Thursday 14 April 2016

The SYMPTOMS Aspect Ratio Controversy

The restored version of Symptoms that Mondo Macabro are releasing in the US and the BFI are releasing in the UK is framed at the Academy ratio of 1.37:1.

This does not mean that the film was cropped or compromised in any way. This was the full image on the negative from which the restoration was made. The original framing was obviously chosen quite meticulously for a 1.37:1 composition. There are no microphone booms or lighting rigs visible at the top of the frame and no cables or other unwanted equipment at the bottom of the screen. The frame you are seeing is the frame director José Larraz and cameraman Trevor Wrenn wanted to be recorded onto film and to be visible to viewers.

We have released films in Academy ratio before. Countess Perverse, The Wife Killer, Alucarda etc. In all previous cases, as with this one, we believe this to be the correct ratio for viewing the film. There could be any number of reasons why that frame was originally chosen for Symptoms. Maybe there was thought of a possible TV sale, maybe the film's producers wanted it to be screenable in as many territories as possible, some of which at that time would have been quite used to projecting at that ratio. Maybe José Larraz, as a former comic book artist, felt happier with a squarer frame. It certainly suits the mood of the film making the landscape shots more open and the interiors more oppressive, with the dark shadows surrounding the frail figures in the frame.

The most important thing is that the film looks great. To those who have seen it only in muddy, multiple generation VHS dupes it will be revelation.

- Pete Tombs, April 2016

Provided below are a few screenshots, presented at both 1.37:1 and 1.66:1. We invite you to take a look and judge for yourself. 

And the restored trailer, also in 1.37:1 ... 

SYMPTOMS trailer from Mondo Macabro on Vimeo.


  1. Cinematographer Trevor Wrenn, who shot "Symptoms", is still around, according to his IMDB page. Did MM or the BFI try to get in touch with him to ask his opinion?

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  3. No problems at all with releasing a movie in open matte. One can easily crop the top and bottom to how one likes.
    And projecting top to bottom can look impressive.

  4. I think it's the better choice.