TV Noir: Restoring the Images
Producing the visual aspect of TV Noir involved scouring secondhand shops, online auctions, and studio archives for all kinds of rarely seen images. At Eddie Brandt's Saturday Matinee in North Hollywood I uncovered a set of faded 4 x 5 contact sheets from China Smith, one of early television's first off-net successes. A noir-inflected series about a gun for hire in the Orient, it starred Dan Duryea and was overseen by a time by Robert Aldrich. The still at right shows the two of them on set; they were later to collaborate on the Cold War-themed feature World for Ransom—a film noir from a TV noir.
Until the early 2000s, color promotional photography for film and television involved transparencies—which were typically processed at high volume and graded without the involvement of the originating cinematographer. Factoring in years of chemical deterioration, the result is that many of these images (particularly those from the 1980s and 1990s) offer an inconsistent representation of how a scene was actually lighted and color balanced. For programs as artfully photographed and directed as Miami Vice, Crime Story, and Twin Peaks, this was obviously an issue that needed to be rectified. The images below are both the work of Ron Garcia, ASC. The shot of Laura Palmer wrapped in plastic is an iconic one, yet it's been incorrectly reprinted in so many articles, blogs, and books that it was difficult to find a true reference—the restored image seems to be an anomaly. Above that is an image of Ray Luca from Crime Story; while the red-orange color cast in the faded original makes for an appropriately hellish atmosphere, it wasn't how the scene was intended.