Films of the Assassination
There are 17 films that have surfaced publicly which captured the moments around President Kennedy’s assassination. There is robust debate about the origin and integrity of many of these films and disturbing questions around the whereabouts of several of the original recordings. Many versions of each film are available on the internet – slowed down, enhanced, stabilized, etc.
While the importance of these films is incalculable, the integrity of the extant visual record is questionable at best. This severely limits the evidentiary value of these recordings. It is also important to note that most of these films were taken by amateurs, using technology that is far below today’s standards. Additionally, the material in circulation today are largely multi-generational copies with a degraded level of clarity and detail.
Although they may not offer definitive answers to the most central questions surrounding the murder of John Kennedy, these films provide a critical window into a few of the most impactful seconds in history. They supply important pieces of the puzzle and place the the viewer front and center, standing in Dealey Plaza on a beautiful November afternoon just as the world is about to shatter.
Bell, F.M. “Mark”
Postal worker Mark Bell captured activity in the moments before and after the assassination, including how several of the spectators reacted. Bell shot his film from Houston Street, near Main.
Mentesana, Ernest Charles
The origin and authenticity of the Muchmore film is a hotly debated subject. While a thorough examination of the issues involved is beyond the scope of this summary, the inconsistent FBI reports linked below provide a starting point to understanding some of the questions around this visual record of the assassination. Muchmore was positioned at the corner of Houston Street and Main Street. Although the FBI reports do not mention her running toward or being near Elm Street, her film’s depiction of the fatal headshot indicates that she must have done so. There are no known films or photographs of Muchmore in or around Dealey Plaza.
The FBI interviewed Muchmore on 12/4/63 and again on 2/18/64. The initial FBI report states that she had a movie camera but did not get any pictures of the assassination. Two months later she was interviewed again. The second FBI report states that she recorded some footage of the President’s car on Houston Street but that after it turned onto Elm Street, the sound of gunfire made her run, panic and search for a place to hide. The two conflicting FBI reports raise some interesting questions:
- Why does Basham, the first FBI agent to interview Muchmore, use the word “pictures” and not “film”?
- Why does the FBI interview Muchmore a second time, two months later?
- Why don’t Barrett and Lee, the FBI agents who interviewed Muchmore on 2/18/64, address the considerable differences between their report and Agent Basham’s account two months earlier?
- Why did Barrett and Lee construct a painfully ambiguous report that specifically dodged the obvious question of whether Muchmore recorded anything on Elm Street?
- Would it have been possible for Muchmore to cover enough ground from her Houston Street filming location in time to get to a location that would have allowed her to record the Elm Street footage?
- Is it reasonable to accept the idea that Muchmore was running, looking for a place to hide, panicked… and yet she captured a critical three seconds of footage on Elm Street, perfectly centered on JFK’s limo at the exact moment of the headshot?