The following document is an abstract of a paper accepted for presentation at the Visual Delights III — Magic and Illusion conference at the University of Sheffield, July 15-17th 2005.
Some years ago, at one of the British Silent Cinema conferences at Nottingham, I showed a series of films which tried to illustrate the development of the story film in Britain. A friend of mine who was in the audience and who was also by profession a Film Editor, came up to me after the presentation and called me "a plonker" (a scientific term of some merit!). I asked him why and he replied that I had said that one film entitled "Edwardian Folkestone" (a given title for a film from 1904) was edited in the camera. He asserted that the film was made up of "trims." The film itself contained over 77 shots in its 351 feet including one shot that lasted 68 feet.
I disagreed with him and felt that the film was "internally" edited — like snapshots taken by a photographer in the manner of a showman advertising to the locals to come and see his show that week at the Public Hall where H.D Roberts Animated Picture Company was exhibiting War Pictures on "Japan and Russia". I decided however to have a further look at this film and discovered that it was not as straight forward as I had thought. Although I felt that most of these very short shots must have been made in the camera, rather than being edited externally, I noticed that the film included spacing on six occasions, four of these were between the first and ninth shot (26 feet); another was at the thirty-fourth shot (85 feet) and the final one at the seventy-third shot (262 feet)
I therefore decided to check how many films from this period had similar spacings. Could they have been added at a later date? From the period 1898-1905, I have come across only 27 examples out of several hundreds of films viewed. I shall be showing a selection of these. These subliminal frames, if they exist at all, may only be visible to a nocturnal creature. Am I telling the truth, or is it pure phantasy?
3 May 2005