Archive for film archives

the enduring suspense of Suspiria

Posted in Film, Library Science stuff, Popular Culture with tags , , , , , on June 22, 2017 by phanteana

one of the joys of being an archivist is discovering copies of materials that were thought to either be lost or damaged. for those in the film archives industry, it means bringing new life to a movie that has previously been screened by audiences, but perhaps missing essential footage or dialogue. such a breakthrough occurred recently at an abandoned movie theater in Italy, whose storage room harbored an uncut 35mm print of Dario Argento‘s Suspiria¬†that hasn’t seen the light of day since its initial release nearly 40(!) years ago. the print was discovered by the Chicago Cinema Society, and after careful inspection appears to be in excellent condition (always a plus when handling rare materials). in fact, this version of the film is in such great condition that it will be embarking on a mini-tour of the US in cities including New York, Los Angeles, Nashville, and Seattle (the CCS website lists dates and locations). so if you’re in or near any of the above metro areas, are a fan of horror/foreign cinema, or simply looking for something different to do, this is your opportunity to see Suspiria on the big screen! hooray for film archivists and their valiant efforts to save movies!


…and since Hollywood loves to reboot classics, that long-brewing remake is finally unveiling its “secret” “irises” on the Internet. two elements that have (hopefully) eased the anxiety of long-time fans are that the new version is not set in modern times, and original star Jessica Harper is among the cast. Ms. Harper (who i’ve met, and is a lovely lady with a wonderful sense of humor) is also known for appearing in the film that inspired a considerable portion of my WordPress, so she can clearly do no wrong. ūüôā


{author’s note: i admit i haven’t seen too many of Argento’s films. but of the ones i have viewed, my favorite is Phenomena}.


hey, Beastmaster’s (still) on

Posted in Film, Library Science stuff with tags , , , , , on June 8, 2017 by phanteana


as technology and media continue to advance forward in new formats, the VHS tape still lingers as a reminder of the past (especially since HBO isn’t showing Beastmaster ad nauseum anymore) thanks to organizations like the VHSPS. but the folks at VHSPS aren’t the only ones working hard to preserve the life span of videotapes; meet the XFR Collective, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving at-risk A/V media through digitization services and education.

according to a recent interview with NPR, the life span of a videotape is decreasing, thus resulting in a “magnetic media crisis“. most VHS tapes typically don’t last more than 15 years (i managed to hold onto a copy of this gem for 13 years before it set sail for the Grey Havens). this is where the fine folks of the XFR Collective come in to reverse the aging process. it can be painstaking work, but it’s also a labor of love as many of these archivists, technicians, and librarians grew up with VHS tapes and are fighting the good fight to see them continue to bring joy to nostalgia-obsessed audiences everywhere…and while it might not have the same effect as it did 30 years ago, we can still say “hey, Beastmaster‘s on.”


Image result for hbo hey beastmaster's on meme

“hey, we’ll still be on!”

let it all out

Posted in Art & Photography, Film with tags , , , on December 28, 2016 by phanteana

The Shout¬†is one of those films that’s impossible to describe to anyone who has never heard of it (i was one of those individuals once upon a time. i had no idea what this movie was about, i just knew it starred John “there’s an alien busting out of my chest” Hurt)…it’s not a horror film, even though it’s often lumped into the category. it could possibly be a thriller, albeit one with psychological elements. it’s definitely a British art-house flick, even though it was directed by a Polish guy. anyway, it’s taken me years to finally watch the whole thing, because copies of it are rather¬†difficult to come across in America. now that i’ve gotten around to viewing this odd little number, i’ll give a brief synopsis without revealing too much:

weird, scruffy-looking dude¬†who claims to have magic powers and lived in the Aborigines wanders down from sand dunes and makes himself a tad too comfortable in a married couple‘s countryside home, all set to a moody soundtrack by 2/3 of Genesis. oh, and Tim Curry is in there, too.¬†

it’s a really bizarre film told largely in flashback, and you have to look¬†closely to figure out what’s going on. think of the situation these three main characters are in¬†as trying to get rid of a REALLY unwanted house guest. if you’re an Anglophile, have a degree in film studies, or are into experimental music, it might appeal to you. but there’s one very important thing to keep in mind…


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“…do not set the volume too looooouuud!”

keepin’ it reel

Posted in Film with tags , , on April 19, 2016 by phanteana

it’s no secret that film archives are headed toward the digital path. but what happens to those brave souls- the projectionists- once the format shift takes effect…are they out of a job? do they continue to work in the field they love, even if it means low pay and sitting in a dark, tiny room isolated from the audience? fortunately, it’s not all doom and gloom for projectionists. there are still quite a number of older movie-houses in the US and abroad, and some of them are quite lovely…even if you’re watching a new release, you still feel like you’ve stepped back 30-40 years in time judging from the decor (and the low cost of snacks). there are even some theaters that still have telephone booths still in tact! England has a number of older cinemas, as profiled in a piece in The Guardian complete with slide shows of the men and women who “make the movies move.” film projectionists, we salute you!






walk, walk, walkman on heaven’s door

Posted in Library Science stuff, Popular Culture with tags , , , , on March 30, 2016 by phanteana

if you’ve ever wondered what to do with that old Walkman, the first thought that probably comes to mind would be to toss it or donate it. but archivists at the National Film & Sound Archive, located in Canberra, Australia, have different plans for outdated technology: preserving it.

the NFSA’s¬†shelves contain an endless array of devices ranging from phonographs to the I-Pod Nano. the majority of the items in this collection were at one point owned by various consumers, who eventually retired them in favor of more modern pieces. as those of us who are familiar with preservation and conservation concepts know, temperature storage is key when it comes to maintaining any kind of physical record. room temperature at NSFA is kept at 18 degrees C (around 64 degrees F), which is relatively comfortable.

obviously, one reason the staff are archiving these relics is because they, like many other records, tell a story. in addition, just because the Walkman hasn’t been popular since the 1990’s, it doesn’t mean it still can’t play those cassettes we forgot we owned.




internet killed the video star

Posted in Film, Popular Culture with tags , , , , , , , on November 30, 2015 by phanteana

the home video rental store, much like the VHS tapes they would carry, has basically died and gone to Obsolete Media Heaven. for many of us, the notion of going to rent a movie on a weekend- whether it was with our parents or our friends- holds a strong sense of nostalgia. the first home¬†rental i can recall¬†from my youth was this. viewing it online as opposed to using old school technology feels¬†odd. the color is¬†washed out,¬†and hearing¬†the voice of Rocky’s trainer coming out of an animated dragon is slightly unnerving in adulthood. but like many other treasured gems of the past, this is one that was found on the shelves of video stores across the country for many years. that all changed, however,¬†when the internet took over.

these days, anything (including the aforementioned childhood staple) can be viewed online. Netflix, Hulu,¬†and countless other streaming channels have replaced the need to drive to the nearest Blockbuster¬†(of, if you were lucky, a more independent store such as¬†Vulcan Video in Austin, TX or Vidiots in Santa Monica, CA) or movie theater chain. is it more cost-effective to purchase one of these services? probably. is it wonderful to have so many movies and television shows at the touch of a button? possibly. does it replace the¬†not-so-fond memories of the film snobs working behind the counter? most likely. we can take comfort in knowing that remnants of video stores are donated to public and private libraries, thus receiving a second chance. as for those snooty video store clerks, let’s hope they’ve moved on from berating us about¬†which is the best Kevin Smith movie.

bye bye Beta

Posted in Film, Library Science stuff with tags , , on November 11, 2015 by phanteana

i’ve posted previously about how Beta is still marketed, despite it being an obsolete technology. unfortunately, the end of an era has arrived as Sony announced it will end its videotape production in 2016. in addition, MV micro-cassettes will also be retired. so hold onto those VHS tapes (or, if you’re in the vicinity of Yale University, donate them), because they could be worth something!

(that is not my hand in the photo)