December 3, 2007

Closet Treasures

Picture this - it's a gloomy early Sunday afternoon, and I'm helping my mother clean out her closet. Mostly, it's for her to organize her accounting client files (for either shredding or preparing for tax season) and to make room for my aunt's collection of Pepsi memorabilia.

Suddenly, we both come across a black leather suitcase - too small to hold much more than a legal pad, but containing a plain, brown envelope. As we opened it, we found several canisters of 8MM film, as well as open rolls. It was no surprise to either myself or mom - it was tucked away in the back of Dad's closet, and we decided that we should have them transferred to DVD at some future point. It was slightly hard to believe - my father's Polish/Lithuanian upbringing usually did not include the seeming frivolity of recording moments. Even growing up, privacy seemed to be the major coin of currency, eschewing the spotlight in favor of a strong work ethic. But despite that, I decided to take charge and look into the cost of transferring the films.

When I got home, I made a big mistake - I used the Internet as my first source of information. When I could not find what Walgreens would charge, I waded through a plethora of sites which offered no up-front rates, but which promised to deliver. An equal number of sites warned against "film to DVD mills", so in frustration, I turned off my computer, grabbed a small flashlight and magnifying glass, and began examining the films.

I admit, I was looking for blackmail material on my aunt and uncle. (At the very least, I hoped they were not stag films - try explaining that to some clerk. Or even, possibly, that I had either of these missing Doctor Who stories.) What I eventually discovered...was interesting, to say the least. A silent film complete with intertitles, but with no introduction. A film involving animals running around. A documentary entitled "Undersea Life." But the last two - a film with no title directed by James W. Horne (who directed in the early part of the 20th century), and an Abbott & Costello short entitled "Oysters & Muscles") - really started my head spinning.

First, there was a good chance they were not my father's - after all, he tended to watch only war, Western, and gangster movies. Plus, he did not have a projector to show these movies, which were a little too early for him. (The Abbott & Costello short was released in 1948). And then it hit me...

...these, in all likelihood, were my grandfather's films, in a pre-digital attempt to build a library.

And at that point, I felt a little less awkward about being such a pop culture fan. Turns out - it runs in the family.

[POSTSCRIPT: I spoke briefly with Mom - she thought it might be best to get the film duped, and see if there might be a film society/organization that can determine the films' value, if anything. If any of you intrepid readers know of anything, please don't hesitate to e-mail me]


golfwidow said...

I think that is the most awesome thing I've seen this week.

Roger Owen Green said...

A geek off the old block's block. A very sweet story.