My involvement with Dallas Cinemania whetted my appetite for film. I’m not talking about DVDs either. I’m talking actual, physical celluloid. There’s something strangely primitive yet advanced about film. The process of watching a movie involves an interlocking of the both the mechanical and biological at 24 frames per second. I suppose it’s this crux that made me dive into 16mm film. While the images represented by the projected 16mm image can’t hold a candle to the more luxurious 35mm stock, it’s still film — and a more egalitarian form of film than 35mm as well. One can set up a 16mm projector just about anywhere where the light is dim. I think that most folks are fascinated — at least for a while — by the curious oddity of the click-clacking box projecting light onto the white surface opposite. And while most would brush off the 16mm experience as outdated, thinking back to a childhood spent in a darkened classroom with the warbly sound of OUR FRIEND THE ATOM spinning from the middle of the room, I think you’d be hard pressed to find any digital video projector with matching clarity and brightness. With a zoom lens, one can easily fill a wall with the projected image from a 16mm projector. Even more modest projections dwarf a 50″ LCD screen, reminding us how small these televisions really are.
I stalk the eBay listings, looking for fresh postings. I can’t afford to buy the prints I really want to see — so no DRACULA PRINCE OF DARKNESS…no ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN. Those go for upwards of $700 a print. So far my specialty seems to be the western. I own about five feature films including THE MERCENARY (1968), a wonderful spaghetti from Sergio Corbucci starring Franco Nero, Tony Musante and Jack Palance. Recommended. I also won a Technicolor print of the Sean Connery/Bridget Bardot western SHALAKO in scope for next to nothing. One can dig up faded color prints on the cheap as well, if one wants to spend an hour and a half watching a pink-tinted film. Funny, but whenever I think about pink films, I think about the time I showed up to a Joseph Losey retrospective they were having at the Walter Reade in New York a few years back. THE GO-BETWEEN was screening and all the organizers could find was a reddish-pink print. I was heart-broken, but after about five minutes, I settled into the movie like a warm bath and enjoyed it just as much as anything I’ve ever seen. Bad sound and all. The experience reminded me of the fragility of the cinema. One thinks, due to the ubiquity of the DVD, that movies last forever. But time takes its toll on these prints and their negatives, leaving nothing but chewed up plastic and vinegar. Something to think about.