Discovery Productions has launched a Kickstarter campaign to restore Dennis Hopper’s Out of the Blue to 4K for its 40th anniversary.
Dennis Hopper‘s Out of the Blue is a movie from my teenage years. I used to see it in heavy rotation at the Scala Cinema in London back in the 1980s. The Scala, now long gone, was in a slightly seedy part of Kings Cross that regularly ran a lot of cult movies. Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead, Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Salo, Russ Meyer’s Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, Dario Argento’s baroque slasher flicks and many other movies cemented their cult status from being shown at the Scala.
Out of the Blue has a greater reputation in the UK and Europe than it does in the US. In the UK, it was considered one of the seminal Punk movies. It was even shown on BBC’s Film Club with Alex Cox providing an introduction.
The movie stars Linda Manz as a troubled teenager who seeks solace in Elvis Pressley and Punk Rock music from her chaotic family life. Her home life with her ex-con trucker dad (played by Hopper) and her highly-strung mother disintegrates in a dark, downbeat spiral.
The Chequered History of “Out of the Blue”
Discovery Pictures released a detail account of how the movie came to be. Dennis Hopper was initially cast as an actor for a Canadian tax shelter- funded movie in 1979. After two weeks, the director was fired and Hopper took over as director with full control. He rewrote the entire screenplay over the weekend and started shooting on Monday.
Hopper turned what was meant to be an after school special TV movie into a bleak, nihilistic drama that lost its certification as a Canadian movie and set producers and financiers at odds. When the movie premiered in the Cannes Film Festival in 1980 as an Official Selection, it was the only movie ever to screen without a country’s flag flying over the Palais or national anthem playing on the red carpet.
Despite positive reviews and praise for Linda Manz and Hopper’s performances, “Out of the Blue” remained unreleased in the United States.
Then John Alan Simon rescued it from the shelf in 1982. He and Hopper took it on the road and did guerrilla distribution city by city long before it was ‘a thing’. Jack Nicholson called the film a “masterpiece.”
‘”Out of the Blue” played in art house cinemas across the U.S. including a 17 weeks record-breaking run at the Coolidge Corner Cinema in Boston and a NYC and Los Angeles theatrical release that Dennis credited with re-launching his career as a director, which had stalled for ten years after his follow-up of “Easy Rider” with the divisive “The Last Movie.” Sean Penn hired Hopper to direct ‘Colors’ after seeing “Out of the Blue.’
“Out of the Blue” reflects Hopper’s nonconforming and uncompromising personality as auteur and artist, with a raw and brutal take on the 80s, as well a photojournalist eye on the punk rock movement.
A Cult Reputation
Hopper said, “In many ways, “Out of the Blue” may be my best film; people who hate it have a real problem… It’s about the society of North America; the family unit is falling apart. People who say all this doesn’t exist in this country, where have they been?”
Some critics see Out of the Blue as a spiritual sequel (and cautionary counterpoint) to Hopper’s own Easy Rider. It chronicles the idealism of the sixties decline into the decadence of the 1980’s. Time Out London raved about its depiction of the era’s punk rock scene: “If ever there was a movie about Sex and Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll, this is it. Extraordinary.”
Today, celebrity fans of “Out of the Blue” include Jack Nicholson, Natasha Lyonne and Chlöe Sevigny, Warren Beatty, Ethan Hawke and Richard Linklater. Neil Young contributed the title theme song that inspired the movie to the UK band Primal Scream, who incorporated Linda Manz’s famous opening ham radio dialogue into their song “Kill all Hippies”.
When ‘Out of the Blue’ screened at The Metrograph in 2018, The New York Times said: “‘Out of the Blue’ makes haunting use of Neil Young tracks and is regarded by some as a neglected great film of the 1980s.”
The Current State of the Movie
In 2008, Discovery Productions completed a 35 mm restoration of the film’s negative and struck two new 35mm prints, funded with support from Cinemateque Francaise and Thomson Film & TV Heritage Fund. Those are the only two prints of the movie in existence. One is held by Discovery and the other given to the Cinemateque. That print was used for the premiere event in their month-long Dennis Hopper retrospective in 2008. Dennis Hopper attended the premiere less than two years before his death in 2010.
Discovery Productions, Inc. (John Alan Simon and Elizabeth Karr) are now undertaking the 4K digital restoration from the original negative. ‘Out Of The Blue’ exists only as a 35mm print and last century standard-def masters. Its audience has been limited to “event” screenings like the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Lincoln Center Film Society, British Film Institute, Cinemateque Francaise, Anthology Film Archives, Danish Film Institute, Eastman House and rare bookings at The Roxie, Metrograph and other art house and indie cinemas.
The Need for Digital Restoration
An official high-def quality copy of the movie does not exist digitally. It’s not on Blu-Ray, and the DVD release it saw in 1999 is now long out of print.
Earlier this year, the U.S. 35mm film print lost a few frames in a screening mishap. The 10-year-old print will eventually wear out, tear, get further damages, even lost. As Simon explained, “Elizabeth and I would like to retire the American 35mm print while still in pretty good shape. Donate it to an archive for posterity.”
Digital projection has almost entirely taken over in the theatre business. Technicolor, where the 35 mm negative was restored, left the “film” business altogether.
After research and advice from restoration experts, Discovery Productions decided to partner with Roundabout Entertainment, based in Burbank. A Lasergraphics Director Film Scanner is being used for the 4K restoration from the original 35mm negative materials.
The KICKSTARTER campaign launches July 30 thru August 23 to support the restoration finishing funds and re-release effort. Amongst the ‘rewards’ are vintage posters from the original theatrical release, signed by the now-retired from show-biz Linda Manz.
Plans for Re-Release
The restored “Out of The Blue” will have its world premiere at the 76th Venice Film Festival in September.
The movie will open in the US in early 2020 in New York, Los Angeles and selected cities. Then it will be released on streaming and VOD as well as a Blu-Ray and DVD release. 2020 will mark the 40th anniversary of the movie’s original premiere in Cannes.
John Alan Simon is also the writer and director of Radio Free Albemuth, the movie adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s dystopian antifascist novel. Simon credits Hopper with encouraging him to become a filmmaker. Restoring Out of the Blue is Simon’s way of repaying Hopper.
Alienation, addiction,” Simon said. “And the erosion of the American family depicted in “Out of the Blue” are current crises society faces today. Hopper’s treatment of these underdogs and outsiders is both empathetic and raw. As director and performer, Dennis Hopper’s needs to be remembered and studied by many generations of film lovers and filmmakers to come.”
“It’s incredibly important to us that “Out Of The Blue” be preserved for future audiences to experience its emotional impact and artistry.”
You can support the restoration Out of the Blue with tier benefits like DVDs and Blu-Rays at the movie’s Kickstarter page.