Home/Daniel Larison/Colourising the Classics?

Colourising the Classics?

Colorization was condemned on moral grounds and driven out of practice, but, let’s face it: the upcoming generation won’t watch black-and-white films. Their eyes won’t focus on them. Kids these days will watch “Robin Hood” from 1938 because it’s in color, but they won’t black and white movies from the same year. All of those great old movies will be forgotten if they aren’t colorized.

The colorization technology has improved vastly over the last decade and a half, and it’s time to colorize films. Don’t mess with films like “Citizen Kane” where a strong effort was put into the b&w cinematography, but for the “Bringing Up Baby” movies, where the quality is in the script and acting, why not colorize them? ~Steve Sailer

Besides not seeing eye-to-eye with Mr. Sailer on a number of his film reviews (according to which The Last Samurai was PC and overwrought and Proof a success), I cannot agree with him that colourising old films is either desirable or necessary. In certain cases, where colour would enhance the richness of the visual experience, it might make sense. For instance, the sumptuous decoration of sets and costume in the Indian classic Mughal-e-Azam was completely lost in its original b-and-w version, and now that it has been restored and colourised it has become an even more attractive film. Do we really think that the colourised version of It’s a Wonderful Life has been an improvement, or simply a concession to the urge to update and change things that could be left well enough alone? There is nothing sacred about b-and-w films staying as they are, but I can’t see the advantage in changing them. Indeed, a colourised Casablanca would be an uglier, worse film, even if it were technically more vivid and realistic.

The argument that “the kids won’t watch” b-and-w films is not in the least compelling. The next generation may not watch classic films, but that is the result of their being raised on poor writing, idiotic plots, frequent explosions and other mindless sensory stimuli and the widespread use of CGI. Most (American) audiences cannot handle, or are not interested in, complex or even fairly witty dialogue, and the quality of film writing has slouched to meet the audience’s low expectations. The sad truth is that the next generation may not acquaint themselves with film classics because the classics are simply not fatuous and titillating enough.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

leave a comment

Latest Articles