Thursday 6 July 2017


Still image from the film Recoil.

Recoil is an abstract non-narrative film possibly more relevant today even than it was in 1981.

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Recoil is a short 10 minute film made by Nik Allday in 1981.  The concept originated with raw material of video feedback and some sparse nuclear bomb footage available at the time.  The idea was to represent in abstract form the cruel chaotic dysfunctional nature of the human condition with all its potential for self destruction.  It was conceived as a manifestation of wretched anger, fury, and regret.  A story board was constructed and the diagrams created and slowly the concept began to take shape.

Title screen.

The sound track needed to dynamically compliment and substantially echo the tortured demonic soul of the film.  Cabaret Voltaire seemed like a natural choice and so Nik approached Stephen Mallinder with the project to see if he would be interested in assisting in creating the audio component.  Cabaret Voltaire inhabited part of an old factory in Sheffield at the time called Western Works where they had their sound studio.  Mal seemed to like the idea and so work began and multiple tracks were laid down.  With Nik's conceptual perspective and Mal's creative talent and technical skills a masterpiece of distorted, rhythmic, cacophonous, soundscape was manifest and mixed down to a master quarter inch tape.

Some credits.

All the raw visual material was transferred to high contrast black and white film and the editing began.  It took many weeks of dedication and endless late nights to cut the film, coordinate the sequences, and to meld the abstract construct into the contiguous, throbbing, undulating, violent, distorted, and nihilistic masterpiece that is Recoil.  At the time of its initial release there were various reactions some of the more memorable being that it should have a health warning and that it would be better called the migraine machine.  There were one or two voices that claimed it was a work of genius too.

Apart from a few private viewings in the late 1980s Recoil slowly vanished into obscurity languishing in some inaccessible oblivion.  Life continued and Recoil became a distant nostalgic memory alive and well in my mind but out of reach in the real world.  Until, one day, I found a worn out copy in a box in a garage.  The hunt was on.  I searched through the rotting mass of furniture, collapsing cardboard boxes, old art work, and even a decaying cat corpse, and eventually located several almost archaeological remnants of the original material for Recoil.

16mm optical sound track in good condition.

I was delighted when I found the original quarter inch tape of the soundtrack but to my horror it had degraded and was suffering what is called "sticky-shed syndrome".  This appears to be a problem with a limited batch of tape produced in the late 1970's which used an unstable binder.  Fortunately I eventually located the original master 16mm optical track along with the original master 16mm visual film.  On further inspection these masters, shown above and below,  were well protected by their inner wrapping and appear to be in almost perfect condition.

16mm film only with no sound track.

I managed to get some equipment to view the rather worn out combined film that I found first and have extracted some still images as shown bellow.

Stills gleaned from the film.

Having contacted a variety of archive film experts it appears the two separate masters can be digitised and combined into a digital master and reproduced for a fee.  Help bring this piece of Art History back to life; contribute to this project now and please share this page because it's the only way other people get to hear about it.  You can donate by clicking the link below.

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