Saturday, June 11, 2016

Film frames of C T Russell from Photodrama

This was recently sold on eBay.

The blurb read:

This is a genuine strip of 35mm film from the Photodrama of Creation, taken from one of the introductions, featuring Pastor Russell. There are seven frames in this strip, although only six are shown. (The bottom frame had the seller’s thumb in the way.) I have resisted the commercial temptation to cut the film into smaller pieces to sell individually. That was the fate of other Photodrama films of Russell that ended up on cards as souvenir bookmarks.

The provenance of the strip of film goes back well over 40 years, when someone gave it to me. It had gone through various hands but came originally from an elderly JW who was a projectionist at Princes Theatre, Shaftsbury Avenue, London, when the Photodrama first came to Britain in 1914. I traced this person and where he lived and after some correspondence travelled to meet him. During his time as projectionist he was normally entombed in a metal projection box because of fear of fire. Under carbon lighting of the day, he would strip down somewhat, but still roasted.

When the showings ceased he somehow ‘inherited’ a two minute reel of film which languished in his attic for decades. But he’d now taken to cutting off little bits as souvenirs for friends. I was able to climb into his attic and borrow what was left of the film. Although the sprocket holes were considerably damaged in places, I got a colleague in a London laboratory to run me off 35mm and 16mm prints for the minute or so that remained. The original reel then went back to its owner, and I don’t know what happened to it. I used the reprinted film in several projects, and if you obtain a DVD of the Photodrama today, or just watch it online, my minute or so of reprinted film is incorporated into that restoration.

So that is the story behind these few frames. Although most 35mm film of the date was highly dangerous nitrate stock - leaving safer film for the substandard gauges (17.5mm, 9.5mm, 16mm etc.) - the film of CTR was actually produced on a safer version of stock. That is why it could be copied safely and legally and it is why these few frames can now be offered on eBay.

It sold for 206 GBP.


roberto said...

Fantastic Jerome and thanks.

Miquel Angel Plaza-Navas said...

Nice history.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Jerome for the priviledge to add this fantastic piece of history in my Photo-Drama of creation collection. It will be a very nice item to be displayed for the next "Living Photo-Drama of Creation" authentic magic lantern projection and exhibition I am preparing for end 2016 or early 2017 in France.
- Professorbigmac