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'THE FOUR JUST MEN' (1939) Friday 6th September, 2013

'The Four Just Men' (1939) Hugh Sinclair, Francis L. Sullivan, Frank Lawton, Griffith Jones

This Friday was an opportunity to run my 'hybrid' print to see whether the storyline was more intelligable with the added scenes I have recovered from an alternative version. After a gap of time is easier to to enjoy the film and spot variations from the original. Watching the first two thirds of the film and the last scenes I still have not got the ending scene closest to the original one.

It was nice to see the original titles and the recovered scenes of the business with the secrets hidden in the lipstick. Also the arrival at the station of the wounded Terry (Frank Lawton) met by foreign agent Frank Snell (Basil Sydney) who deliberately bashes into Terry's injured arm on the crowded platform. The film played well until the last which became the 'Secret Column' version that ends where the actors gather about a wireless set that is giving a propaganda talk and a montage of newsreel shots of tanks and Hitler and Mussolini. It seems that they got the cast together years later to shoot this scene?

I still need to do some extra work to insert the scene where the three 'just men' that are left are drinking a toast to their fallen comrade.

Here is a description of making a 16mm 'hybrid' print from two USA release versions - a more complete and closest to the original release of this classic Ealing drama from 1939.

By running two print versions in parallel on two Steenbeck flatbeds it was possible to identify and recover missing scenes to make up the most complete composite 'hybrid' print.

In 2005 my first 16mm print of 'The Four Just Men' Ealing Films (1939) was a US version retitled 'Secret Column,' Printed on Kodak stock Edge code" Circle Circle " for 1940, and issued as a propaganda piece for United States audiences. Unfortunately the concept of the geography of the countries of Europe where the films action plays out, had been edited out.

For instance in 'Secret Column' the incarceration and escape from the dungeon in Germany to France and return to England was edited so that the action plays out as if it were possible for James Terry (Frank Lawton) to be shot at in a phone booth in Rome and then appear wounded in a flat in London in the very next scene.

The ending of the film too appeared altered. It ends where the (three) get together but appears to have been remade using the same actors listening to a patriotic radio announcement, with a newsreel-style finale. This was added in 1944 for the reissue version of the film. Many British films of this period were revamped for US audiences for propoganda reasons after the US entered the war.

Fortunately years later I was able to locate another longer 16mm print in Canada and this time with the original titles intact. But again this was not quite the original UK release. However there were several extra scenes included featuring the character Frank Snell (Basil Sydney), that could be used to restore the missing scenes. Also the ending appears to be the original one with a toast to Terry their lost comrade.

By running the two prints in parallel on two Steenbeck flatbeds it was possible to identify and recover missing scenes to make up the most complete composite 'hybrid' print.

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