Rear Window (1954)

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A full-scale restoration of the film started in 1997, the third Universal Pictures restoration by the team Robert Harris and James Katz.

Rear Window has never looked as good as it could have, according to Harris, even during its initial release in 1954. That’s because the first dye-transfer prints weren’t made until the 1962 reissue, when they were badly timed and came out beige. “So this will be the first time we see the film’s full-color spectrum,” he says. But first the restorers must clean up an extremely dirty negative, abused from the very beginning. “It’s a mess,” Harris says. “There were 400 runs off the camera negative before the end of 1954. We don’t know why they didn’t do it dye-transfer, which would have saved printing off the negative. This was reasonably unusual for the period. And we’re missing 1,000 feet of negative.”

Besides the accumulation of dirt, pieces of the original Eastman color negative that were dupes (titles and optical effects) have faded in the yellow layer of emulsion due to aging and improper storage — a malady that sooner or later strikes all color negatives from the early ’50s through the ’80s, when a more stable stock was introduced. This first- layer deterioration includes loss of contrast, blacks and shadows going blue and facial highlights turning, in the words of the restorers, “a lovely shade of crustacean.”

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