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Beyond the Rocks (1922) Recovered

EYE Film Instituut Nederland announced on 17 April 2004 that they have recovered one of the silent era’s presumed lost treasures, Beyond the Rocks (1922). The Paramount production stars Gloria Swanson and Rudolph Valentino. A Dutch film collector who passed away four years ago in Haarlem left more than 2000 reels of vintage film prints to the museum. All six reels of Beyond the Rocks were present in the collection.

Beyond the Rocks was presumed to have disappeared for many years. The only surviving fragment from the film was a one-minute nitrate strip which had been kept in the movie collection of the Film Instituut since 1976. The recently-discovered Dutch version of Beyond the Rocks [Gouden Boeien], turned out to be in fairly good condition. The goal is to restore the movie as much as possible to its original version.

“We are feeling rather excited because it is a wonderful rediscovery,” says the museum’s Jan van den Brink.

The romantic melodrama is the story of a woman who falls in love with a younger man during the honeymoon of her marriage to an older man.

“It is a complete feature film in six acts, with a beautiful story in which Valentino plays a rather decent character,” says van den Brink.

The thousands of cans of film were stored by EYE Film Instituut Nederland in a small number of warehouses, and the complete print was discovered one reel at a time over a period of months as archivists catalogued the collection. The collector’s unusual organization of the collection complicated the process of identifying the unlabeled reels. The project was so massive that it took two years to identify and regroup the reels of the Beyond the Rocks print.

The 1812-metre long, amber-tinted nitrate positive print is presumed to be the export version of the film, since the intertitles are Dutch and feature the “Nordisk-Paramount” legend, and it is printed on filmstock manufactured by Gavaert Belgium in 1923. While the film appears to have premiered at seven reels in America, the film is assumed to have been edited to six reels for general U.S. and/or European release.

The EYE Film Instituut Nederland decided to restore the film (intertitles and color tints intact), which is complete except for approximately two minutes of irrecoverable damage, and will present the restored film during the second edition of the Filmmuseum Biennial, which took place on 5-10 April 2005 in Amsterdam. The restoration of Beyond the Rocks was made possible among others by ING Real Estate Development.

The museum assigned Dutch composer Henny Vrienten the task of writing an original score to accompany the film. Movie composer and musician Vrienten wrote his first film score for the Dutch movie De prooi (Vivian Pieters, 1985). For the last several years, he worked on the score for Pietje Bell en Pietje Bell II (Maria Peters, 2002/2003), Het stenen vlot (George Sluizer, 2002), The Discovery of Heaven (Jeroen Krabbé, 2001) and Left Luggage (Jeroen Krabbé, 1998), among others. He was commissioned by the Filmmuseum to write scores for the silent movies Een telegram uit Mexico (Louis Chrispijn Sr., 1914) in 1992, Het geheim van Delft (Maurits Binger, 1917) in 1995, and Zeemansvrouwen (Henk Kleinman, 1930) in 2003. In addition to the music, Vrienten also provided the sound effects for Zeemansvrouwen. In 1996 Henny Vrienten was awarded the Silver Harp for his career to date. Vrienten received the Golden Calf for film scores at the Netherlands Film Festival twice, in 1996 and 2001.

When creating soundtracks for silent movies, Vrienten makes full use of his freedom of discretion as a composer. “Silent moving pictures are to me what a blank page is to a writer,” explains Vrienten in the magazine Volkskrant (23 November 2003). His film scores are never alike: “If you do it right, the music is dictated by the movie,” says the composer. For Beyond the Rocks, Vrienten created a grand and engaging score in typical Hollywood style.

The museum has announced that it will also prepare restoration prints for international distribution. The restored edition of Beyond the Rocks (with Henny Vrienten’s soundtrack) had its world premiere on April 5 during the opening of the second Filmmuseum Biënnale. It was also shown at Pathé Tuschinski (Amsterdam) and at Filmmuseum Cinerama (Amsterdam) in April 2005. Milestone Film & Video, renowned for distributing major recent restorations, will distribute Beyond the Rocks in North America, and will produce a DVD home video edition.

Other films from the collection include the recently-restored print of Roscoe Arbuckle’s comedy Camping Out (1919) and the Nederlands Filmmuseum’s incomplete print of Arbuckle’s The Cook (1918), which is available on DVD. Films also recovered in the collection are an as-of-this-moment incomplete print of Vitagraph’s A Jealous Guy (1916) starring Larry Semon, and the Reel Comedies short Dynamite Doggie (1925) starring Al St. John (possibly directed by Arbuckle).

Carl Bennett, from EYE Film Instituut Nederland information and Internet news sources

 

The Dutch overseas radio services cultural program “Dutch Horizons” broadcasted a radio interview on Beyond the Rocks (1922) in 2005. In addition to the interviews, some excerpts of the musical score can be heard on the background. The broadcast is in English and can be listened to through the Internet: “Bringing Back Beyond the Rocks.”

 

The EYE Film Instituut Nederland’s documentary on the restoration of Beyond the Rocks (1922):

 
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