On Sept. 12, MCA/Universal Home Video releases “For Whom the Bell Tolls” ($20), one of the best-loved films from the Golden Age of Hollywood.
The lavish 1943 Paramount production stars Gary Cooper, Ingrid Bergman, Katina Paxinou and Akim Tamiroff. It was nominated for nine Academy Awards, and Paxinou picked up the Oscar for best supporting actress.
Based on Ernest Hemingway’s best-selling 1940 novel, “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” which was filmed in Technicolor, had been a shadow of its former self until UCLA Film and Television Archive’s recent restoration.
When the film originally premiered in New York, the running time clocked in at 170 minutes, plus a 10-minute intermission. Though critics admired the movie, the general consensus was that it was too long. Director Sam Wood was immediately dispatched to make cuts. He shaved off 13 1/2 minutes and eliminated the intermission. When Paramount reissued the film in the mid-1950s, the studio pared it to 130 minutes and discarded the cut pieces of the negative. This truncated version has been seen on television over the years.
UCLA located a 35mm nitrate print of the 156-minute version at the Library of Congress, which was used as a restoration guide. The scenes eliminated from the 130-minute negative were copied from the Library’s print. A Los Angeles film collector discovered the rolls of Victor Young’s original overture and intermission music in an old theater projection room.
This beautiful new print, complete with overture and intermission music, aired last fall on cable’s American Movie Classics as part of its second annual preservation festival.
MCA’s video edition comes complete with a special collector’s booklet that contains liner notes, photos and reprints of the original lobby cards. Also included on the video is the original trailer and photographic montages that are shown during the overture and intermission.
“For Whom the Bell Tolls” finds Cooper playing Robert Jordan, an American mercenary working with the anti-fascist freedom fighters in the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s. Ingrid Bergman is Maria, an innocent refugee of the war who is also fighting for the cause. Tamiroff co-stars as the suspicious Pablo, the leader of the motley band of dedicated fighters with whom Jordan teams on a dangerous mission to dynamite a bridge. Paxinou is Pablo’s fiery lover, Pilar, who encourages the romance between Jordan and Maria.
“For Whom the Bell Tolls” is a must-have for serious movie collectors. Victor Young’s score is glorious and soaring and Ray Rennanhan’s cinematography is breathtakingly lush and vibrant. Equally vibrant are Cooper and Bergman, who both received Oscar nominations. Two of the most beautiful people to ever grace the silver screen, their love scenes are sexy, touching and sweet. And get out your hankies for their final scene together.
Bergman Deux: “For Whom the Bell Tolls” isn’t the only Bergman classic hitting the video stores. This Wednesday, FoxVideo releases her 1956 triumph “Anastasia” ($20). Bergman received a richly deserved second Oscar for her memorable performance as an amnesiac refugee who is chosen to impersonate the surviving daughter of Czar Nicholas of Russia. Yul Brynner and Helen Hayes also star in this provocative drama directed by Anatole Litvak.
The Director’s Cut: With director’s cuts of “Cabin Boy” and Edward Wood’s “Jail Bait” available, the time was ripe for one of the 1978 cult fave “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes” (Buena Vista Home Video, $13), coming out Wednesday. This version features never-before-seen, long-lost footage (which had been sliced and diced from the original cut), interviews with the film’s stars and creators and an interview with a confessed killer tomato. The sci-fi spoof, which was directed by John De Bello, spawned the sequels “Return of the Killer Tomatoes!,” “Killer Tomatoes Strike Back,” “Killer Tomatoes Eat France” and an animated TV series.
New This Week: David Caruso (in his first film since leaving “NYPD Blue”) and Nicolas Cage star in “Kiss of Death” (FoxVideo), a film noir directed by Barbet Schroeder about an ex-con, lured back into the underworld for one last heist, who is offered his freedom if he turns in a gangster. Remake of the 1947 film that catapulted Richard Widmark to stardom.
Sissy Spacek, Joan Plowright and Mary Louise Parker head the cast of “A Place for Annie,” (Republic, $15), a 1994 award-winning “Hallmark Hall of Fame” drama about a nurse who adopts an abandoned HIV-positive baby.
Charles Dutton, Alfre Woodard and Courtney Vance star in “The Piano Lesson” (Republic), the 1995 Emmy-nominated “Hallmark Hall of Fame” production of August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning drama about an African American family living in Pittsburgh in the 1930s. Wilson adapted from his 1990 play.