September 2023

Lighten up

Color correction yet another aspect of my Metamorphoses/Winds of Change restoration attempt, that will be a bit of a challenge. While the Japanese DVD has the best video quality over all, some shots are just too dark. For the majority of the Perseus segment, I may end up using the just the VHS versions.

At the start of the Orpheus segment, the snake that abducts Eurydice is too dark throughout, and much of its detail is lost.

The ending of the House of Envy segment, when Aglauros turns to stone, is another scene where the Japanese transfer is too dark. It’s not too bad at the start, but it gets darker as she transforms.

Open Wide

While attempting to reconstruct a wide-screen version of Metamorphoses/Winds of Change is challenging enough, it’s complicated further by having multiple versions to work with. The Japanese version is the highest quality over all, but the American VHS is framed differently, allowing for some parts of the extended frame to be clearer than the French version would otherwise allow. An added bonus is that the trailer on the Japanese DVD contains several wide-screen shots that were squeezed horizontally to a 4:3 ratio.

For much of the film, the wide format seems largely wasted, which makes the 4:3 home video framing less jarring. There are some shots, though, that must have been a challenge. One such shot is when Pegasus appears, at the end of the Perseus segment. In the American and Japanese versions, the gorgon on the right side of the screen is completely cropped out. This gorgon is technically visible in the French version, but is outside the “safe” area of the frame, meaning it may have been cropped out by TVs at the time. An issue with the American version is that it’s framed so that Perseus is in the center of the screen, which results in the viewer not being able to see Medusa’s severed head transforming into Pegasus.

Overall, the framing of the different versions is a mixed bag. Sometimes, the American version will clear up an extra 10% of the picture. In few rare cases, it may add 25% or more. But for much of the film, it either only clears up the backgrounds, or aligns so closely to the Japanese version that it’s hardly worth the effort.

Winds of Metamorphoses

Sanrio’s Metamorphoses has been a resent interest/obsession of mine. Originally released in 1978, and envisioned as Fantasia for the rock era, the film was a flop. Critics and audiences complained that the music didn’t fit the visuals, the stories were difficult to follow without any narration or dialogue providing context, and, worst of all, many found it to be boring.

Sanrio wasn’t about to give up on the film, though – after cutting 7 minutes from its runtime, re-arranging its segments, adding narration by Peter Ustinov, and replacing the rock songs with a new disco soundtrack, the film was re-released as Winds of Change in 1979. And it flopped again.

I, of course, knew none of the the film’s history until fairly recently. I’d grown up with the Winds of Change version on VHS, but it was one of those films that I watched over and over, but forgot about as I got older. Thinking back on it as an adult, I couldn’t even remember its name. But as luck would have it, by the time I’d identified it, it had been re-released on DVD! In Japan.

星のオルフェウス (Orpheus of the Stars)
(Orpheus of the Stars)

Now having had the film on DVD for nearly 20 years, you would think that would be the end of it. I have it, and even if I didn’t, I could watch it in full on Youtube. So what more is there to think about? Well for one thing, there’s those 7 minutes of footage that was cut from the original version. That’s… a lot. What was cut, and why? How was the original music?

And then there’s the fact that the theatrical release was wide-screen, with an aspect ration of at lease 2.35:1, while the home releases were cropped to 1.33:1. That’s quite a lot of visual information to lose. Unfortunately, it’s one of those things that I’ll never be able to know. Unless Sanrio decides to re-release the film with a new, wide-screen transfer, all I can do is wonder about what it once was.

…and then I happened upon the French version.

While the video quality of this version of the film is not great, I was excited to see that it’s letterboxed. Very quickly, I had the idea of combining this with the Japanese DVD, using it to fill out the frame and restore some of its original wide-screen presentation. How hard could it be?

…even harder than one might expect, actually.

One detail I’d learned after starting this obsessive little endeavor, is that Hoshi no Orpheus is a different cut than Winds of Change. Its segments were restored to their original order, and the film runs 5 minutes longer. This adds quite a bit back in, but at the same time, there are small bits from the Winds version that were removed, while other shots are repeated. By combining the two versions, the runtime could be even closer to the original!

Now there’s just the tiny problem of needing to match each of the film’s segments frame-by-frame, and having to correct the lens distortion on the French version. I don’t even want to think about what to do about the music or narration, if I ever finish the visuals. As far as I’m aware, the Rolling Stones’ Criss Cross, is the only song from Metamorphoses that is now available in any form.