For me, today was like Christmas in July. My lovely postal worker and Santa-for-the-day Tronda appeared in the early afternoon, bearing many presents – parcels had converged on my apartment from America, Canada, Great Britain, France, and Belgium. Some were gifts, and some were the fruits of auctions I’d won; in any case, it took quite a while to open everything and lay it out on the floor:
There’s so much here I could have based my next blog post on, not to mention the backlog of things from my collection that need to be digitized, archived, and uploaded. There were some new trays for my Metascope, over 500 random amateur glass views, Tru-Vue rolls, and VistaScreen cards. But there was one thing I’d been waiting for anxiously, due to the fact that I knew there would be a great deal of weirdness contained within:
Seven Mikro-Kino filmstrips, in excellent condition, in their original, intact boxes. You might well be wondering what Mikro-Kino is – and you wouldn’t be wrong to wonder, as there is precious little information out there about this obscure filmstrip manufacturer. Basically, in the 1950s, a Helsinki-based company called Mikro-Kino Kommandiittiyhtiö ripped off 20-year-old Tru-Vue technology and began producing viewers and 3D filmstrips. Many are focused around Finland, and many are not – there’s a surprising variety in their 49-title library, which likely was not produced for very long, as these are surprisingly scarce. This is not surprising. By this point, ViewMaster had bought out Tru-Vue, and they were producing high-quality color films on hundreds of subjects a year.
But they did not produce filmstrips like this one – which promises “a truthful picture of Finland and its people today”. And certainly, Sawyer’s – the parent company of ViewMaster – was not portraying Finland from a Finn’s point of view. Mikro-Kino, on the other hand, was producing films such as today’s feature, “By Car Through Finland. Part I.”, as well as bizarro titles such as “The time of Grandmother in Helsinki”. I can say with almost 100% certainty that ViewMaster never put out a stereo pair with the heartfelt title: “Finns like potatoes”.
Personally, I just love Finland. Sadly, I have not been able to visit – yet. It’s not inexpensive to get there, and I’ve never met any Finns who are not emigrants to the United States, so I’d have nobody to show me the sights. But every Finn I have met has been weird (in a good way), pleasant, and generally awesome. My favorite YouTube channel – The Hydraulic Press Channel – is run by a Finnish machinist named Lauri, with assistance from his wife Anni, and features Lauri crushing just about everything imaginable – including the awards he’s won from his video blog – with a series of increasingly powerful hydraulic presses. I suggest you give it a look. And lest viewing Lauri’s amazing videos leaves you with the opinion that Finland is universally weird, check out the TV programme “Bordertown” (“Sorjonen”). Warning – it’s bleak (and yes, a little weird).
Finland is also beautiful; the photography I’ve seen online of the architecture of the cities, the sprawling countrysides, and the quaint little towns makes me want to hop on the next plane out. But since finances do not permit, I’ll take solace in the fact that I can now experience it in hyper-contrasty B&W stereography, due to someone’s misadventures in starting a niche business that mustn’t have lasted more than a few years. One sad thing about Mikro-Kino is the fact that so little information is out there on it – I know what film stock they shot on (a secret which I will keep for a later blog post, since I have precious few secrets to share), and that they began operations in the early-to-mid 1950s and had ceased operations entirely by 1960. Beyond that, I know what I can see from the filmstrips – or filmseries, as they call themselves. So with that, enjoy taking a ride By Car Through Finland – and know that you’ll be in for a weird and wild good time:
Hopefully, you’ve had as much fun viewing these as I did. And worry not – in the upcoming months, you’ll get to jump back in the car to see the second and third installments in this series. You’ll also get to stroll around Helsinki, see the world as it was a million years ago, enjoy an automobile race, and even fly over to America to tour the Chicago Zoo – all through the zany eyes of Mikro-Kino’s Finnish photographer(s). Meanwhile, enjoy these…