Whatever happened to glorious Technicolor?

A lot of my fave movies are sword and sandal movies from the 50s and 60s, which were often filmed in glorious technicolor to emphasize their superiority over dull old black and white television of the time.

To my naive eyes, these movies look GREAT. I love the eye popping, rich, intense color. I wonder why the fashion moved to duller, drabber colors. Am I the only one that still likes that stuff?

From wiki:

You’d be surprised; a lot of people consider that a flaw. It makes movies look “fake,” as if everything about movies isn’t fake. I try to judge each movie on what it is, rather than what it isn’t, and there are some real masterpieces of Technicolor. Check out Black Narcissus.

Also, the recent Thai movie Tears of the Black Tiger is kind of an homage to that style.

I’ve noticed that, with the advent of digital intermediates, and of digital HD cameras, some films are being over-saturated or using another unusual chromatic process, giving it a creamy and warm look. Overexposed pools of sunlight on faces, and unusually vivid (almost HDR-like) skies, that kind of thing.

It’s semi-distracting sometimes, when I notice it, but I must say I like it most of the time. There’s a new found freedom to experiment with visual appearances without needing an expensive complicated method to achieve it. I am sure the Technicolor look is easily replicable, if they wanted to try it.

Technicolor’s still around and being used, but it has beenb succeeded in most films by newer technologies:

. What you may be noticing is that people don’t work so hard to show off the colors available, When color was difficult to achieve well, filmmmakers went to extra effort to choose situations and subjects that heightened the color differences and contrasts and ashowed off the capability of the medium, hiring “color consultants” to make sure everything was properly rendered. Look at the scene in Muchkinland right after Dorothy lands in Oz, and you’ll have an idea of what this means – look at al the bright yellows and reds and blues and greens, right next to each other. especially after the sepia-toned opening, this looked REALLY impressive. Especially when most pictures were black and white. The Bal Masque sequence in the 1925 Phantom of the Opera is another example – the picture really comes to life during those colorful scenes (even though it’s not full modern Technicolor that doesn’t do blues and yellows well). They followed it with a scene using a different procews in which only the Phantom’s wind-blown cape was rendered in startling red (something I didn’t realize until I got a restored version of the film). Cartoons, from Disney’s Flowers and Trees (and Fleischer’s use of technicolor, once Disney lost its monopoly on t and they could give up the two-color Cinecolor process) looked really good in a world of black and white subjects. Lucille Ball, I understand, owed some of her success to the way she looked good in Technicolor – with her red hair and green eyes, they called her “Technicolor Tessie”. Disney went on to the same sort of thing with color TV, renaming its show “Disney’s Wonderful World of Color”, and opening it with scenes filmed in bright colors, and making new colorful cartoons explicitly for TV (Like Ludwig von Drake’s intro to color, with his Spectrum Song).

But, of course, people didn’t keep it up. When color became inexpensive enough to finally become the default medium for movies, around the early 1960s, not everyone paid attention to the medium, and you started getting washed out colors and muddy hues. Scenes weren’t properly lit, and people stopped paying attention to contrasts. Some movies essentially always did keep an eye on this – animation, for instance, and children’s movies stayed brightly lit. In animation, be it Disney or some other company or Ray Harryhausen or Will Vinton’s Claymation, colors are deliberately chosen. Pixar’s features, until recently, seemed specifically chosen to show off the bright and textured look of its characters – Toys and Bugs and Superheros and Cars and Fish – it’s only recetly that they ventured out into a cooking rat and a dull-colored robot (although the opthers are still bright).
But, as I say, not everyone keeps attention, and sometimes even filmmakers who did pay attention moved to muddy colors for “artistic” reasons (Spielberg’s Close Encounters and Indiana Jones pictures are brightly colored. Munich isn’t.)

It’s much the same as with 3D, an effect I think has been underused and too much maligned. Some early flicks were gorgeously set up to exploit the capabilities of the medium – Creature from the Black Lagioon and House of Wax and Dial M for Murder 9which Hitchock didn’t want to do in 3D, but which made arguably the most effective use of the medium). Too many 3D movies were made without keeping the needs of the medium constantly in mind, and so the effect wasn’t used well. But the features filmed for Disney and Universal theme pasrks DID maintain this focus.

I love Technicolor. It makes my eyeballs happy.

actually, what got me thinking about was a B pirate movie called “Morgan the Pirate” or something to that effect that I taped today. It was just a crappy-ass pirate movie, but man, it looked good in Technicolor. Everything was a lot more powerful visually than in modern films, which was good because otherwise it would have been just a mediocre pirate movie. Made me wonder why such a useful tool was abandoned. The technical difficulties issue makes a lot of sense. I wonder if digital enhancement by modern CGI techniques could do replicate Technicolor’s glory at less expense. In Photoshop they have a control called “Saturation” that has a really Technicolor feel to it, wonder why they couldn’t come up with something similar for film.

I see your point about people not keeping track of color nowadays. I watched Cave Dwellers (the MST3K version, naturally) yesterday and it was damn near a black and white film with a sepia tone.

The funny thing is that a lot of that equipment ended up in China, where they turned out some amazing films with it.

May all your dreams be in Technicolor. I adore it. Could there have been a play “Joseph and the Photoshopped Dreamcoat”?

Happy Eyeballs indeed. To think we gave that up for a flock of white CGI birds. Bleh. Back in the good old days that when the camera panned, everything could stay in focus!

Now I have to find out what “Escape To Witch Mountain” was filmed in…

I’d recommend renting the two disc DVD of The Adventures Of Robin Hood {the cool Errol Flynn one}: on the second disc there’s an absolutely splendid documentary on the invention, use and then decline of Tecchicolour, complete with clips from all these wonderful looking old movies that were basically filmed to showcase it. Fascinating stuff.

Seconded. I saw this just last weekend. And besides, if you’ve never seen the Errol Flynn version of Robin Hood, you’ve missed out. It’s got to be the best one ever made. Not to mention the fact that you won’t get half of the jokes in Men In Tights.

Natalie Kalmus died.

Thanks! I actually own that, but haven’t watched that feature. Something to do tonight. One of the great visual movies; many scenes are Howard Pyle illustrations come to life; they made some California acreage look like a dream of Sherwood Forest.

Film stock has come a long way.

In 1984 I showed a 70mm print of 2001. No Cyan. Little Yellow. Magenta baby!

Yet the IBTech trailers that I fished out of the dumpster of NSS in Boston are still as colorfull as the day they were struck, grey soundtrack and all.

Film has gotten faster—first film on ‘high speed’ stock was 48Hrs—and had grain the size of golf balls, now it’s no grain and faster film.

Errol Flynn’s The Adventures of Robin Hood will always be a colorized film to me :).

It’s a weird thing, but I am just old enough to not only pre-date TV remotes ( remember that dark time in our history where you actually had to walk over to the TV to change channels? ), but also to have lived in the era when black and white sets were still common. I got my own TV pretty young, as my folks got tired of schlepping our one set out of their bedroom ( we weren’t a family that bonded in front of the tube ) to mine on Saturday mornings so I could watch cartoons. It was a portable, 13 inch, white, B & W set and it was to remain my TV for many years growing up. And one of my favorite films growing up was The Adventures of Robin Hood, fairly frequently broadcast on TV in the 1970’s - I saw it several times.

Thing is, it was obviously an older film. So I had always assumed it was a black and white movie, just like on my little TV, well into my thirties. By the time I was watching color TV it had ceased to make an appearance on the airways. When did I discover otherwise? When the damn DVD was released and I came across it at the store in 2003!

I was frankly shocked :D. Whatdayamean color? COLOR??? In 1938?!!!??? It was a classic “doh!” moment.

I still love the film and the technicolor is indeed pretty magnificent. But all that color still looks just a little odd to me :p.

I had seen it many times on TV in the 50s and 60s, but in color. Gloriously hard-to-adjust color, though, on a small, small screen. Then, in 1979 a restored print was shown at the local movie theater, introduced by Olivia de Havilland, who had grown up a few blocks away (and had been best buddies with my aunt in high school). I went and was totally floored by the color, which was so different from the washed out mess on TV. I especially was struck by the scene with the horses going down the stream with the light filtering in from the trees. It was a classic d’oh! moment for me as well, not having first-hand big-screen experience with the 30s and 40s color experience (plenty of experience with the 50s Technicolor stuff, though).

Seeing Technicolor on the big screen is, indeed, a mind-blowing experience – one of the top ten moviegoing experiences of my life was seeing The Wizard of Oz on the big screen when I was in HS (early '70s at a revival house)

If you saw that M-G-M Children’s Matinee release of Wizard of Oz in the '70s, you saw a Metrocolor print, which was not Technicolor and was not a dye transfer process.

Remember, three-strip Technicolor was shot on black and white negative stock; the color doesn’t come until the print is made.

Thank your for the correction.

• Color in 1906: Tartans of the Scottish Clans.
• Color in 1907: Lumière Autochromes.
• Color in 1907-1915: The Empire That Was Russia: The Prokudin-Gorskii Photographic Record Recreated.
• Color in 1914-1918: World War I Color Photos.
• Color in 1929: Glorifying the American Girl.
• Color in 1930: Eddie Cantor in Whoopee!
• Color in 1932: Disney’s Flowers and Trees.
• Color in 1933: Mystery of the Wax Museum.
• Color in 1934: Eddie Cantor and Ethel Merman in Kid Millions.