Grahame N's Web Pages
THE CELLULOID IMAGE
LATEST FILM RELEASES
Sadly I myself don't now buy Super 8mm films so rely on reports from other sources for new Super 8 releases. However Classic Home Cinema are continuing to support the Super 8 collector with new titles.
For example from Classic Home Cinema the James Bond 007 movie "You Only Live Twice" is available on Super 8mm as a cinema trailer and also as a full 'scope feature. Excellent German prints, the titles are in German - but sound is of course English! Phil has just put together another nostalgia reel - "Classic Nostalgia Number 7" - the Pearl and Dean intro heralds adverts for Quick Brew, Lyons Maid, Sunkist Orange and Super Size hot-dogs, plus the full length trailer for "The Brides of Dracula". Details of these and others from Phil Sheard - telephone 0870 744 6798 or check out the Classic Home Cinema web-site at www.classichomecinema.co.uk
Even today, as well as a few Super 8mm magnetic sound film new releases there are also one or two new short titles to be had on 9.5mm silent and even magnetic sound!
Believe it or not a few new 9.5mm prints have been produced in the last few years - from Presto Films comes - 9.5mm low fade colour/BW silent "ABC Daysets" (PM.95118) a nostalgic reel of cinema day sets including Announcing Future Programme, Next Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday, Coming Shortly, All Next Week. ABC Presents, Coming Soon, And Pathe News, Our Next Presentation, Plus Full Supporting Programme - the early black & white introduced by lady who opens fan, the later ABC etc. are in colour. Approx 120ft boxed and on 200ft spool at £22.95; also 9.5mm low fade colour magnetic sound "Modern Cinema Tags" (PT.95117) fancy screen animation with sounds and voice overs including things like Thankyou for not talking during the film; Thankyou for not not smoking; Please put litter in the bin; Coming Soon; Our Next Presentation; Intermission; Intermission the Snack Bar Is Open" etc. Approx 120ft boxed and on 200ft spool £29.95 - see the web-site at www.pathefilm.uk and navigate to sales lists.
Grahame L. Newnham, 22 Warren Place, Calmore, Southampton, SO40 2SD, UK Tel: 023 8086 5086 (Updated Oct 2014)
LATEST DVD RELEASES
For some time in the UK one could source the a limited number of Max Fleischer Betty Boop and Popeye cartoons on various Delta DVDs (usually to be found in Garden Centres or branches of Edinburgh Woollen Mills - I wonder why??), however most of these are not really up to standard and originate from various re-releases. An excellent Betty Boop set was released on DVD in France some time ago - via Heeza and was reviewed a few issues ago in this column.
Now thanks to our film enthusiast friend Ted Turner most of the earlier black & white Fleischer Popeye cartoons have been released in two boxed sets in the USA (but these are both Region 0 coded and PAL format so will play anywhere in the world - see notes below). Volume 1 contains 60 Popeye cinema cartoons dating from the first 1933 (introduced as a Betty Boop cartoon) Popeye the Sailor in date order through to the 1938 release Big Chief Ugh-Amugh-Ugh. In addition on the four discs are various special features including on disc one a full 90 minute retrospective Popeye documentary, shorter "Popumentaries" about the original Thimble Theatre newspaper strip cartoon by Elzie Segar and Olive Oyl, plus three silent cartoons from the Bray studios including Krazy Kat Goes A-Wooing (1916). On disc two the extras include three more silent cartoon shorts including Feline Follies the beginning of Felix on film, a history of animation documentary and more "Popumentaries" about Wimpy (I didn't know that the Wimpy burger bar restaurant chain was only in the UK - I had always assumed this originated in the USA) and Popeye voices. Disc three gives us no less than six "Out Of the Inkwell" silent cartoons and two more "Popumentaries" - Popeye music and the Popeye Technicolor two reelers. Disc four yields four more Out of the Inkwell/Fleischer shorts and two more "Popumentaries" about Swee'Pea and Bluto. In addition many of the Popeye cartoons have optional voice overs from animators and film historians.
So what are the Popeye cartoons like? Well the quality is excellent, they appear full length with proper Paramount titles and endings (most Popeyes turn up with the TV titles and shortened). Unlike earlier Turner Entertainment work, these cartoons don't appear to have been computer restored - so that the pictures still retain the usual 35mm slight vertical float and odd dust marks - I wonder if this is intentional or just the fact that the aforementioned Ted Turner has now retired and standards at Turner Entertainment are beginning to slip. On closer inspection I feel that the Paramount titles are not always the exact originals, but presumably computer generated copies from the original material. Hence many cartoons start with rock steady titles, then the animation begins with vertical float etc. Maybe some of these 'restorations from original masters' come from the masters which had been retitled for the TV releases - probably all that was still available. Being a keen 9.5mm optical sound film collector, it is odd that 24 of these early Popeyes (and 24 Betty Boops) are available on 9.5mm in perfect original versions - titles and all, as Pathescope got the original material just a few years after their first cinema release and long before the rights had been sold for TV. I'm also wondering about the sound tracks on some of these cartoons - it is possible some have also been remade - but I must run Be Kind To Aminals on 9.5mm to confirm this. Anyhow it does mean every Popeye cartoon up to 1938 is here, sharp and with lovely gradation.
Despite the one reel Popeye cartoons being in black and white, my kids and their friends always wanted to see Popeyes (and Betty Boops) - maybe it is the violence, the use of spinach or just the character, but these superbly made cartoons do seem to have stood the test of time in entertainment value.
Also included in the Volume 1 set are two of the 2 reel Popeye specials filmed in Technicolor - Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor and Popeye the Sailor Meets Ali Baba'a Forty Thieves. Both with excellent picture and colour, rather better than the various 'pirate' VHS and DVD versions kicking around in the bargain boxes.
However ignore my concerns, the Popeye box set (Volume 1) is fantastic and an ideal way to check out these early Popeye cartoons. All those released by Pathescope on 9.5mm sound are included, my favourites like Wild Elephinks and Brotherly Love will get many plays! I have been burning the midnight oil watching these superb fully animated offerings - watch out for examples of the use of rotoscoping (a Fleischer patented means of copying real human/animal movement) and the use of the full 3D backgrounds - 'stereoscopics' (achieved by filming a proper model set, rotated during the photography of the animation cels mounted vertically in front), plus of course Popeye's background mutterings, often adlibbed I believe, by the two main voice providers Billy Costello and Jack Mercer. Incidentally on a few occasions when Jack Mercer was called up, Popeye was voiced by Mae Questel who usually did Olive Oyl's voice!
Now the second box of Fleischer Popeye cartoons has arrived - Volume Two includes 31 more Popeye theatrical cartoon releases, again in date order from 1938 to 1940 beginning with I Yam Love Sick and ending with Popeye Presents Eugene the Jeep. The third Popeye special - a Technicolor two reeler Aladdin and his Wonderful Lamp appears on disc 1 of this set. Disc 1 extras include a documentary about the Fleischer Out of the Inkwell cartoons, plus three "Popumentaries" about Eugene the Jeep, Poopdeck Pappy and the voices of Olive Oyl. This disk also includes the classic Goonland which seems to have become an animation lecturer's study piece. (It arrived on Super 8mm from Collectors Club I recall - it should still be in my collection somewhere). Disc 2 has as extras some Fleischer shorts, storyboards and pencil tests plus another "Popumentary" discussing the merits of Popeye and Superman. Quality, likeVolume 1 is excellent. Currently at a bargain price of about $16 (only around £8 and only £1.38 postage if you purchase from Caiman via Amazon.co.uk - see below)
Both these Turner Entertainment/Warner Popeye boxed sets are thoroughly recommended!
@Grahame Newnham July 2008
General DVD notes:
For reasons of international copyright (and price fixing!) DVD releases are coded acording to the region in which sales are intended. The UK and Europe is Region 2, whilst the USA and Canada is Region 1. Some DVDs are coded Region 0 which means they will play anywhere in the world. Officially all DVD players have their region code set to to match the area where they are sold. However in many cases one can 'hack' into the DVD player firmware and reset the player's region code to 0. Some retailers will sell DVD players already recoded (I think against the law) or will include details of the procedure to change the regional code. There are also various internet sites where the procedures for changing DVD player regional codes are detailed. Beware that most DVD players can only have their regional codes changed a few (say six) times (the regional code is really intended to be factory set at manufacture and not changed again).
The beauty of setting ones DVD player to Region 0 is that one can benefit from the massive range and often better quality of American DVD releases. American DVD releases can easily be purchased on the internet, payment being made by debit or credit card overcomes currency conversion problems. Using a credit card also provides protection in case of fraud although I stick to a couple of well known suppliers. In the past American video releases were recorded using the American NTSC picture standard - this usually replays OK on UK players, but not always on older UK TV sets. Recent UK TV sets (and digital projectors) will fake NTSC playback and produce normal pictures. More recently, American DVD releases seem to actually be PAL picture standard (ie the same as our UK picture standard) and hence will replay happily on all UK TV sets. Current DVD players (recoded to Region 0) and digital projectors happily show PAL or NTSC formats and often it is difficult to check if a) the DVD is actually Region 1 - often American DVDs are Region 0 so that the master can be used for worldwide release and b) whether the signal is NTSC (American) or PAL (UK and Germany etc.).
Incidentally just to confuse matters even more, the French used to use the Russian SECAM TV system, French VHS tapes will replay on UK PAL equipment, but only in black and white. However the French have quietly changed to PAL so that all French DVDs should play happily in the UK, but beware - check the language or subtitles - the French still hate to issue any DVDs that still retain English language or English subtitles! (Although of course most contemporary DVD releases are the standard international ones but reboxed for the French market).
Region 1 UK sources:
Internet: www.dvdboxoffice.com or www.playusa.com plus www.amazon.co.uk but use the Amazon partners who often link to the specific DVDs. Beware that orders over about £19 are subject to UK import duty. If your parcel is seized, then the duty will be payable to the local Royal Mail office, BUT they now add a horrendous £8 collection fee (Gordon Brown does not like us getting a bargain from overseas!). Check the Amazon partners list carefully - I try to use Caiman (usually good value, quick service and reliable), and if you use Caiman.co.uk then your DVDs somehow arrive from Europe/UK and hence are not subject to duty.
For telephone ordering of Region 1 American DVD releases try: Enterprises DVD UK tel: 0870 241 4345
If you have bought the Laurel and Hardy DVD boxed set you soon find you need an index - so click here for your own Laurel & Hardy DVD boxed set INDEX.
RECENT BOOK REVIEW
OK so this is really a film magazine, but television is just another way of using and distributing moving images, so the two are closely related. Although there were many people who thought about the idea of television, and the original low definition mechanical system was the coming together of various phenomena and experiments; we must remember that is was John Logie Baird who first demonstrated television to the public and patented the system.
Although in his early life he was a bit of an entrepreneur who 'decided to go into television', he really got hooked and spent the rest of his life attempting to perfect his ideas. Sadly he was not a fit man and all his research efforts took a heavy toll on his health. It was while he was in a nursing home, that a fellow patient suggested writing an autobiography, which he dictated whilst in the hospital. Later extra material was completed by his wife and now with an introduction and notes by his son Malcolm, Baird's autobiography has been published by Mercat Press Ltd - even better - the soft cover version is available from Amazon at well under £10.
Although there are inaccuracys in some dates and facts (indicated in the notes), because the author had no reference notes whilst it was being written, it is an excellent picture of Baird's life and motivation. We can see that he started out as a bit of a rogue - selling cheap socks repackaged as special undersocks - but one can see his drive and enthusiasm even in those early days. His decision to move into television is quite weird - there was no such thing at the time, but I suppose he could see a commercial future. In his writings we can see a rather philosophical man, probably led on to market a less than satisfactory system before it was really a perfected product (also due no doubt to the need for more investment to fund the research). It was also sad that when others had moved into electronic systems, Baird struggled on with his mechanical ideas.
In order to televise indoor studio scenes without using enormous amounts of light, the Baird company developed what they called the "intermediate film system" - the scene was filmed, the film processed in the camera and then telecined with a mechanical scanning system. The results using 240 lines were quite good when everything worked OK, but of course there was a few minutes delay between the actual scene and transmission. To save money the camera used 35mm film stock slit in half - 17.5mm - yet another 17.5mm format. Sadly as far as we know none of this film exists - the Baird company returning it immeduiately for silver recovery to save money!
Anyhow this book is recommended for an interesting read, particulary about Baird's private life and thoughts, and if further precise factual information is required there are rather more expensive books published by the Institution of Electrical Engineers in the History of Technology series.
Don't forget - your contributions for this review page and
letters / articles / photos / free ads for this on-line magazine
are always welcomed
- e-mail the editor at cel @ pathefilm.freeserve.co.uk (no gaps in real address).
Or post to Grahame Newnham, 22 Warren Place, Calmore, Southampton, SO40 2SD, UK
First published March 2004 ........ Last updated: 06 October 2014 ........ cel07.htm
.......... ©MM1X-G.L. Newnham
06Oct2014 - references to Deraan Films removed / my web-site details updated