Between Dad and I, we brought three film projectors and one slide projector to Yosemite to review old family footage. Turned out the take-up reel on the one I just bought didn’t work, and it didn’t do Super 8 (fortunately most of our films were regular 8). One of Dad’s projectors did both formats, but its bulb was shot. Dad’s other projector had a working bulb and take-up reel, but rewind was broken. It was our best shot, but framing alignment went out continually. So after much experimentation, we sort of cobbled together a workable solution and watched old footage all three nights. Slide projector was badly broken too, but got the job done, more or less.
Even when working, threading a projector and dealing with its many foibles was a reminder that just 30-40 years ago, the general public was expected to have a level of mechanical confidence that you just don’t see today. The iPod has a single wheel, the DVD player just a few controls. The film projector, in contrast, wears its guts on the outside. Moving parts in modern gadgets are totally hidden, if they exist at all. The world has become increasingly slick. Things tend to work better overall, no doubt, but at the expense of the user being in touch with the mechanics of the device. We spent almost as much time wrestling with equipment as watching film. It was a fun object lesson, in a way, but not one I’m eager to repeat.
Anyway, some amazing old footage of Dad hard-hat diving with mixed gasses, of him doing rodeo trick roping in the 50s, of my brother and I’s first scuba experiences… One highlight: A guy Dad worked with had worked on the movie set of Creature From the Black Lagoon and had been given some discarded portions of the five rubber Creature suits they had constructed. Dad and friends used to don the suit and snorkel up behind surfers on their boards to scare the daylights out of them. And when sailing into a tourist port, they’d tie the Creature to the mast of their ship and pretend to whip him, for the benefit of diners in waterfront restaurants.