Chained Girls (1965)
By Peter Conheim
Reading time 4 Minutes
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Joseph P. Mawra’s ersatz-documentary, Chained Girls, probably would have more closely resembled the “genre” it was aping if it had been shot on hand-held 16mm, cinema verité-style, as such classics of the period as D.A. Pennebaker’s Don’t Look Back (about Bob Dylan) or the Maysles brothers’ Salesman were. Instead, it is lensed in crisp 35mm, and brightly over-lit as the virtually artless project that it is. As a result, because of its numerous “wild”-shot filler sequences on the streets of Greenwich Village circa 1965, it occasionally becomes, as Restorationist Ross Lipman puts it, an “accidental documentary.” The “girls” may be chained to dull interiors, but when the camera ventures outside, the audience gets a rare chance to see some fairly unusual and beautiful New York of the mid-1960s.
As another result of a film lab closing and essentially discarding thousands upon thousands of original negatives, which were then squirreled away and sold to collectors and on eBay, we were luckily able to restore the film from the original picture and sound elements. The 35mm camera negative was in excellent condition, having likely had only a single printing run in original release.
When it came to the soundtrack of Chained Girls, however, The Restorationists made a few amusing discoveries. As with most films of the period, it was scored with “library music”, but in this case, the producers seem to have grabbed whatever vinyl LPs happened to be sitting around, regardless of condition. As a result, we have left in all the clicks, pops and surface noise which were obviously picked right up off the discs at the time (and even the pauses between symphony movements!). Most amusing of all, though, was discovering that the sound mix was so careless that no attempt at synchronization was made at all on some of the reels. Where it is customary practice to add beeps, cue marks and other indicators to both picture and sound negative to give the film lab places to accurately line up the material so that everything stays in sync, Chained Girls has none of these. Indeed, the music cues simply chop off randomly at the ends of reels in some cases!
As a result of all of this, because there is little-to-no synchronized sound in the film, The Restorationists had to make some “elective choices” on where the sound begins and ends in each reel. In the end, it was pretty hard to make this film any more wrong than it already is.
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.