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Super 8

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(written from a Production point of view)

Super 8 was an analog film media format, and in more than one way the first true home media format. Released in 1965 by Eastman Kodak as an improvement of the older "Double" or "Regular" 8 mm home movie format (with the "Zapruder film", recording the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, arguably the most famous film shot in the format), the format became a runaway success, as it tied in perfectly with the growing post-World War II economical prosperity of Western societies (previous variants having been only available to the well-to-do), all of its citizens only too eager to record their lives in home-made movies, with recorders that were in essence miniaturized versions of the cameras utilized by mainstream Hollywood.

Super 8 interior casing of The Motion Picture Bearing witness to the once peaceful co-existence between humans and 'elves'
Super 8 interior casing of the US Motion Picture release...
...played in a "miniature cinema", as seen in The Shannara Chronicles

However, in order to enjoy their shot footage, customers also needed to own, or at the very least have access to, film projectors capable of playing the Super 8 film reels, or simply put, having to have to operate a miniature cinema of their own. Nevertheless, it was the first time these opportunities to record ones personal life in motion pictures became affordable for a general populace at large, and it was adopted by them with a fervor. For two decades the format reigned supreme, until Video 8 made its appearance in 1985, turning out to be the ultimate downfall of the format. "Video 8" should not be confused with "Super 8", as the latter was a bonafide film medium, whereas the Video 8 was, like its larger VHS/Betamax siblings, a magnetic video tape.

Hollywood studios recognized the potential of a bourgeoning emergence of a home media format market, and did release titles from their backlog catalogs, though it had always remained a fringe event. While available, retail prices were for most far too high for individual ownership, meaning that the vast majority of the Super 8 releases ended up in the film festival or rental outlet circuit, the latter a very modest affair itself, compared to the later video tape rental outlet juggernaut.

Star Trek on Super 8Edit

Canterbury Films Super 8 release of The Trouble with Tribbles

Canterbury Films Super 8 release of "The Trouble with Tribbles"

Considering the huge success Star Trek: The Original Series enjoyed in syndication during the 1970s, it should not come as a surprise that several episodes of the series turned up in that era in the Super 8 format. Responsible for this was the somewhat obscure New York City based company "Canterbury Films", founded by Leslie Brooks – a movie trailer specialist at the time – and named after the street he was living in. [1] Brooks released several episodes in that decade, each spread over three 400 feet, 7 inch film reels, packaged together in a single cardboard box endowed with photocopied imagery glued on the box as cover art, though some 1000 feet single reel variants have also been reported. [2] Not particularly sturdy, few original boxes have survived the rigors of time, as is evidenced on secondhand market sites like eBay. The few surviving ones however, show that the releases were neither endowed with catalog numbers nor release dates and it is nigh impossible to ascertain the exact extent of Brook's release efforts or to pinpoint release dates. Furthermore, lack of any mention on the box art of the legal owner of Star Trek, Paramount Pictures, seemed to indicate that the handling of licensing issues was shady at best. According to author Richard W. Haines, Brooks made use of a contemporary loophole in the then applicable copyright laws, "Canterbury discovered that some episodes of the Star Trek TV show did not contain a copyright in the credits and released dupes to collectors," essentially making Brooks' releases "bootleg recordings" in current understanding. (The Moviegoing Experience, 1968-2001, February 2003, p. 183)

Haines' observation might also explain why all hitherto known Super 8 titles are stemming from the first one-and-a-half seasons of the Original Series; Paramount Pictures, after it had in July 1967 acquired Desilu Studios, the original producer of the Original Series, apparently ran a tighter ship from a business point of view. During the transition several different forms of copyright for episodes of the second season of Star Trek were featured. The initial episodes of the season bore a Desilu logo and copyright, while episodes of the latter half of the second season featured a Desilu logo but a Paramount copyright.

Regardless of the legalities involved, the Canterbury Films releases were for all intents and purposes the very first Star Trek home media format releases as currently understood (meaning visual formats – there had been a few audio only formats previously and concurrently, such as the 1976 Inside Star Trek LP), albeit apparently unofficial, as in not sanctioned by the franchise. Nevertheless, as Haines already indicated, these were far from being the mass-market releases their VHS/Betamax successors later became, but instead remained rather limited to the niche-market of "film buffs" – they actually still hunting down surviving copies of the releases as collector's items on such sites as eBay [3] – , in no small part due to the high retail prices involved at the time. Of at least one episode, "The Man Trap", is known that it was released in a similar manner on Super 8 by another, equally obscure company, "Red Fox", but it is not known whether or not it was an original release or a copy of a Canterbury Films release [4], as the practice of copying each others products was quite commonplace in the Super 8 market at the time. In this regard a company called "Thunderbird Films" has also been mentioned and it appears that it is in this light that the reported single reel variants should be considered. [5] Canterbury Films endowed their films with their own original leaders which were cut from "pirated" (single reel) releases. [6]

Paramount Pictures itself was by 1981 one of the last major Hollywood studios to turn out (movie) titles in the format, one of its last titles happening to be Star Trek: The Motion Picture in 1980. [7] To date it, with its international variants, is as far as Star Trek is concerned, the only one known title, besides being the only movie, to have been released in its entirety in this format officially, as the format was by then well on its way out due to the emergence of VHS and Betamax, and even though it is known that United International Pictures has disseminated a trailer reel of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan in the format on a very limited scale as late as 1982. [8]

Release chronologyEdit

Date Products released
unknown "Where No Man Has Gone Before"; "The Man Trap"; "The Menagerie, Part I"; "The Menagerie, Part II"; "Miri"; "Shore Leave"; "The Squire of Gothos"; "Space Seed"; "The City on the Edge of Forever"; "Catspaw"; "The Deadly Years"; "The Trouble with Tribbles"[1]
unknown Star Trek: The Motion Picture
unknown Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan[2]
  1. Title releases as ascertained on such sites as eBay and 8mm Forum, and listed in the original broadcast order due to lack of release date information.
  2. Trailer reel only.

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