Splice Here: A Projected Odyssey

Director: Rob Murphy
Distributor: Potential Films
Runtime: 118 mins. Reviewed in Nov 2022
Reviewer: Fr Peter Malone msc
| JustWatch |
Rating notes:

Projectionist Rob Murphy takes audiences back to the days of olden days of cinema, showing us the equipment, meeting the older projectionists, and a new interest in projecting 70mm prints.

A wonderfully indulgent two hours of screen-watching. Gratitude to Rob Murphy for persevering with this ‘projected odyssey’ – he is a genial host, director, editor, cinematographer.

And who will enjoy this indulgence? All those who love to watch movies even if they don’t know all that much of cinema history detail. It doesn’t matter. In the past, we enjoyed going to the pictures. Now we enjoy watching the movies – best in the darkened cinema, good on TV although smaller, and OK on computer screens – within our grasp.

And, of course, even more so, the film buffs who will relish delving into the past, ticking off the movies they love, wanting more.

And there are of those who love pre-history and from the 2020s vantage point the cinema prehistory era came to an end with the onslaught of digital as the 21st century began. But, relief, the wonder of restoration of film is underway despite the nitrate copies combusting and companies burning unwanted stock. The hoarders and collectors are banding together now in order to restore as much as possible that which was lost.

And the film technos, with their knowledge of lenses, projectors, sound engineering, colour and the marvels of the 1950s showing us the advent of Cinerama, drawing us into the wide film (instead of throwing things at us as in 3D). Cinerama was too difficult, demanding three projectors in harmony, and those projectors disappearing into storage, hoarders sheds, but now making a reappearance.

Rob Murphy chronicles all this – tracking down contacts, making discoveries, visiting the US, interviewing experts in Australia and elsewhere. He speaks with the communities of now veteran and unneeded projectionists about their memories and the details of projecting. And now digital, which is not necessarily a permanent preserver of films but is increasing the knowledge and technologies of preservation. And Douglas Trumbull (memories of 2001, Brainstorm) interviewed and continually experimenting with technology and discoveries.

The culmination of Rob Murphy’s storytelling is the quest to equip the Sun Cinema in Yarraville, Melbourne, in 2014 to screen Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful 8. He talks with all those involved and details the arrival of the 70mm lens, of Tarantino learning of the efforts and coming to Yarraville to welcome the audience and share the joy with those at the Sun.

But the title. Not a great deal of splicing shown. However, this reviewer offers a reminiscence from the good old days. He projected 16mm prints at his New South Wales boarding school, 1953-1956, aged 13 to 17, only one projector. And splicing? Sometimes, especially for “censorship” purposes, particularly with Greer Garson in Julia Misbehaves (Greer Garson of all actresses misbehaving). But we could cut the suspect sequences, splice them back together neatly and perfectly and MGM were none the wiser. An almost 70-years-old confession.

But for all of us who love film and the younger generations who do not know this prehistory and the wonderful dinosaur projectors, please, watch, enjoy, learn.

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