After my visit on Friday night to the Peter Coke Shell Gallery I visited the Sheringham Little Theatre for their evening ‘At the Picture Palace a Century Ago’. Our hosts told us how they rescued old unwanted pieces of Victorian technology and restored them. They then played us several films on a hand-cranked projector, and played the piano as an accompaniment. Each time the lights dimmed, the projector whirred and the piano tinkled away I felt for a moment like I’d gone back in time! It was magical and quite moving to see real Victorians “living” again on screen.
Each film only lasted a few minutes but each was fascinating in its own way. The first comedy film ‘Run for a Bride’ reminded me of a cross between Simon Pegg’s ‘Run Fat Boy Run’ and Monty Python’s ‘Ministry of Funny Walks’. Of course the talkies hadn’t been invented yet, so comedy had to be mostly physical and exaggerated.
We also saw a film that combined live action and stop-motion animation scenes, ‘Dreams of Toyland’. In one frame we even saw an animator placing one of the toys in position- not something Aardman Animations would let happen today!
My favourite film however was actually the newsreel. It covered stories as varied as an air-crash in France, a society wedding, and the then Prince of Wales inspecting volunteers from the St. John’s Ambulance. In 1910 Picture Palaces only received one newsreel a week, often long after the actual news event had happened. Later they received two newsreels a week, one covering Mon-Weds, the second Thurs-Sat. Can you imagine only seeing the news once a week?
Would you miss access to world news every day? Or do you think that 24 hour news channels are overkill?