My name is Benjamin Solovey, and thanks to the support of Kickstarter backers like yourself, I had the pleasure of restoring Manos: The Hands of Fate from the surviving 16mm elements. It's now available on Blu-ray and DVD.
With your help, I'll next be overseeing a full 4K restoration of the classic B-Movie "The Atomic Brain", also known as "Monstrosity", from the original 35mm camera negative.
In the process, we'll compile supplemental material about the circumstances of the film's creation, and create a documentary about its director, Joseph V. Mascelli, ASC, one of the most influential yet unknown cinematographers in film history.
About The Director:
A highly active member of the American Society of Cinematographers in his day, Mascelli learned his craft at a time when camera crew from the silent era were not only still alive, but still working: his collaborator on the second edition ASC Manual had shot 1914's The Perils of Pauline.
Mascelli himself began as a cinematographer in the Armed Forces, and would shoot countless miles of newsreel and training footage before moving into TV and Film. Due to the ephemeral and anonymous nature of much of his work, a true survey of his credits has never been made.
He would become best known for condensing the collective knowledge of his field into one concise, informative book, 1965's The 5 C's of Cinematography, that is still used to teach students the visual vocabulary of film. Mascelli's book makes the case for the democratization of film teaching, urges readers to push the boundaries of the rules (the sixth "C", he writes, is "Cheating") and fosters the easy discussion of what was once very specialized, even unspoken knowledge. It's still in print today, and could be considered his most enduring contribution to filmmaking.
Our documentary will help paint a picture of Mascelli and the era in which he was working, an uneasy time when Corman and Cleopatra coexisted, a transitional decade that would give way to the "New Hollywood" of the 1970's. As one of the old guard looking to teach the new, how did Mascelli's educational work persist through the decades? In looking to the past, we might even find some good advice for the future.
About "The Atomic Brain":
A year and change before The 5 C's of Cinematography was completed, Mascelli's name was conspicuously absent from the poster of Monstrosity. This B-Movie tells the story of Hetty March, a rich, somewhat vampiric old woman who conspires with a scientist to transfer her brain into a younger body through atomic fission. March employs three women in her mansion while she decides which one to kill and replace. Soon, a rejected candidate's brain is swapped with a cat's, causing her to eat a mouse and climb onto the roof.
Throughout, two other failed experiments, a zombie woman and a Moreau-esque dog man, loom nearby as if refugees from another movie. The situation deteriorates until the mansion, as well as March's plans, are obliterated in a bright atomic blast.
Monstrosity, in fact, had been directed by Mascelli in 1958 until funding abruptly fell through. Hastily finished by its producers in 1963, sleazily advertised (see above), re-titled The Atomic Brain on dreary-looking 16mm prints, rarely presented in its intended widescreen aspect ratio, destined to land on Mystery Science Theater 3000, the film was never given much attention. Yet, despite all obstacles, Mascelli's original footage is directed and shot with a professionalism and a keen visual sense that stands out from the reshoots. Even in his one foiled attempt at directing a feature film, he proved that the principles he'd write about in "The 5 C's" did not discriminate based on budget.
Monstrosity, AKA The Atomic Brain would be Mascelli's only directorial credit, and an incomplete one at that. But now, the original 35mm camera negative has been recovered, and with it comes a razor-sharp black and white image for both cult movie fans and students of cinematography to enjoy for the first time.
The film's public domain status has long made it a staple of bargain bin DVDs, sourced from muddy VHS transfers that drop many low-key scenes into total darkness. It also has discouraged major distributors, who would never be able to fully own the results, from investing in a proper video transfer for the film. We, the public that own it, now have an opportunity to restore The Atomic Brain in full 4K resolution, and make this once-obscure "Monstrosity" available in a condition far better than it's ever been seen.
If we don't make it happen, no one will.
How Can I Help?
- Donate! Every dollar we raise will create a better restoration and a better documentary.
- Spread the word! Your words are important to us. If you can't donate, but still want to see The Atomic Brain brought back to life, make sure everyone- your friends, your family, and your social network- knows about this project and our goals. Share a link to this page with your endorsement on Facebook or Twitter. Not only will you help us restore the film, you'll encourage others to give the film the re-evaluation it needs.
What Your Donation Will Cover
Successful fundraising will support the following:
For the Restoration:
- Scanning of the Original Camera Negative and Fine Grain Positive on a top-of-the-line archival film scanner into the DPX format in 4K resolution.
- Digitization of all audio from the Original Track Negative into 48khz uncompressed WAV Files.
- Professional image restoration on PFClean and DRS™ NOVA suites to correct countless occurrences of dirt, tears, irregularities and scratches in the film.
- Restoration and re-engineering of the soundtrack by an audio professional using iZotope, Protools, and other specialized hardware.
- Hard drives and RAID for data capture, transportation, editing and backups. Working in 4k resolution means many terabytes of data and doubles of everything for backup.
- Professional grading in a calibrated color correction suite. Even black and white films need this to ensure a consistent, accurate image across all video and theatrical formats
- Long term digital storage and migration of the restored film on LTO tape or equivalent.
- The creation of a 4K DCP to allow modern digital projection. A must if we are to exhibit the film.
- The creation of Blu-ray, DVD and UHD home video masters, ensuring that backers get the best possible quality in their choice of format.
For the Documentary:
- Offset the cost of travel and lodging in creating the documentary.
- Hard drives and camera memory cards for data capture, transportation, editing and backups.
- The employment of crew during filming and postproduction.
- Rental of lighting, grip and sound equipment for interviews.
- Legal Fees to ensure rights and clearances relating to people, organizations and publications are all honored in the making of the restoration and documentary.
If We Exceed Our Goal
Our initial goal of $16,000 is the minimum to ensure that the restoration of the film is finished and incentives are delivered. Donations well beyond that amount will allow for a dramatic increase in quality.
- Many more hours of cleanup on the film, for a truly flawless sound and image.
- More personnel employed for image and sound restoration.
- Access to better post-production tools and more extensive quality control.
- A stronger budget for the documentary, enabling further travel, interviews, and equipment rental.
- Extra crew hired on location and in postproduction during the creation of the documentary.
- Professionally replicated dual layer Blu-ray discs with added, open-matte version of The Atomic Brain.
- A new 35mm theatrical print, struck from the negative, for preservation and exhibition.
Exclusive DVD, Blu-ray & UHD
We're self-distributing this film for the duration of the project. This means several things:
- A quicker turnaround. Backers, no matter where they are, need not wait for contract negotiations, retail scheduling, or press releases before they can receive their copies of the film.
- Versatility. We can deliver the film to some backers in a 4K resolution file, suitable for viewing on UHD Televisions and monitors, before distributors have put a reliable 4K system into practice. We have the freedom to change this delivery method if new distribution standards arrive before we're done.
- Backer Exclusives. As of now, there are no plans to distribute "The Atomic Brain" on physical media beyond this campaign. Whether this changes or not depends on demand- which, for such a niche title, is never a given. Backers could be the only ones with access to physical copies.
- Transparency. I'll be in the loop at every step, and so will you. No non-disclosable information, and no need to get your information from another source.
Risks and challenges
Our last film restoration, of "Manos: The Hands of Fate", saw a substantial number of risks and challenges realized. At the center was a prolonged attack on the film's long standing public domain status from two outside parties. A great deal of time and effort was required to address that threat, but nearly every one of our backers stuck with us throughout. Their patience was rewarded with the best home video package possible and, I hope, the knowledge that their trust was well placed.
The restoration of The Atomic Brain begins with us in a far more advantageous position. With the recovery of the original 35mm camera negatives, as well as recent advancements in technology, the 4K restoration of this title can be completed faster and at less expense than was possible only a few years ago.
We are also going into our project with substantial copyright research strengthening the film's public domain status, and an intellectual property lawyer employed for the duration of the project. We are prepared, then, for any legal challenge, and this will also help us keep the entire restoration process transparent.
Both for the confidence of new backers and as a reward for repeat backers, I am placing a personal guarantee on the timely delivery of all media incentives. Should we meet our fundraising goal, incentives will be sent to backers between their original ETA of October 2016 and no later than December 31st of 2016. If this deadline is missed, then refunds on backer levels of $50 or greater (minus the Kickstarter / Paypal fees) will come from my own pocket.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (46 days)