BOOTLEG FILES 507: “The Nix and Muchmore Films of the Kennedy Assassination” (two 8mm film records of the murder of President Kennedy in 1963).
LAST SEEN: Unauthorized postings of both films are on YouTube and other online video sites.
AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: Each film has been incorporated into numerous Kennedy assassination documentaries.
REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: The endless attempt to make sense of the death of the president.
CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: Not as standalone films, of course, but you can find them within documentaries that properly licensed the footage.
Fifty years ago today, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. Incredibly, there was no professional media on the scene when the fatal shots destroyed the president’s life – the only film footage that exists of the crime are a handful of silent 8mm films shot by amateurs lining the streets of the doomed presidential motorcade.
The most famous footage of the crime, of course, was taken by Abraham Zapruder. This film offers the most comprehensive record of the shot that shattered the president’s skull. But two other 8mm films of the event have also played an important role in documenting the assassination. These films were taken from an angle opposite of Zapruder’s view, and they have been responsible for both showing the tumult following the assassination and for launching the conspiracy theories that surround the murder.
Orville Nix was an air conditioning engineer in the Dallas office of the General Services Administration. When the presidential motorcade made its way through the city, Nix left his office and took a Keystone 8 mm camera to make a home movie of the event.
Nix was standing across the street from Zapruder as the motorcade drove by. The Nix film does not clearly show the skull-exploding fatal gunshot impact that is horrifically clear in the Zapruder film, but it shows First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy scrambling out from her seat in the back of the presidential limousine as Secret Service agent Clint Hill rushed to jump on the car. The Nix footage offers a view of the grassy knoll where spectators viewed the assassination, and it concludes with bystanders rushing wildly in the panic of the moment.
At the same time, Marie Muchmore, an employee at a local dress manufacturing company, had her Keystone 8mm camera to capture the motorcade. Muchmore was standing 138 feet away from the presidential limousine when the fatal shots were fired. While her footage also lacked the graphic clarity of the Zapruder film, it showed Mrs. Kennedy scrambling out of her limousine seat while Hill rush to jump on the vehicle, as well as the various bystanders at street level and on the grassy knoll. Muchmore’s film ends abruptly because she joined the rush of onlookers seeking shelter after the shots were fired and the president was hit.
The FBI obtained Nix’s film directly from him on December 1, 1963, and returned it to him three days later. Nix then sold the copyright to his footage to United Press International (UPI) for $5,000, although he would later claim that the footage he received back from the FBI was missing frames. Nix died in 1972 and his family recovered the copyright to the film in 1992. However, UPI claimed that the original 8mm print was lost – the family received copies of the footage.
Unlike Nix, Muchmore did not immediately contact law enforcement about her film. Instead, she sold the rights to her footage to UPI three days after the shooting for $1,000. UPI flew the footage to New York and it was first broadcast on WNEW-TV at the peculiar time slot of 12:46 in the morning. However, most TV stations that relied on UPI news footage refused to show the film, claiming it was in bad taste. The FBI was unaware of Muchmore’s role as a witness to the assassination until her family informed the agency of her post-assassination activities, at which point she was interviewed by federal agents about what she saw. After her brief touch with history, Muchmore lived in obscurity until her death in 1990.
The Nix and Muchmore films have been endlessly dissected to determine what exactly happened during the deadly motorcade. The Muchmore footage clearly shows the brake lights were on the presidential limousine at the time of the shooting, which has raised speculation on why the limousine driver was traveling at such an uncommonly slow pace at the moment of the president’s murder.
Both Nix and Muchmore captured a gallery of unusual characters at the motorcade, most intriguingly the so-called “Babushka Lady” that photographed the assassination – the woman has never been conclusively identified and her film is not known to have surfaced. The Nix footage has been used to support the theory of an additional assassin poised on the grassy knoll. Several attempts to blow up the frames of the Nix film have resulted in specious claims of a rifle-pointing assassin pointing at the motorcade. Nix claimed that he heard shots fired from the grassy knoll – and the refusal by CBS News to allow him to state that claim in a 1967 documentary on the assassination further fueled the conspiracies.
Nix also may have captured Zapruder shooting his film. A frame blow-up of the grassy knoll as seen by Nix reportedly includes Zapruder filming the assassination from his vantage point.
Both the Nix and Muchmore films are copyright protected – the former is officially the property of the Dallas County Historical Foundation, the latter was acquired by Associated Press Television News. Over the years, footage from both filmed records was properly licensed for a number of documentaries.
However, many people who are obsessed with the Kennedy assassination have happily bootlegged these films for online presentations. Some of the presentations show the footage in their initial grainy and shaky formats. But there are many postings where the films have been slowed down, magnified and stabilized to a degree where one can go frame by frame in search of strange clues to confirm the worst conspiracy.
In a sad way, the filmed records created by Nix and Muchmore raised more questions than answers regarding the heinous crime. And in view of the anniversary of Kennedy’s death, one can assume that these grisly ribbons of film will attract new viewers eager to explore what took place in Dallas a half-century ago.
Perhaps the British writer George Eliot said it best: Our dead are never dead to us, until we have forgotten them. Rest in peace, President Kennedy.
IMPORTANT NOTICE: The unauthorized duplication and distribution of copyright-protected material, either for crass commercial purposes or profit-free s***s and giggles, is not something that the entertainment industry appreciates. On occasion, law enforcement personnel boost their arrest quotas by collaring cheery cinephiles engaged in such activities. So if you are going to copy and distribute bootleg material, a word to the wise: don’t get caught. Oddly, the purchase and ownership of bootleg DVDs is perfectly legal. Go figure!