Halloween Spook Show at the Grand Illusion

Tomorrow night!  Friday, October 30, 2009 at 8:00 PM — one show only!

The Sprocket Society proudly presents
The Grand Illusion Halloween Spook Show!

Featuring: Movies! A real live seance!  Monsters run amuck! And your host, The Swami!

At the Grand Illusion Cinema, 1403 NE 50th Street (at University Way)
Part of the 2009 All Monsters Attack! series

(Preview trailer by Marc Palm)

Jr. Star Trek (1969)

Jr. Star Trek (1969)
Produced and Directed by Peter Emshwiller


Peter Emshwiller: Capt. Kirk
Lee Lowenstein: Spock
Mark Hyams: Dr. McCoy
Dave Erits: Henry
Mark Harris: Sulu (and stunts)
John Bergison: Scotty
All: Aliens

Via YouTube, posted by the filmmaker.

Made by 10-year-old Peter and his friends using the 16mm sound camera of his dad — filmmaker, pioneering computer animator and video artist (videography) Hugo-winning science fiction illustrator and educator, Ed Emshwiller.  Peter’s mother is science fiction author Carol Emshwiller.

Jr. Star Trek won WNET’s “Young People’s Filmmaking Contest,” was shown on national television, and is still shown at Star Trek conventions.

Tour of Forrest J Ackerman’s Ackermansion, 1986 on Pasadena Cable TV

Via YouTube:

“[In the] Summer of 1986 my old friend and then student Luis Pelayo and I ventured to the home of horror icon Forrest J Ackerman to shoot some footage to go with the appearance of 4SJ on Air Talk, a long running Pasadena City College radio program that we had recently developed as a live cable TV program.

“The program was entirely student produced under the auspices of a class taught by myself and Sharon Stephens.

“…Here are some surviving clips of the interview and the ‘tour’ of his home cum museum.”


Another tour:

A Visit to the Ackermansion — Home video from 1998
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Forrest J Ackerman

Forrest J Ackerman (photo by Mark Berry)

Forrest J Ackerman
November 24, 1916 – December 4, 2008

I still remember the moment I first spotted Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine at a corner drugstore in Indianapolis, catercorner from the Glendale Shopping Mall.  As a lonely horror and sci-fi movie nerd in the Midwest, I couldn’t believe my eyes.  The writing was pretty dopey, even to my 10-year-old tastes, but all the amazing photos were pure mana.  I rarely missed an issue for years after, and I started collecting back issues thanks to the prodigious stocks at the old Comic Carnival shop in Broad Ripple.

Like legions of others, Forry and his mag had a huge impact on me.  Through it I started to learn about these great (and not-so-great) films, those who made them, and the whole history of what were then still largely dismissed genres.  The info about special effects — still mostly mechanical then — led me to learn about movie technology.  Many times I’d see an article or just a single tantalizing still about some obscure film, and off I’d go to the library to comb through the film books in the stacks trying to find out more about it.  I can’t imagine how many hundreds of hours I must’ve spent in those stacks.

And it was because of this that I learned of the existence of the film branch of the public library in Indianapolis.  In those pre-home video days they had an unimaginable treasure:  hundreds of old films on Super 8, Regular 8, and 16mm.  All you needed was a library card.  My mom had a friend who owned a Super 8 projector, and got her to lend it — I borrowed it so much, she wound up just giving it to me. (And it was a really nice sound projector, too — thanks Katie!  I kept it for many years, then gave it to a filmmaker.)

I first saw The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Metropolis, The Lost World, Vampyr, and dozens of other films on the wall of my bedroom, that projector clattering next to me.  The library lent them for a week at a time, so I could run whole movies or selected reels over and over.  Eventually I started having movie parties, usually on my birthday, subjecting my friends to four solid hours of movies at a time — two hours of shorts, an intermission, then a silent feature.  Soon, after brow-beating my parents into buying me a cheap Super 8 camera, I started making my own movies (now all lost forever).

So in truth, it’s largely thanks to Forry that my love for cheesey horror and sci-fi flicks grew into something resembling scholarship about film in general, that I’ve continued to do film programming through the years, started collecting films, and today, as a pot-bellied guy entering middle age, actually get to project 35mm movies at my local cinematheque.  His love for the art, his love for his fellow nerds, his playful spirit, and the fact that he managed to forge a life completely devoted to the thing he loved — even when most in the world thought it was worthless trash — were enormous and formative influences for me.

Thanks, Forry.

Famous Monsters of Filmland celebrated its 50th anniversary last month.  Forrest J Ackerman (no period after the “J”, please) died quietly at 11:58pm on Thursday, Dec. 4, 2008 at the age of 92.

Forrest J Ackerman interview video: A Life as a Fan (2007)

Excerpt from an interview transcribed for a Sept. 2007 “revival” of Thrilling Wonder Stories.

Watch more streaming video from the same interview.


Obits: L.A. Times, NY Times, Time magazine, and The Guardian (UK)

AICN: “Forrest J Ackerman is gone… Dr. Acula has returned to the grave… & the Ackermonster is at peace…” — A remarkable euglogy by Harry Knowles which includes Ackerman’s own “In Contemplation of My Inevitable Demise,” written on Mother’s Day, 2003.

Wikipedia: Forrest J Ackerman

Some books edited and compiled by Forry — James A. Rock & Company, publishers (Rockville, MD)

Forrest J Ackerman MySpace page

Famous Monsters of Filmland cover gallery — all issues, 1958-present.

Famous Monsters of Filmland — official Web site (now owned by Phil Kim)

Filmland Classics — offers Famous Monsters reprints and other related collectibles

Forrest J Ackerman in 1969 (photo by Jack Carrick, LA Times)

Secret Sunday Matinees — only 3 weeks left

The Sunday Secret Matinee - every week at Noon at the NW Film Forum thru Nov. 23, 2008

There’s only 3 shows left in the Secret Sunday Matinee series presented by The Sprocket Society and the Northwest Film Forum.

Each Sunday at noon is a two hour, old-fashioned matinee, with a cartoon and/or a short film (usually old weird stuff), an episode of the classic 1940 weekly movie serial Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe, and a special Secret Feature — a classic or “classic” matinee movie from the ’30-’60s. Since we’re showing Flash Gordon, the emphasis is on sci-fi, fantasy, adventure and horror. Nothing but good stuff, often rarely screened. All on 16mm (no video), shown with NW Film Forum’s theatrical-grade projector.

The Secret Matinee series has been running since September, and it ends the last Sunday of November. There’s only 3 shows left! And yes, it’s fine to come in your PJs.

The 12th and last episode of Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe will be shown in 2 weeks. But we’re booked for 13 weeks, so the series finale will be The “13th Episode” Show on Nov. 23, with extra-special cartoons and short films that require funny glasses.

Here’s what’s coming up, with some clues about the Secret Features… Original movie poster for 'Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe' (1940, 12 chapter serial)

This Sun. November 9:

Cartoons and shorts: Betty Boop’s Ups and Downs (1932) — a surreal Depression-era classic from the Fleischer brothers; and an excellent but untitled 1906 (?) French special effects short by Segundo de Chomon, a tinted 16mm print. Silent, shown with music by Sun Ra.

The Secret Feature: A rarely-shown Japanese giant monster movie from the mid-’60s, but not with Godzilla or the other usual suspects. American actor Nick Adams makes his kaiju movie debut in this negelected Toho classic directed by Ishiro Honda. In color.

AND! The penultimate episode of Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe! It all comes to a head in chapter 11: “Stark Treachery”! Ming takes over Prof. Zarkov’s mind and turns him against his friend Flash!

Sun. November 16:

Cartoons and shorts: Little Red Riding Hood (1949) — one of the last and best of the series of fairy tale stop-motion animation films made independently by a young Ray Harryhausen. A rare original 16mm Kodachrome color print.

Secret Feature: One of the all-time classics! Featuring the artistry of Harryhausen and Willis (King Kong) O’Brien. In B&W.

AND! The thrilling conclusion of Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe! Chapter 12: “Doom of the Dictator”! Sucks to be Ming!

Sun. November 23 – series finale:

Twisted cartoons & shorts
3D Short Films — an anaglyphic rarity from 1941, Third Dimensional Murder, plus digest versions of ’50s classics

And of course, A SECRET FEATURE — possibly a condensed feature-length version of one of the other Flash Gordon serials…or possibly something much different… You’ll have to come back next week to find out…

The Secret Sunday Matinee - every week at Noon at the NW Film Forum thru Nov. 23, 2008

Sunday Secret Matinees — through November at the Northwest Film Forum

Flash Gordon and Professor Zarkov operate a space-age radio console

Every Sunday at noon through November at the Northwest Film Forum, the Sprocket Society presents the Sunday Secret Matinee, featuring the ongoing cliffhanger adventures of Flash Gordon, plus a Secret Matinee Feature, rare and unusual short films, and — of course — cartoons.

All 12 episodes of the classic movie serial Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe are being shown, in order, once a week — just like it was originally in 1940.

Each week’s Secret Matinee Feature guarantees thrills and chills with classic (and “classic”) science fiction, horror, giant monsters and pirate extravaganzas.

The cartoons and short films being shown each week include a mixture of sound and silent stuff:  Winsor McCay, the Fleischer brothers, Chuck Jones, Emil Cohl, Georges Melies, Norman McLaren, Thomas Edison, Willis O’Brien, Len Lye, Alexandre Alexeiff, and many others.

It’s a weekend matinee just like in the old days.
Series passes and advance tickets are available online.  Box office opens at 11:30 AM.   Full ticket info is available at the Sprocket Society web site.

Every Sunday at noon, through November 23, 2008
at the Northwest Film Forum
1515 12th Avenue
(on Capitol Hill between Pike and Pine)

More info at www.sprocketsociety.org/secret/

Long-Lost Metropolis Footage Found

A still from the recently recovered Argentinian 16mm 'director's cut' print of Fritz Lang's 'Metropolis'.

Silent and sci-fi film nerds the world over are all atwitter with the astonishing and happy news that a 16mm print of Fritz Lang’s original edit of Metropolis (1927) has been found in Argentina, containing all but one scene lost to date — about 25 minutes of “new” footage in all.

In 2002, an exhaustive restoration of the classic film was released theatrically and, later, to DVD. But even that version was still missing shots and entire scenes. Such missing segments were denoted by black footage with titles describing what was missing, based on research that included the original script, period censorship papers, and other documents. At the time it was universally believed that this was as good as it would ever get, and those of us privileged enough to catch a theatrical screening (as I did at The Varsity in Seattle) rejoiced.  A more fully-restored version is something no one thought possible.

According to late-breaking reports, a version of the film including this newly-recovered footage will be released by Kino Video on DVD and Blu-Ray in 2009, although it is not yet resolutely confirmed at this very early date whether the recovered footage will be fully integrated into the film as opposed to offered as extras.

Related Update:  As noted recently on The Bioscope blog, an Ecuadoran newspaper has reported that another print of Metropolis with possibly previously-lost footage was found in the film archives of the University of Chile.  The bad news is it’s a 9.5mm print, a short-lived format used in the 1920s and early ’30s for home and educational markets.  Some features were distributed on 9.5mm film, but usually in a shortened form.  The El Telégrafo story quotes a Nov. 7, 2008 article in the Santiago daily, La Tercera as saying Cinemateca director Luis Horta confirmed to them that the print had been identified in 2006, after having been misfiled for decades.  Horta confessed they did not have the ability to project the obsolete format, but after the surprise 16mm find in Argentina the archive decided to send the print to Murnau-Stiftung, in Germany, for analysis.  The film had been in the collection for some time.  The bloody 1973 coup that brought Augusto Pinochet to power was followed by a violent cultural purge.  Pedro Chaskel, the director of the university’s Cinemateca at the time, changed the labels of some films to prevent them from being destroyed by the military before he himself was purged. Apparently this copy of Metropolis was one of these films, though why it in particular would be endagered was not explained in the reports.  Chaskel became the director of the University of Chile in 2005, following the death of Pinochet.

To keep up with late-breaking developments and discussion by the world’s preeminent film scholars, I recommend keeping an eye on the email list of AMIA (the Association of Moving Image Archivists). The discussion already available includes first-hand accounts from the archivist who made the discovery.

Following below are a couple relevant posts to that list, and the entire text of the July 2, 2008 article from Die Zeit, the German newspaper that broke the news.

From AMIA-L:

Date: Thu, 3 Jul 2008 07:11:11 +0200
Sender: Association of Moving Image Archivists
From: Martin Koerber
Subject: Re: [AMIA-L] Is this news about METROPOLIS real or a hoax?

Dear all,

I was just about to put this link into a message, when Tom beat me to it.

Paula Felix-Didier of the Museo del Cine in Buenos Aires indeed came to Berlin last week to show us what she found, and it is the real thing, no hoax this time. The material is terribly banged up, being a 16 mm dupe negative made from a no longer extant nitrate print, which was duplicated some decades ago after many years of heavy use. Nevertheless one can now see the director’s cut of Metropolis, 80 years after we all believed the original version was destroyed. Contrary to our thinking, obviously at least one print of the original cut made it into distribution, albeit in Argentina.

Only one of the missing scenes (the monk in the cathedral) remains missing, because it happened to be at a reel end that got badly torn. The rest is there.

The images you will find at the links Tom gave will show you some scenes, and also expose the amount of damage. They look indeed a little worse than the real thing, as they are frame grabs from a DVD transfer of the dupe.

About 10 pages of information and frame enlargements from many more missing sequences are in the printed edition of DIE ZEIT, which is coming out today. I guess you can find this at the news stands in most countries in Europe, don’t know about the international edition overseas. Flip through it before you buy it, the articles about Metropolis are in the somewhat glossy “Zeit Magazin Leben” which comes with the paper. It will surely become a collector’s item.

Kudos to Paula Felix-Didiér and her initiative to unearth the material and share the information.

A lot of thinking is now necessary to find ways to incorporate this material into the existing restoration, released on DVD by Transit Film and Kino International, among others. It has titles and black leader where the missing parts once were so in principle one could just insert whatever is new at those inserts. The good news is that Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung intends to do just that once access to the material has been granted.

The critical edition of Metropolis on DVD, which Enno Patalas derived from the 2001 restoration in order to create a “full” version of Metropolis has even more information about the missing scenes, and has the option to fill the missing scenes with not only black leader, but information from the script and other sources. When ran in synch with the material found in Buenos Aires, it is amazing to see how everything falls into place now.

The critical edition can be found here: http://www.filminstitut.udk-berlin.de/MKF/html/pages/filme/metropolis.html

Date: Fri, 4 Jul 2008 08:03:33 -0300
Sender: Association of Moving Image Archivists
From: Paula Felix-Didier
Subject: METROPOLIS, the Buenos Aires affair.

Hello everybody this is just a follow up on the Metropolis find. Most of what you probably want to know is already in Martin’s post. I can tell you a little bit more about how I suspected that the print I had was more than the usual American version.

I’m the Director of the Museo del Cine de Buenos Aires, and I’m also a film historian, and a graduate from the NYU moving image preservation program. It was indeed a great moment when we pulled out the print we held in the archive and we could see a few images we’ve never seen before. This 16mm dupe neg was sitting in the Museum vault since 1992. When I was appointed director of the museum this past January, I immediately went to check the reels because I had -ticking in my mind- a story that Fernando Pena, (historian, film collector, curator and more, who also happens to be my ex-husband) told me a few years ago: a projectionist told him that he would never forget the stupid Metropolis print that made him hold it with his finger throughout the 2 hour screening. Of course, the 2 hour thing tipped him off. So we really couldn’t wait to get hold of that print and make sure. It was only a matter of finding the cans and pulling out the reels and watch them against the light to realize that at least some of the missing scenes were there. I immediately made a transfer to dvcam and we screened it one morning to finally confirm that it was all there (I know, Martin, I know… the priest reading the Bible is still missing, but we can’t really complain, can we?)

Understandably, at first nobody believed me. This had happened before. People thinking they had what it turned out to be yet another butchered version. So only after I showed it to Martin Koerber, Enno Patalas, Reiner Rotha and the Murnau Stiftung people, and they were able to see it with their own eyes, the news could be confirmed.

There is more to this story but I won’t bore you with the details.. I also want to make very clear that I haven’t shown the complete film to anybody but the aformentioned people and I’m not planning on doing so since the Murnau Stiftung holds the rights for the film. The press got only a few seconds and some frame captures.

Saludos cordiales
Paula Felix-Didier
Museo del Cine “Pablo D. Hicken”
Buenos Aires – Argentina

From Die Zeit:

Key scenes rediscovered
Key scenes from Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis” have been rediscovered
July 2, 2008

Last Tuesday Paula Félix-Didier travelled on a secret mission to Berlin in order to meet with three film experts and editors from ZEITmagazin. The museum director from Buenos Aires had something special in her luggage: a copy of a long version of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, including scenes believed lost for almost 80 years. After examining the film the three experts are certain: The find from Buenos Aires is a real treasure, a worldwide sensation. Metropolis, the most important silent film in German history, can from this day on be considered to have been rediscovered.

Fritz Lang presented the original version of Metropolis in Berlin in January 1927. The film is set in the futuristic city of Metropolis, ruled by Joh Fredersen, whose workers live underground. His son falls in love with a young woman from the worker’s underworld – the conflict takes its course. At the time it was the most expensive German film ever made. It was intended to be a major offensive against Hollywood. However the film flopped with critics and audiences alike. Representatives of the American firm Paramount considerably shortened and re-edited the film. They oversimplified the plot, even cutting key scenes. The original version could only be seen in Berlin until May 1927 — from then on it was considered to have been lost forever. Those recently viewing a restored version of the film first read the following insert: “More than a quarter of the film is believed to be lost forever.”

ZEITmagazin has now reconstructed the story of how the film nevertheless managed to survive. Adolfo Z. Wilson, a man from Buenos Aires and head of the Terra film distribution company, arranged for a copy of the long version of “Metropolis” to be sent to Argentina in 1928 to show it in cinemas there. Shortly afterwards a film critic called Manuel Peña Rodríguez came into possession of the reels and added them to his private collection. In the 1960s Peña Rodríguez sold the film reels to Argentina’s National Art Fund — clearly nobody had yet realised the value of the reels. A copy of these reels passed into the collection of the Museo del Cine (Cinema Museum) in Buenos Aires in 1992, the curatorship of which was taken over by Paula Félix-Didier in January this year. Her ex-husband, director of the film department of the Museum of Latin American Art, first entertained the decisive suspicion: He had heard from the manager of a cinema club, who years before had been surprised by how long a screening of this film had taken. Together, Paula Félix-Didier and her ex-husband took a look at the film in her archive — and discovered the missing scenes.

Paula Félix-Didier remembered having dinner with the German journalist Karen Naundorf and confided the secret to her. Félix-Didier wanted the news to be announced in Germany where Fritz Lang had worked — and she hoped that it would attract a greater level of attention in Germany than in Argentina. The author Karen Naundorf has worked for DIE ZEIT for five years — and let the editorial office of ZEITmagazin in on her knowledge.

Among the footage that has now been discovered, according to the unanimous opinion of the three experts that ZEITmagazin asked to appraise the pictures, there are several scenes which are essential in order to understand the film: The role played by the actor Fritz Rasp in the film for instance, can finally be understood. Other scenes, such as for instance the saving of the children from the worker’s underworld, are considerably more dramatic. In brief: “Metropolis, Fritz Lang’s most famous film, can be seen through new eyes.”, as stated by Rainer Rother, Director of the Deutsche Kinemathek Museum and head of the series of retrospectives at the Berlinale.

Helmut Possmann, director of the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau Foundation, the holder of the rights to “Metropolis”, said to ZEITmagazin: “The material believed to be lost leads to a new understanding of the Fritz Lang masterpiece.” The Murnau Foundation now sees itself as “responsible, along with the archive in Buenos Aires and our partners for making the material available to the public.”

The rediscovered material is in need of restoration after 80 years; the pictures are scratched, but clearly recognizable. Martin Koerber, the restorer of the hitherto longest known version of “Metropolis”, who also examined the footage, said to ZEITmagazin: “No matter how bad the condition of the material may be, the original intention of the film, including all of its minor characters and subplots, is now once again tangible for the normal viewer. The rhythm of the film has been restored.”

And perhaps the scratches, which will probably remain even after restoration, will have an added advantage: The cinemagoer will be reminded of what an exciting history this great film has had.

Here are some additional stills from the Argentine footage, as posted to Ain’t It Cool News:

Program Notes for Georges Melies: Impossible Voyager

Last night’s Sprocket Society show at the Northwest Film ForumGeorges Méliès: Impossible Voyager — went really well, and we packed the house. Thanks to everyone who came (especially the young ‘uns). I hope you had as much fun as I did.

Unfortunately it was so well attended, we ran out of program booklets (sorry again, folks). So for those of who missed out, or are just interested passers-by, you can download a PDF of the full program notes (1.9mb – link updated) here or at the Sprocket Society site.

Thanks again to Climax Golden Twins for contributing their excellent live mix of 78s, to Dave Shepard at Film Preservation Associates for permission to read his translation of Méliès’ original narration for The Impossible Voyage, and to Mike Whybark for the loan of his vintage tux and tails.

Oh, one note of clarification in case anyone was wondering. One of the local papers said we were to play a recording of Méliès himself reading the narration. While this would have been wonderful, it was not the case and I’m not quite sure how the misunderstanding came about since it was not in the press release. I guess I wasn’t quite emphatic enough about the live performance aspect. Ah well.

To the best of my knowledge, there are no recordings of Méliès reading or performing any of his many narrations for his films. In the case of The Impossible Voyage in particular, Dave Shepard worked with a number of scholars from around the world to assemble and translate the narration from surviving texts. (I made a few minor edits of my own to smooth some phrasings.) When I spoke (briefly) with Serge Bromberg of Lobster Films about this general topic while at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival last summer, he made no mention of any such recordings of Méliès but did say that the Cinémathèque Française had apparently published some as a book or booklet some years past.

Much more than this I don’t know. So I reckon I should poke around and see what I can learn about it, wot?

Special Georges Melies Film Program on May 15, 2008 at Northwest Film Forum

Poster for 'Georges Melies: Impossible Voyager' - May 15, 2008 at the Northwest Film Forum

Announcing a very special event co-presented by The Sprocket Society and the Northwest Film Forum

Special effects epics from 1901-1912

Thursday, May 15, 2008 at 8:00 PMOne show only!

At the Northwest Film Forum — 1515 12th Avenue (on Capital Hill at Pike)
(206) 329-2629

$8.50 general admission / $5 NWFF members / $6 kids under 12 & seniors
Advance tickets available online via BrownPaperTickets.com

A special celebration of the mad filmic genius of Georges Méliès, the father of special effects, featuring rare 16mm film prints of his greatest sci-fi, fantasy and adventure epics…all presented with unusual musical accompaniment!


A rare presentation of The Impossible Voyage (1904) with a live performance of the original narration penned by Méliès himself plus music provided by Climax Golden Twins playing 78 rpm records on actual Victrolas, right there in the theater!


Six more great films, all presented with non-traditional musical recordings including free jazz by the Hal Russell NRG Ensemble, the Master Musicians of Jajouka, The Residents (in a special remix by Scott Colburn), demented Dada scat-jazz by Fred Lane, and more! Featuring…

  • A Trip to the Moon (1901) — rare extended version!
  • The Kingdom of the Fairies (1903) — rare “complete” version!
  • The Palace of Arabian Nights (1905) — stunning acrobatic sets!
  • Paris to Monte Carlo (1905) — with hand-colored scenes!
  • The Merry Frolics of Satan (1906) — beautifully tinted!
  • Conquest of the Pole (1912) — his last masterpiece in a (kinda) rare French version!

Learn more and see a bunch of photos, including rare behind-the-scenes shots and production drawings, at the Sprocket Society web site. You can also download the official press release (PDF, 112kb).

Hope to see you there… A splendid time is guaranteed for all!

(Poster design by Brian Alter.)

(This program is not affiliated with Flicker Alley, though I encourage you to check out their new Méliès DVD box set!)