Back when my old comedy group, the Van Gogh-Goghs, used to be in North Carolina, we often met to practice in one of our members basement. The basement belonged to Galen, who was fond of looking for interesting things at tag sales, estate sales, auctions, and the like. One night, after we'd resigned ourselves to the fact that not much was going to get done, Galen pulled out a stack of old 8mm film reels he'd purchased at a recent tag sale.
It being a summer night in North Carolina, and Galen's basement being cool and relatively mosquito-free, we stayed to watch the films. I don't think any of us were really prepared for what we saw.
The films started our innocently enough: vacation films from a well-to-do Chapel Hill family, at the beach, some interesting aerial shots of Chapel Hill, lots of people in fussy clothes and hats looking at the camera and waving. Some were even color, which was a bit surprising.
The next reels got more interesting. The family apparently took a trip to Europe in the early '30s. Shots of snowy alps, quaint chalets, ski lifts, and then, rows of Nazi flags. Handheld camera shots walking down a street, until a brown-shirted Nazi covers the camera lens with his hand. Cut to a Nazi rally, with the camera in the crowd, as the cinematographer raises their hand, along with everyone else in the massive arena, in a Nazi salute. Pan to the stage, small from the distance and central, as a small, familiar figure walks up to the podium, the part of his hair the hypotenuse of his facial triangle, a square cursor of a mustache under his nose, as he then starts to harangue the cheering crowd, silently.
Cut back to a North Carolina basement, with six stunned, creeped-out faces, as they realize they're seeing unknown footage of Hitler. Cheerwine and Mountain Dew are gulped, nervously.
Galen still has these films, and none of us could really figure out what to do with them. Are someone's home movies of Hitler (and Mussolini, If I recall) as valuable as they seem? Or are there a number of these kinds of reels floating around?
The films aren't digitized at this point, but if anyone has any good advice as to what to do with them, I'l pass it on to Galen. Thanks, internet; you always know just what to do.
Carrie McLaren & Jason Torchinsky are coeditors of _Ad Nauseam: A Survivor's Guide to American Consumer Culture_. In previous lives, they worked together on the hopelessly obscure and now defunct Stay Free! magazine. He lives in LA and writes for the Onio