Found something cool today. It was in a shopping mall, of all places. One of those that were built in the 1960s with a market-space and greasy-spoon cafes in the back, where nothing has changed in decades. All the current shops are in the front, where they’ve tried to keep up to date with modern looks, with LED screens and lights, but then there’s a section which still has green and white tiles, and the formica tables in the cafes still have marks from cigarettes being put out of them back when that was allowed.
Right in the corner, in a small space, was a second-hand bookshop. The old man in there must have paid the lowest rent of any shop in London, as there was barely any trade in that part of the mall, let alone in his shop.
He mostly ignored me while I was in there, although I could see him leering at me at times when he thought I was looking elsewhere. The shop smelled of dust, old books and sweat.
There didn’t seem to be anything more recent than the 1990s in there — stacks of shelves near the front filled with Star Trek: The Next Generation and X-Files guides and novels. After that, it was old battered popular paperbacks and older large hardbacks, along with some long-out-of-date academic texts.
He had a second room, which was darker. At first, I thought it was a stock room, but he mentioned ‘there’s more through there’.
This time, there was more than books — old music cassettes, videotapes and even 1980s Sinclair and C64 games. There was no sense of order to any of it, and they were packed so highly and so densely together that I had to carefully edge my way through walkways, like paths through forests. I worried about brushing too much against something and setting dozens of books and tapes cascading down.
After what I thought was about 20 minutes, while deciding to pretend I hadn’t seen the box of what I will charitably call erotica, I looked at my phone and realised I’d been in the room for an hour. I was cocooned away from even the owner’s view.
That’s when I found the film cans. Some old pathe news reels, and some old films. I knew some people who might be interested in buying them. One of them was unmarked, which I couldn’t help but be intrigued by.
Between a handful of books, some old magazines and the cans, I ended up spending about a hundred and twenty pounds in there, so that probably made for a decent day’s work for him.
He took a long time to put everything through the card machine and openly looked at my chest while I paid.
Been carefully looking at the films in the cans. Two of the movies are moulded and unusable, but looking at the negatives, I could see the newsreels looked pretty good.
The unmarked one looks really interesting. I recognised [REDACTED] in it when I glanced through it. An original print of one of his films could be worth a nice bit to a collector. There aren’t any opening credits, which is annoying. And I don’t want to spool all the way through in case I damage it. I’ve ordered a cheap film scanner, to let me look through more of it and figure out which film it is.
I’ve been looking through [REDACTED]s movie history, and no idea what it could be. Once the scanner is here, I’ll try and figure out if I recognise any other actors, so I can cross reference.
I’ve sold one of the pathe news reels already! That’s paid for what I bought and the scanner already.
The scanner is here! I tore into it like a child with birthday presents. It’s annoying fiddly and slow as hell as it scans each individual frame, but it works! My laptop now has the first thirty seconds of whatever this film is. I wish there was sound. It would make it easier to identify, but I’ll keep working on it. It’ll take time, but I’ve got a good feeling about this.
I can’t sleep. A headache was keeping me up. I ended up scanning more of the film instead, when I found something so exciting that I forgot about the headache. Another actor I recognise! And an even bigger name! It’s [REDACTED]!
This film could be worth a lot. Just need to figure out what it is.
I can’t find any films those two were in together. This is so confusing. Need to do more research. Could it be lost? Unfinished?
Still struggling to sleep. This isn’t helping me research. I keep ending up spiralling down threads of irrelevancy. I can’t find anything. And I’m spending any time I haven’t done this scanning in more of the film.
I need to stop this and sleep.
There’s nothing. No information anywhere. I thought it might be an unfinished film at first, but it’s not like these are rushes or anything. This is clearly edited. I’ve posted in every message board I can find, but no useful leads so far.
I know this makes it more valuable, but I want to cry. Most people think I’m lying or mistaken.
I’ve tried not to look at it for a few days and I’ve slept better.
I feel more like looking at it all now. I thought there was an entire film, but I had the framerate wrong — there’s about 40 minutes of footage in the can, so I’ve realised it’s about half of it rather than the full film.
The star is [REDACTED], but it’s clear [REDACTED] is a major player too. I think he’s an investigator that [REDACTED] consults over threatening letters they’ve been receiving. It’s quite slow-moving, but seems to be building to something. I wish I could hear the dialogue.
I’ve been messaged on the [REDACTED] forum by someone who says they think they’ve heard of this. It might have been mentioned in a history of the [REDACTED] studio.
I’ll go to the British Library and see what I can find.
I’ve found a reference to it. In a film-magazine, [REDACTED] is asked about how they’re looking forward to working with [REDACTED]. “He’s a great professional and I’ve enjoyed his work so far. We’ve never met, but we have friends in common. I’m not sure what to expect.”
I know the name of the film! It’s called [REDACTED]. A reference in another film magazine — I’ve found nothing in any books.
“[REDACTED] was due to go on general release. After a fire in the projection booth during a test screening, the release has been delayed.”
That’s it. But a title, at least!
I woke up at 4am. The headache is back.
A message. From [REDACTED] on the [REDACTED] message board. He just told me he has the other reel in the film, and that he’d like to buy it from me. He’s offered me an incredible amount of money to send it to him. He has the soundtrack record as well — you play it separately while the film plays.
This seems too good to be true.
He’s genuine. I’ve researched him and he’s a rich lawyer and film historian. I don’t know, though. I want to sell it. But after all the work I’ve put in, I need to see the whole thing.
He’s based in London too. I’ve asked him if we can arrange something.
I thought he’d get back faster. I feel like this headache would have gone if he had. But we’ve agreed to terms. Tomorrow, I’m going to take the film to his, and we’ll watch it synced up with the sound. Finally. Then he’ll buy it from me. But he wants me to sign an non-disclosure agreement. This is frustrating. But it’ll be worth it if I can see it.
Writing this from a café by the tube station closest to his house. He’s going to meet me here then take me to his and watch it in his screening room (and I’m meeting someone who has a screening room). I wish it was less sunny. The light is hurting my eyes. But it’ll be dark when we watch the film at least.
I’ve seen it. I can’t describe it right now.
I can’t… I can’t.
I woke up screaming. The headache is piercing. I keep seeing flashes of those last scenes. The saw. The fucking saw.
I can’t make sense of this. How can it have been made? How could anyone film that? How could anyone do that?
Still processing it. I can’t get what I saw out of my head. I see it when I close my eyes.
I understand now why the projection booth caught fire. The projectionist tried to burn the film. It’s why the first section is missing. He must have seen the final scenes while he was testing the film. Tried to burn down the whole cinema to be safe. But the film survived.
Fire. The projectionist was trying to cleanse it. That’s what I need to do. I need to cleanse.
I went back to the shop. The books burnt easily and spread. That back room. And spread. He didn’t get out. It doesn’t matter. He owned it. He bought it and he sold it. It’s his fault.
My head. The saw. My head.
I went back to [REDACTED] and begged him for the film back. Begged him. I need to see it again.
He refused. He told me he burnt it.
He lied. He must have lied. The film survived the first time. It’ll survive this time.
Went back to [REDACTED] again. He said he’d call the police.
He won’t call the police now. I laughed. And laughed.
Searched his house. It was in his safe.
I had to make him tell me.
Fingers in wounds. Make him.
I have the film again.
My head. Sore.
I watched it again. And again. And again. And again and again sore and saw and saw and sore
I’ve started scanning the rest.
Everyone needs to see this. I understand now. Everyone.