Monday 31 December 2018

Mystery Photographs No: 5

First some news

This re-built modelshipsinthecinema site has been up for some weeks now and I hope is working as well as it did. The only thing I note is that the search is not as intelligent as the old wordpress site's search function, you have to spell the title correctly and virtually word for word for it to work which is a little irritating. If there are any issues do please let me know in the comments and I will see if it's anything I can fix.

Before we get to the mystery photographs I would just like to announce that a new blog venture and sister site to this one, is now operational namely
It follows the exact same format as modelships but features model aircraft of all types, that is any movie model of a vehicle that flies in an atmosphere, so fantasy airships are in but spacecraft are out, besides model spaceships are more than amply represented elsewhere online.

There are currently four entries posted along with a model control page. I have not yet completed the indexes but they will appear in the same format as the indexes here separated into movies released before the year 1970 and after (and including) 1970. I will not re-cover movies with model aircraft that have already been covered here but will include links in the model aircraft indexes that reference the original modelships post.

I have also commenced work on another sister blog which is not quite ready to go yet. I'll let you know when it is.

Mystery Photographs No:5

I recently acquired a couple of photographs of a miniature English seaside pier and beach. One shows the camera set up and lighting of the miniature pier with beach and ocean with some technicians standing on the miniature set while the other appears to show an explosion going off on the pier from the same position. The only information on the back of the photographs is " Special effects/ model stage at Shepperton Studios" and " Property of British Lion Distribution".

A person on a facebook group I am on suggested it is a model of Eastbourne Pier and it certainly looks like a perfect match.

The Camera in the photos is a Bell and Howell 2709 with a remote hand crank mounted on a second tripod. I assume this is to isolate any unwanted camera shake while cranking rapidly.  In fact in the second photo the cranking arm of the camera person is a total blur.
I was always under the impression that 2709's were unsuited to high speed work as they use a very precise film movement where the registration pins that engage the sprocket holes are fixed. This means the film has to be lifted up off the pins, advanced one frame and replaced back on the pins for the next frame. This is an inherently slower process than a High speed Mitchell where the registration pins retract, the film is slid on to the next frame and the pins extend back into position. The Mitchell was capable of 128 Frames per second top speed where the 2709 I believe could only achieve about 64 frames per second, especially when hand cranked.
If the Bell and Howell was was most commonly used for taking miniature shots in Britain at the time it would explain the criticism I have expressed in the past that many miniature shots were not filmed at a high enough speed to impart the desired illusion of scale.

The other notable aspect to the first photograph is the Pier seems to be broken up at the point of the explosion shown in photograph 2. This would suggest that this still photo was taken after the event had been filmed. Two of the three technicians standing on the set are staring at the damaged section, probably wondering if they will have to go in and repair the pier for a second take.

I would love to know the title of the film that these belong to, so if any of the erudite readers of this blog has any idea please let me know in the comments.


  1. I dont know, but I wonder if these shots might be from "Barnacle Bill" (1957).

    It's the one British Film I can think of that features a seaside pier being split in two...

  2. Thanks Andy, according to Wikipedia Barnacle Bill was shot on Hunstanton Pier which doesn't look like the model in the photos. A facebook group I am in suggested it was Eastbourne Pier and the model certainly looks identical to that. Also I think 1957 is a bit later than the haircuts and clothing in the photos would suggest. My guess is a film from the 30's to before the 50's.

  3. I agree. Hunstanton looks completely wrong.

    Of course, I want to see the movie now to check...

    The second picture looks like an explosion. Wartime bombing, perhaps? Can't recall any such scene in a film, mind.

    Thanks for that. It's bugging me now...

  4. Fascinating stuff! For my penny's worth, the chap top left, wearing the beret, looks like Filippo Guidobaldi. Peter Cook mentions him a lot on his Matte Paintings site, just do a search for him there. Here's a BTS photo of Filippo at work from that site, wearing his trademark beret...

  5. Further to the above, having looked at a number of photos with Guidobaldi in them on Peter Cook's site, some of which are dated, I would guess from his appearance in your image above that it is from the 1930s. His first name is variously spelt Filippo or Philippo, the latter on IMDB, on which can be found a filmography (which I'm sure is incomplete, there were a lot of fairly low budget British action films of the type which might incorporate something like the exploding pier made in the 30s and I'd bet he was uncredited on many of them). Anyway, here's a link to it, someone may find something useful there...

  6. Someone on the facebook group suggested that it could be Guidobaldi so I had a look at other photos of him on NZ Pete's site and felt that this person looks a lot younger than most of the other photos would suggest. However I get the feeling that the photo is from the thirties from the clothing and hairstyles and the camera being hand cranked also fits so it could indeed be a younger Guidobaldi. I searched through all the synopses of the films made by British Lion from the thirties to the end of the fifties but nothing I came across mentioned a pier.


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