It’s funny how things have come together while gathering items for this Archive. When I was just getting started, I went to visit Matthew Porter at his shop, American Fencers Supply. As he is an old Selberg fencer, I went out with the intention of letting him know that I’d corralled Charlie and Julie’s scrapbooks – all 11 of them – back to Berkeley to save them from being eaten by rodents. When I explained about starting an archive to preserve not only Charlie’s material and story but other West Coast fencing history as well, he offered up a little tidbit he had stashed in the shop on top of a shelf.
I opened up the cardboard box to reveal:
Twenty plastic boxes, each titled “Modern Foil Techniques”. Loops 1 through 20. What the heck? I opened one of the boxes and found these:
Now, I worked in radio and film, so I’ve seen similar cartridges before but never anything quite like this. Some sort of film loop cartridge. (Lucky guess? Hardly – it’s called “Loop” on the label) I can see an exposed strip of film on one end. 8mm or Super 8 film. No strip of magnetic or optical soundtrack, so no audio – standard for most film of that format and size. A close inspection of the plastic case revealed the name of the manufacturer: Technicolor. Ok, that’s a name I’ve heard before. But still, what the heck?
Matthew, generous to a fault, handed them over to me to figure out what they were and maybe even how to look at them.
Oh, Internet… how did we ever learn prior to thee? I looked up ‘technicolor cartridge projector’ and got a description for what I was looking for: the Technicolor 580 Super – Instant Movie Projector! On the market in ‘66/’67, it was an early progenitor of home video. Only film. And no sound. Ok, so, I knew what I needed to get my hands on. What next? Why, Ebay, of course! A quick look and boom! Three to choose from. A cheap one, but not working. An expensive one, refurbished. In between, a mystery, but looks in good shape. For $20? You bet I’ll Buy It Now! Here’s the little beast:
Top. So easy to use!
Back. Ah! That’s where the cartridges go.
It arrives in good shape, the lamp works, the motor whirrs impressively. Seems ok! However, I’m terrified to try to play one of the cartridges. What if it breaks? In such cases as these, there’s only one thing to do: Call Joe!
When I worked at Disney Animation, the Senior Film Guru (not his actual title) was Joe Jiuliano. In retirement, he does transfers of home movies to digital files. You know, for fun; something to keep the skillz sharp. I send him some photos of the cartridges and the player. He surprises me by saying he’s never seen one, but tells me to send it down and he’ll see what he can do.
After spending some time with the material, Joe tells me that he can’t transfer the film to digital without taking it out of the cartridge. I’m scared to go this route for fear of damage, but he follows up with the news that he thinks he can take them apart, get the film out, transfer the film and then re-mount the film into the dinky little cartridge and they should play just fine. Well, if anyone else had told me that, I’d have been skeptical. But this is Joe. Joe gets a green light.
Here is the flyer Charlie put together to advertise the series:
Bill Snyder Films, based in Fargo North Dakota, was an industrial film production company that Charlie had worked for prior to becoming a fencing master.
Back at the Archive, I was struck by a memory of something I’d seen while going through a stack of papers and sure enough, came across the complete syllabus for the whole series. The course is laid out for 20 sessions, with each one consisting of a topic of the day, what to do prior to running the film loop, what to say while the film loop is playing and what to practice after the film.
I get everything back from Joe. The cartridges look just like they did before and he’s cleaned up the projector. A disk drive contains the 20 loops, and they’re totally cool! Charlie had worked as an Art Director for Bill Snyder Films and his attention to detail in how everything was framed, shot and titled makes every segment easy to follow. It’s not everyday you see fencing classes run as full-on multi-media presentations, but it’s clear that this would work to introduce a class to many aspects of foil fencing.
And to top it all off, the cartridges play in the projector like a champ, just as Joe said they would! Joe is my hero.
Here’s Loop #1: The Foil and Grip.