Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Attending the 59th British Film Collectors' Convention in Ealing this afternoon, I was pleased to once more zone-out in the cinema-room there to enjoy a salmagundi of unusual reels from yesteryear.

This time these turned out to be mainly clips from 3D movies (such as Vincent Price's The Mad Magician) and a whole host of trailers (including Avatar in German and The Robe), but buried away in the middle were two nuggets of cinema magic.

Narrated by Leo Genn, Tonight In London seems to be a 1958 publicity film for the city, showcasing the broad spectrum of entertainment that used to be on offer after hours, particularly at the theatre. One sign that flashes up reads "Alec Guinness in The Prisoner". I'd really like to suppose that Obi Wan himself was portraying number 6 in a stage version of the popular TV series, so please don't burst my bubble. (drum-beat)

Joking aside, or maybe not even in evidence, this film is really notable for capturing moments from actual stage shows of the day. Hence we get to witness the young Hattie Jacques, and the even younger Claire Bloom, while elsewhere Max Bygraves himself performs a song.

I find this kind of thing fascinating. Those stage-shows are now lost forever, never to be seen by any audience ever again, and yet this 16mm wheel of technicolor enabled me to impossibly step back in time and go see some of them. That's what the magic of film is all about.

Another enchanting reel was entitled Florida Cypress Gardens, and appears to be a souvenir film from the popular US resort of the same name. Taking in some of the surrounding parks too, this also captures the frankly stunning shows of the era, although this time performed outdoors and underwater. I have to admit, after watching this spellbinding short, I did indeed want to go there on holiday. That's also what the magic of film is all about.

No wonder people flock to these conventions. Gems like these are not available on DVD, or even listed on the IMDB. I just can't find any other page on the internet to link these titles to.

It's ironic that, just like the performances they preserve, to watch these films you still have to be there.

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