A film shot in historic Charlton House is back on DVD and iTunes for Christmas.
Director John Walsh’s Monarch is part fact, part fiction and unfolds around one night when the injured ruler, King Henry VIII, arrives at a manor house closed for the season. Henry is without the power and control of his palace and is vulnerable from those around him, and from his own sanity. Henry left England financially and morally bankrupt; his collection of enemies his only constant. Even today there is a question mark surrounding his burial and possible exhumation.
TP McKenna plays Henry; after starring alongside Richard Burton’s Henry VIII in the epic Anne of a Thousand Days, Charge of the Light Brigade, Straw Dogs; and with Jean Marsh (Upstairs Downstairs, Willow and Fatherland) playing an amalgamation of his ex-wives. Monarch unfolds on one night in the year of Henry’s death, 1547.
King Henry VIII reigned for 38 years. Young and handsome, his Court was the most colourful and extravagant in Europe. Yet this glamorous exterior partly disguised his unpredictable and savagely ruthless nature. His obsession to father a legitimate male heir led him through six marriages, to make himself Supreme Head of the English Church and to cut down those who stood in his way.
The film has been painstaking remastered from the original 35mm colour camera negative which was recently discovered in a film vault after nearly 20 years and is now presented in full High Definition for the first time.
The double BAFTA nominated filmmaker John Walsh said during the shoot of Monarch (7-25 October 1996) his small cast and modest crew would receive daily film stock supplies directly from Kodak HQ in Hemel Hempstead. “A refrigerated van would arrive to bring us our daily ration of 35mm camera negative (Kodak stock no: 5287),” John said. “One other production was receiving a daily delivery from the same driver, for Stanley Kubrick’s final film, the epic eighteen-month shoot, Eyes Wide Shut. When we received Mr Kubrick’s invoice after a clerical error, I was shocked and amazed at the amount of the invoice. More than the total cost of my shooting budget.”
Now nearly 20 years after making it, the film has received a full High Definition restoration.
“This was not simply a case of running the film through a telecine machine,” he said. “The original camera negative was in a film vault and this took some finding. When we located the project, we found more than we bargained for with over 52 cans of various footage, from film trims, cutting copies and work prints. We didn’t know if the original camera negative would be amongst all this haul. After a close examination, I was delighted to find all the original camera negative was there and is good shape for its age,” he continued. “The negative was cut onto A and B rolls which meant the film was not truly together as one cut of continuous action, but we had what we need to put the film together.”
During the extensive cleaning and restoration process, every frame of film was scanned in high definition and had over 10,000 particles removed by hand. Along with this a new 5.1 sound mix was created from the original elements. “The film is now looking and sounding clearer and sharper than ever before,” the director said.
The process of storing and preserving original materials is one that the film and TV industry is “famously inept at,” John said. “During this process, I was surprised to find that many of the 20th century’s major film titles have lost their original elements and the restoration process starts with old battered projection prints that may have been around many cinemas. Often the original camera negatives have been lost, junked or in one famous case for the Oscar-winning Cabaret, burnt!”
The HD processing protects the future of Monarch. “It will give today’s audiences the chance to see the wonderful performance of Jean Marsh and the towering presence of TP McKenna, regarded as one of the great of his generation and rightly so in one of his most outstanding performances,” John said.
Time is against the restoration teams as many films are fading and decaying in poor storage conditions, the director said. “Some films are lost for all time. From Alfred Hitchcock films to TV episodes of Doctor Who and Tony Hancock. The Holy Grail of lost films for collectors is London After Midnight. The 1927 silent horror- mystery film starring Lon Chaney and produced by MGM has not been seen for almost 50 years.”
“With HD remastering of classic films a money spinner for film and TV companies alike, the race is on to uncover hidden gems before they are lost forever.”
Monarch is currently available on DVD for £3.99, or £13.99 as a HD download on iTunes. For more information visit www.monarchfilm.com