The Canonical List of What’s Going on with Kongo 11/6/21

I have every frame of film the Library of Congress has scanned.  That doesn’t mean that there aren’t other reels of clips.

I have an entire reel of clips from a second archive .

There’s a reel of material from Bob Monkhouse in England that I do not have scanned yet.  It contains some footage I can use.

I have a complete 16mm print in my collection, but the quality is iffy.  All of the 16mm prints are like this.

The goal is to have as much of this sourced from 35mm as possible.

Chapter 1 R1:

The sound version is completely missing in 35mm.

We have the sound version in 16mm.  I have scanned this.

We have the camera negative for the silent version, and we have the credits and tag from other materials.  

About 2/3 of the reel can be found in the silent version in identical shots.

A bit of the sound footage in the clip reel we just had scanned.

We do not have sound for this reel.  We have the script for the two dialogue scenes and will have to have lip readers help out.

Restoration just started.

Chapter 1 R2:

We have camera negative on this.  It’s in fair shape.  Bruce Lawton is helping me go through it now.

We do not have sound for this reel.  We have the script for the two dialogue scenes and will have to have lip readers help out.

Restoration not started.

Chapter 1 R3:

We have a print and negative on this.  Bruce Lawton is helping me go through it now.

We do not have sound for this reel.  We have the script for the two dialogue scenes and will have to have lip readers help out.

Restoration not started.

Chapter 2 R1:

This is missing the cliffhanger resolution from the previous chapter, but the previous chapter is using footage from a different camera.  Replacement footage has  been scanned from 16mm.

Some footage from Bob Monkhouse in 35mm will cover this better.

Restoration only barely started.

Chapter 2 R2:

Have print and negative.  Print is a little short in end tag.  Two brief sequences removed that exist in negative.  Long goofy piece in beginning of reel set in Africa has insert sequences rotted in negative.  Sequence in here can be used to fix a damaged section in Chapter 10. Lots of film and camera jitter.  Looks like it was shot this way.

Restoration only barely started.

Chapter 3 R1:

Not examined closely yet.

Chapter 4 R1: 

Have print and neg,  mostly looks in good shape.  Not examined too closely yet.

Chapter 4 R2:

Tinting starts last half of R2.   Tint has caused rot in print.  Focusing on this because it’s got a lot of issues and it’s going to cause problems.  We have no backup except 16mm.

Chapter 5 R1:

Graded and awaiting stabilized.

Chapter 5 R2: Awaiting grading and stabilization.

Chapter 6 R1: Awaiting grading and stabilization

Chapter 6 R2 graded and stabilized.  Awaiting de-dirting.

Chapter 7 R1: graded and stabilized.  De-dirting in progress.

Chapter 8 R1: Pretty well finished; needs some touch-up, but we just found more footage, which needs to be replaced.  Yet more footage in Monkhouse.

Chapter 8 R2: Pretty well finished.  Maybe a little bit more to be done on ending.

Chapter 9 R1: Pretty well finished.

Chapter 9 R2: Pretty well finished, found more footage in LoC reel.  Needs to be replaced.

Chapter 10 R1: Nearly finished, but found footage in Monkhouse, LoC Reel.  Needs to be replaced.

Chapter 10 R2: De-dirted, extensive line removal and de-flicker in progress.  Stabilization upgrade running now.

General comments:

The negatives in this are usually rotting and starting to mottle. Location footage is almost always going in the negatives.  Fortunately, there’s a lot of repetition and a lot of backup.

The prints are almost always edited, with little bits that were found to be exciting that got excised.  For example, the entire opening of Chapter 7 was excised from the print and put into Robert Youngson’s Days of Thrills and Laughter, so that had to be rescued from the negative, which isn’t in wonderful shape.  The dinosaur scenes in several chapters were cut out.  I’ve managed to find all of them except Chapter 10, which we had to rescue from 16mm.

I keep finding better footage of a lot of stuff, particularly Chapter 10.  I had originally had about a 3 minute section that was replaced from 16mm.  Then a piece showed up that was cut into Chapter 9… why, I don’t know.  In August, the Library of Congress shipped me a clip reel that had another minute in it.  In mid-September, I got reel from another archive with still more footage in it.  I think we’re going to end up with just the dinosaur scene from Chapter 10 replaced.

Here are the questions I keep being asked—

  1. When is this going to be finished?

I don’t know.  I’d like to think we’re about at the halfway point.  It may not seem like that but because of the pandemic and my needing to get upgraded computers, we were slowed immensely.  The fact I’ve now been through every chapter but 3 is a nice fact, and I’ve identified pretty well what needs to be done.

I was hoping for end of this year but maybe early-mid next year.

2) Why is it taking so long?

The film is in bad shape. As you see, bits are missing and need to be replaced.  It’s not a simple process.  We’re doing this at 4K which takes longer.

We’ve also had 2021 be the year of bad health for everyone.  Amongst my family and the people who are helping me do this, we’ve had one death, three cases of cancer, a case of sepsis and gangrene, and a broken leg.  

I’m having trouble getting people to do dirt removal.  Two of my assistants hate it so much as to almost refuse to do it, taking forever to get it done.  One other guy is so overbooked that he can’t do it.  Two other people are on the docket for doing it, but one just had an apartment fire.  

Yes, I can do it myself, but I’m busy sorting out bits of what parts of the film go where.  This is stuff only I can do.  Others can do de-dirting.  Almost every day I set up a render in the morning that takes all day, then head out to a coffee house and do correspondence, mostly on this project, for the rest of the day, sometimes a second render, sometimes visiting some of the guys helping me.  There ain’t room for more.

3) Didn’t you get a grant to do this?

Yes, I did, from the Efroymson fund.  We blew through the money by having to buy new computers.  I don’t regret that; they were needed, and they are being used, but I’m out of cash and frankly my helpers are all telling me that their trade for “new computers in exchange for work” isn’t really working out in their favor.

4) I thought you got an NFPF grant to restore this.

I got two NFPF grants to restore chapters on 16mm and I did do those.  The negatives are on file at Library of Congress.  But we discovered that there were 35mms after those were done.  When I did the NFPF grants, the 16mms were the best we knew of.  Let’s be clear: there was the negative in the camera, then there were master prints, and the 16mms were badly copied onto a 16mm dupe negative and then printed.  The 16mm negative also has clunky splices in it (particularly in Chapter 8 for some reason)

5) Are you just being anal retentive to get every frame?

No.  Most of the time that stuff is missing, it’s a good hunk of at least a minute. In chapter 10, almost 3 minutes are missing and were replaced from 16mm, but we’ve found nearly all of it from 35mm at this point.  Bear in mind that when we have sound, it’s best to have every frame because that keeps things in sync.

One thought on “The Canonical List of What’s Going on with Kongo 11/6/21”

  1. I honestly am “blown away” by your patience in this process. I can not believe how you still carry on. I know that you will quip about my writing this, but you are an incredible “saint” for STILL doing this daunting project. That’s a lot of “stills” I’m typing, but it is STILL sincere, My Dedicated and Brilliant Friend!

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