent The Wild Geese and 633 squadron in scope, probably better to watch than the feature.
It is of course down to peoples preference but generally a very well edited 400 ft digest,(preferably 600), can often be as satisfying as the feature and often better if it cuts a long padded out film into an action packed reel. 20th Century Fox's Alien 400 footer was another good example, but unfortunately they didn't follow through with a 200ft ending release, this was talked about but never came to fruition.
Mind you if it did it probably would have been a different quality to it, different frame line and mis matching sound like there Star Wars two parters & i for one just dont have the inclin or time to re-record the sound, you pay enough for them without doing all that, nor have i got the patience. If i buy a film with crappy sound it goes back.
One thing that did ruin many good titles was that columbia narrator, some wernt too bad and did generally help it, but many were simply embarrassing to watch, one that comes to mind was The guns of Navarone, a great film, poorly edited and the narrator was so very annoying and made the whole reel an embarrassment to a classic movie.
[Wink]

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Alan Rik
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 - posted June 28, 2016 07:34 AM      Profile for Alan Rik   Email Alan Rik   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
My first digest was "Phantasm". I watched it over and over as a teen. Why? Because of the nudity! [Smile] These days I never get digests unless its all that is available. I love the "Muppet Movie" digest but wish I had the feature! "Assault on Precinct 13" is a great digest too.
I think the one reason I shy away from digests is that I fear most of them are faded. Or the cuts are too abrupt. I thought the "Blues Brothers" cut down had too much left out. But then again with so many great scenes that would have been a tough edit for anyone! I would love to see a thread for best digests in terms of quality and content. I'm sure there must be one.

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Melvin England
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 - posted June 28, 2016 09:29 AM      Profile for Melvin England   Email Melvin England   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I think the question of watching either the digest or the feature can very much work both ways.

Films I have seen full length that are excellent but provided a less than impressive digest would include The Sound of Music. The 400' is lousy whereas the trailer is far more interesting.

Strangely enough, there are full length films I have seen that I promised never to waste my time getting on 8mm. However,the 2x 400' digests of each film did cross my path recently at a good price and so Mr.Hypocrite invested. GOOD DECISION! The films in question are "The Hindenburg" and "1941." Two films which,full length, just didn't work for me.Too long winded and,in the case of 1941 the humour was just too spread out. Cut them to 30 minutes and....hey!... a well paced thriller with the "we know what's going to happen" ending and a laugh a minute Spielberg.

Not sure if I have been prompted to see a full length film after seeing the digest. Maybe one that I have yet to see full length that completely satisfies as a 400' is "Two Minute Warning." - The sniper at the football stadium.So well edited it gives the feeling of completeness. Whereas the likes of "Sherlock Holmes Smarter Brother"..... 400'of pants. Ditched that one a while back and no desire to see it full length. However,several years ago at the Blackpool convention, the trailer to "Avatar" was shown on Super 8 at the time of its dvd release. I remember turning to my wife (yes folks!Some wives DO enjoy the 8mm experience)and saying "Won't waste my time watching that!" The look on her face told me everything.... she'd got it on dvd for me for Christmas.It WAS viewed and my opinion of the film did change dramatically.

As Steve pointed out, there is another way digests are used instead of being a truncated version of the full film..... and,when it comes to musicals, is to produce a "best of...." digest. Do away with the storyline,but just include the songs. The perfect example of this is given by Steve... "Singin' In The Rain." I have both reels of this "best of song and dance" digest and,unless the 8mm full length crossed my path for pennies,feel happy I've got everything I need with it.I would be interested to hear Steve's comments after he does eventually see the full movie.

I suppose we all ask ourselves what we want from our hobby? The cost of film has always been expensive, hence the very existence of digests instead of,in most cases, the equivalent full feature on 8mm. They were around at a time when a large chunk of the market consisted of us non earning younger teenagers wanting the thrill of seeing classic moments from our favourite films, projected on a 6 foot screen and, with domestic video and/or big screen television still a pipe dream, this was the way to do it.....but it cost.... and a 400' would be several weeks pocket money, or the main birthday/Christmas present. It would be shown to friends who had either seen the movie on its first run,re live the excitement in 16 minutes, tell their friends how good/bad the full film was, and they had the choice to catch it on its second run,which cinema's did in the 70's.

Nowadays, after being in employment for many years, the collection has grown. Yes, I do have several full length features for the projector, but still own a room full of 1,2 or 3x 400' digests which are viewed constantly.But these days, if I see an enjoyable 400'.....I get the dvd from ebay and see it. It does work the other way..... Seen films where I am still on the prowl for the digest. But if I say that the examples in question are "Alien" and "Raider's of the Lost Ark," you will understand why. They are still going for silly money.... but I'll be patient!

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Paul Adsett
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 - posted June 28, 2016 09:33 AM      Profile for Paul Adsett     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I really envy Steve for not having ever seen the whole of Singin' In The Rain, What a wonderful treat is in store for him.
Best digest I have ever seen is the 2 x 400ft version of The Sting. Great editing by U8, great print quality, and those vintage title cards and Scott Joplin score really add to the enjoyment and satisfaction of this superb digest.

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Melvin England
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 - posted June 28, 2016 10:09 AM      Profile for Melvin England   Email Melvin England   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Paul - I was going to use "The Sting" as one of my examples instead of "Two Minute Warning" but it is a 2x 400' digest,and needed a 1x 400' example.

But yes......agreed!

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Phil Slater
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 - posted June 28, 2016 11:52 AM      Profile for Phil Slater   Email Phil Slater   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
One of the best edited 400 foot digests in my opinion is the MGM release INTERNATIONAL VELVET. It seems to flow really well. It's also a film you can safely show to young and old without offending anyone. Unfortunately all the prints I've seen have faded colours but hey, you can't have everything.

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Andrew Woodcock
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 - posted June 28, 2016 11:59 AM      Profile for Andrew Woodcock         Edit/Delete Post 
UA Derann release of Carrie was an excellent cut down in the 2 x 400 department once placed in the correct order.
The story flows really well!

Other than that, I'm firmly in the Alan Rik camp and for his very same reasons although I did enjoy most when that was all that was available or all I could afford when I was a kid.

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Osi Osgood
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 - posted June 28, 2016 12:40 PM      Profile for Osi Osgood   Author's Homepage   Email Osi Osgood   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Hey, in some cases, the digests are better than the full feature, to be sure!

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"All these moments will be lost in time, just like ... tears, in the rain. "

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Luis Caramelo
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 - posted June 30, 2016 07:39 AM      Profile for Luis Caramelo   Email Luis Caramelo   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
hi!i do agree there,s a few good digests indeed well edited,but in my case i do prefer the full lenght,i enventualy collect a digest if there,s only available,i do got features witch i had the digests before in my opinion it,s not comparable.to the full leght even if it,s a slowly picture,the digest because of the running time tend to get the action packecd,but there,s a lot of details we lose with out see the feature,about singing in the rain,like others musical ones,to me only the full lenghts,they are sevel musical numbers they cut in the digests,we can find some complet,but even so it,s not the same,for ex:in my case when i bout the digest of sound of music several years ago,i could,t imagine than i had the chance to get the full lenght from derann(scope)and with all do respect,there,s no comparison
about one thing and another,i give you another one exemple:the adventures of robin hood and the digests of the same.
i would like to know if some fellas shared the taste of collectig features like me,and why?

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Steve Klare
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 - posted June 30, 2016 08:24 AM      Profile for Steve Klare   Email Steve Klare   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I really enjoy features, sometimes because of the reel changes, sometimes despite them! It's definitely more a hands-on way of watching a film, but then again there are times you'd really rather just watch the movie.

A dearly departed collector friend once told me sometimes he'd be watching a feature on TV and start to feel a strange restlessness. All of a sudden it dawned on him he also owned the movie feature length on Super-8 and on TV it was reaching a reel change!

One of the things I like about feature is it's a pretty respectable answer to the question: "What to watch?". If I do a reel per night with a short first, I'm good from Monday until Thursday, Maybe even Friday.

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All I ask is a wide screen and a projector to light her by...

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Andrew Woodcock
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 - posted June 30, 2016 09:27 AM      Profile for Andrew Woodcock         Edit/Delete Post 
Reel changes don't have to be tolerated if you don't like them or if you would rather see the film in one run.

I much prefer to screen a feature film in one run where ever time permits.
I find the story flows better this way.

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"C'mon Baggy..Get with the beat"

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Steve Klare
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 - posted June 30, 2016 09:36 AM      Profile for Steve Klare   Email Steve Klare   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
A feature in one sitting is more a weekend thing. It's also very hard this time of year when the sun sets so late.

-a reel at a time is like reading a book every night. You do a chapter, you savor it a little, and you do something else.

Film collecting is the reason my other hobbies have suffered: it's so much more rewarding to just watch a film and get the immediate burst of endorphins than invest the time actually building something and riding the wave of endorphins after weeks or even months!

-have to budget my time!

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All I ask is a wide screen and a projector to light her by...

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Osi Osgood
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 - posted June 30, 2016 11:26 AM      Profile for Osi Osgood   Author's Homepage   Email Osi Osgood   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
" A dearly departed collector friend once told me sometimes he'd be watching a feature on TV and start to feel a strange restlessness. All of a sudden it dawned on him he also owned the movie feature length on Super-8 and on TV it was reaching a reel change! "

I love that, Steve ... quite funny!

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"All these moments will be lost in time, just like ... tears, in the rain. "

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George Seaton
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 - posted June 30, 2016 11:34 AM      Profile for George Seaton   Email George Seaton   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I have only ever seen the Universal 8 400' digest of 'Dr Cyclops' and without having the full feature to compare it to it works just fine.

The 400' digest of 'Horror Express' works really well and despite having a very soft spot for the feature ('Monsters? We're British you know!' says the peerless Peter Cushing at one point) I really enjoy screening the 400' version.

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Andrew Woodcock
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 - posted June 30, 2016 11:57 AM      Profile for Andrew Woodcock         Edit/Delete Post 
What I can say, with almost no exceptions I can think of, is that the Marketing 3x 400ft prints had some of the worse editing techniques I've ever seen.
A real shame really as the titles they chose were great, but titles like the Godfather for example, well you would think there ought to be another few reels once it arrives at it's end. Most were extremely abrupt at the beginnings and endings and seldom did a print ever carry any of the original end credits.

Grease managed a little of the credits but I suspect only because a popular title track from the movie was there.

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Steve Klare
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 - posted June 30, 2016 11:57 AM      Profile for Steve Klare   Email Steve Klare   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
What about the case when you have both the digest and a feature?

The very first time I bought any kind of film at all from Derann it was their 400' Titfield Thunderbolt digest off the used list.

I was on a business trip in a hotel room up in Boston, at the end of what had to be a 16 hour day on an ailing laptop through dialup. (That I have this film today is kind of a miracle!)

It was only my second sound print ever. A week or so later I used it to show my parents Super-8 sound for the very first time. (Great memories!)

After that I wanted the full feature, but settled for the slightly abridged 4x400'. It was very much in demand and it disappeared as soon as they listed it a couple of times before I snagged one.

Thing is, now I very rarely watch the digest, and usually only for sentimental reasons at that. As a matter of fact it's last screening was the day Derann closed shop in 2011: kind of a salute.

[ June 30, 2016, 01:10 PM: Message edited by: Steve Klare ]

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All I ask is a wide screen and a projector to light her by...

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Graham Ritchie
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 - posted June 30, 2016 01:37 PM      Profile for Graham Ritchie   Email Graham Ritchie   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Andrew

Cant agree with you there ,Marketing 3/400 films like Airplane, War of The Worlds, When Worlds Collide, True Grit are very well edited, there nothing wrong with them.
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As for digests like Warner Bros "The Neverending Story" probably one of the most popular 600ft Scope reels around. Although in saying that, a longer version would have been great as well [Cool]
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Janice Glesser
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 - posted June 30, 2016 02:53 PM      Profile for Janice Glesser   Email Janice Glesser   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Steve...I'm not going to get into the pros and cons of digests...that's been well discussed in this thread. All I have to say is that you are really missing out if you don't watch the entire "Singin' in the Rain" movie. It's my favorite classic musical and so much fun to watch. The singing and dancing scenes of Gene Kelly and Donald O'Conner are beyond phenomenal...and the story-line and scene pacing is spot on. I hope you report back after you've watched the full-length feature [Smile]

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"I'm having a very good day!"
Richard Dreyfuss - Let It Ride (1989).

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