I’m writing from what has now become the Thunderbean bunker, having brought home many of the basic things from the office for the ‘duration’, whenever that may be. With the archives and almost all available scanners closed, I’ve been reorganizing what projects can be worked on when. Happily there are things that can move forward, and I’ve been enjoying figuring that out in recent days. We’re continuing to work with our small, sheltered and scattered team, and I’m enjoying working closely on a few of the projects right now.
I saw an image of Koko the Clown earlier today, and I was thinking back about when I received a print of Modeling (1921) from a seller on Ebay, many years back. I had won that print along with another oddity, An Egyptian Gyp (1930). I think both prints from from a seller in Missouri who didn’t collect film but had found these reels in an estate sale. I love when stuff like this shows up.
Not knowing anything about nitrate, the seller had sent both films via media mail the day I won them, with my note to him arriving too late. Luckily they made it up here in one piece each, and their transportation remained intact as well. Both films looked as if they’d spent some time in a barn or some other less-than-clean storage area, with dust and dirt crusted onto one side of both reels.
Many years earlier, in the early 90s, I remember a bunch of films had been donated to the University of Michigan that had been stored in a barn for many years. They were all 35mm and mostly old IB Technicolor prints of musicals, with many crusted with dust, dirt and hay. Amazingly, most of that material was absolutely beautiful once it was cleaned up. The 35mm print of Rhapsody of Steel we used on Mid-Century Modern, Volume 2 was part of that collection. I’m sure you folks who collect film out there have seen your share of strangeness over the years too… please tell a story here if you have one!
While there was no hay in these cartoon reels, at first glance the possibility of intact coming out of either looked dubious at best. I was pretty worried about water damage when I first saw the actual condition of the reels, and I also felt they had been misrepresented (the seller took pictures of the better side of each reel if I’m remembering correctly). I was mad at first while gently cleaning the outside edges of Modeling. Both turned out to be in decent enough shape to scan after a little cleanup. There was a sprocket nick on one side of the sprockets of Modeling throughout that went into the picture slightly that happily didn’t tear further.
This print and a 35mm of A Swiss Trick were the first cartoons I scanned in HD. It wasn’t long after that the price on HD dropped signifigantly, allowing us to do everything in HD directly to quicktime files.
So, here’s that print of Modeling. This heavily Amber-tinted print is now nearly 100 years old, but Max Fleischer and a young Roland (Doc) Crandall are still very much alive on these frames. It’s a wonderful little short combining drawn and stop Motion clay animation with live action, and while not a perfect print, it sure looks nice in HD. We put this short on the “Fleischer Classics” blu-ray. Take a little break and enjoy!
Stay safe, everyone!