Recovering Lost Memories

Everyone seems very happy with my research into the 1974 Flinders University occupation, particularly the discovery of the 2004 Flinders documentary Slam the Exam. However this is literally the tip of the ice berg; Slam was only posted on the internet a month ago, my previous searches in April didn't find it as it wasn't there. Dynamic and annoying and frustratingly volatile medium.

Slam the Exam video

I started trying to recover lost television with the goal of finding missing episodes of Dr Who; the single most recovered television show on the planet. It was the example the BBC used to see how it would be possible to rebuild their holdings when they formed their Film and Videotape Library in 1978. There are only two television shows with English language Wikipedia pages on recovering their missing episodes; Dr Who and Dad's Army. Not an obscure topic. I eventually found the project I could help with: Australian horror hosts named Deadly Earnest, one each in the mainland State capitals between 1959 and 1978. The Adelaide host was Hedley Cullen and most anyone who knew him has an anecdote. The benefits of a local project.

I have a rule of thumb on recovering footage from prior to the 1980s; one hundred, one, one hundredth.

  • If it was made by an independent production company (particularly post 1950s) there could be one hundred percent survival.
  • If pre-1980s, made in-house but sold into other markets on kinescope/filmed from outset ... could be one percent.
  • If it was only ever on in-house video tape ... could be one hundredth.

I don't usually get my hands on the medium itself, but deal with the documentation, databases, dudes. In the last week alone research has led me to ...

  • ABC Archive searches. Previously I would have to ask the staff but now I can access a public and online, albeit brief and incomplete, database.
  • This in turn gave me ... an unknown television play Hedley appeared in, Whale in the Bay. This was made by ABC's For Schools documentary series, a largely unrecorded and difficult to research frontier. However I was able to supply ABC with broadcast dates (repeating from 25 September 1967 in Adelaide) and that it had competed in the 1967 Japanese International Film Festival.
  • The same ABC Archive gave up ... six minutes and twenty seconds of a This Day Tonight piece (the 1960s/70s current affairs show that The 7.30 Report is most like) on the Flinders occupation. This was an excellent discovery for me until soon after when I found Slam The Exam which apparently holds three minutes and fifty eight seconds of it (and two minutes and fifty nine seconds of Channel Ten footage).
  • Looking for clips from missing episodes of Doctor Who in ABC Archives gave a lot of clips from 1980s surviving episodes. In August 1995 some footage out of The Power of the Daleks showed up in a documentary series called Perspectives: C for Computer (first broadcast in the ACT and NSW on 29 May 1974). These episodes had last been played in Hobart on 18 and 19 June 1968, a gap of four years and eleven months. A horde of black and white stories were returned by ABC on 4 June 1975 (to be destroyed by the BBC), and may have had more clips used in other productions.
    • (My searches did not find Perspectives, hence any similar clips may exist.)
  • One search did turn up Robyn Williams on Sunday Afternoon talking about his appearance in the Who story The Krotons.
    • (Written to Robyn to see what he did!)
  • Sydney Deadly Earnest Ian Bannerman appeared three times on game show Pay Cards in August 1969. Were these kinescoped and could they still survive?
    • (Two guests who appeared in surrounding episodes are still with us and still working; Toni Lamond and Bob Rogers, a third has just retired. They may be able to cast light on the possibility of recovery.)
  • Reputedly Keith Moon had been watching The Abominable Dr Phibes on videotape when he died of an overdose of the prescribed sedative Heminevrin on 7 September 1978. This was very early in the domestic video machine market in the UK, what format was it and how did he get it?
    • (The Abominable Dr Phibes was broadcast on Thames Television on 5 October 1976, however, the sequel Dr Phibes Rises Again was on Thames 17 July 1978. Possibly he recorded it off television, and more likely it was the second film.)
  • Clone-A-Men was a short film played on SBS in 1987 in a one hour weekly block of amateur production supplied by applicants for community television licenses, called Windows. I've been tipped off it may have been a student film from the Western Australian Institute of Technology (now Curtin University).
    • (Curtin are looking into this.)
  • Electric car. An open reel videotape gave up three minutes and twenty two seconds of an apparent ABC For Schools broadcast on a 1970s Flinders project to build an electric car. There is more than has been posted on YouTube, but the tape is oxidising so much it is doubtful any more will be saved. What is the origin of the broadcast?
    • (Darryl Whitford is in the piece and reports the era of car indicates the broadcast was from circa 1973.)
  • A book called A Broader Vision gives autobiographical sketches by South Australian teachers, one recounts an Education Department office called the Audio-Visual Education Centre's 1970 offer to supply each high school with Shibaden half inch video machines, potentially fruitful for recovery.
    • (I have contacted the author and identified AVEC newsletters which may give an inventory of machines.)
  • British fans are interested if Gerry Anderson's first puppet series The Adventures of Twizzle survived in Australia. Only one episode is known to exist.
    • (I tracked three runs of it on Sydney's TCN-7 from 11 April 1960 and one run on Melbourne's GTV-9, likely these episodes were then cycled on to New Zealand and returned to the UK.)

Stop the press; I was just give seven new photographs of Hedley Cullen, and the news that his unpublished novel exists. This is the high point of my week and I didn't have to do anything!