Need Advice Regarding Film Reels

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NotSoSilent
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Need Advice Regarding Film Reels

Unread post by NotSoSilent » Tue Jun 05, 2018 6:24 am

During a recent visit to an antique store I found around five or six reels of film. As I started sorting through them, I realized a couple were in rough condition. I asked the owner of the store if I could go through them to see what she had. She said I could, explaining she got them from an estate sale.

As many of you know I enjoy my role of “fan only” and don’t pretend to be an expert, historian, or film collector; therefore, I was hoping you could help me in assessing what I found. I have no interest in purchasing these reels, but do want to provide the owner of the store with some helpful information, if at all possible.

I had two initial reactions: First, there were two reels with obvious vinegar syndrome. You don't have to be an expert to know that smell. Additionally, white powder found on others can't be good. These are obvious signs of film deterioration. Second, I couldn't tell if any of the films were nitrate and worried about potential safety issues.

My main goal is to point the store owner in the right direction, assuming there is one. Maybe there is nothing here and she should just continue to sell them; or maybe the right thing to do is to donate them to a local university (or similar) so they can be assessed and properly taken care of - I really don't know.

Here are some pictures of what I found. They appeared to be a mix of silent and sound films. One is a reel from INTOLERANCE and on others I saw a strip going down the side, which to me indicated sound. A couple also appeared to be in color.

Let me know what thoughts you have.

NOTE: Some of the images are of the same reel, just different views.

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Hamilton's Grandson
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Re: Need Advice Regarding Film Reels

Unread post by Hamilton's Grandson » Tue Jun 05, 2018 8:35 am

If they are selling each "vintage film reel" for $25 a reel, it may be worth the plunge to purchase in order to evaluate further. Some of the pictures you provided do show some significant detioration. I guess if some of the reels are an adhesive mess, then it would be tough to separate the film to digitally transfer at the point of the reel where the white powder/warpage appears, but tough to tell from the side view in the photos. Some of the photos appear to be 35 mm nitrate. The second to the last photo looks a bit scary as the film can is rusted through, but depends what the film inside looks like.

Where in the US are these films located?
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martinola
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Re: Need Advice Regarding Film Reels

Unread post by martinola » Tue Jun 05, 2018 9:20 am

Sadly, they all appear to be junk. You’d never want Vinegar Syndrome prints anywhere near your “healthy” prints. I only have a few prints now, but as a collector in years past, I can say that I wouldn’t give $25 for the whole lot. Decent reels are still out there if one needs a reel for good film.

From a home decorator standpoint, well if there a reel that isn’t shedding white stuff or all rust covered or very grotty, then maybe I could see somebody coughing up a very modest sum. I’d be curious to what films the two metal 35mm reels are from, although unlikely to be anything rare or unique it might be worth while to unwind the reels a few feet into the picture area to try and I.D. them. Otherwise I’d dumpster them and move on.

I'd be very surprised if there was any Nitrate in there. Obviously you wouldn't want to trash a Nitrate reel due to the fire hazard. If the film was made after 1952, it will pretty much always be Safety Film. Very often the words "Nitrate" or "Safety" will be lightly print along the edge of the stock every couple of feet or so.

I know my advice isn’t very “Archivally Correct” (AC) :mrgreen:, but it’s easy to get yourself buried by junk and neglect the things worth preserving.

Regards,
Martin

Brock Davis
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Re: Need Advice Regarding Film Reels

Unread post by Brock Davis » Tue Jun 05, 2018 6:01 pm

I pretty much agree with Martin. The ones with white powder aren't worth bothering with, unless they are lost. It looks like intolerance is on 16mm, and in that condition, just not worth the trouble. For thw unknown ones, I would unroll a few feet. If they have leader the leader should be marked with a title (no matter what reel). Then look up the titles on imdb and see if there are reviews and if the film is readily available. If there are silent 35mm reels, those are the ones I'd be most interested in if I were you. In your pics the only one that looks like what I have seen in nitrate would be the 9th pic.

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NotSoSilent
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Re: Need Advice Regarding Film Reels

Unread post by NotSoSilent » Wed Jun 06, 2018 5:45 am

Hamilton's Grandson wrote:The second to the last photo looks a bit scary as the film can is rusted through, but depends what the film inside looks like.

Where in the US are these films located?
Sadly, I was unable to open that one. It was a rusty mess. The store is located in Kansas City, MO.
martinola wrote:...although unlikely to be anything rare or unique it might be worth while to unwind the reels a few feet into the picture area to try and I.D. them.
Brock Davis wrote:For thw unknown ones, I would unroll a few feet. If they have leader the leader should be marked with a title (no matter what reel).
I agree. I may ask if I can unwind them a bit to see if I can figure out what is there.
martinola wrote: Very often the words "Nitrate" or "Safety" will be lightly print along the edge of the stock every couple of feet or so.
Thanks, I didn't know that.
Brock Davis wrote:In your pics the only one that looks like what I have seen in nitrate would be the 9th pic.
I was thinking the same thing.

Thanks again for your help! I'll let you know if I get back there and make any discoveries.

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Spiny Norman
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Re: Need Advice Regarding Film Reels

Unread post by Spiny Norman » Tue Jun 19, 2018 2:54 pm

Well I think Martin is a bit more negative than warranted. Granted, for a private collection they're not good enough; but it's not unthinkable that there just might be a lost title there. This did happen to me once.
NotSoSilent wrote:Image

Image
These two look like nitrate, but not necessarily in bad shape. It's a matter of unwinding some meters until a name comes up; or holding it against a light source and taking a photo so that we can see a few frames' worth.
This is nøt å signåture.™

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Hamilton's Grandson
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Re: Need Advice Regarding Film Reels

Unread post by Hamilton's Grandson » Tue Jun 19, 2018 5:00 pm

Anything could be on those nitrate reels OR absolutely nothing.

I personally would spend $25 for each reel to find out before they become.............................. dust.

It is a bit like buying a cracker jack box as a kid, if you get the prize you were after it was all worth it.

Dana
Mark Hamilton (I) is on imdb.com
Joseph Hamilton (I) is on imdb.com
Gertrude Brooke Hamilton is on imdb.com

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NotSoSilent
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Re: Need Advice Regarding Film Reels

Unread post by NotSoSilent » Sun Jul 15, 2018 10:36 am

Hamilton's Grandson wrote:Anything could be on those nitrate reels OR absolutely nothing.

I personally would spend $25 for each reel to find out before they become.............................. dust.

It is a bit like buying a cracker jack box as a kid, if you get the prize you were after it was all worth it.

Dana
I thought about buying the reels, but sadly my work keeps me on the road frequently, which is actually why I haven't replied sooner. Anyway, I emailed the antique store and discovered that the store's owner reached out to a friend's son who is going to film school (or something like that). He went by the store and took the reels to investigate further. He left the one that is a rusty mess but said he would get to it later.

That's the latest for now. I asked the store owner to keep me posted on what her friend's son finds on the reels. While I would have LOVED to buy them and dig deeper into what was there, I just didn't have the time to commit to it. I also didn't want to store them at my house near my family while I was on the road. However, it would have been so exciting as it would have been my first experience like this...but that will have to wait for now. Hopefully the young man who has them will handle them properly and get them where they need to be - wherever that is. If there is something important there I hope he understands the importance of film preservation. I'll do the best I can to stay in touch with the store owner, and if needed, will provide guidance to the best of my ability.

I'll keep you posted and thanks again for your help!

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Hamilton's Grandson
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Re: Need Advice Regarding Film Reels

Unread post by Hamilton's Grandson » Sun Jul 15, 2018 6:11 pm

Hopefully, they teach the importance of the preservation of film at that school as you mentioned and they will be in good hands for now.

Thanks for the update,
Dana
Mark Hamilton (I) is on imdb.com
Joseph Hamilton (I) is on imdb.com
Gertrude Brooke Hamilton is on imdb.com

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