Thursday, July 22, 2010

Primo Carnera vs Ernie Schaaf 1932

(1.) Official Films, circa 1940, 16mm silent 100’
(2.) Speed and Picture Restoration

The Fight
On February 10, 1933 at Madison Square Garden in New York, heavyweight boxer Ernie Schaaf fought 13 competitive rounds with contender Primo Carnera. Suddenly, after taking a straight left to the forehead, Schaaf collapsed and never recovered. He died two days later. It’s believed that Schaaf was critically ill when he entered the ring that night. He had been knocked out by Max Baer the year before in a savage fight, and appeared never to recover.

The tragedy played out before the cameras. Schaaf was knocked down by Primo in the 13th round. You can practically see the light going out of Schaaf’s eyes as he sinks to the canvas. Schaaf’s manager, Jack Sharkey (Then reigning heavyweight champion) drags Schaaf back to his corner. Unable to regain consciousness, Schaaf is carried like a fallen solder from the ring. Later the following year, Jack Sharkey went on to fight Carnera in a title match. Sharkey was knocked out in six rounds in what was suspected as a fake, and Carnera became champion. Many believe that Carnera’s mob connections pressured or paid Sharkey to thrown the fight. Sharkey had previously defeated Carnera in 1931.

The Movie
The fight was filmed, but the cameras ran at silent speed (16fps) to conserve film stock. This was common with most fight films made during the Depression and War years. As a result, when projected a standard speed, the action appears so fast it’s hard to view the action in detail. Carnera was a genuine athlete and very agile for a man of his size, which he used to great advantage over his smaller opponents. It’s also clear in the early rounds what a skilled fighter Schaaf was. He had great moves and despite his frustration getting on the inside with Carnera, he tagged Primo with counterpunches and overhands.

The Video
I own three 16mm film versions of this fight – Monarchs of The Ring, Official Film short, and an Extended Edition showing most of the fight with narration. This is the complete Official Films Short subject version. The print was in great condition, with no splices and the sharpest picture I’ve seen. The contrast is high, but there’s still plenty of detail. There are no major scratches and once cleaned, the film transferred with no trouble. In this clip, I’ve adjusted the film speed to show the fight at original time.

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