Fetzer's Response to Mack, Installment #2
This is the second part of two-part response to Gary Mack. See (1).
On 5 March 1998, Gary Mack wrote:
4) My own knowledge ofteh Kennedy assassination and related
photographic evidence, along with working knowledge of film and special
effects techniques, casts great doubt on virtually every alteration
claim offered by your "experts."
You may have some qualifications for pursuing these matters, but
it is not obvious from your professional credentials. Does major-
ing in journalism and maintaining a film library for a TV station,
however worthy these pursuits, qualify you to make expert photo-
graphic judgments? Moreover, I am troubled by the lack of refer-
ences and citations in support of your allegations here. Please
understand that you are NOT an expert as commonly understood and
that your opinions require the same substantiation as any other
For example, relating to observation number one above, Pincher and
Schaeffer base much of their alteration theory on the "blink rate" of
lights on the JFK limo as seen in the Hughes film. Yet it is clear they
have no understanding of the changes a film undergoes when transferred
to video tape for television.
To begin, Hughes' Bell & Howell camera, to my knowledge, was not
subjected to speed studies like those of the Zapruder and Nix cameras.
Still, it is reasonable to assume it was approximately 18 frames per
second (fps), a standard rate for the 8mm format. Depending on several
factors, the actual speed on those inexpensive amateur cameras varied
anywhere from 10-15 per cent, or between 2-3 frames.
There were three settings on his Bell & Howell camera, namely:
a single-frame exposure setting, a 16 fps setting for run and
a 48 fps for slow-motion. (See Richard Trask, PICTURES OF THE
PAIN (1994), p. 58.) There is no setting for filming at 18 fps.
The 18.3 fps run time for the extant film is therefore an oddity.
Most versions of the Hughes film on television come from 16mm prints
made by Robert Groden. The standard speed for 16mm film is 24fps, an
obvious incompatibility with 8mm that makes the original film run 33
percent faster than normal. Therefore, standard procedure, and one I
know Groden uses, is to "stretch print" the 16mm copy by physically
repeating every third frame of the 8mm original. This makes the images
appear to move at a normal speed. The repeated frames are barely
noticeable, due to the long-recognized "persistence of vision" the eye
and brain provide. The sequence of frames then becomes
1-2-3-3-4-5-6-6-7-8-9-9-10-11-12-12 . . . and so on. In one second,
then, six frames have been added to the original 18 for a total of
24fps. When projected onto a movie screen, the 16mm copy of the 8mm
original moves at normal speed in a way that, to most people, appears
But U.S. television and video tapes operate at 30fps, which is
incompatible with 16mm film if not corrected. This time, every fourth
frame is electronically repeated to make the 24fps rate match the 30fps
rate. In a normal 16mm film, the sequence becomes
1-2-3-4-4-5-6-7-8-8-9-10-11-12-12 . . . and so on.
I assume you are correct for video frame-by-frame transfer, but
the alteration studies involved here are based almost entirely
upon film rather than video. So these points appear to me to be
irrelevant. They would make a difference for studies based upon
video by accounting for unusual film-to-video transfer effects.
But the "corrected" Hughes film has a built-in problem. It already
contains repeated frames from stretch printing. Depending on how the
16mm film is loaded onto the tv projector, the repeated frames will get
repeated again in a constantly changing pattern. A mathematician can
calculate the different permutations.
Also, there are other variables. For reasons far more complicated than
I can explain, the U.S. television frame rate is actually 29.97fps,
further altering the rate at which specific frames are shown.
Additionally, the projector may have been running slightly fast or slow,
which would yield different frame rates and sequences. In England,
television speed is 25fps, so programs produced there have to be
converted electronically to appear in the U.S. That means The Men Who
Killed Kennedy series, which has terrific footage, is not a good source
if film speed is important. Furthermore, today's broadcast video tape
machine speeds are infinitely variable, which changes the apparent speed
of the film even further to what the producer "feels" is correct.
As I understand it, stretching (compression) does not alter the
number of frames but only the time each frame is shown. In other
words, frames are not thereby deleted, added, or repeated. But
it may depend upon what is called a "frame". Some "fill-in" TV
frames, for example, may be a combination double-exposure of more
than one frame. (Sources and references might be helpful here.)
In other words, there are so many variables involved in getting an 8mm
film onto a tv screen, that determining time from frames is difficult at
best. The only accurate way to determine time from a film is to measure
the camera speed and physically count the frames. Experts already know
ROY SCHAEFFER REPLIES:
This is my response to Gary Mack's review of ASSASSINATION SCIENCE.
I will try to keep my response only to Mike and my article on Zapru-
der film tampering. When writing the article, I was quite aware of
NTSB National Television Standards. For the U.S., the standard for-
mat is 525-line, 60 cycle/30 fps. I am also aware of PAL ("phase
alteration line") used in a number of European countries, including
the UK. The PAL system format is 625-line, 30 cycle/25 fps. From
memory, the 60 cycle or 29.97 fps formula was determined, in part,
by the distance from NY to LA. The European system of 30 cycles
was based on a distance of about 1,500 miles. So what Mack is say-
ing about VHS U.S. television transfers appears to be correct. The
problem is, it has little bearing on my analysis. Being aware of
the VHS conversion factor, I stayed clear of it. I did this by us-
ing only my 8mm standard copy of the Zapruder film, Volume 18, and
the Multi-Media CD ROM version of the Zapruder and the Robert Hughes
films. It should therefore be clear that there were no visual signs
of VHS use in my material. The material I used came only from the
study of individual frames. I timed the Zapruder film by running it
through a projector (18 fps) from Z-133-Z-181. The time was 2.2 sec-
onds. I discounted Z-133-Z-135 and Z-174-Z-181 because the frames
were not part of the two cycles. 2.2 minus 10 frames equals 1.66 sec-
onds. So 38 frames were left (the two cycles). I then divided 38 by
1.66 = 22.89 frames. Z-135-Z-154 = 19 frames of film, or at 18.3 fps
= 1 second. My findings of .82 = 19 frames. The only time I used a
VHS transfer was to check my blink rate time. I used the Fetzer video,
"JFK: The Assassination, the Cover-Up, and Beyond" (left-right) cycle.
The next problem I find with Mack's analysis is comparing the time
to make a Disney film (of approximately 2 hours in length) with a
30 second home-movie. The comparison is poor for another reason,
namely: each frame was hand-drawn in the Disney movie. The frames
in the Zapruder film had already been produced.
The whopper is his claim that the sun flare occurs at 12:30 PM on
every 22 November! This is almost funny, since Mack forgot about
leap years. I personally would like to see his proof of the event
taken from Zapruder's pedestal. The flare would be quite different
than seen in the Zapruder film. Although Mack did not help out his
argument by saying the Hughes film runs at about 19 fps, he is right.
Another goody is Mack's using Zapruder's quote at WFAA-TV: "I saw
his head practically open up, all blood and everything". Zapruder
most likely saw this; the problem is the brevity of the event in
the film. Another whopper is Mack's saying that the Bronson film
only contains 24 frames corresponding to Z-195-Z-321. The Bronson
film I saw in Chicago with sound lasted 9.61 seconds (I timed it),
12 x 9.61 = 115 frames, not 24 frames as he suggests. My estimate
would be that it corresponds approximately to Z-230-Z-345. I did
not deal with the Z-154-Z-157 splice (Z-155, Z-156 missing) nor the
Z-207-Z-211 (wet) Z-212 (guillotine) because the splices were prob-
ably made at LIFE. Hopefully, this will handle Mack's problematic
Roy Schaeffer, 18 March 1998
As for observation number two, both you and Mantik used Disney's Mary
Poppins as an example of special effects capability in the 1963-1964
period. In fact, while many effects were good, Disney animators hid
many of the flaws in a very "dark" movie. Some matte work was sloppy,
rushed or careless. For example, a scene showing the stars tap dancing
on top of swimming turtles, which is a traveling matte sequence, has
obvious mask lines under their shoes. Another sloppy process shot,
about five minutes later, made Julie Andrews' face partially transparent
- a background tree shows through!
Some of the work on the Zapruder film was also "sloppy", or else
it would have been impossible to have discovered that it had been
extensively edited. The fact that, if we were to review another
film for flaws, we would discover them, does nothing to detract
from our contention that a thorough review of the Zapruder film
disclosed numerous indications it has been extensively reworked.
Indeed, if you have read David Mantik's chapter carefully, then
you will have seen he has discovered similar problems with the
Zapruder film, the difference being that these should NOT exist!
The only way to create special effects of convincing quality is by
shooting separate scenes in advance, then compositing (or combining)
them later. The Zapruder film would have to have been manufactured the
same way. Each finished scene took Disney technicians days, or weeks,
to complete depending on their complexity. Complicated scenes, such as
those with two or more traveling mattes, could take a month or more. The
work was done by a large team of people and necessarily involved film
laboratories outside the Disney studio.
David is not claiming that all of the work on the film was done
the night of the assassination. Probably that work represented
only the "first cut" and might have involved no more than making
two major cuts, namely, removing footage of the limousine from
its first appearance coming down Huston and turning onto Elm,
which would have revealed that it nearly came to a stop below
the sixth floor window, which--had an assassin actually been in
position there--would have been an irresistable shot, and re-
moving the footage showing the limousine being brought to a
stop after bullets began to be fired in order to make sure the
President would be killed. Everything else (the fine tuning)
could have been done in preparing the "final cut" while it was
in the possession of LIFE Magazine. LIFE was in the position
to control which frames were published and had the time at its
liesure to edit and reedit until Jim Garrison subpoened it for
his use as evidence, which did not take place until 1969, which
certainly was plenty of time to have reworked it extensively. I
therefore believe your argument here is feeble and has no merit.
Most any film or special effects technician can spot such work quickly,
and your "experts" should have talked with several. In fact, their
theories should have been presented to any of the several professional
organizations for special effects technicians. To me, their failure to
do so is a very serious mistake.
As for observation number three, are you not aware that reporters asked
Oliver Stone directly about the possibility someone had altered the
Zapruder film? It happened at the National Press Club in Washington in
January 1992. His speech and follow up Q&A were shown on CSPAN. Stone
seemed very surprised by the question, as if it had never occurred to
him before, so he conferred briefly with his research coordinator, Jane
Rusconi, who was sitting off camera. Stone came back to the podium and
said he would look into it. Jane later told me he thought the idea was
ridiculous. If there were some alteration, either he or his excellent
special effects people would have noticed it.
As I observed above, this is a silly complaint, because it does
not respond to the empirical evidence found in the film! That
the idea had not occurred to him (possibly because of the influ-
ence of Robert Groden) is too bad. He would have had a conflict
of interest at this point, given his film had been released; but
I would like to take this issue to him for further verification.
That would be an excellent idea, which is one we should pursue.
When you know what to look for, the telltale signs dramatically stick
out. Your "experts" should have studied Zapruder frames in stereo
pairs, as others, including myself, have done. Such analysis makes
alterations appear "above" the image and, so I'm told, always reveals
their presence. HSCA photo panel members used the technique in several
I am glad to see you using phrases like "so I'm told", which im-
ply that what you are claiming is not something that you know
first-hand, which I judge to be the case about almost everything
you are saying in this post about your "second observation". I
am now uncertain if you have taken time to read even the chapter
by Mantik very carefully, since otherwise you would have noted
yourself that some of the kinds of problems with Mary Poppins
were also encountered in the case of the Zapruder film itself.
As for the fourth observation, let me tell you about my film background.
I have handled, projected, edited and restored 8mm, Super 8mm, 16mm and
35mm film since 1958 when I was twelve years old. I have studied film
for decades, with a special interest in Hollywood effects and how they
are done. My television career began in 1981 and most of it included
restoration and editing of KXAS-TV's extensive news film library. For
several years I have been a member of AMIA, the Association of Moving
You may have been messing around with film since you were a kid
and you may have "special interests" in Hollywood effects, but
that alone, alas, does not make you an expert in any of these
matters. I would not make an issue of this except that you are
making it an issue with respect to the contributors to the book,
several of whom appear to be better qualified than are you for
this purpose. After all, you have no formal training in film,
and your membership is as an "archivist", not as a film expert.
One of the key claims by your "experts" is that the JFK limo "stopped"
on Elm, and since the Zapruder film does not show that, it must,
therefore, be altered. This, too, is a simple case of not having the
requisite understanding of motion pictures and the photographic evidence
to make such a claim.
This is off the mark. The eyewitness evidence is extensive, con-
sistent and uncontradicted. Moreover, eyewitness evidence, in a
case of this kind, is highly reliable, as empirical studies that
have appeared in the HARVARD LAW REVIEW, which are cited in this
book and discussed by David Mantik in his chapter, explain. This
is further evidence that you may not have carefully read the book.
Despite popular folklore, complete copies of the original Nix, Muchmore
and Bronson films exist. The original Bronson film also exists and I
have handled it several times over the years, most recently in 1993 for
the scientific study of the "window" sequence for PBS/Frontline. There
are no splices in the Dealey Plaza sequences and the camera original
film includes images in the intersprocket area.
Although you are no doubt quite familiar with these films, is it
possible that they could have been edited/altered BEFORE you be-
came familiar with them? Is there any way you can rule that out?
The end of the Muchmore film overlaps the beginning of the Nix film,
while Bronson's film overlaps both. All three show the head shot. The
Bronson film, which has only 24 frames of JFK on Elm Street filmed at
12fps, corresponds to Z295-331.
As Schaeffer observes above, however, if it runs at 12 fps, then,
since it lasts approximately 9.61 seconds, it has about 115 frames.
The limousine slowed, but never stopped. All three films match each
other, and all match the Zapruder film. Not one event in any film is
inconsistent with what appears in the corresponding film. To accomplish
this, the "plotters" had to have had all four original films in their
possession at the same time with any changes made in Zapruder repeated
exactly, and undetectably, in the other three at the time of the head
Except, of course, that the government did gain possession of all
of these films. (See additional comments by David Matnik below.)
All of this work, which would have taken weeks, if not months, had to
have been done at the same time and on the original films.
Unfortunately for your "experts," no such "window of opportunity"
existed. Why? The original Zapruder film went to Life's Chicago office
on Saturday, then to New York. The Muchmore film went to United Press
International almost immediately, for it appeared on WNEW-TV in New York
on Tuesday morning. The Bronson film was dropped off at Kodak in Dallas
for processing late Sunday afternoon and was returned to him the
following day. The Nix film went to the lab and then the FBI on
Furthermore, Abraham Zapruder had to have been convinced within ninety
minutes of the assassination to tell a false story about what he had
seen. Why? Because in his live interview on WFAA-TV at 2pm (preserved
on video tape), he said " . . . I saw his head practically open up, all
blood and everything . . . " as he pointed to his right temple. His
words and gesture, reproduced on pages 77-78 of Pictures of the Pain,
are identical to the content of his film.
Other parts of the book provide further proof that your "experts" do not
understand film technology. For example, on page 315, Mantik discusses
Weatherly's puzzlement that parts of one frame are both clear and
blurry, a seeming impossibility. The example used was Z212. That
paragraph made me laugh aloud, for it was obvious the two gentlemen do
not know what a film splice is and were ignorant of the fact they were
looking at two separate frames cement-spliced together (the bottom part
of frame Z207 spliced onto the top of Z212.) In fact, their repeated
references to "editing" of the Zapruder film betrays their lack of
knowledge. A film editor only cuts film and splices segments together.
Image alteration is performed by special effects technicians, whose
finished product, usually a negative, is spliced or printed between two
other strips of film in the order specified by the director.
DAVID MANTIK REPLIES:
1. Use of stereo pairs is a reasonable suggestion. However, this
would not necessarily provide conclusive evidence of alteration. It
is possible to alter successive images so that they yield convincing
2. Mack claims that complete copies of the original Nix and Muchmore
films exist. This is directly contrary to the NARA reports (not just
contrary to popular folklore) I cite in our book. If Mack really knows
where these originals are, he should tell NARA promptly. Why has he
not done so?
3. Mack claims to have seen the original Bronson film, which [by his
calculation, but see Schaeffer's different estimate above] contains
24 frames. I have not had the pleasure of viewing this, but would
dearly love to do so. I once sent Groden $100 for the privilege of
viewing it, but he never came through. Perhaps Mack could provide a
graph of limo speed for these 24 frames. That would be a helpful be-
ginning. The next step would be to compare this to a similar graph
from the Nix film. That the intersprocket images are present in the
Bronson film is very intriguing, but again not 100% proof that this
is an original. That argument about intersprocket images--regarding
the Z-film--was addressed in some detail in my chapter in the book.
4. Contrary to what Mack says, it would not be necessary for all the
films to be in immediate, or even simultaneous, possession of the con-
spirators. Such alteration could have proceeded in stages. And, as I
argue in my chapter, such changes could have proceeded over a period
of weeks or even months. Mack tries to imply that Z-film alteration
would have taken nearly as long as a sequence from Mary Poppins, but
the number of frames in these two cases is quite different: there are
many fewer frames in the Z-film.
5. Even if the original Muchmore film had been shown on TV, that would
hardly prevent alteration from being made later. (We have the same dif-
ficulty with the autopsy photos and the Dallas doctors--this is an old
problem.) As I argue in my chapter, it is likely that the original Z-
film was shown on that first weekend, but that did not prevent subse-
quent alteration. As for Zapruder being asked to lie, that is ridic-
ulous; he repeatedly implied that he recalled things not seen in the
extant film. Besides, thanks to Noel Twyman, we now have his partner's
corroboration of further disagreements between the initial film and the
current version. Furthermore, I suspect that Zaprduer did see JFK's
head explode. But why does that establish the authenticity of the
film? I think this event occurred, too, but it doesn't prove anything
to me about authenticity. In fact, the evidence suggests that the head
exploded much later than what we see in Z-313. And the debris should
be seen in many more frames than it is--especially compared with the
Alvarez melon experiments.
6. Regarding all the films agreeing with one another, this is a very
powerful statement and cannot be made without exhaustive attention to
detail over many frames. Whether Mack has actually done this, he does
not clarify. What I can say is that serious discrepancies have been
reported when comparisons of the Nix, Muchmore, and Z-films are made.
Some of these are described in my chapter. The Bronson comparison
would be a very important addition to this study, but no one seems to
have these frames. Would Mack be able to provide them?
7. My comments on Z-212 were based on intact photos of this frame,
not those printed in the WC. My oversight was in neglecting to make
this point clear--and Weatherly had nothing to do with this oversight.
Furthermore, Mack should not have laughed outloud until he sought fur-
ther clarification himself. Life, especially in relation to research
on the assassination, is just too complex for such a simple response.
8. The Alpine mountain over JFK's right shoulder on the Moorman does
indeed appear very odd to me. I have examined many different copies
of this, including a very good one owned by David Lifton. My opinion
is not held lightly--the contour of the shoulder looks very abnormal.
But perhaps each viewer will have to reach his own judgment on this
question. Surely not everyone will agree with Mack that this contour
9. Mack seems too sure of himself in describing which film Cranor
saw. Can he really be sure that the has seen all of the films that
have ever existed of this event? How can he be so sure? What I do
know is that the action she describes is not present on the extant
film, and that a simple change in light intensity or blurring will
not explain this discrepancy. Mack makes no attempt to explain why
the ACTIONS she saw are so different from the extant film.
10. Regarding the use of appropriate experts, why is Mack unhappy
with my use of the chief medical physicist at Kodak? If so, he ought
to name someone he would prefer. And why is he unhappy with the film
experts whom Twyman has consulted? Again, let him actually itemize
his reasons and then name those experts whom he prefers.
11. Regarding Oliver Stone, did he view carefully the many anomalies
in the intersprocket area? Did he carefully read and study the many
points made in our book? Has he compared the intersprocket areas of
recent films (shot through cameras identical to Zapruder's) to those
seen in the extant film? I have now done this and they are VERY DIF-
David W. Mantik, 4 May 1998
This note has taken hours to compile. It would take me days to address
every question your "experts" have raised about the Zapruder and other
films. On page 294, Mantik's "Alpine mountain" in the Moorman photo is
nothing more than JFK's right shoulder in bright sunlight. The original
Polaroid, and good prints of the original, show it clearly. On page
299, Millicent Cranor's "unusual version" of the Zapruder film, as I
told her four years ago, is the scratchy 16mm print projected by Groden
for the HSCA on December 29, 1978. The news media taped it off a
screen, in very low light and with primitive camcorders. The image has
a smeared, strange look to it, but it is not a different film. NBC
showed that tape during a five-day Kennedy assassination series on the
Today show in 1992, and I still have tapes of those 1978 and 1992
broadcasts. The "sun flare" that Pincher and Schaeffer do not
understand on page 228 occurs naturally at 12:30pm every November 22.
The angle of the sun at that time causes a noticeable reflection on
passing cars and anyone can photograph it, as I have, at that date and
(See the comments about the "sun flare" by Roy Schaeffer above.)
Suffice it to say, in my opinion, your "experts," and those who
proofread the manuscript, were not qualified to analyze the material
Of course, it took years for us to conduct the research that is
reported in this book, so I am not impressed that it took you
hours to compose this response. (Indeed, my conjecture is that
a few hours is the total amount of time you devoted to this pro-
ject, since no one who had actually read the book through could
make comments such as your "observartion number one", which is
a complete and total misrepresentation of the qualifications of
the contributors to this book.) Your remark about "those who
proofread the book", of course, is supposed to be an indictment
of me in my capacity as editor, especially given that I prepar-
ed camera-ready copy. Let me say that your pretentions toward
competence and objectivity have not taken me in. With perhaps
one exception--Mike Pincher, J.D.--as I explained above, each
of the contributors to this book appears to be well-qualified
to address the issues discussed in his work. You, however, do
not appear to be the authority that you pretend to be, nor is
it the case that this book--no matter how flawless--would have
been permitted into your bookstore. Your critique of our work,
I am afraid, seems to have been contrived to mislead the unwary.
James H. Fetzer
University of Minnensota
Duluth, MN 55812