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Author Topic: The Magic Box
Paul Adsett
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From: USA
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 - posted January 08, 2006 10:35 AM      Profile for Paul Adsett     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
The Magic Box 1951
120 mins, 2400ft
Color, Derann

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This is the 1951 feature made by the British film industry to celebrate the festival of Britain. The film stars a virtual who's who of all the famous British cinema actors of that time, and one of the fun things about this film is trying to identify all of them as they pop up in various cameo roles.
The story is the biography of William Friese- Greene, who this film claims invented the motion picture camera and projector. Edison and Lumiere are casually acknowledged as also being motion picture pioneers, but Friese-Greene is claimed to have had the first intermittent mechanism (presumably the maltese cross) used in today's cinema projectors. It also claims that he invented the biocolour process, where colour motion pictures are produced by rotating two colour filters in front of the camera and projector (KinemaColour).
The lead role is beautifully played by Robert Donat as the quiet intense inventor obsessed with producing moving photographs, and his wife is competently played by Maria Schell. Also appearing in cameo roles are Michael Redgrave, Richard Attenborough, Peter Ustinov, Stanley Holloway, Michael Dennison, the great Dennis Price, the beautiful Glynnis Johns and her father Mervyn Johns, the eccentric Joyce Grenfell, the wonderful Margeret Rutherford, and a host of others too long to mention. The most famous cameo is by Sir Laurence Olivier, as the astonished policemean who witnesses Friese-Greene's first triumph, the projection of moving images of Hyde Park on an improvised sheet screen. This is the most remembered scene of the film, and Friese Greene's excitement at this event reminded me of my own excitement when I first turned the handle on my first Pathescope 9.5mm projector!
The film is of great interest to film collectors and movie buffs, containing beautiful shots of old wood and brass magic lantirns and early movie equipment. There are many wonderful scenes, such as the Victorian photo studio where they show customers having to stand absolutely still for 30 seconds to get their photo taken! The film was produced by Roy Boulting, and the beautiful victorian settings and costumes are sumptously photographed by Jack Cardiff. My family and friends really enjoyed this movie, it is low key almost like a BBC period drama, but if you are a film collector you will love it.
We take the showing of films in our homes for granted these days, and it easy to forget the real struggle by inventors such as Friese- Greene to achieve what seemed impossible at the time.
American audiences will of course have to (at least temporarily) suspend their belief that Edison was the sole inventor of the motion picture camera ( in fact Edison was primarily a buisness man and enterpreneur who copied many of the motion picture concepts developed by Lumiere in France)

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This film is very rare indeed. I don't think it exists on VHS or DVD,(certainly not in the USA), so if you find an S8 print grab it! My particular super 8 print is a Derann 2400 ft Agfa colour print, pin sharp with beautiful rich colours and great contrast. The mono magnetic track sound quality is very good for a film of 1951 vintage.
Highly recommended, if you can find it.

Print A
Sound A
Content A
Packaging None. I have mounted my print on two 1200ft reels and made a special cardboard box with downloaded graphics of the film on the cover- looks pretty good!

[ February 18, 2008, 02:06 PM: Message edited by: Paul Adsett ]

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Kevin Faulkner
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 - posted January 29, 2006 05:59 PM      Profile for Kevin Faulkner         Edit/Delete Post 
Paul, this title is one of my all time greats and no I have not been able to find a copy. I love the scene where Wiliam drags the policeman off the street to see the first moving pics.
I'm keeping my eyes open [Smile]

Kev.

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Paul Adsett
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 - posted February 01, 2006 09:40 PM      Profile for Paul Adsett     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Kev I got my copy from Phil Johnson in Texas. It was a used print but in absolutely mint condition. It really is a great film, and one that demands to be shown on a cine projector- not video!

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Paul Adsett
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 - posted February 18, 2008 02:13 PM      Profile for Paul Adsett     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Since I wrote this review a couple of years ago it appears that The Magic Box has now been released on DVD in the UK. Based on the single user review on Amazon.com it appears that the quality of the DVD may be very poor, a far cry from the Super 8 print which is generally superb through almost all the scenes. Still, if you have never seen The Magic Box, and cannot find a super 8 print, the DVD is probably well worth getting as it is a terrific film for all of us who love film and film projectors. [Wink]

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Graham Ritchie
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 - posted February 19, 2008 01:21 PM      Profile for Graham Ritchie   Email Graham Ritchie   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Paul
Excellent review of a film I have yet to see on Super8 or anything else, it has been very elusive hope it comes out on DVD in the future.

Graham.

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Trevor Adams
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 - posted February 19, 2008 02:40 PM      Profile for Trevor Adams   Author's Homepage   Email Trevor Adams   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Hello, Graham,it is available on dvd at Amazon.com right now for 5 pounds. [Wink] Trev

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Paul Adsett
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 - posted February 19, 2008 04:22 PM      Profile for Paul Adsett     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Thanks for that nice comment Graham. If there is one film in my S8 collection that I would never part with, this is it. Hope you get to see the film, even on DVD.

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James N. Savage 3
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 - posted February 21, 2008 06:19 AM      Profile for James N. Savage 3   Email James N. Savage 3   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Great review Paul.

When did Derann release this one? Was it in the earlier days of super 8 (70's), or during the resurgence of super 8 in the 90's.

James.

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Paul Adsett
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 - posted February 21, 2008 09:27 AM      Profile for Paul Adsett     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I can't answer that one James. I got my copy about 5 years ago from Phil Johnson in Texas. It is a used copy, but like all the films and equipment that Phil sells, it is like brand new, not a mark on it.
Perhaps somebody else on the forum knows when Derann printed this title, and how many were sold.

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Keith Ashfield
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 - posted February 23, 2008 06:59 AM      Profile for Keith Ashfield     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Just got my DVD this morning and I have to say, I totally disagree with the reviewer on Amazon that Paul wrote about. As Paul so rightly said, the picture quality is no where near Super 8 quality but, in my opinion it's not bad at all. The print has obviously not been "digitally restored" in any way, which is a great pity, but the colour is better than some of the so-called "more popular" releases of films from the same era, on DVD. As it doesn't get shown on T.V. a great deal, I urge non Super 8 print owners to get it. I will be watching it on my video projector tonight.
I remember my Dad telling me he had the great fortune of seeing this film when it was released in 1951, (the year of my birth), at the Festival of Britain. For the lover of "reel" film it is a "must have". Below is a "snapshot" of the digital image from the DVD

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P.S. Paul / James - Derann released the feature print in late 1994.

[ March 11, 2008, 12:03 AM: Message edited by: Keith Ashfield ]

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Trevor Adams
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 - posted February 28, 2008 05:28 PM      Profile for Trevor Adams   Author's Homepage   Email Trevor Adams   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Got my Studiocanal dvd from Amazon this morning.It is sharp as a tack and colours are very good.Nice one!

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Andrew Woodcock
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From: Manchester Uk
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 - posted May 13, 2017 04:14 PM      Profile for Andrew Woodcock         Edit/Delete Post 
Great great review Paul.
I eagerly await this one and like yourself, it will be among my most treasured of prints. I have never managed to see another offered for sale since being back in the hobby and i know at onr time Keith here, commenting in this review, was also waiting an eternity to find one.☺

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David Guest
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 - posted May 13, 2017 04:25 PM      Profile for David Guest   Email David Guest   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I have a stunning colour print of this on 16mm

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Paul Adsett
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 - posted May 13, 2017 09:03 PM      Profile for Paul Adsett     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Andrew, congratulations on acquiring a very rare print of this great film on super 8mm. If your print is as good as mine you will be a very happy camper. [Smile] I have many favourate scenes, but the sequence where Lawrence Olivier, as a policeman, first sees motion pictures projected on a white sheet is the best.

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Andrew Woodcock
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 - posted May 13, 2017 10:35 PM      Profile for Andrew Woodcock         Edit/Delete Post 
I cannot wait to view this one Paul! Thanks for the review here once again Paul, brilliantly written and whets the appetite all the more on what has to be one of the most fascinating films to ever watch for anybody who has ever been previously bitten by the bug of the "Flickers".

I can only agree in saying this is surely one movie that HAS to be viewed using only a cine projector.

I would equally be most interested to see what you did for the box art regarding this one Paul.
This one also comes with no original box or art and is now already mounted on two 1200ft reels just as yours is.
I have already plain white card boxes to begin the decorating for this film, so just a blank canvas, so to speak, for now.

[ May 14, 2017, 03:19 AM: Message edited by: Andrew Woodcock ]

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Paul Adsett
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 - posted May 13, 2017 11:24 PM      Profile for Paul Adsett     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Yes, you have to show this movie on a real film projector Andrew to fully appreciate the miracle of motion pictures that was achieved by pioneers such as Friese-Greene.
I think Laurel and Hardy films, and many other vintage films, fall into the same category, somehow being far more enjoyable and special when shown on a film projector. I have often thought that showing The Magic Box on a film projector to school children would be a great educational experience for them.

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Andrew Woodcock
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 - posted May 14, 2017 03:17 AM      Profile for Andrew Woodcock         Edit/Delete Post 
Indeed it would Paul. [Smile]

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Mark L Barton
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 - posted May 14, 2017 04:18 PM      Profile for Mark L Barton   Email Mark L Barton   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I have a print of The Magic Box on 16mm in razor sharp. and perfect black and white. Of interest I live in Bristol UK where we have a plaque in Park Street showing as the place where William Freise Greene had a photographic shop, there is also another WFG plaque in Bath commemorating his other studio.

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David Hardy
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 - posted May 15, 2017 06:58 AM      Profile for David Hardy   Email David Hardy   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
What a load of rubbish about having to see this movie on FILM
in order to make the experience of seeing it that way more valid... like that improves
on it somehow ???

I have seen it many times on TV and never on FILM.
Its the narrative, script , actors and cinematography
that counts.

I see where your coming from regarding the "authenticity"
of showing it on a film projector to others or yourself.
But that's just nostalgia at work there.

The print was reviewed by KW in Film For The Collector # 19
Summer 1991.

Keith mentions that the print was a bit variable though.
With some slight Technicolor fringing here and there.
Also it can look a bit drab in places but sharp.
But at best excellent.
He awarded it an overall rating of :

PRINT ... A - A/B.
SOUND ... A.

But hey come on guys get a grip !

I for one would happily watch it on DVD or Blu-Ray via
a projection set up any time.

I am sure good old Jack Cardiff would not mind at all.

I can still appreciate the miracle of moving images too.

[Big Grin] [Big Grin] [Big Grin]

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Douglas Meltzer
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 - posted May 15, 2017 11:04 AM      Profile for Douglas Meltzer   Email Douglas Meltzer   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
David,

I believe there is a difference. I've changed my opinion of certain films after seeing them projected from previously only seeing them on TV. The Lugosi Dracula, for instance. I always thought of it as a static photographed stage play, however after watching a super 8 print I noticed camera movements and other touches that had escaped me from earlier television viewings. It could be possible that because projecting involves a more active participation on my part, I was paying closer attention.

Doug

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Andrew Woodcock
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 - posted May 15, 2017 01:55 PM      Profile for Andrew Woodcock         Edit/Delete Post 
From my own point of view, it is simply that the fascination for the subject matter only makes it all the more charming and humbling by viewing it on the very machinery which only came about by virtue of what this film is all about in its content.

Without even viewing this movie yet on real film, I can only imagine it can and will undoubtedly, only further enhance my total admiration for the subsequent equipment designed impeccably for placing these images up on our screens.

Seeing the very concept of motion pictures unfold on screen for the very first time and then glancing around occasionally at one of its successors far further along the evolutionary chain, can surely only bring about further admiration for the pioneers, inventors and subsequent design teams of such equipment.

A picture very much brought about for those truly fascinated by motion pictures, I'd say.

For this particular movie, I doubt very very much if it would ever be possible to generate that same set of emotions from any kind of Blu Ray presentation from my own personal point of view.

[ May 17, 2017, 06:46 PM: Message edited by: Andrew Woodcock ]

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Paul Adsett
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 - posted May 15, 2017 09:01 PM      Profile for Paul Adsett     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
 -

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David Hardy
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 - posted May 16, 2017 05:30 AM      Profile for David Hardy   Email David Hardy   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Doug it was only the fact you viewed DRACULA on a much larger screen made you notice such things.
You should see DRACULA on Blu-Ray via projection. Its stunning
and much better than any film print copy I have seen on 35mm
16mm or 8mm.

Andrew as for great appreciation of film technology and its pioneers I have that too. I was in the industry as you already
know for about 45 years. I was also a member of the :
BRITISH KINEMATOGRAPH SOUND AND TELEVISION SOCIETY based
at Pinewood Studios in the UK.

Its just that as I pointed out I don't have to see a movie via film and its equipment to enhance my enjoyment or appreciate it
even more.

Its the MOVIE that counts for me not the technological means by which it gets projected onto a large screen.

I like FILM and I like DIGITAL but neither of these are a necessary conditional FETISH in order for me to enjoy a movie
in its fullest sense and meaning of the word.

I am not therefore fixated on film or digital formats.

So can I conclude from your last paragraph that you will get more
of a thrill from watching THE MAGIC BOX via FILM than you would
any Blu-Ray or DVD or TV screening ?

If your reply is yes it begs me to ask the question do you actually LIKE this movie ? Or do you like the means of seeing it more or both ?

Thanks for the youtube link but I don't quite understand the reason why you gave me it. Or its relevance to my post.

I hate JOY DIVISION. I think they are crap ! Depressing crap ! [Big Grin] [Big Grin] [Big Grin]

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Andrew Woodcock
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 - posted May 16, 2017 06:43 AM      Profile for Andrew Woodcock         Edit/Delete Post 
Like all of the films I buy, I of course like the film or else I wouldn't bother buying them. As to whether or not I prefer to view the films as films using a cine projector or a digital projector, that usually depends on such factors as print quality, sound quality, nature of the movie and the era which the film comes from as to ultimately which I prefer.

As I have said here previously, I have both the Blu Ray and a mint copy on Super 8mm of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.
If I had the Blu Ray only, I'd probably watch this movie only a handful of times throughout my probable remaining lifetime, but on film, I watched each reel of film at least half a dozen times just in the first few weeks of ownership alone. It really was/ is such a beautiful print as well as a timeless classic of a film.

In another example, I love my scope print of Die Hard, but I have always maintained to our friend Tom here, the Blu Ray blows it out of the water so far as colour rendition and it's original soundtrack from Derann is concerned.

As for this particular film up for debate here, there is no doubt that it will be the Super 8mm low fade print which I'd much rather see up there on screen David, for all the reasons already spoken of above.
Film of course is a hobby pursued through passion and affection just as music is, to that end your comment regarding Joy Division can only lead me to say David, There is no accounting for taste is there? [Wink]
The only purpose it served was to generate the feeling of atmosphere and passion as we feel from watching a film on screen say, or in this case, listening to a piece of influential music brought about entirely through passion and a full spectrum of emotions by the legendary late Mr Curtis.

We are after all, all very different people with very different opinions, brought together here only for one common reason,..our love for screening real film on film associated equipment.

[ May 16, 2017, 09:22 AM: Message edited by: Andrew Woodcock ]

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Douglas Meltzer
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 - posted May 16, 2017 09:34 AM      Profile for Douglas Meltzer   Email Douglas Meltzer   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
A reminder (for myself as well!)...this is a print review thread. Thanks.

Doug

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I think there's room for just one more film.....

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