What I Did With a Mystery Reel of Home Movie Film (Part I)

The Kodak XL360 Movie Camera sat in a dusty black leather case. It had probably been sitting in my parent’s basement for more than 30 years. It was the first movie camera they had to document moving images of our family’s history.

My parent’s Kodak XL360 Movie Camera

My parent’s Kodak XL360 Movie Camera

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When I dug it out recently I discovered that it still had a reel of fully exposed yet undeveloped Super 8 film in it! It was this very reel of Kodak Ektachrome 160 Type G Movie Film!

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I hadn’t a clue what was on the film or if it was even still possible to develop it. I started doing some research on the camera itself.

The XL360 was made from 1974 to the year of my birth in 1976. In 1975 you could purchase one at JC Penney for $189.88, or you could get the earlier XL300 for eighty dollars less.

I remember once or twice in the last 30 years our family digging out all of the old developed Super 8 films and playing them on a Chinon 4100 Movie Projector, like this one I found for sale online:

Chinon 4100 Super-8 Movie Projector

Chinon 4100 Super-8 Movie Projector

We would hang a white sheet on the wall and nostalgically watch the projected images. We would eventually work our way through most of the three minute films. It was a fun family experience, though the quality of the images often left something to be desired.

At some point most of the films were transferred to digital files, which were lost, and then rediscovered again minus a few files. Recently I took stock of the files that we had, which reels were still missing, and made a plan for completing the digital transfers. I even tinkered a bit with editing some of the videos by adding music. Here is one of my favorites, probably from around 1979 (yes, that’s me picking my nose at the end of the movie).

This was film was transferred to digital from Super8 film shot around 1979. It depicts summer family scenes, with cousins and uncles and other family, from the Au Sable River outside of Grayling, Michigan. Other scenes include bike riding and Christmas celebrating. Music: "Old River" by Ayla Nereo.

With wonderful movies like the one above, I couldn’t bear the thought of not knowing what was on the very last reel of film that was left undeveloped in our family’s XL360!

After some research I discovered there are only a couple of outfits that still develop old Super 8 film. One in particular I found promising: Film Rescue International: Revealers of Lost and Found Treasures.

They have quite an organized process for developing old film. Their target turn around time for film processing is about 10 weeks. I am expecting my order to be completed in mid February 2019. STAY TUNED FOR PART II WHEN I HOPE TO REVEAL THE RESULTS!

The process is complicated and not cheap. There is even a chance that nothing is salvageable from the film. But, $62 dollars for potentially three minutes of long forgotten family history seemed like a reasonable gamble to me (if the film is unable to be processed the fee is only $35).

Fingers crossed!

Questions:

  • What is the oldest movie you have of someone in your family?

  • How did you process it? How is it preserved?

  • How do movie images influence your understanding of your family history?

I would love to hear your story!


Related Links: Family History Tips