by Warren M. Sherk
Two wartime documentaries, The Battle of San Pietro and Let There Be Light, both featuring scores by Dimitri Tiomkin, are now available for viewing by streaming on the Internet thanks to the National Film Preservation Foundation (NFPF).
The Web premiere of Let There Be Light (1945) took place on May 24, 2012, when the NFPF uploaded director John Huston’s World War II documentary as restored by the National Archives and Records Adminstration (NARA) in Washington, DC. The film documents traumatized American war veterans—the film’s working title was The Returning Psychoneurotics—through unscripted interviews.
[Video: Let There Be Light]
Chace Audio by Deluxe, a post-production facility located in Burbank, California, was behind the restoration of the film’s soundtrack. The restoration started with the optical track from the best available 35mm black-and-white exhibition print NARA could locate. The audio, from a far-from-ideal screened print, was digitized and Sonic Solutions Sound Blade and equalization were applied. The results are amazing.
[Read: “John Huston film about WWII soldiers that Army suppressed is restored,” by Steve Vogel, Washington Post, May 23, 2012]
I first saw Let There Be Light in 1981 as an undergraduate at the University of Arizona in a “History of American Motion Pictures” upper division class held in Gallagher Theater. Less than a year had passed since the American government allowed the first public screening of the film. Now anyone with access to a computer connected to the Internet can see the film at any time. Perhaps it’s a bit ironic that a film that was withheld from the public for more than 35 years can now instantly be seen around the world.
[Read: John Huston’s “LIGHT” Online, Reviews by Leonard Maltin, May 24, 2012]
A second John Huston documentary, The Battle of San Pietro, is likewise available for viewing. San Pietro was exhibited in 1945; however, it was suppressed after the war and did not air on American television until 1981.
[Video: San Pietro]
The Film Music Society released Dimitri Tiomkin’s music from San Pietro on CD and featured an article, “The World War II Documentary Music of Dimitri Tiomkin” in their quarterly journal, The Cue Sheet (volume 20, number 4, October 2005). Both are available for purchase from the Society’s Web site.
- Press Release, “National Archives Leads Restoration of John Huston’s Let There Be Light,” May 24, 2012 (accessed on June 19, 2012)