Every now and then a collector will send me a batch of rollers to identify. These are typically films that have no box, are missing front title leaders or are, more often than not, unbranded rollers made between 1960 and 1966. I was sorting through a recent batch of arrivals, which were in pretty shoddy condition. I find that early collectors often kept their rollers in discreet locations, for obvious reasons. Traces of their illicit past can be found when handling them. They are dusty, often damaged and smell musty, indexical of being hidden in a draughty loft or a garden shed, perhaps.
Amongst this lot, one roller caught my eye. While cleaning this film for scanning, I noticed that it was printed on Kodak, black and white film stock. This is unusual, but very helpful, as Kodak stock can be dated due to edge codes found on the film. I cross-referenced this with an edge code chart, which suggested that the film was printed on 1965 stock. This is, of course, is nothing more than a guide. The roller could have been made earlier and later reprinted on a newer film stock, or this could have been old stock the producer had lying around. Regardless, this looks to be an early, unbranded roller.
Further confirmation of its period became evident when viewing the scan. Early rollers tend to have elaborate expositions, attempting to construct some form of narrative, perhaps following the structure of softcore glamour films or following the advice found in magazines like Amateur Cine World. Later rollers often shied away from this, or reduced their expositions, choosing instead to devote as much of the limited 200ft of film (roughly 12-15 mins) to capturing sex.
The exposition also contains another potential clue to the film’s date. Missing a title leader, the roller begins with a male mod sitting in a park and reading a copy of the magazine Fantastic Adventures. Internet sleuthing finds that this was a US magazine, first reprinted in the UK in 1947 and again later in 1952. Not particularly helpful in this instance. In lieu of a known title, I named the roller Fantastic Adventures.
The skyline, shown in the image above, suggests that the park is located somewhere around Crystal Palace, or maybe Primrose Hill? A female walks and trips over a banana peel that the male carelessly threw away (see below) . The male helps her, they begin a conversation which eventually leads them to an unknown apartment where they have sex.
Fantastic Adventures looks to have a been shot by a technically proficient film maker. There are high-angle shots and controlled zooms, as opposed to reflexive zooms. Shots are well composed. A jump cut then tilt up from an empty bottle of booze to connote the passing of time and show the couple kissing particularly stands out (see below). In terms of shooting sex, the filmmaker clearly knew how to frame it appropriately and direct the performers.
Fantastic Adventures is a fascinating early roller. I do wonder whether it might be from the same hand behind The Rent Man, or another titled Star Struck. Both have a similar visual language, with the latter using the same bottle transition. The use of Kodak stock is unusual. Most rollers from this early period tended to favour Ilfords or Gevaert Belgium. Other titles using this stock could likely be linked to the same film maker.
(Thanks to JJ Marsh of the Erotic Film Society for his contribution to this post)