The Eastmancolor Revolution and British Cinema, 1955-85

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bristol
Department Name: School of Arts

Abstract

This project investigates the impact of Eastmancolor, a film stock introduced by Kodak in the 1950s, on British cinema. As a relatively cheap, 'monopack' stock that could be used in any camera, Eastmancolor revolutionised the ways in which colour films were made. Over the next thirty years colour filmmaking came to dominate sound cinema for the first time. The project's focus is on how British cinema, its filmmakers and other professionals adapted to one of the most important technical innovations in film history. It explores British cinema's response, at first confined to a few genres, before fully embracing the economic and aesthetic advantages of colour filmmaking. It will identify key genres and films, personnel who experimented with colour and significant issues relating to the preservation and restoration of colour films. The project will achieve a greater understanding of the significance of colour in British film history and culture while contributing to knowledge about the state of Britain's colour film heritage.

The British experience of Eastmancolor has never been the focus of studies of British cinema's historic engagement with colour filmmaking. The expansion of colour was set against a backdrop of financial struggles, declining audiences, and a still-dominant critical tradition of documentary-influenced black-and-white social realism. The project team will examine three key phases of development, from the initial enthusiasm of studios such as Hammer, with its range of horror and adventure films, to the persistence of black-and-white cinematography in the 'new wave' cycle of the 1960s. Analysing the range of factors, including economic, behind the more complete shift towards colour from the 1970s will provide an opportunity to fully document and examine the emergence of a rich corpus of colour production in mainstream, short/instructional/amateur and art cinema.

The project is designed to highlight three interrelated major themes: Economic and Industrial perspectives; Intermedial Aesthetics; and Film Restoration. The project team will produce data on British colour films, their financial histories and why particular companies were attracted to colour after decades of black-and-white production. Colour's relationship with other key technological developments including Widescreen and 3-D cinema will also be investigated, as well as colour's role in attempts to compete in international markets. The influence on cinema of developments in colour production in other media such as advertising, publishing, painting and design will also be investigated. The project team will interview a number of film practitioners to learn more about their engagement with colour aesthetics, as well as the British and non-British films which inspired their creative choices. The project will also investigate the condition of surviving colour film prints, many of which are subject to fading and deterioration. The serious issues concerning the preservation and restoration of our photochemical colour film heritage is an important context for the project's collaboration with the British Film Institute.

The project benefits from links with several other key organisations including Studio Canal, owner of an archive of British film prints from the period, the interdisciplinary UK Colour Group, BECTU (Broadcasting, Entertainment, Cinematograph and Theatre Union) and the East Anglian Film Archive. The team will produce a number of outputs directed at academic and non-academic beneficiaries. A book, four articles and a conference will bring to attention for the first time the rich chromatic range and heritage of British cinema during a key stage in its historical development. The production of four video essays will provide an opportunity for the team to engage a wider audience, as well as public screenings and a workshop with the UK Colour Group. The practitioner interviews constitute a permanent record of interest to multiple users.

Planned Impact

The absence of a strong history of British colour films during this period is not simply an issue for scholarship. This project has identified four main beneficiaries with related impact potential.

Film Distribution and Exhibition Partners:
Who will benefit: Industry partners Studio Canal (SC) and the British Film Institute (BFI).
How will they benefit: Both organisations have been included during project design and planning and have discussed potential benefits around a) providing research-led advice to inform SC catalogue development (including the prioritisation of titles for release on DVD and BluRay), b) identifying catalogue titles for future preservation or restoration work (across SC and BFI), and c) including research materials (such as practitioner interviews and video essays) on relevant SC DVD releases and/or websites. Each of the above has the potential to enhance existing practices across these partners, and contribute to their financial and cultural success. Additionally, the ability to collaborate closely with industry partners and understand the time-based and commercial pressures of such organisations will enhance the skill sets of the PI and CI. The post-doctoral researchers will also benefit by gaining valuable insights and knowledge from professional film archivists, marketing personnel and public programmers.

Film Archives:
Who will benefit: Archive and industry professionals at the BFI (including our consultant, Kieron Webb), the East Anglian Film Archive (EAFA), and Film Archives UK. Additionally, the Broadcasting Entertainment Cinematograph and Theatre Union (BECTU)
How will they benefit: The project investigates the challenges around promoting and preserving Eastmancolor films as an important aspect of national cultural heritage. We expect film archivists across the UK to benefit from the external perspective we can provide around the politics of colour preservation. Given the centrality of the deteriorating Eastmancolor stock to many significant British colour films in this period, we believe our project may offer further evidence for collective preservation and digitisation at the national level, with the future possibility of engaging with European archives and policy-makers who are equally concerned with the disappearance of film as cultural heritage. Additionally, the archive sector practitioner interviews we conduct will also present the issues around archiving to a wider audience, through the project website, links with the BECTU oral history project, and the promotion to interdisciplinary peers at the interdisciplinary Colour Group (GB).

Members of the Colour Group (GB):
Who will benefit: The interdisciplinary Colour Group (GB)
How will they benefit: The project has great potential for symbiotic interaction with scientists, technologists and artists within the Colour Group (GB). Founded in 1940, the group draws together people interested in all aspects of colour - its perception, measurement, reproduction and artistic expression. At a Workshop co-organised with the Group to be held in 2017, the project team will ensure that the project's findings to date are disseminated to this audience. The event will also provide an opportunity to plan follow-up events and publications.

Cinema audiences and the wider public:
Who will benefit: members of the wider public with an interest in British film and wider aesthetic / cultural histories
How will they benefit: Talks at festivals, related BFI programme seasons, regional cinema screenings, related activities with our industry and media partners, and our audio-visual essays aim to enhance knowledge and entertain this audience. These public-facing events will be supported by our analysis of film industry practice and aesthetic influences, as developed through monograph, articles and conference activities (as detailed in our Pathways to Impact statement).

Publications

10 25 50
 
Title A Dalek is (Now) a Many-Splendoured Thing (Video Essay) 
Description This video essay compares and contrasts the B&W BBC television series Dr Who with the colour film adaptation Dr Who and the Daleks (1965). 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2018 
Impact The video essay was accepted for inclusion in the Journal of Videographic Film and Moving Image Studies 
 
Title The Technicolor Legacy, Color Consciousness and Hammer Horror (Video Essay) 
Description This video essay offers a visual representation of the influence Technicolor's rules of 'colour consciousness' had upon Hammer's horror productions of the 1950s and 1960s; a period which saw the demise of Technicolor three-strip and adoption of Eastmancolor negative. 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2018 
Impact The essay is currently under view with the Journal of Videographic Film and Moving Image Studies 
 
Description Our research has uncovered many British films that are significant from the perspective of colour film and its mass introduction from the mid-1950s. Our research has brought to light films that have not featured more generally in 'lists' or 'canons' of British cinema heritage, as well as bringing out new critical and aesthetic approaches to interpreting the significance of more well-known films. We have linked with key organisations and stakeholders involved in preserving moving image heritage, particularly the British Film Institute, Studio Canal and the Colour Group (GB). We have also co-organised activities and public events with several key organisations including the Watershed Media Centre, Bristol, the Colour Group (GB), Cinema City, Norwich, the East Anglian Film Archive and a range of amateur filmmakers and societies. The research team is working on a co-authored book publication which will disseminate our major findings - the manuscript is due for completion at the end of 2020 and will be published by Bloomsbury/British Film Institute.
Exploitation Route It could be used to generate screening programmes at venues such as the British Film Institute, Southbank, and regional cinemas.
It could generate material for DVD, Blu-ray and other commercial releases of key British films.
It could be used to assist archives and organisations interested in the preservation of colour films.
Contribution to academic research, particularly in constituting a national case study of the impact of colour films.
Sectors Creative Economy,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

URL https://eastmancolor.info/
 
Description We organised a special event at Watershed in 2018 on one of our case study films. This involved non-academic audiences, Talking Pictures, people who were involved in making the film. The findings of our research was used by these groups - the research generated Impact. We have also used our finding to inform a new DVD release of a key film. Team members were interviewed by Studio Canal, the DVD's distributor, who used our findings on colour for additional content on the DVD. They filmed team members Street and Johnston for a special DVD/Blu-ray featurette on colour in a restored release version of the film 'Don"t Look Now' in 2019. Other DVD companies have also used our research for new releases of restored films. Other events have been informed by the research, held in 2016 and 2019 at Cinema City, Norwich.
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Creative Economy,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal

 
Description 'The Flesh and Blood Show' screening, Cinema City, Norwich (14 October 2019) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Screening of Norfolk-shot Eastmancolor 3-D film 'The Flesh and Blood Show' in conjunction with Hallowed Histories (hallowed-histories.org) with introduction by Professor Keith M. Johnston. The event was attended by the general public (c.60 tickets sold).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/hallowed-histories-present-the-flesh-and-blood-show-tickets-720522833...
 
Description A talk or presentation - Public screening of Blood on Satan's Claw at The Forum, Norwich, followed by a panel discussion (29/10/2018) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Project member Paul Frith, alongside other academics from the University of East Anglia, contributed to a panel discussion hosted by the Norfolk-based Hallowed Histories team following a screening of the film Blood on Satan's Claw (1967). Hallowed Histories is an annual season of events open to the general public consisting of film screenings, live performance and online podcasts with ties to the region. The Eastmancolor team offered an analysis of the film in relation to some of the developments made in colour cinematography during this period and also answered questions from the audience on this subject and wider issues related to the project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description British Visual Culture Symposium, Cinema City, Norwich (6 September 2019) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The symposium was comprised of three 90-minute panels, each consisting of three speakers, from industry and academic backgrounds, talking for around 15-20 minutes each, allowing time for audience questions at the end. This event explored the impact of colour across different areas of Britain's post-war visual culture, considering how the British film industry's push towards colour - which became mainstream by the late 1960s - parallels the introduction of colour in other media and creative sectors.
The audience (c.30 attendees) was comprised of academics, industry professionals, and the general public.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.eventbrite.com/e/colour-and-british-visual-culture-symposium-tickets-64595756647#
 
Description British Women Amateur Filmmakers Event 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The event was a screening held at Cinema City, Norwich on 2nd March (note that the event took place during a period of disruptive bad weather conditions, which affected the numbers attending) 2018. Films from the Women Amateur Filmmakers in Britain collection in the East Anglian Film Archive were screened, including many colour films located by the Eastmancolor project team.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://amateurcinemastudies.org/2018/02/british-women-amateur-filmmakers-colour-films-baftss-symposi...
 
Description Essay written by Keith Johnston on colour and cinematography included in the Blu Ray release of The Odessa Film (1974) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A short essay on colour and cinematography included in the booklet accompanying the Blu Ray of The Odessa File (1974), released internationally by Powerhouse Films as part of their Indicator series.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.powerhousefilms.co.uk/collections/frontpage/products/the-odessa-file-le
 
Description Interview with project RA Paul Frith included on Blu-Ray release of The Old Dark House (1963) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Project RA Paul Frith was interviewed for a featurette included on the Blu Ray of The Old Dark House (1963), released internationally by Powerhouse Films as part of their Indicator series. The interview includes a discussion of the film's troubled release in the 1960s and how this related to versions of the film often being shown in black-and-white.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.powerhousefilms.co.uk/collections/frontpage/products/william-castle-at-columbia-volume-t...
 
Description Organisation of event at Watershed Media Centre, Bristol around the film 'Some People' (1962). Screening and panel discussion with those involved in the film; public audience 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact In March 2018 an event was co-organised with the Watershed Media Centre, Bristol, on Some People (1962), a relatively unknown film that was filmed in Bristol. The research informed a public introduction by Street (audience c. 200), followed by a panel discussion with those involved in making the film. Post-event evaluations recorded 80% of respondents as interested in learning more about Eastmancolor. Following the event Bristol's M Shed featured a display on Some People in Bristol Music (exhibition 2018, 34,000 visitors). Testimony from co-director of Talking Pictures TV (3 million viewers a week), who attended the event, evidences how our research on the film and Eastmancolor caused them to broadcast Some People, record an interview and air more British colour films.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://eastmancolor.info/2018/04/05/when-the-new-wave-came-to-bristol-some-people-1962/
 
Description Presentation at GB Colour Group event in London, 27-29 March 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact We collaborated with the GB Colour Group in organising an event for its membership and others interested in Colour Film. The GB Colour Group is an interdisciplinary society that draws together people interested in all aspects of colour - its perception, measurement, reproduction and artistic expression. On the 3rd day of the event we organised a number of speakers delivering talks on aspects of Eastmancolor, as well as outlining the major themes and issues we are investigating in the project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Project interview with DoP Peter Suschitzky included on the Blu-Ray release of Charlie Bubbles (1968) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact An extract of the project interview with DoP Peter Suschitzky, conducted by RA Paul Frith, was included on the Blu Ray of Charlie Bubbles (1968), released internationally by Powerhouse Films as part of their Indicator series. The interview includes a discussion of the use of colour in the film and Suschitzky's relationship with director Albert Finney.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.powerhousefilms.co.uk/collections/frontpage/products/charlie-bubbles-le
 
Description Public Screening of Amateur Films with Introduction and Q&A (Cambridge Picturehouse, 21/06/2018) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Screening of films selected from the Women Amateur Filmmakers collection at the East Anglian Film Archive which demonstrate effective use of colour in non-professional modes of film production. Prior to the screening, project CI Keith Johnston gave an introduction to the project and the impact of colour upon amateur film-making. The screening was followed by an audience Q&A with Keith Johnston and project RA Paul Frith, who both answered question relating to: the quality and availability of archival material; archival practices; representations of women on screen; the 'look' of various film stocks. The audience also asked questions about the significance of the films chosen and how these fiction films differed from the preconceived notion of amateur film being linked to 'home movies'. As a result of the event, the Audience Development Manager for Picturehouse welcomed suggestions for future screenings of other amateur titles identified by the Eastmancolor project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Public screening of The Shuttered Room at The Forum, Norwich, followed by a panel discussion (27/11/2017) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Project members Paul Frith and Keith Johnston, alongside other academics from the University of East Anglia, contributed to a panel discussion hosted by the Norfolk-based Hallowed Histories team following a screening of the film The Shuttered Room (1967). Hallowed Histories is an annual season of events open to the general public consisting of film screenings, live performance and online podcasts with ties to the region. The Eastmancolor team offered an analysis of the film in relation to some of the developments made in colour cinematography during this period and also answered questions from the audience on this subject and wider issues related to the project. The event was featured in the Eastern Daily Press (22/11/2017) and in a broadcast for ITV Anglia (27/11/2017).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://hallowed-histories.org/the-shuttered-room/