Saturday, October 27, 2007

8mm Movies, Give-A-Show Projectors, View-Master, Etc.

So, sometime during the Halloween countdown, I promised that I'd write sometime about why 8mm and Super 8mm movies have such appeal to me today, even when you can find so many movies, complete, on DVD.

Well, like so many things, it goes back to childhood.

On television, Saturday morning cartoons had so many commercials for toys, but chief among them -- at least that I recall -- was for Kenner's Give-A-Show projector, which was something I could never get my parents to buy for me or for my siblings.

If you're not familiar with these devices, they were basically a cheap slide projector that came with sets of seven slides mounted in a cardboard frame. The other day, I posted the images for one of these, and there'll be more than them.

Now, if you're 30 or younger, you might wonder what the appeal there'd be for these... or, for that matter, for View-Masters (which are still available for sale these days, although they're nowhere near as popular as they used to be). But you'd have to remember what things were like in the late 1960s and early 1970s. So let me take you back, if I may.

Back then, if you wanted to watch cartoons, you couldn't just turn on the TV to Cartoon Network or any of the other cable channels that run a lot of cartoons these days. During the week, at least in the Seattle area, there'd be in the mornings on the local CBS affiliate J.P. Patches, who'd show some older cartoons between bits. And then after school, there'd be Brakeman Bill on channel 11 (which didn't have a network connection), who'd show other cartoons between his segments... and episodes of Speed Racer, Gigantor, and Marine Boy would be shown during his block, too.

On the weekends, it was Saturday morning cartoons on CBS, NBC and ABC... but after 11 or 12, that was it! On Sunday, I recall that the ABC and CBS affiliates would have some limited cartoons on, too.

If you wanted to watch monster movies, there'd rarely be anything on Saturdays, but on Sundays, there'd be Sci-Fi Theater on Channel 11 at noon... and if you were allowed to stay up late on Fridays and Saturdays, the CBS affiliate had Nightmare Theater, hosted by The Count. And one never knew what was going to be shown for either program!

But when my mom would take us shopping with her at Kmart, for whatever reason, we'd end up spending a few extra minutes near the photography department... and that's where I'd see the display for Castle Films' 8mm and Super 8mm releases. Most of these would be monster movies or cartoons (I recall seeing a number of Spiderman cartoons from the 60s on sale - and yes, I left the hyphen out on purpose, as it as missing on those cartoons).

Naturally, we didn't own an 8mm projector, nor would we ever buy one.

We did have a View-Master, however. They must've been pretty cheap even then.

So, we couldn't get 8mm movies and projectors, or a Kenner Give-A-Show Projector.

Now, as the 70s went on, there were other items on the market that, for the kids, gave us as close to home videos as we would get for a while... Kenner was the leader here, too, with movie viewers that had a loop of film you could watch (I recall the Six Million Dollar Man on the shelves). You could hand-crank this while you watched it.

Oh, there were also these really cheap movie viewers that you'd insert a strip of film into and then turn a knob to advance the frames, but that was like a View-Master or Give-A-Show, too. And there were other Kenner items, too.

In the mid-70s or so, the local library started carrying 8mm projectors and films that you could actually check out, and they were very, very popular. I recall one Saturday afternoon checking out a projector and a bunch of movies and watching them with some of the neighbor kids.

Of course, the home video market was just beginning in the late 70s and very early 80s... but during that time, the library system actually went from 8mm to 16mm... one could check out movies such as the Beatles' Yellow Submarine (which I did many times), many other full-length movies, plus "The Frankenstein Saga," which appeared to be a compilation of all the 8mm versions of all the various Universal movies.

And that was as close as you'd be able to get to seeing monster movies and cartoons until the home video market really went underway in the mid 80s and beyond... and of course, today, you can get DVDs for a buck!

Anyway, I hope all this helps you understand why I've got a nostalgia for that stuff.

Jon

3 comments:

  1. Alessandro Machi10:56 PM

    Nostalgia, than I'm trapped in a present day time warp as I have been cinematographer on a film about Salvador Dali, and it is being shot on Super-8 film.

    http://www.dalidalidali.com

    Or you can check out more present day super-8 websites such as http://www.super-8mm.com or http://www.super-8mm.net

    ReplyDelete
  2. Jon,
    What about Betamax (introduced in the U. S. in 1972) and VHS (1977)?
    Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. While they're gone now, they weren't part of my childhood, so there's no nostalgia for me there (other than to replace stuff I used to have on VHS in DVD)

      Delete

Please keep your comments relevant, I delete all spam! Thanks.