I cover a lot of this on my Facebook page, but not all of it. I know a lot of you don’t see Facebook, so here is the detailed, long-winded, accurate rundown of what is happening with King of the Kongo:
I now have two assistants helping me to get this done and I am spending grant money to get them faster machines. The rendering was so slow on the machine I had that I thought it was worth spending the grant money on the faster systems and getting some help. We’re really going full smoke here: 12-core, 3.46Gz, 128GB RAM. Even then some of it is slow.
Just so you understand some of the jargon here: each chapter is two reels (except for Chapter 1, which is three reels). R1 is Reel 1, R2 is Reel 2. A slug is a piece of black leader inserted into the film. This was done to repair film breaks in order to maintain the length of the picture, because otherwise the sound would get off sync.
I started with this chapter since it looked the worst of any material I have seen so far, and I had to devise economical ways of addressing the decomposition in it.
R1: (see video)
There was fairly heavy decomposition all through this and there were three or four shots that looked awful. These have been improved immensely. One shot was completely decomposed and was replaced from 16mm.
R2: In progress. The negative has a fair amount of decomposition in it but not as bad as R1. Fortunately, unlike R1, we have a backup R2 from an edited print. It’s been stabilized and graded. The gorilla assault at the end of the reel may have to be switched out with the print if we have it.
I did this chapter second because we only have a print. There are several slugs in this one. The nitrate print was weaving to the left and right in the scanner (it was shrinking), and is presenting a stabilization problem. I’ve run 5 passes to stabilize it so far and it’s about there.
There were two sequences that were edited out of the print. The first was the entire gorilla assault that ends Chapter 9. It’s unfair to replace this with the footage from Chapter 9 because this is shot with a different camera and is edited differently. I replaced the footage from the National Film Preservation Foundation grant project in which I restored Chapter 10 from 16mm. The footage isn’t that great, but it’s all there, and we’re talking about a minute’s worth or so. There’s another sequence that was also cut, that of Lafe McKee and Harry Todd confronting a dinosaur, and I replaced that from 16mm as well.
I may try some frame interpolation to get the missing frames back (ironically, this print is the source print from my 16mm, and the missing frames in it are also missing in this 35mm!), and I am also going to try to remove some of the uglier artifacts toward the end of the reel. Someone put cue marks in the reel so they could do a changeover and the marks are ugly and historically incorrect. Before you ask, the missing frames were lost in during projection in 1929 and the edited sequences (which are in my 16mm) were cut for stock footage many years later. The history of these prints is archaeology in itself.
This reel is in better shape (considering splices) and worse shape (considering projector wear). I’ve done a fair amount of cleanup and stabilization on it already. Steve Stanchfield is working on de-flickering it for me. I’ll take all the help I can get!
We have a negative for R2 and a print for R1 and R2. The negative has not been scanned yet, so is in unknown condition. The print is in decent shape with a few splices and slugs. We have sound for R2.
The cliffhanger in R2 was edited out, and, interestingly, was floating around unidentified in the collection. It was run at the Library of Congress’ Mostly Lost convention a few years ago, and I identified it as either the cliffhanger of Chapter 8 or the resolution in Chapter 9. Turns out it is Chapter 8 and will be reunited with the source print. I’m receiving a copy of the scan today to get it restored.
Chapter 8 has been contrast corrected and is awaiting stabilization.
R1 has been contrast corrected and is awaiting stabilization. We have also found a “spare R1” that is proof that there was a silent version of Kongo. I have yet to see a contemporaneous ad that doesn’t advertise this being “in sound.”
Inspection of the rest of the prints:
At this point, we still have no material on Chapter 1,2 and 3. This is due to COVID and the schedule at Library of Congress. I haven’t engaged in much work on any other chapters. Chapter 5 and 6 have tinting and that will be reproduced.
We have complete sound for Chapter 5,6, and 10. We have one reel each for Chapter 4,7,8,9. That means we have no sound for Chap 1,2,3 at all and only half the sound for Chapters 4,7,8,9. We have the original scripts for this.
David Wood has done restoration work on 5,6,10 and also a nearly finished Chap 9, R1. We’re doing some more experiments on cleaning this up a little better.
I have been saying I hope to get this out by end of 2020. It won’t be finished by then, but I’m trying. I’ve been working on this since late October 2019 and so far have gotten just 5 reels with any significant progress. That sounds worse than it is, because a lot of that time was upgrading computers, training people how to use software, and mostly figuring out how I could do this technically!