Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

As the title suggests, this Saturday afternoon I went along to the 57th British Film Collectors' Convention at Ealing Town Hall.

Okay, so that sentence was a bit of a mouthful. It's a six-monthly convention for people who collect old movies on actual movie-film.

I'm actually not much into that, but I do have an active interest in shooting new productions on those gauges, so after I'd paid my usual half-price for my usual late arrival, I took-in my usual brief circuit of the second-hand equipment tables.

Not finding anything I was interested in, I quickly made my way downstairs to the real reason for my presence there, and snuck-into the back of the darkened cinema. I may not be much of a film-collector, but I do quite like watching them, and here was where they spent the whole day projecting oddities from yesteryear – often stuff that you just can't see anywhere else.

As I crept-in, they were approaching the end of a reel of material in 3-D, which I gather had earlier included footage they'd shot at the previous convention.

So, donning the free-to-borrow red-and-blue glasses, I found myself enjoying the end of the Chip'n'Dale cartoon Working For Peanuts.

This short was made over fifty years ago in 1953, and its inherent 3-D-ishness has rendered it fairly unwatchable ever since.

Except that, ironically, I had seen it.

It had been showing at Sylvia Park in Auckland in 2007, when Nigel and I had found a revamped version supporting the full-length 'Meet The Robinsons' in 3-D.

As I now took-in the contrasty colours of the 1953 version, I was in no doubt that the 2007 updated 3-D system had wiped the floor with the old one. How terrific that the advances in technology had not destroyed demand for these old productions, but rather blessed them with a new lease of life.

In the break before the return to two-dimensional reels, I nipped back upstairs to get a doughnut and a tea, before returning for the next vintage picture.

This was the final episode (the first had been shown in the morning) of a Saturday-morning adventure serial from 1945 entitled The Purple Monster Strikes. Yep, despite the title, this print at any rate was in black-and-white. The echoey acoustics of the room didn't do the dialogue any favours either, but the pictures were entertaining enough on their own. (a complement someone once made of some of my own films!) At the end, the hero actually used ciné-film to defeat the villain!

Next up was a Three Stooges short from 1933 entitled Nertsery Rhymes. Plenty to note here – it's only the second film they made, still has Ted Healy in it (the guy who they were originally stooges to) and, despite being from 1933, is in colour!

Their obvious familiarity with their roles, together with the film's palette, initally led me to suppose that this was a later outing, but of course they'd already been playing these roles for years in vaudeville.

Another curiosity was that their banter looked like just umbrella-scenes written to fit around some song and dances that they don't even appear in. Checking Wikipedia afterwards confirmed this - Nertsery Rhymes was MGM's way of using-up footage from their unfinished musical The March Of Time.

After that was a European Technicolor 'puppetoon' short from the 1930s by George Pal. This featured stop-motion figures portraying an opera, which itself told the story of a singing princess, whose performances ultimately get broadcast on radio and TV. Or, more accurately, on Philips radios and TVs – yes, the whole thing turned-out to be an old ten-minute publicity-film!

Despite that, it's a breathtaking little movie in its own right. It's all gorgeously shot, with no actual dialogue, and I was astounded to learn afterwards that, technically, it wasn't actually animated, in the usual sense of the word.

Pal used "replacement" animation, which rather than requiring him to subtly bend each model between frames, instead meant he had to preproduce thousands of almost identical models of each character, each one forged in a slightly different pose. Then, between each frame, Pal would just replace the model with the next, slightly different, one. To see camera-angles swooping past huge crowds of such beautifully-designed characters is mind-boggling, and thoroughly enchanting too.

Then there were two Tom & Jerry shorts - Little Runaway and The Cat And The Mermouse. The former of these included a shot of Tom having a birdbath bowl land upside-down on his head, making him look like a Chinaman in a coolie hat. Again, thanks to the all-knowing Wikipedia I discovered afterwards that this shot has recently been cut from airings on the Cartoon Network.

Finally there was a 35mm scope reel of Spider-Man 2. This is still an absolutely brilliant movie. I completely forgot where I was.

Heading home afterwards, I'd had a great couple of hours.

There is talk of not running the event again due to lack of numbers.

I do hope they continue. These events are unique.

More on the BFCC at

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