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Return to Oz gets a negative review


'That's my squeak!': The first sampling lawsuit in the film history
Walter Murch Film-maker
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Fade out, fade in a year later and somewhere in Paris the film is being screened and Pierre Henry, I guess, had been told he should go see this film because it had an interesting soundtrack. And he went to it and halfway through the film must have stood up and said, 'That's my squeak!' And he relayed this information to his record company and they wrote to Warner Bros. and complained. And that is probably the first sampling lawsuit ever in the history of motion pictures and media. Because that's exactly what it was. It was using ancient technology, LP records and Moviolas and magnetic film physically buckled into a loop, transferred to a long strip of 35mm film. But it is a sample. I made a sample and I chose that sample and then looped it and repeated it over and over again and put it in the film.

The story has a happy ending because I'm here telling you about it and I've continued to work in film. And I don't know the particulars of how this was settled. It was settled at some corporate level, but the gist of the interpretation was that I had... In doing what I had done, which I admitted doing, I had changed the context of the sound and the sound itself was so brief, that there was not a full basis for the lawsuit in a formal way. As far as... It could have been that some money was... changed hands to say sorry that we did this. But I never knew about that or had anything to do with it. It was a fire alarm problem for me because I felt very guilty about it, but it eventually went away. And I wrote a letter to Pierre Henry saying that I was very sorry for using it, but I intended it as a tribute to his huge influence upon me as a fellow sound artist.

[Q] That's great. Is it still in the film?

Yes, yes.

Born in 1943 in New York City, Murch graduated from the University of Southern California's School of Cinema-Television. His career stretches back to 1969 and includes work on Apocalypse Now, The Godfather I, II, and III, American Graffiti, The Conversation, and The English Patient. He has been referred to as 'the most respected film editor and sound designer in modern cinema.' In a career that spans over 40 years, Murch is perhaps best known for his collaborations with Francis Ford Coppola, beginning in 1969 with The Rain People. After working with George Lucas on THX 1138 (1971), which he co-wrote, and American Graffiti (1973), Murch returned to Coppola in 1974 for The Conversation, resulting in his first Academy Award nomination. Murch's pioneering achievements were acknowledged by Coppola in his follow-up film, the 1979 Palme d'Or winner Apocalypse Now, for which Murch was granted, in what is seen as a film-history first, the screen credit 'Sound Designer.' Murch has been nominated for nine Academy Awards and has won three, for best sound on Apocalypse Now (for which he and his collaborators devised the now-standard 5.1 sound format), and achieving an unprecedented double when he won both Best Film Editing and Best Sound for his work on The English Patient. Murch’s contributions to film reconstruction include 2001's Apocalypse Now: Redux and the 1998 re-edit of Orson Welles's Touch of Evil. He is also the director and co-writer of Return to Oz (1985). In 1995, Murch published a book on film editing, In the Blink of an Eye: A Perspective on Film Editing, in which he urges editors to prioritise emotion.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: Pierre Henry

Duration: 2 minutes, 34 seconds

Date story recorded: April 2016

Date story went live: 29 March 2017