Saturday, September 16, 2017


by Jerome

(Republished and updated from Blog 2)

The Bible Students embraced the new medium of motion pictures to spread their message. This article is about six examples that were released between 1914-1922. Some of this information has already been presented in more detail on this blog in years gone by, but this will present a brief overview and give links to where a modern viewer can see in whole or part, five of the six examples.

Photodrama of Creation

This approximately eight hour production, normally shown in four parts on consecutive weeks or evenings, will require no introduction to readers here.

There are a number of places on YouTube where you can watch it, including some surviving films of CTR in action. Sound was on disc so CTR mimed to the recordings, not always with complete success. There are also a number of places where you can buy a DVD set of the production. However, it must be noted that all the work of restoration over the last 40 years has really been performed by one person, Brian K. This has been a labor of love and the work is still ongoing, and an even better version in Blue-Ray will appear in due course.

Unfortunately, because the source material is out of copyright, others have felt no qualms about copying earlier restorations (perhaps from inferior VHS videos) and marketing them commercially. Leaving aside the ethics of this, if you want the very best version possible from surviving material, you really need to obtain one that bears Brian’s name.

Here is a link to one of the films of CTR.

Restitution - Mena Film Company

This writer plans to do a whole article on just this film and its history one day. But in brief, the company was put together by Bible Students in 1917. It had no direct connection with the Watch Tower Society, although the original Photodrama was briefly sold to Mena by the Society before everyone thought better of the deal. Unlike the Photodrama this was commercially produced, and needed to be shown to paying audiences in a commercial setting to succeed. By all accounts, it didn’t. It was shown to a non-paying audience at an IBSA convention in Seattle in July 1918, but then with the difficulties of the day - the Society directors jailed, others leaving association with the IBSA - it sank. It was reissued commercially under a new title The Conquering Christ and by the end of the 1920s one of the former Mena directors, Leslie Jones, was selling off 16mm prints in seven minute segments as a serial, now rebranded as Redemption. Just one of those segments has recently been rediscovered.

The sequence is Herod’s plans to massacre the innocents. While still primitive by modern day standards, film technique had advanced considerably since the Photodrama of Creation. The director, who obligingly also cast himself as Jesus Christ, had worked with D W Griffith on his epic Intolerance.

But enough of such details for perhaps another time. Here is the clip that only recently has been put on YouTube.


Moving forward from 1918, we come to Kinemo. The Society produced a series of three films on the soon to be doomed 17.5mm gauge, and sold them to Watch Tower readers and the public in general via the Kinemo Company. Three were produced. The history and description of this venture, with its ups and downs, has been described in past articles on this blog and can be checked there. They were filmed over 1920-21 but not sold to the public until the fall of 1922.

Here are links to all three films. The Imperial Valley one is missing a bit of footage, the other two appear complete. All three films include footage of J F Rutherford. Perhaps the most entertaining is the end of the pyramid film. It must have been like a furnace inside the Great Pyramid, and JFR apparently ventured inside wearing a three-piece suit. Watch him as he leaves! (15:28 on the video)

Cedar Point

One final film completes this article, but alas, has not come to light. The Kinemo system of 17.5 mm film offered a film from the 1922 Cedar Point Ohio convention. The panoramic view of the audience out of doors hearing J F Rutherford speak includes a film crew. Here is a close-up from that photograph.

The subsequent films were offered for sale in the New Era Enterprise newspaper.

The same paper (October 31, 1922) also mentioned that the original Kinemo films had been shown on a large screen at the Cedar Point convention, along with footage of “the Bible House and other organization buildings and offices in Brooklyn, the Bethel Home, etc. the printing and binding of booklets and pamphlets etc.”

I know for certain that the modern Watchtower Society has no copies of any of this material, and I suspect had never heard of it until it was brought to their attention. While it would be silent footage, it would of great historical interest to see it. That is, of course, if it still exists.

Come on now. Anyone out there?


Andrew Martin said...

Simply amazing! Thanks so much for posting.

Welyson Araújo Rios said...

I like it....marvellous!
Please list all the films usef by old Watch Tower(Russell and Rutherford eras)

jerome said...

Someone should do a book - The Films of the Watchtower.

An internet search will provide information on the films used in the Photodrama - some specially produced and others, like the films of Jesus, adapted from commercial productions of the day.

After the Kinemo efforts, the Society did not produce any official films of J F Rutherford, but with the advent of home movie making on 16mm, 9.5mm and 8mm, a lot of footage was shot over the 20s, 30s and 40s. Snippets of these have appeared in more recent Society history films and there was a film about the witnesses in Australia that had a bit of footage from his visit there in the late 1930s. Other amateur film includes him in the radio studio, at a convention in the late 1930s and at Beth Sarim, where he is seen scything the long grass and using a plow - he grew up on a farm so probably enjoyed revisiting those skills.

It was over 30 years after Kinemo in the early 1950s that official movie making started again with the film The New World Society in Action. There were six 16mm films in this new run, five silent with a read commentary and one with sound on film. Then in the 1960s they switched to slide presentations, which were cheaper and less accident prone. Then with the advent of video it became all systems go. Today few meetings or convention talks go by without a video incorporated in them.

Chris G. said...

Great article Jerome, Thank you for revisiting this most interesting topic!

Leonardo Cuéllar said...

Great article Jerome! Actually this article (the original one on blog 2) inspired me to write one in my own blog (in Spanish) covering this same topics and also the 6 films produced between 1954 and 1966 which are: 1. The New World Society in Action, 2. The Happinness of the New World Society, 3. Divine Will International Assembly of Jehovah's Witnesses, 4. Preaching "Everlasting Good News" around the world, 5. God Cannot lie, and 6. Heritage. I have uploaded some of these complete movies in my blog and I am looking for some of them (4 and 5), if anyone have any of these movies please contact me. I have someone who is willing to transfer them from 16mm to digital for free and is trustworthy (he already transfered some for me). If you want to read my article (and watch the movies) you can check it out here:

jerome said...

Even if your Spanish leaves a lot to be desired I can really recommend the link Leonardo puts together, which expands on this article with other material that has appeared on this blog. The pictures are reproduced very well and there is a very nice graphical montage at the start of Leonardo's article. Click on the link to see

roberto said...

Stellar article Jerome. I've put a link to this article in the Italian forum.
Thanks again!

W.A.R said...

thank you very much for film indications!

I want to buy a book about NELSON BARBOUR!