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Martin Scorsese is helping introduce a rare collection of films to the modern world.
The director of Netflix’s forthcoming The Irishman has curated a selection of newly restored Republic Pictures films for release on the Apple TV app, where they are now available to rent or buy.
The films all come from a two-decade period during which Republic churned out what were then considered B movies that gave the filmmakers incredible freedom as long as they stuck to their budgets. Paramount, which owns the library, has remastered and restored many of the titles, including Alfred Santell’s That Brennan Girl and Nicholas Ray’s Johnny Guitar.
“From the ’30s through the ’50s, the different studio logos at the head of every picture carried their own associations and expectations, and for me, the name Republic over the eagle on the mountain peak meant something special,” Scorsese, who also curated a selection of the films for a 2018 screening series at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, said in a statement. “There are so many titles that have been overlooked or forgotten; waiting for decades to be seen again. I can promise you that you have some discoveries in store.”
Paramount chairman and CEO Jim Gianopulos added in a statement, “We are thrilled that these movies can be experienced once again in the way their filmmakers intended.”
Republic operated for just over three decades as one of the so-called poverty row studios known for their low-budget projects. Because of the creative freedoms it provided, it attracted up-and-comers, helping launched the careers of Western film stars, including John Wayne and Roy Rogers. Paramount parent Viacom acquired the library in the mid-1990s and around a decade ago began an expansive effort to restore the films, many of which experimented with color processing techniques.
Republic, says Paramount senior vp archives Andrea Kalas, attracted young creatives who “knew how to cut corners but keep the story, great cinematography and great performances going. That challenge comes out on the screen in really wonderful ways.” She has been working to rerelease between 75 and 100 titles each year.
After Scorsese’s The Film Foundation became interested in Kalas’ preservation work, it teamed with MoMA for a screening series. Kalas says that Scorsese and The Film Foundation then selected the 24 titles — also including City That Never Sleeps from director John Auer and The Quiet Man from John Ford — in the collection from around 700 restored Republic works.
Dave Kehr, director of the museum’s department of film, says That Brennan Girl, which tells the story of a young woman’s rough upbringing and was chosen to open the series, was a particular favorite of Scorsese’s. “There’s a lot of interesting work in there and it just hasn’t been around in any kind of versions that give justice to the actual quality of the production,” explains Kehr, adding that he hopes the streaming release of the titles “make these available to a much wider public.”
The 24-film collection, dubbed Republic Rediscovered, can be rented or purchased on Apple’s TV app, which is taking the place of iTunes as a marketplace for video content. Each title will be available to rent for $4 or, for a limited promotional period, to buy for $5. After Sept. 16, the price to purchase one of the titles will revert to the standard $13.
A previous version of this story misidentified the director of The Quiet Man. It is John Ford.
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