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Remembering Mailmaster Films (UK Mail Order)

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  • Remembering Mailmaster Films (UK Mail Order)

    I first discovered Mailmaster Films in the early 1970s through their adverts in UK Sunday papers. I think it was the ‘Sunday People’ newspaper. I’d been aware of their ads for quite a while but such things as home movies and projectors had long been the stuff of dreams for me.

    I used to drool over cine film ads in American comic books and magazines.
    I particularly remember seeing one ad that featured a film called ‘War of the Planets’. Being a bit of a sci-fi fan, I was curious why I hadn’t heard of this film and so I thought that maybe it was a misprint of one of my all-time favourite films ‘War of the Worlds’ (of course, we all know now that this was an extract from the film ‘This Island Earth’ – Likewise, I also used to be fascinated by the films (200ft) for sale in the local chemist (drug store). I can clearly remember the box cover of the ‘The Trial of Frankenstien’ another unknown title that I couldn’t figure out.

    Mailmaster’s advert on this particular week in late 1974 or early 1975 had its usual long list of titles for sale but this week would be different. This week they had ‘Planet of the Apes’! Not only that, they had all the sequels too! I finally gave in and ordered ‘Beneath the Planet of the Apes’ and ‘War of the Worlds’. Both were 200ft b/w silent. As a total newcomer to cine, I had no idea how long a 200ft film would run but ordered them anyhow. I also ordered a projector from them – the Cine Royal. Like I said, newcomer with no idea. I think the projector was £12 and the films around £4 or £5 each. This was an awful lot of money for me at the time.

    I soon realised that the Cine Royal projector was not for me!

    These were the only films I ordered from Mailmaster before I persuaded my parents to get a new projector and cine camera. A Eumig Mark S810D. Now I could also show sound films.

    I ordered many films, usually with sound, from Mailmaster, such as ‘Saps at Sea’, 400ft b/w sound and ‘Flying Deuces’ 4 x 400ft sound. The prints were all brand new and sealed and I never had issues with quality on any of them.

    Now that I had a sound projector, I purchased the colour/sound releases of ‘Planet of the Apes’ and ‘Beneath the Planet of the Apes’ from Mailmaster (can’t remember why I stopped after these two, although I did eventually get the whole set of five some years later).

    Most of all though, one of my abiding memories of Mailmaster was their regular advertising leaflets. I loved these free mailshots. They always had a real ‘Hollywood’ feel about them. They really knew what the collectors wanted. The design was generally first class and made you want to buy every film on their lists.

    I expect most people, like me, threw out these leaflets and now regret doing so. A few years back, I saw some for sale on ebay and I bought them. They were expensive but in near mint condition and are fantastic. Thought I’d put them on here for everyone to enjoy. They are from 1977.

    Mailmaster also traded as Mountain Films and Portland Films and had shops in London. Their adverts in ‘Movie Maker’ and ‘Film Making’ magazines in the UK were always a highlight each month, so I've put up a few of their ads from the magazines too.

    Of their London shops, I first went to the one in Shaftsbury Avenue in 1977. I bought the Columbia 400ft black and white sound ‘A Christmas Carol’ and Mr Deeds goes to Town’ for £9 each, I think.

    Went back in 1980s a few times when I was living nearbye. Bought an excellent 400ft black and white film there called ‘Endstation’.

    My final visit to Portland films was around 1986 when they were closing down and I got the 100ft black and white sound ‘Bride of Frankenstien - the creation’ and ‘The Giant Claw’ and ‘The trial of Frankenstien’, both 200ft black and white silent. I bought ‘Trial’ just because of that copy I had been fascinated back all those years before in my local chemist shop.

    Note* Will need another couple of posts for the rest of the photos as there's a 15 picture limit per post.
    Last edited by Gary Sayers; May 22, 2020, 03:10 PM.

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      • #4

        Thank you for posting these! I started collecting in 1973 and you brought back all the excitement of that time with these ads. I love that cutdown of The Giant Claw. Possibly the most ridiculous looking monster ever put on film!



        • #5
          The Giant Claw was on TV here yesterday, I watched the climax after a Dr Who (Tom Baker) Blu ray which had an extra witht he producer talking about the effects they had,. Compared with this film you couldn't fault the TV effects/monsters. :-)

          By the way I worked round the corner from Long Lane where Mailmaster was for many years and never saw No 69. It turned out that all you could see was a door in an alleyway.


          • #6
            Thank you Gary for posting this and allowing us / ME to wallow in nostalgia. I remember visiting one of the shops on a trip down to London in the 1970's. These shops were amazing places.

            I had to grin when you said you realised that the Cine Royal projector was not for you. This, and the Cinerex, must be the biggest pile of junk ever produced as a projector....... a 10w light output, I believe, from bicycle lamp? I see them on Ebay nowadays either for mega bucks from the opportunists or ignorant...... and even as little as £35. I still think they have the decimal point in the wrong place. You did right to move on quickly!


            • #7
              Thanks Gary for those wonderful scans.

              The Cinerex (I'm thinking the 707) was a Rolls Royce in comparison to the Cine royal. It had 50w bulb, metal construction and 400ft capacity. That was my second projector after my first which was a K6 Cine Max, basically a re-modelled Cine Royal, that I got from Portland films 2 years before. The Cinerex is not a good machine compared to most projectors, but it was amazing to me (and my audience) to be able to see the image with some sort of clarity rather than a set of grey blobs moving around.


              • #8
                When I last ran my copy of my original purchase of the 200ft 'War of the Worlds' I noticed just how badly scratched and marked (emulsion scraped off) it was. I knew this wasn't from my Eumig, so could only have been caused by the Cine Royal (to be fair, I projected it umpteen times to friends and family when I first got it).
                A few years ago, I picked up a copy of the 200ft silent 'Beneath the Planet of the Apes' from ebay, having sold my original many years before when acquiring the colour sound version. I was taken aback to discover that this copy had scratching and scraping patterns almost identical to my 'War of the Worlds'.
                Could this be my original copy of the film or had another cheap projector made it's marks? I'm guessing the latter.

                Doug, I think you're probably right about the bird from 'The Giant Claw' being the most ridiculous looking monster ever put on film (and there's plenty of contenders out there for that title). Funny thing is, when I first saw the film on TV as a kid in the mid 1960s, I thought it was fantastic. Same goes for other 'B' movies that were shown at the time such as 'Tobar the Great' and 'I Married a Monster from Outer Space'. Don't thinks kids today would feel the same though!

                These films haven't been on terresrial TV in the UK (to my knowledge) for decades now but are on youtube and are still a great watch if you can bear in mind when they were made and the budgets they were made on.


                • #9
                  The Giant claw was on the Horror channel over the Easter weekend (as Brian points out) in the UK with 5 or so other examples of 50's sci fi screened.

                  The K6 also gave very distinctive scratches, but I still have all of those early silents that run through it. Looking on Google I don't think the Cine Royal was from the same manufacturer as the K6 max. It appears that it was slightly better than the K6 mechanically speaking!


                  • #10
                    Martin, yeah, I forget that the Horror Channel is terrestrial TV. I'm still a bit old school where I have the habit of only thinking of the main five channels as 'proper' TV and the rest are like the satellite channels but for free. Find it hard to keep track with what's on these days - usually only check the 'Radio Times' for the main five, Talking Pictures TV, Film Four and the Sony Movie channels.


                    • #11
                      I grew up in Cork, Ireland and still have several films I bought by mail from Mailmaster. Great days.


                      • #12
                        Very glad I joined up - what a great forum! Thanks for posting these, Gary. Mailmaster was my way into Super 8mm. I was ten years old and used to own many of those same sheets. I would spend many evenings salivating about what films I would like to own. Sheer bliss. Then my mother cleaned my room up one day and they were gone forever! Lovely to see them again. As you say, they sure knew how to tantalize you with their goodies. I think they made a lot of money by shipping those Ken Films over to the UK. The Oxford Street shop was full of them.

                        I started off with that horrendous Cine Max projector mentioned which later fell to pieces. I bought another Cine Max on eBay recently – just so I can throw stuff at it when I’m angry! It would fill my prints with so many lines - really badly designed. If it didn’t scratch your film to bits on playback, it did a great job of finishing the job later while rewinding as your beautiful celluloid scrapped over a straight ridge of hard plastic! At least new projector belts for the Max were easy to obtain – a rubber band!

                        I guess it would have been late 1977 when I first saw the Mailmaster advert in a Sunday newspaper for the Cine Max and a pack of six 50ft reels - Charlie Chaplin in Easy Street and various cartoons - at the princely sum of 20ukp. You could order by post or collect from their Move-Maker shops. So our family went to London for a day out. That Oxford Street shop was an Aladdin’s cave but most films were out of my reach price-wise. I remember one collector with a 7x400ft print of Citizen Kane under one arm and a 6x400ft print of King Kong under the other and I thought… that’s what it’s like to have money! It was a rich man’s hobby for sure.

                        As well as my projector deal, my dad let me pick another couple of films. Black and white silent 200 footers. Conquest of the Planet of the Apes – a great choice - and of course the latest sensation, Star Wars. They had all the different Ken releases of this blockbuster lining their shelves. I remember buying Star Wars and then literally walking a minute up the road to see the same film continuing it’s run at the 2000 seat Dominion Theatre. How exciting was that for wannabe projectionists?!

                        Of course a year or two later, when I had almost worn out my black and white print on that ridiculous Cine Max, I went back to the Movie-Makers shop for a colour silent version. The salesman there was very good at sales I have to admit… he persuaded me to upgrade to a colour sound edition instead, ready for when I get my first sound projector. Sold! Only problem that I hadn’t really considered when running a sound print on a silent projector was that there were no longer subtitles. No problem! – I’d watched the black and white sub-titled version so many times, I knew the dialogue by heart. Very, very happy memories! Thank you once again.


                        • #13
                          Coming from Bournemouth at that time we had 2 Dixons which sold only Walton films, so it was great on trips to London to go to the Shaftesbury Ave branch with my saved up cash. I could not believe the amount of films on offer and all the different tittles, all behind glass doors. I too got my 200ft BW Star Wars from there and also would check out the bargain bin for things like 'Motor Racing Moments', or 'Sam Snead plays golf' for a £1 . One time my dad made a purchase of two films from the 'top shelf' near the counter, thinking I could not see him, but I knew what he was buying as I had surveyed every shelf in the place. They were very expensive too and knew that he would be wanting to borrow my projector at some stage.


                          • #14
                            Must have missed the bargain bins. That’s a shame! The Oxford Street Store had an ‘adult’ corridor of shelves in the corner. I remember my dad checking that bit out. As if we didn’t know what they were getting up to!


                            • #15
                              Great memories from everyone. Those days really were great! So lucky to have experienced them.