DENZIL HOWSON ARCHIVE
image

The Mystery of the Lost and Found Episodes of The Adventures of Gerry Gee

Do you remember The Adventures of Gerry Gee — the serial on the Tarax Show in which Gerry Gee solved crimes, saved maidens in distress or rescued his friend Ron Blaskett? They were innovative and imaginative and would be regarded as historical treasures today. But whatever happened to them? In this blog post I want to dig a bit deeper into the fate of those films.

The series was produced on 16mm film and originally broadcast in the Tarax Show, circa 1960–1961. When Denzil Howson left GTV9 to work at AMV4 Albury, he arranged for the reels of film to be sent to Albury and the series to be shown on the daily children’s program. And when he joined STW9 in Perth in 1966, he arranged for The Adventures of Gerry Gee films to be sent to the West and shown there also, after which the films were packaged up and returned to GTV9.

Then the series was forgotten for a long time…

However, in 1991 some reels were re-discovered in the GTV9 archives. In 2001 Ron Blaskett wrote in his autobiography “You, Me and Gerry Gee”:

“Denzil and I were called to GTV9 in October 1991, as some old film had been found in the archives — and here was the series that had been missing for 25 years — what treasures! Now we’ve had them transferred to videotape.”

The “videotape” Ron refers to was VHS cassettes. Exactly who made these copies is not stated. However I questioned Ron about this a number of times in the years prior to his passing in 2018. His recollections were:

  • The episodes were found by Wally Ritter, a long time member of staff and former colleague of Denzil’s at GTV9. Wally had become the de-facto archivist at GTV9.
  • The films were probably loaned to Denzil for copying.

This fits with the fact that there are indeed VHS copies of some episodes in Denzil’s collection, with an accompanying typed inventory of episodes as follows:

STORYEPISODE NUMBERS
The Voice From NowhereEp 1: Gerry on the Beam
Ep 2: Suspicion?
Ep 3: The Chase
Ep 4: The Capture
Big TopEp 1
Ep 2
Ali GeeEp 1: Arabian Frights
Ep 3: The Open Gate
Smuggler’s SecretComplete
Gerry Flies ThroughEp 3
Gerry at GiganticEp 3
Tarzan GerryFour Episodes Complete
The VisitorTwo Episodes Complete
The Mystery of Muzzletwerp ManorFour Episodes Complete
Gerry HoodOne episode only
Pimpernell GeeEp 1
Ep 2
Gerry’s Big ShowFour Episodes Complete
Big Circuit(An exciting motor racing drama)
The Rebel(“He looked a pet, but he was a rebel of a horse.”)

So these treasures were preserved after all? Not quite. The VHS copies were made using a crude home-grown “telecine” system. The quality of the copies is frankly terrible — washed out shadows, blown out highlights, out of focus, poor sound quality — plus they suffer from the serious shortcomings so characteristic of “home video” systems of that era — all a far cry from the excellent image and sound quality on the 16mm originals. In fact these VHS copies do very poor service to these pioneering children’s productions — other than proving that they had been produced.

Which leads us back to the a search for the 16mm originals, because nowadays film can be copied on digital film scanners that preserve all the detail and subtleties on the film — and digital restoration can improve the result even more.

Why Were The Films Returned to GTV9?

So what happened to the films after they were “transferred to videotape” circa 1991? If Denzil was indeed loaned them for copying, why did he not simply keep them? He had always regretted sending the films back to GTV9 after showing them in Perth in the 1960s — later realising that nobody else would value them as he did. So the temptation to keep them would have been difficult to resist. We can only assume that whoever found them at GTV9 insisted that they be returned to the archives. And this suggests that some value was placed on them and that there was an intention to preserve them in the archives. After all, why would you insist on getting them back if you were planning to throw them away?

Ron Blaskett told me that the films went back to Fremantle International, the distribution arm of the Nine organisation and that he and Denzil had tried to follow this up through Fremantle International without success. Ron thought they “lost or threw out most stuff” and that “Packer said they were not running a museum”.

It’s at this point that the trail goes cold (apart from a tiny handful of copies in private collections — see below).

Could They Be In the Nine Archives?

I have made a couple of attempts in the past decade to contact the TCN9 archives by email and on each occasion was given a rather unhelpful response by an anonymous respondent. They claimed that their holdings prior to the 1980s were not cataloged in their computer database and that hence they had no idea what was in their collection prior to that date.

Recently Peter Smith has made enquiries through his contacts in the Nine organisation in Sydney. Something may come of this.

In the mean time, we can imagine that there may be a pile of rusty film cans somewhere containing these lost episodes. And there may be some episodes which made their way into private collections, yet to await discovery.

If anyone reading this has any useful information to add to this investigation, please contact me at dharchive@tdgq.com.au.

Original Episodes of The Adventures of Gerry Gee in Private and Public Collections

Fortunately there are a tiny handful of original episodes in private and public collections:

  • Denzil had in his collection 16mm copies of two episodes and part of another episode.
  • A few years ago I was able to purchase an original 16mm reel of an episode of “Tarzan Gerry” which appeared on eBay.
  • In 2018 the NFSA acquired from a private collector a 16mm reel containing two (possibly not complete) episodes of “Gerry at Gigantic”.

These are the known episodes in private and public collections:

RepositoryEpisodeStatus
Denzil Howson Archive“Voice From Nowhere” Ep 4Preparing for scanning
Denzil Howson Archive“Mystery of Muzzletwerp Manor” Ep 4Preparing for scanning
Denzil Howson ArchiveExcerpts from “Gerry’s Big Show”Preparing for scanning
Purchased by Paul Howson on eBay“Tarzan Gerry” Ep 4Preparing for scanning
NFSATwo episodes from “Gerry at Gigantic”, possibly incompleteNFSA has scanned. Would require request for copy and copyright release.

I am currently preparing the first four episodes listed above for digital scanning and restoration.

Further Historical Notes

  1. I called Wally Ritter in early 2006 and he recalled The Adventures of Gerry Gee and thought that he might have loaned them to Denzil to copy and that they would have been returned to GTV9. He said that stuff eventually went to Ross Sellers at TCN9 in Sydney. Wally has since passed away.
  2. There is a claim made by Denzil in an interview which went to air during “Bruce & Phil’s Remember When” program on 3AW on Sunday July 12th 1992 (a copy of which is available on Alex Hehr’s YouTube channel). There is mention of Denzil and Ron unearthing episodes of The Adventures of Gerry Gee, helped by Wally Ritter and an (unnamed) lady at GTV9. They also remark that (in 1992) “GTV9 is much more aware of the historical value of stuff” — suggesting perhaps why Denzil was not allowed to keep the episodes after copying them. If indeed the missing episodes were rediscovered circa 1991, then this interview recorded in 1992 is the closest statement we have to the actual events, when memories would have been fresher.