Saturday, 7 February 2015

Expired Kodak Plus-X: March 1977

Another unboxing video. This time, some Kodak Plus-X that expired in March 1977, when I was one year old:

For fifteen minutes you can listen to me talking about some old film, and imagine that you have a witty, amusing English friend. Plus-X was discontinued in 2011, by which time it was ancient, having been introduced in the late 1930s. The April 1956 Popular Photography has an interesting and very wordy advert for Kodak that describes the company's contemporary film range, with Plus-X touted as an all-round high-speed film (which in those days meant ISO 80):

"Great things are doing in Kodak Films" doesn't make sense. Google Books is overwhelmed with results from the 1940s and 1950s but nothing beyond that, as if Kodak simply forgot about Plus-X for the next sixty years before suddenly realising that it was still on sale. It seems to have been a boring film that nobody particularly cared about. The early adverts emphasise its availability in 35mm, so I assume that 120 spools came later, and presumably the ISO 125 rolls I have were a later development as well.

My guess is that its middle-of-the-road nature doomed it; Tri-X is faster and TMAX is finer-grained. Is Plus-X Professional the same film as the consumer-orientated Plus-X mentioned in the advert? Is Plus-X of the 1970s the same as Plus-X of the 1950s? I have no idea.

As before, send your answers on a postcard to Iain Duncan Smith c/o the Houses of Parliament, and just write "yes" or "no" on the postcard with no return address or identifying marks. He will find you.

OM2 / Velvia 100F / 24mm f/2 / This has nothing to do with the rest of the post, I just have lots of photos that don't fit elsewhere.

To confuse things there was also a Plus-X Pan, which is presumably the same film in a different box, because Plus-X was always panchromatic. That's what distinguished it from Verichrome, which was Plus-X's orthochromatic sister, at least until 1956 when Verichrome Pan was introduced.

At which point Kodak had a confusing range of similar black and white films, and it's surprising that the company didn't slim the range down earlier. Plus-X was also sold as 16mm and 35mm motion picture film (Plus-X 7231 and Plus-X 5231 respectively). Were any major movies or television shows filmed with it? Again, I have no idea.

And spare a thought for 1977, the debut album by Ash. Who will forevermore be remembered as "teenage Britpop legends Ash", except that they weren't really Britpop. They were fellow travellers of the Britpop movement, cobelligerents waging their own continuation war, like Teenage Fanclub or Gorky's Zygotic Mynci, or the Cardigans or Björk.

Nowadays people want to forget about Britpop because it reminds them of Tony Blair having drinks with Noel Gallagher, and there was a lot of rubbish, but as the saying goes "90% of science fiction is crap because 90% of everything is crap". And the same is true of Britpop. Ninety per cent of Britpop was actually science fiction, which is crap.

The Britpop mainstream was full of bands that wanted desperately to channel the 1960s, but Ash were inspired by the late-70s pop-punk of the Ramones / Undertones / Buzzcocks variety. The band started out playing Iron Maiden covers, and 1977's lead track "Lose Control" has something of the early-1980s speed metal scene about it. You remember it from the first Gran Turismo game. If you asked me to compile a list of really good album opening tracks, "Lose Control" would be on that list.

The rest of the album - "Girl from Mars" and "Angel Interceptor" were the hits - is a bit one-note although thankfully they didn't bother with a rote Britpop slow-dancing strings ballad. Looking back, 1977 seems a few years ahead of its time, and I'm saddened that it wasn't a massive hit in the United States, where Ash's brand of bouncy pop-punk was just coming into vogue. This has nothing to do with Plus-X. Does the film still work? It'll be interested to find out.

Interesting, or depressing, because if it doesn't work the next post will consist of the word NO and then I'll have to think of something else.

EDIT: After a bit of experimentation I determined that ISO 50 is a good start:

But ISO 10 is better. Ulp. Rather like the Rollei ATO I shot a while back, it doesn't capture shadow detail at all. Forty years of accumulated cosmic radiation has aged it, filled it with with disappointment and dread.