Jump to content
The Education Forum
Rick McTague

January 2019 MWN Interview with Doug Horne - Zapruder Film Provenance

Recommended Posts

On ‎1‎/‎20‎/‎2019 at 3:42 PM, Gene Kelly said:


This is great ... thanks for sharing.  It is, as you say, a cogent explanation of a very complex story.  The ZFilm (and other films) are the source of infinite controversy, but their provenance and accuracy literally shed light on the fundamental questions underlying JFK's murder. For me, there are a number of basic facts associated with the ZFilm that are, by themselves, powerful and compelling ... the film tells the entire story of what really happened in Dealey Plaza, and the powerful forces that orchestrated the assassination:

  1. The organization (Time-Life) that vigorously pursued purchase rights and copies of the film. Life spends a small fortune on the Monday following the original $50K purchase to secure motion picture rights and total ownership - of a primary piece of evidence in the President's murder - but never exploits the film commercially for 12 years. Clearly an act of suppression as opposed to profit. How is it that a private business can secure and purchase the evidence in a crime?

  2. While the popular chain of custody story is one of Zapruder negotiating with Time-Life over the weekend (which itself seems a cover story), the actual film is already in the hands of government authorities, being studied and altered ...its as though the Stolley story (and Time-Life's possession) is an intentional distraction for what's actually happening to the film. 

  3. In its first issue after the assassination, Life misrepresented the content of the film (the frontal throat wound, inaccurately described as the President turning his body to face the snipers nest) ... a practice that continued until its public release (albeit with bootleg copies) in 1975

  4. Since the film was altered, the conspirators had to manufacture altered copies as well ... so, the infamous "first-day copies" (made on Friday) had to be quickly switched out with replacements.  In this light, the additional sum of $100K can be considered, in essence, "hush money" ($25K annually each January, for the next five years). 

  5. How little the Warren Commission was interested in the film. The frames published by the Commission consist of 12 exhibits - less than one second of the 26-second film - in Volume XVIII. The Commission studied a grainy second-generation FBI copy in early 1964; they only viewed the ostensible "original" for one day (February 25th) and only after being provided the purported camera-original film by Time-Life.

  6. Certain scenes on the film had to be altered - the brief car stop, multiple hits to the head from both front and rear, exit debris leaving the skull from the rear, movement of Secret Service agents and motorcycle escorts, the edge of the Stemmons Freeway sign - to match other aspects of the cover story that are otherwise seriously in question (i.e. one shooter, 3 shots, autopsy) but the head snap could not be removed ... so the movie was suppressed for 12 years. 

  7. Few pictures exist of Zapruder himself doing the actual filming from that uniquely-positioned pedestal (I'm preoccupied by this) and where he was actually standing ... and why him?  And he immediately "donates" $25K to Tippit's widow ... an interesting choice. While many citizens had their cameras and film immediately confiscated in Dealey Plaza (some never to be returned), Zapruder's camera wasn't taken. 

  8. After the shooting, his associate Marilyn Sitzman walks towards the Pergola, while Zapruder heads straight to the TSBD Building (as depicted in the Bell Film). Zapruder also told the Warren Commission that immediately after the assassination, he went to his office and told his secretary to call the police or Secret Service because "I knew I had something, I figured it "might be of some help".  But according to Forrest Sorrels, he was alerted to the film by a reporter from the Dallas Morning News who contacted him and informed him that a man had made some movies that the Secret Service might be interested in.  As the body of JFK is being transported live, Zapruder is already on air to say he has a film and he remembers the shot exactly how the Warren Commission will say it happened ... but clearly different than the unaltered film he had just shot. They say they will air his film and then they don’t; WFAA will later say they had no equipment to air color film.  Something feels "off" about Zapruder's actions and statements, not just his film.

  9. The specter of Hawkeyeworks (see attached pictures taken this past summer while visiting Rochester) ... the facility remained classified until 2009, and has been unoccupied since.  The infamous windows on the 11th floor are where the covert government offices were located, where top-secret clearance was required for access.  Code-named 'Bridgehead' the facility supported the government’s overhead satellite reconnaissance systems and a sophisticated, state-of the-art Photographic Operations Center, which derived its code name from its location adjacent to the Driving Park Bridge that spans the Genesee River Gorge.

  10. In 1969, Jim Garrison subpoenaed the ZFilm from Time-Life, who fought it all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled handing over (grudgingly) a blurry copy for the Shaw trial. 

  11. The ZFilm has kept the assassination story alive and in the public eye for 50 years. Publicly revealing the film on Goodnight America (aptly titled) in 1975 stirred doubts and precipitated the Church Committee hearings in 1976, and the 1976-79 House Select Committee (i.e. "The Last Investigation"). 

  12. Including the ZFilm as part of Oliver Stone's 1991 JFK and the dramatic Frame 313, shown during Garrison's Shaw trial, reinvigorated public interest and in 1992 led Congress to pass the JFK records Act, ordering declassification of an enormous amount of records ... a process still going on today

  13. The weekend NPIC analyses - hidden from the official record - were first questioned in 1975, but then obscured by incomplete/inaccurate documentation. 

  14. Each NPIC team believed they were handling the original Zapruder film - one group working from an 8mm film reel, and the other from an unslit 16mm reel - and during the twelve-hour period between the two teams, the original film was likely altered at Hawkeyeworks. Adding to the intrigue of the covert operation, members of both NPIC briefing board teams were threatened by the "Secret Service" to not talk (even to their supervisors).

  15. If the film worked on by McMahon had been the same worked on the night before, there would’ve been no need for a compartmentalized operation ... the same duty crew that worked on Saturday night could have been called in again.  Use of two separate crews reveals a covert operation.

  16. It’s now evident that there were two separate briefing boards, and two different film formats.  The two events were only exposed (pun intended) during 1996-1999 AARB, and by later interviews in 2009-2011 of the principals who processed the film boards (Homer McMahon and Dino Brugioni). Only 40-50 years later does a full picture emerge of film provenance.

  17. Dino Brugioni's 2009 interview describes "Secret Service" agents arriving with the ZFilm at NPIC on November 23rd - directing the analysis “in individual stop frames” - with particular attention to the portion of the film showing the limousine just ahead of the Stemmons sign, its subsequent disappearance behind the sign, and then the frames after it reappeared. Homer McMahon's interview describes JFK reacting to "6 to 8 shots fired from at least three directions” (i.e. the flurry of shots described by Kellerman).

  18. In 2011, Brugioni was shown a good image of frame 313 from the extant Zapruder film - the so-called “head explosion” - obtained from the National Archives.  Brugioni was startled to find out that this was the only frame graphically depicting the “head explosion” in the extant film, which the National Archives has characterized as “the original film.”  He insisted that the head explosion he viewed multiple times in 1963 was of such a great size, and duration (in terms of time), that there should be many more frames depicting that explosion than “just the one frame” (Frame 313), as shown in the ZFilm today.  Furthermore, he said the “head explosion” depicted today is too small in size, and too low in the frame, to be the same graphic depiction he recalls witnessing on Saturday, November 23rd, 1963 at NPIC.

  19. The legal status of the ZFilm became uncertain with the passage of the Assassination Records Collection Act in 1992, and a legal battle ensured over the next 7 years to make the film an official record. There then ensued debates with Zapruder's heirs ($16M in "just compensation") over final ownership including copyright, only once again to be "protected" (in perpetuity) by the Sixth Floor Museum

  20. The AARB commissioned a limited authenticity study of the ZFilm, based on examination of its edge print (the markings and script imposed at the factory where it was produced, and after it was exposed). The AARB asked if Kodak would perform the Zapruder film study pro bono; Kodak agreed in 1997, and hired a retired film chemist, Roland Zavada.

  21. The ZFilm's private ownership continued to hamper its analysis. Zavada described “the tremendous complexity” introduced by LMH (Zapruder’s heirs) in their challenge to demand copyright license before any of the photographs could be used... similar to what Time-Life did to Josiah Thompson in 1967.  

  22. Researchers have pointed out that the CIA/FBI could have conveniently lost or destroyed the ZFilm (as with many other evidential items), yet it did not.  This suggests that everything associated with the film - from filming to distribution - was scripted.  And that perhaps Abraham Zapruder was no innocent bystander.

  23. In late 1999, LMH transferred the copyright and all of its holdings to the Sixth Floor Museum, where the myths are now perpetuated forever.  Author Phillip Melanson summarized the contentious history of the ZFilm best:

"It is possible that the film of the century is more intricately related to the crime of the century than we ever knew -- not because it recorded the crime of the century, as we have assumed, but because it was itself an instrument of conspiracy." 



Excellent and persuasive summation Gene.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, Gene Kelly said:


I've spent quite a bit of time reading and studying information about the Zapruder Film.  I've even put a few papers together, mainly for my own edification, to navigate through the complex history of the film. Its quite a complicated affair (still not sure I fully grasp what David Healy told me about Kodak manufacturing double 8mm film stock without edge markings).  There exist passionate debate and opinions about alteration.  What I am convinced of is that the film was "managed" in some way, to fit with the official storyline.  It's difficult to decide what to believe with the JFK case in general, with all of the conflicting the information (and skilled disinformaionalists),  but Abraham Zapruder is also an enigma to me.  Something about him - and his film's chain of custody and Time-Life negotiations - seems "off".  I wouldn't be that surprised if he isn't the innocent bystander that the history books paint him out as. Doug Horne plowed some very important new ground in the assassination story, that I'm sure of ... and the interviews (not too long ago) of NPIC's Brugioni and McMahon are quite amazing.  

I was in Rochester this summer, and took pictures at the retired Kodak facility where Hawkeyeworks is located (I'm having trouble uploading these to the EF). It gave me the creeps to be nearby ... a sinister feel and presence. I'd caution anyone from trying to use the ZFilm as a marker for timing, since I'm convinced its been altered and important information removed (Stemmons sign, limo stop, crossfire fusillade).  It's almost as if the film was itself a part of the plot, to throw everyone off, and support the other piece parts (3 shots, one shooter, wounds/autopsy, etc.).  More than 50 years later, we still talk about it ... and its been the stimulus of every attempt to get to the bottom of Dealey Plaza since Jim Garrison's trial (i.e. HSCA, Stone's JFK, the AARB and the Records Act).  The film is as well-protected today (with the Sixth Flor Museum) as it was when Time-Life took possession the week after the assassination. 


they (edge markings and mfg' symbols) could have been added to a new in-camera Z-film master at a later date, Gene. And Roland knew that immediately after he told me. Stone cold silence... And I too think the Z-film controversy is a major league shuck and jive lone nut diversion. The medical evidence sinks the 1964 WCR as far as I'm concerned...

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites
On 1/20/2019 at 1:42 PM, Gene Kelly said:
  1. After the shooting, his associate Marilyn Sitzman walks towards the Pergola, while Zapruder heads straight to the TSBD Building (as depicted in the Bell Film). Zapruder also told the Warren Commission that immediately after the assassination, he went to his office and told his secretary to call the police or Secret Service because


Z or whomever started walking toward the "TSBD/his office" quite possibly landed in the pergola first.

I'm not saying these are the same two people either.

Either way, this creates a problem for Zapruder's spoken actions.

Z's actually in another film that day, I'll discuss that later.



Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Ron: thanks for your compliment.  My summary is simply a collection of past work by many excellent researchers, whose shoulders we ride upon.  I simply organized a set of key points.

David: I'm not well versed in film production, so the importance of edge markings was a bit lost on me.  They seem akin to fingerprints, which can be traced back to the original film production or the processing lab.  I presume the 0183 identification refers to the initial processing in Dallas.  Later in Zavada's report, there are sections identified without that ID number (and some with an ID of 0184) which would imply this was not a camera-original copy.  It would appear that Roland Zavada is independent and legitimate ... but his study proves little as far as provenance and originality.   Like fingerprints, these edge markings could be gotten around, including using a blank film and then adding the desired number/marking, as you suggest.  It would seem to me that Kodak would be very cautious and careful (in the 1996-1997 timeframe) with offering its experts and performing any limited studies, given the still classified nature of their government work, and what was in question.  From Zavada's report:

Perforated Number: The Zapruder 8mm film was identified during processing with a number – 0183 perforated vertically within the 8mm width as a part of company practice for customer identification – a control system to match the processing request or order to the film. The perforation would typically be located at the core of the returned 8mm reel, thus placing it following the scene exposed last – the customer tails end of side two. Also note that as the laboratory receives the film, this location is at the outside end of the camera spool, immediately following the integral camera thread-up leader that will be removed prior to processing. 

Chris: I'm very interested in other pictures of Mr. Zapruder, and why he would head back towards the Pergola area (an area of speculation and intrigue, as were the Hester couple).  For having witnessed a brutal assassination (his vantage of the shooting is second only to the Umbrella Man and DCM), it seems strange that he and Ms. Sitzman immediately part ways and walk away . If that were you or I, we would be staying put and in shock ... staying together, consoling each other, trying to find a policeman, etc. In the photograph, you can see others (i.e. the Newman's) still lying on the ground.  Very much like the UM and DCM casually walking away in opposite directions.    

One additional thought: Zapruder is quoted as having been "deeply troubled" by Frame 313 (including experiencing nightmares) and this was used as an rationale for why, when he sold the film to Time-Life, it must be withheld from publication (although he signed over the full rights, and Time did later expose that frame as a picture).  This stipulation was also used as an excuse for why Time-Life sequestered the film for 12 years.  I've also read related explanations that imply he wanted to spare the Kennedy family further pain.  This seems, in retrospect, a bit dramatic and sounds similar to Jack Ruby's stated reason for killing Oswald.



Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites
On 1/20/2019 at 1:29 PM, Andrej Stancak said:

The dark patch on the back of Kennedy's head in Z317 (in the link provided in the first post of this thread)  appears as a sure manipulation. This shape is neatly delinated and much darker than a natural shadow. Can only concur with the authors who analysed this high-res image. Further, to cover up this black patch, the back and shoulder and part of the upper arm were also darkened to make the hair patch less conspicuous and more natural.


Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in

Sign In Now

  • Create New...