Much Murch
September 19, 2006 11:38 AM   Subscribe

The visual interplay of helicopters and fan blades in the opening scene of Apocalypse Now. The idiot-future soundscapes in THX-1138. The concept for the baptism montage in The Godfather. The actual cut of the "Director's Cut" of Touch of Evil. The man responsible for all of these is Walter Murch, one of the greatest film and sound editors of all time. More Inside.
posted by Iridic (20 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
He's also one of the most eloquent. maintains a treasure trove of his articles and interviews. Highlights include "Stretching Sound to Help the Mind See," "Dense Clarity/Clear Density," and an interview about Murch's editing work on Cold Mountain--done (while standing up) with Apple's Final Cut Pro.
posted by Iridic at 11:39 AM on September 19, 2006

The most recent example of Murch's editing I've seen is Jarhead: there's a bit in there in which the Marines are watching the "Ride of the Valkyries" sequence in Apocalypse Now that allows Murch to comment on his earlier work in an interesting way.
posted by Prospero at 11:44 AM on September 19, 2006

He was working upstairs from me last year, cutting Jarhead. I've always admired the fact that he works standing up, on a specially designed desk. I wish I had the clout to demand shit like that. (I wouldn't mind making his salary either, but that's another story.)

Also, he's pretty much Mr. Final Cut Pro. Again, I wish I had the clout so I could throw this Windows Avid in the fucking trash.
posted by fungible at 11:53 AM on September 19, 2006

Anyone been brave enough to check out his sole directorial effort, Return to Oz? I've always meant to...
posted by hovercraft at 12:05 PM on September 19, 2006

I quite like Return to Oz. Dark, the way Baum wrote it.
posted by Lord_Pall at 12:07 PM on September 19, 2006

I've read both The Conversations and In the Blink of an Eye, and can attest that there is a lot to learn from Murch even if you have no aspirations of editing. He is a very thoughtful and worldly guy; being one of the greatest film and sound editors of all time seems to be just one of many facets.

Good post!
posted by Tubes at 12:13 PM on September 19, 2006

He is absolutely one of my favorite artists ever. I also recommend The Conversations: Walter Murch and the Art of Editing Film. It provides a good insight into his approach to editing both picture and sound.
posted by Sandor Clegane at 12:16 PM on September 19, 2006

Damn..too late!
posted by Sandor Clegane at 12:17 PM on September 19, 2006

Michael Ondaatje (author of The English Patient, In The Skin Of A Lion, etc.) has done a book-length interview with Walter Murch called The Conversations (illustrated, of course). It's one of the most fascinating things I've ever read.
posted by winston at 12:17 PM on September 19, 2006

You know, there's this book called... never mind.
posted by black bile at 12:25 PM on September 19, 2006

You can see Murch and other editors interviewed in "The Cutting Edge.".
posted by grumblebee at 12:32 PM on September 19, 2006

Dark, the way Baum wrote it.

Much darker than that, actually. The film opens in the gray, rained out real world, where Dorothy is about to receive electroshock therapy to cure of her "delusions." Oz, when she finally gets to it, is no relief or escape from Kansas; her friends have been turned to stone, the land's become dark and tainted, and screaming men with wheels for hands patrol the wreckage of the yellow brick road.

In sum, it's exactly the kind of film that you'd expect to get if you handed the Wizard of Oz franchise to the editor of Apocalypse Now. As a family film, it's pretty much a failure; but as a kind of horror fantasy, it has moments of brilliance.
posted by Iridic at 12:35 PM on September 19, 2006

I remember thinking as a child that Return to Oz was the scariest thing I had ever seen, those wheel guys and the queen with the wall of... *shudder*
posted by sonofsamiam at 12:42 PM on September 19, 2006

Murch synthesised the sound of helicopter blades for the opening scenes of Apocalypse by slowing down a recording of a piece of chain (taken from the pull of an overhead lavatory cistern) hitting a paper bag.... True.
posted by A189Nut at 1:13 PM on September 19, 2006

More Murch at, including "Womb Tone," a companion essay to "Dense Clarity/Clear Density".
posted by Dean King at 3:22 PM on September 19, 2006

Very eloquent artist. Thanks for posting this.
posted by Wolof at 4:24 PM on September 19, 2006

What sonofsamiam and Wolof said. Cool stuff!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:52 PM on September 19, 2006

In the Blink of an Eye had a nice commentary about the shift from the old editing technology to the new NLE editors; what was lost and what was gained. That book's great.
posted by storybored at 8:53 PM on September 19, 2006

Murch is required reading/studying for anyone with even a passing interest in editing. No doubt.

Had a major nerdgasm last year when I discovered that Jarhead was shot by Deakins and cut by Murch. From a technical point of view, that film is without fault.
posted by slimepuppy at 3:28 AM on September 20, 2006

Sorted! I've borrowed a copy from the Berkeley public library. It's next soon as I finish "Easy Riders, Raging Bulls."
posted by allaboutgeorge at 3:41 PM on September 24, 2006

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