Monday, April 2, 2018

Article of the week: The making of THE MIGHTY CRUSADERS Fan Dub


Posted at the 'Articles of the week' permanent page.


One of the most frustrating things about being a North American fan of the PEPLUM genre is the lack of quality transfers of old favourites, on DVD or in digital format. For example, trying to find a perfect, uncut copy of HERCULES (1958) is nearly impossible. There as many version of that film as there are different languages. There is not one source where someone can find the integral versions of these  titles. One of the solutions for this is to create a Fan Dub. A few months ago I decided to make a Fan Dub of THE MIGHTY CRUSADERS (1958) since there isn't one complete version available anywhere.



Presently, I have 4 different versions in my collection: The US 'full screen' version. Two 'Fan Dubs' in English from a French TV broadcast (they differ from their aspect ratios), and lastly, an Italian widescreen version from a TV broadcast. The opening credits for this version is in Arabic. Why? I dunno. These are the 4 versions which I'll be using to make the final version. For obvious reasons, I've decided to use the widescreen Italian TV broadcast version.

Screenshot of opening credits of the 4 different versions:


On the left: the two French versions with English audio track. The top right is the US English full-screen version. And the one at the bottom right is the widescreen Italian TV broadcast version (with credits in Arab!).

A 'Fan Dub' is a movie made with the video of one source and the audio from another source edited together to make a version that’s not available anywhere. I’ve already written an extensive article on how I create a Fan Dub. I won’t go through the details again. For this article, I’ll just demonstrate how difficult it is to make a Fan Dub of a specific title, this one being THE MIGHTY CRUSADERS (1958). Released the same year as HERCULES (1958), with both films starring Gianna Maria Canale and Sylva Koscina, this movie is, along with HERCULES, one of the seminal films which forever changed the way pulpy historical movies were made back in the 1950s. Its impact is not as wide and far reaching as the Steve Reeves epic but still it was a then modernized approach, shot in color and in widescreen, of making a historical / mythological film under 2 hours without making too many concessions. The great thing about these films, even greater than those made in Hollywood, is that producers and filmmakers had access to real locations and settings Hollywood films could only dream of having. And THE MIGHTY CRUSADERS is one of these films. Beautifully shot in widescreen, with a capable cast, following a typically ‘PEPLUM’ screenplay, the film is a great example of the PEPLUM genre.

The first thing to establish in planning a Fan Dub is to view different versions in order to see which scenes are missing. By watching those 4 different versions simultaneously, I was able to determine that 4 major scenes were missing.

Which one would you prefer to watch?

US English 'full screen' Version 

English Fan Dub full screen version taken from French source

English Fan Dub semi-widescreen version taken from French source

Widescreen Italian TV broadcast (with Arabic opening credits)

Obviously, the last version, the widescreen Italian TV broadcast, is the best version of the 4.

With these 4 different, the main objective was trying to create the most complete version. Here's a quick rundown of these 4 copies.

- US full screen version

This is the first copy I got years ago from another trader. Fuzzy, faded and blurry, this copy is the oldest one from my collection. There are also annoying subtitles.

It’s missing the title in the opening credits. And even though it’s the longest version of all the different copies, at 103 minutes and 29 seconds, it’s, oddly enough, missing a couple of major scenes, mainly the 2 kissing scenes and the dancing scene.

The 2 kissing scenes were blacked out but not cut.

- Two versions in English but with French opening credit

The opening credits are in French but the language spoken is English. I assume these are Fan Dubs. They're almost identical except for the screen aspect ratio and runtime. The one with the wider screen image runs at 88 minutes and 4 seconds, while the more cropped one runs at 87 minutes and 40 seconds. They are incomplete.

- Italian / Arab widescreen version (the one used for the Fan Dub)

This version was most likely taken from an Italian TV broadcast since the copy has some scrolling text at the bottom of the screen during 3 different moments. I had to crop the text out (illustrated below). The question is: if this one was from an Italian TV broadcast, why are the opening credits in Arab?

The running time of this one is at 98 minutes and 22 seconds.

Final assessment:

You can ask why not use one of the English versions? Why make a Fan Dub when there are already two adequate versions in English?

Well, first, those copies are incomplete and their aspect ratio aren't good. The aspect ratio and image quality of the widescreen Italian TV broadcast blew those two away. I had no choice but to use the Italian one.

So, after watching the different versions, I was able to see what scenes were missing from the widescreen Italian TV broadcast version.

The scenes missing in two versions (including the one I was going to use as the main source) were kissing scenes and a sexy dance number. Those scenes were missing from the Italian one, and oddly enough, from the English full screen version as well. In the Italian one, the kissing scenes and the dance number were entirely cut. But in the English 'Full Screen' version, the kissing scenes fade to black while the audio can still be heard (this is something I've never seen before), while the dance number is entirely cut.

To make things even more bizarre, the kissing scene between Francesco Rabal and Sylva Koscina are in the two French versions, but the kissing scene between Gianna Maria Canale and Rik Battalia is missing from all 4 copies.

Since the goal of was to use the widescreen Italian TV broadcast as the main file, I had to:

- remove the Arabic open credits and replace it with an altered French version with English title

- Re-insert the missing scenes, including the kissing scenes and the dance number

- Remove scrolling text from TV broadcast

- Fix audio (not illustrated for this article)


First: New Opening Credit

The first thing I did was to create an opening credit with English title and remove the Arabic credits from the widescreen Italian TV broadcast version.

I couldn't redo the entire opening credits in English because it would have taken way too much time to achieve this. I simply inserted the English title to the French opening credit. It was easy to do: a Photoshop file converted into a movie file.

Credit an opening credit:



Second: Add Cut Kissing Scenes

Second thing to do is to find the most complete kissing scene and insert them in the widescreen Italian version. The kissing scene in the image below is from the 'English Fan Dub semi-widescreen version taken from French source.'

Kiss number 1:



The second kissing between Gianna Maria Canale and Rik Battaglia is incomplete in all 4 versions but in the US English version the scene fades to black but we can still hear the audio. See the Youtube clip below.

Kiss number 2:




Scene is cut not by it being edited out the scene but by fading it to black, while the audio can still be heard. It must have been a hot kiss for it to be censored this way!

Since this kissing scene was cut from all 4 versions, I had to make sure the moments before and after were the most complete.


Third: Add Dance Number


This dance number was cut in two versions, the US English full screen version and the widescreen Italian TV broadcast. I took this scene from the 'English Fan Dub semi-widescreen version taken from French source.'


Fourth: Remove Scrolling Text

The fourth and final thing to do was to remove the scrolling text seen during the run of the film. The scrolling text (in Italian) tells me that this was from a TV broadcast.


Though not a major issue, it's annoying to see scolling text while watching a film. Above is how the text looked like. Below is the same scene with the text removed. And below that is a GIF animation showing before and after. Note that the image is stretch while maintaining same aspect ratio.



All those modified scenes above had to be inserted in the main timeline of the edited movie.

And here's a presentation of the end result.


In the timeline:

In Yellow: new opening credit.

In Orange: scrolling text removed

In Blue: missing kissing scenes inserted

In Green: dance scene inserted to timeline

The final result is the most complete version of THE MIGHTY CRUSADERS available anywhere. The only scene missing is the second kissing scene with Canale and Battaglia (plus a few seconds shaved off here and there to make the audio match the image).



6 comments:

Scott Ochiltree said...

This is a first class Peplum. I am most impressed (and grateful) for all the work you have put into it. Video and sound quality appear to be excellent.

As per my previous comments, I strongly prefer original language dialogue with good English subtitles. All else being equal, the original aspect ratio should always be used.

Unfortunately some automatically generated subtitles are terribly inaccurate. Human review is always required as a final quality control step.

There is a great potential business opportunity for the Italian copyright holders to release first class versions of classic Peplums on DVDs (region code free!) at reasonable prices with decent English subtitles.

Some appearer to be available on Amazon's Italian website, but without English subtitles.

Steven Lester said...

Good gravies, I had no idea of all the work involved. Your site and you are a veritable treasure for anyone interested in the genre!

John said...

A fascinating account of "remastering" and reconstructing this film. Great job!

Anonymous said...

The Italian DVD companies Medusa and Minerva have both released many Sword and Sandal films. The quality is generally excellent. The Minerva boxes mistakenly say their films are full screen but all of them are letterboxed. Another Italian company, Rai, released beautifully remastered DVDs of Giants of Thessaly, Warrior and the Slave Girl, and Legions of the Nile. Unfortunately all of these Italian DVDs have no English language options. Germany has released the most Sword and Sandal films with English language versions and many of them are wonderful transfers....Messalina, Carthage in Flames, Duel of the Titans, to name a few.

Alexandre Juliao said...

What a impressive work!!!

Shamelord said...

Fabulous job you did