A couple of years ago, we had a phone call from our friend at Turner Classic Movies. He had just read a biography of the Huston family and was enthralled with the story of John Huston's post-war documentary, LET THERE BE LIGHT. It was a public domain film and I suggested that TCM could acquire it anywhere, but he wanted the best version and sent us to find it. It didn't seem very exciting to us -- just call the archive and get what we needed. But there was a happy surprise -- I called our friend Russ Suniewick at Colorlab who is one of the authorized labs the government uses and he told me this was an odd coincidence. That very week, they were finishing a brand-new restoration of LET THERE BE LIGHT that they worked on with Chace Audio in Burbank. If I could wait a few days, we could get a video master off the new version!
Well needless to say, we felt very good that through a little (minimal, actually) detective work and good friends, we could provide TCM with a version far superior to the public domain versions out there. LET THERE BE LIGHT is a brave, honest film about soldiers coming back home from World War II with "shell-shock" or now known as Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Unfortunately, with the end of the war and a focus on the future ahead, the Army banned the film and it wasn't officially shown until 1972. Selected to the Library of Congress' National Film Registry, it remains a remarkable film exploring the beginnings of the treatment of a problem that remains the most misunderstood (see RAMBO) and most difficult "side-effects" of war.
There's a story on the film today on NPR that features Daniel Eagan, an expert on the National Film Registry. You can hear the report here and see a portion of the restored film on YouTube below. And you can find it on our website here.