Tag Archives: black and white

Lumiere’s First Picture Show (1975)

14 Mar
Director Auguste Lumiere, Louis Lumiere
Producer Lumiere Bros.
Contributors Blackhawk Films, Eastin-Phelan Distributing Corp.
Length 15 minutes
B&W/Color B&W
UO Library Catalog description:
Film presents a brief history of the technical developments in early motion pictures up to and including Auguste and Louis Lumière. This film is reproduced from a collection of Lumière films unearthed in November, 1972.
Call # Mb194
Genre Experimental, Short
Rare No
Online Yes
Copyright status ©1974 Blackhawk Films
Physical condition Good
Oregon-related No

Notes: Lumiere’s First Picture Show is an essential compilation of the Lumiere brothers’ seminal films during the late 1800’s. It highlights the various films in terms of the technical aspects of film making developed by the brothers in their movies. Many of these shorts are quintessential films that are often shown in the academic realm. I believe viewing them on film is a big part of being conscious of the medium the brothers were working with while creating these movies. The series was transferred to a single 16mm reel after they were found in 1972 and distributed by Blackhawk Films in 1975.

The reel includes the following Lumiere shorts:

La sortie des usines–
Déjeuner de bébé–
Partie d’écarté–
Demolitian d’un mur–
Bataille de neige [?]–
Mise en batterie–
Enfants aux jouets–
Arroseur et arrosé–
Joueurs de cartes arrosés–
Bataille de femmes–
Arrivée du train á la Ciotet–
Basse-cour [?]–
Querelle d’enfants–
Enfants pêchant des cresvettes [?]–
Baignade en mer [?]

Although the film isn’t particularly rare, and many of these shorts can be easily found online, I think that it’s important for any institution of education with a cinema studies program to have at least one copy of Lumiere’s First Picture Show in some form. It is simply too important in terms of historical reference to destroy or get rid of. As I stated before, I believe that viewing it in filmic form provides a more pronounced consciousness of how it was shot and the technology used during the birth of cinema. I think that something is lost in translation when viewing footage such as this digitally.


The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919 35mm, 1961 16mm)

28 Feb
Director Robert Wiene
Producer Rudolph Meinert, Erich Pommer
Contributors Decla-Bioscope AG
Length 71 minutes
B&W/Color B&W (no tinting in transfer from 35mm to 16mm)
UO Library Catalog description: No UO Catalog Description
Call # Not Entered Into UO Libraries
Genre Feature
Rare No
Online Yes
Copyright status Public Domain
Physical condition Reel 1 – Fair, Reel 2 – Good
Oregon-related No

Notes: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is often referred to as one of the first horror films ever (if you disregard the Lumière brothers’ Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat). It was a feature length film directed by Robert Wiene that employed numerous expressionist aesthetic choices and some of the most defined set design and costuming seen since the birth of cinema. The distorted style of the film has influenced everyone from Tim Burton to Rob Zombie, and has taken an integral place in American pop culture despite its German origin. In my opinion it is an essential film to have in this format as it is such a seminal feature that figures so heavily into movies made after it.

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is available in the public domain, and has been for quite some time. Therefore it is widely available online and there are quite a few 16mm film reels still in existence. Most of the 16mm transfers popped up between the 1950’s and 1960’s. 35mm prints of the film are considerably more rare and there has been a noted effort among movie theaters and film festivals to screen restored versions of it to the public. I did some research on how to tell with a 16mm print what type of 35mm print it was transferred from. The most likely scenario would be that it was taken from a Russian print made in the 1920’s. This is probably the case because there is a visible frame line that appears at the top of the picture when it is being used. A tiny bit of the image at the top of the main image at the bottom overlap slightly within the visible dark horizontal frame line. The Russian 35mm prints of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari had to be adjusted for preservation prints in order for the frame line of the original German-made cameras, but in the transfer to preservation prints (which would include 16mm ones), “A sliver of image at the top and the bulk of the image at the bottom now overlap slightly within the visible dark horizontal frame line” (celtoslavica.de). This effect also appears on the DVD transfer of the film.

In terms of a unique history of the reel itself, my mother obtained it from New Mexico State University sometime in the 60’s. It was transferred onto 16mm film by the college, I’m assuming for educational purposes. The transfer leaves out any attribution to directors, stars, producers or distribution companies. Perhaps these didn’t need to be included since the film was being used for educational purposes. The reel is strictly the feature and nothing else. The fantastic condition of the reel would also indicate that my mother obtained it very soon after it was transferred as she essentially put it into storage when she moved and hadn’t watched it since.

The Great Train Robbery (35mm 1904, 16mm 1961)

13 Feb
Director Edwin S. Porter
Producer Blackhawk Films
Contributors Gatewood W. Dunston Film Collection, Library of Congress
Length 10 Minutes
B&W/Color B&W with sections of hand painted frames in color.
UO Library Catalog description: Bandits tie up the station master, stop the train, rob the mail car, take the passenger’s valuables, and then escape, and the station master’s daughter frees her father, alerts a group at a dance who then chase and overtake the robbers.
Call # Ma163
Genre Feature
Rare No
Online Yes
Copyright status Public Domain
Physical condition Poor
Oregon-related No

Notes: The Great Train Robbery is arguably one of the most influential films of all time, and certainly one of the most important in terms of editing and visual aesthetics. The film created such techniques ascross cutting, double exposure, composite editing, camera movement and on location shooting. There are certain 35mm prints that featured hand-colored frames as well to accentuate some of the more exciting parts of the movie.

This version is a 16mm duplicate of an original 35mm print. There is a disclaimer by Blackhawk films featured at the beginning indicating this. It states, “Presented in virtually the original form in which it was initially shown. Re-processed to eliminate the appearance of surface blemishes and scratches.” This may have been the case when the 35mm was transferred into the 16mm format in 1961, but the condition of the film now is absolutely terrible, with multiple frames that have been totally blown out and melted by heat, scratches, extensive warping and tons of splices. I would imagine that a film so important would have been watched and handled quite a bit for educational purposes as well as for any entertainment value, which would explain why its physical condition is so bad.

One of the strangest things however is that this may be actually two 16mm versions of The Great Train Robbery spliced together. About a quarter of the way through, the film jumps suddenly from one scene to a seemingly unrelated one. When this happens the color changes completely from black and white to red. Although the disclaimer by Blackhawk films says that certain hand painted scenes from the 35mm were retained in the transfer to 16mm, the sudden shift from black and white to pinkish-red doesn’t seem intentional, and doesn’t occur at a point of excitement or elevated emotion. This leads me to believe that at some point the original 16mm reel had become so damaged that someone decided to splice it into a different reel that had undergone some serious emulsion degradation. This would make sense, because the portion of the film with the red coloring is in notably better physical condition than the initial black and white portion. Perhaps the red part was handled and used less, but stored in less than favorable conditions while the black and white part of the reel was used to the point of being in terrible physical condition, but stored in a way that preserved its black and white properties.

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