She-Man: A Story of Fixation (1965)
Reading time 3 Minutes
Canadian director Bob Clark, who would later helm Black Christmas, Deathdream and the Porky’s franchise, made this curious little picture which cashes in on the Christine Jorgensen “sex change” media frenzy of the 1950s-60s. But what sets it apart from any comparable exploitation cinema is its highly sympathetic tone towards trans people and an unusual mix of melodrama and – perhaps – spy thriller.
Unfortunately for the Restorationists, this film presented a rare case where the original picture negative supposedly exists – we have it on good authority that this is the case – but was entirely unavailable to our team. So, the sole known 35mm release print was used to “remaster” the best possible version under the circumstances, instead, which is generally the course of last resort. Some titles which byNWR have restored are known to only exist in 35mm print form – The Nest of the Cuckoo Birds and Maidens of Fetish Street among them – but it so happened that those particular release prints were “first generation”: struck directly from the camera negatives (which are now lost), and still maintaining a great degree of grain, detail and overall image quality from the original.
With She-Man, however, it became clear upon viewing the available print that it was actually several generations down from the negative. Much fine detail, particularly in the black and gray areas of the image, is gone, and there’s an overall softness to the image. There are also numerous printing errors “baked in”, not to mention substantial dust, dirt and other remnants of sloppy handling not unusual to productions of this caliber.
Much effort was made in the digital domain to improve these often substandard and damaged materials we had to work with. The resulting remastered version of She-Man: A Story of Fixation is still the best one to circulate on video yet. It is also presented for the first time in its correct 1.66:1 aspect ratio.
In a sense, a project like this is one of a preservationist’s worst nightmares: knowing full well that a better element is out there – indeed, the original camera negative – but it lies just out of reach. Just how far out of reach it will continue to be is unknown at press time…
Peter Conheim is a film curator and preservationist based in El Cerrito, California. He is also the co-founder of the performing group Wet Gate, which uses only “found footage” and 16mm film projectors to create a live cinema collage, sampling the sound from the film tracks in real time, as well as Mono Pause, a long-running “Situationist rock” group (and its Southeast Asian music spin-off, Neung Phak) and a member of “culture jamming” legends Negativland. His Cinema Preservation Alliance non-profit organization is dedicated to the long-term survival of endangered motion pictures of all stripes.