Here's what the Iverson Movie Ranch obsession is all about ...

For an introduction to this blog and to the obsession a growing number of vintage film and TV fans have with the Iverson Movie Ranch — the most widely filmed outdoor location in movie and TV history — please read the site's introductory post, found here.
• Your feedback is appreciated — please leave comments on any of the posts.
• To find specific rock features or look up movie titles, TV shows, actors and production people, see the "LABELS" section — the long alphabetical listing on the right side of the page, below.
• To join the MAILING LIST, send me an email at iversonmovieranch@gmail.com and let me know you'd like to sign up.
• I've also begun a YouTube channel for Iverson Movie Ranch clips and other movie location videos, which you can get to by clicking here.
• Here's a link to Garden of the Gods, the best-known section of the Iverson Movie Ranch (featured in the movie "Stagecoach," the "Lone Ranger" TV show and hundreds of other productions).
• To go right to the great Iverson cinematographers, click here.
• Readers can email the webmaster at iversonmovieranch@gmail.com.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

"Escort West" and thoughts on widescreen — CinemaScope in this case — vs. so-called "fullscreen" (which we used to call pan-and-scan)

I recently revisited the 1959 Victor Mature movie "Escort West" — which has been on my list of the Great Iverson Movies for years — and I was surprised to realize that last time around I probably missed about half the picture just because I was watching the movie in the wrong format.

"Escort West" (1959) — "pan-and-scan" or "fullscreen" format

This is what the movie looks like in the 4:3 aspect ratio, the way it was hacked up originally for TV and later circulated in various video formats. This shot shows the rarely seen Saddlehorn Village on the Iverson Movie Ranch, and when I first saw this, I thought I was getting a good look at the place.

"Escort West" (1959) — original CinemaScope format

Here, though, we can see what I was missing, which is just about half of the picture and much of the set. Of course, the picture as seen here is significantly narrower from top to bottom, and the individual images appear smaller than in the "fullscreen" version. In the living room it takes a bigger screen to alleviate that problem, but here on the blog all it takes is clicking on the photo to see a larger version.

Comparison of "fullscreen" format with widescreen CinemaScope

Here's another way of sizing up the two formats. I've placed the fullscreen version on top of the widescreen version to show how much widescreen adds to the picture. Once again, you may want to enlarge the photo by clicking on it to get a better look.

"Escort West" — promotional still

In another example from "Escort West," a fake stone structure is seen not only in the movie but also in this widely circulated promotional still for the film. The promo shot duplicates a scene toward the end of the movie in which the characters walk under what is generally thought of as a stone bridge, although it's apparent that the horizontal "stone" beam across the top of the frame is fake.

While my CinemaScope screen shot taken from a less-than-sharp digital file of "Escort West" doesn't come close to the clarity of the promo still, it does offer a much more complete view of the fake stone beam. The wider view makes it even more obvious than it is in the promo still that the beam is fake.

"Escort West" — Devil's Doorway Cluster ("fullscreen" version)

Here's another example from "Escort West." This scene showing the aftermath of an Indian attack was shot in front of the Devil's Doorway rock feature on the plateau just above the Iverson Gorge, with a portion of Cactus Hill visible in the background.

Same scene in the original CinemaScope

The same scene as it was shot in the original CinemaScope reveals much more of the Devil's Doorway formation — including the "doorway" itself — along with a wider section of Cactus Hill.

Here's the widescreen version of the shot again, with a few features noted. The south entrance to the actual Devil's Doorway arch is visible in this shot, but was deleted from the "fullscreen" version of the shot.

Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel

The debate over fullscreen vs. widescreen was a bigger deal a few years back, before the proliferation of huge TV screens in people's living rooms. Back then it was a favorite topic of movie critics such as Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel — who found common ground on the issue — not to mention prominent movie directors such as Martin Scorsese, who frequently appeared on TV to "school" viewers on the merits of keeping a movie's original format. I'm not trying to resurrect the debate, which I'd say has been settled. But I did find it interesting how the format issue dovetails with location research.


Regarding the two links below, according to information on Amazon.com, both DVD sets apparently contain the widescreen version of "Escort West." The first link — to the cheaper of the two sets, listed at $7.53 at the time of this post — offers three movies, combining "Escort West" with "The Way West" and "Chato's Land," with all three movies reportedly in widescreen. The far more expensive second set ($20.95 as I post this) apparently contains both widescreen and fullscreen versions of only "Escort West."

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