Page 26 - CinemaRecord Edition 3-2003 #41
P. 26

Going Mental at the Movies
                                                     Harold Aspinall

                              The Kew Asylum opened in 1872. Today Willsmere is a trendy residential address

            One of the most unusual projection  The first time I went there with Ron  This group was interested in
          jobs to come my way was the result of  it was, I have to say, a shock. A bit like  everything about movies, and I used to
          a phone call back in the early 1960s.  being in a school-yard, except these  talk to them quite a lot.
          Not only was it unusual, but it turned  were adults. The inmates were very  I sometimes thought, ‘These people
          out to have unexpected and very   shabby and unwashed, and the smell  are just as sane as most I meet outside’.
          welcome side benefits!            took a bit of getting used to. There  But of course this was not the case.
            My friend Ron McCracken had a   were quite a few ‘white coats’ around  Sometimes Bill would be absent and
          regular gig showing films at the Kew  and occasionally they would spring into  others would tell me he was having a
          Mental Asylum. This was a magnificent  action and cart some poor individual  bad day and even give the ‘screw loose’
          mansion - Willesmere, atop the Kew  away.                            sign.
          hill, a vantage point visible across  Despite all this I accepted the job  At this time I was newly married
          much of Melbourne.                and settled in. The films were shown in  and living in our first home. The
            Every Tuesday afternoon Ron     a large hall. A portable screen (4:3 ratio  children had not arrived yet so there
          would go out there and run a feature for  only) was set up on the stage and a  was lots of spare room in the house. I
          the patients. The show had to start at  large speaker enclosure on wheels was  had acquired a Powers 35mm projector
          two pm and finish no later than four.   placed down the front. The projection  (vintage pre-1920), modified with a
            Ron was having trouble making it  room was built on stilts at the back of  Bevan sound head (see CinemaRecord
          each week and asked me if I’d like to  the hall. Inside was a pair of  59, page 24) and had built myself the
          do every second Tuesday. There was no  Raycophone J3s with Hamilton &  complete sound system feeding into a
          pay other than expenses, it was a  Baker carbon arcs. There was even a  Wharfedale three-way speaker system
          voluntary thing. However the expenses  non-synch record player for the  with the 15 inch woofer bricked into
          amounted to something similar to what  preliminary mood music, a German  the fireplace!
          a projectionist would get for such a job  Dual turntable - quite something for the  The projector was mounted on a
          anyway. So it was a nice little tax-free  day. There was a separate rewind room  universal base and housed in the second
          earner.                           and plenty of spare spools and     bedroom. The audio cables ran under
                                            everything needed to put on a good
            The projectionist was the one who                                  the floor to the living room. From the
          chose the program. The deal was to                                   bedroom the projection throw was
          select a film, call the exchange and  A dedicated group of inmates used  across the hallway, through a glass
          make the booking, collect it on Tuesday  to meet me when I pulled up in my  partition, and down the length of the
          morning, go out and put on the show,  Mini-Minor out the front. I remember a  living room to the screen, which hung
          and return the film the following  large burly character called Bill who  above the fireplace. I had a mark where
          morning. Films were charged to the  used to whisk the film trunks out of the  to hang the screen. That was the only
          Asylum’s account.                 boot as if they had no weight at all!    set up needed, as everything else was in

          26  2008 CINEMARECORD
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