Chris Hicks: 'Lawrence of Arabia' leads classic movies returning to the big screen in October

Published: Thursday, Sept. 27 2012 4:31 p.m. MDT

"Lawrence of Arabia"

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David Lean's magnificent epic “Lawrence of Arabia,” about real-life adventurer T.E. Lawrence (superbly played by Peter O’Toole), is a film that needs to be seen on a theater screen to be fully appreciated.

To say they don’t make ’em like this anymore is to wildly understate, whether referring to the film’s breadth and depth, the vast number of extras in any given sequence or its deliberate pacing, which takes its time but is never dull. This is high entertainment with thrills, excitement, comedy, memorable set pieces and thought-provoking drama. It’s also as artistically framed as cinema gets.

Despite its ambitious scope, however, Lean never lets the grandeur overwhelm the story or characters, and he’s not afraid to allow his camera to rest on broadly choreographed images that fill the wide screen, forcing audience members to discover for themselves what is most meaningful at any given moment.

Before its Blu-ray debut in November, “Lawrence of Arabia” will play theatrically for one day, and who knows when or if another opportunity to see it on the big screen will present itself very soon.

Originally released in 1962, the film fell into disrepair over the next two-plus decades until, after a meticulous restoration process, it was reissued in theaters in 1989. Now, here it is 2012, and yet another restoration has taken place so that it reportedly looks even better, sharper and more vivid than in 1962.

The digital version will play one day, Thursday, Oct. 4, with two screenings, at 2 and 7 p.m., in several local Cinemark theaters. This is a nearly four-hour movie, so plan accordingly.

And there are plenty of other vintage revivals scheduled through October — including “E.T.,” “Gone With the Wind,” “Bride of Frankenstein,” “Phantom of the Opera” and “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” — so get ready to mark your calenders.

“Elevator to the Gallows” (1958, French, b/w). This was Louis Malle’s first nondocumentary feature and it gave a boost to budding star Jeanne Moreau as a wealthy wife plotting with her lover (Maurice Ronet) to kill her husband. It’s the perfect crime until one thing after another goes wrong. In French with English subtitles. (Monday, Oct. 1, 7 p.m., free, Tower, saltlakefilmsociety.org)

“E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” (1982). Steven Spielberg’s beloved story of a young boy befriended by a benign alien visitor remains a warm and wonderful coming-of-age story for all ages, hosted by Turner Classic Movies’ Robert Osborne. (Wednesday, Oct. 3, Cinemark Theatres, 2 and 7 p.m.)

“Gone With the Wind” (1939). When you adjust the numbers for inflation, this classic four-hour Civil War epic, based on Margaret Mitchell’s novel and starring Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh, is still the No. 1 biggest ticket-selling movie of all time. (Wednesday, Oct. 10, Cinemark Theaters, 2 and 7 p.m.)

“The Hunchback of Notre Dame” (1923, b/w). Victor Hugo’s epic story of tragic bell-ringer Quasimodo is brought to life by “The Man of a Thousand Faces,” Lon Chaney, in this stirring silent classic, with live organ music and sound effects to enhance the experience. (Thursday-Friday, Oct. 11-12, the Organ Loft, 7:30 p.m., edisonstreetevents.com/silent-movies)

“The Most Dangerous Game” (1931, b/w). Remade and ripped off as much as any story ever filmed, this original version about a big-game hunter stalking humans on his remote jungle island is still effective. Joel McCrea and Fay Wray star. Preceded by a chapter of the 1939 serial “Dick Tracy’s G-Men” and the “Twilight Zone” episode “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” with William Shatner. (Friday, Oct. 12, free, BYU, Provo, 7 p.m.)

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