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We Are In The Movies!

Collins Canning Co. Opening Ceremony

When Angelique Bouchard chants 'Burn Baby Burn' in the latest Tim Burton directed movie Dark Shadows, the film cuts to inside the Collins fish cannery and a can seamer jumps into life, followed by a close-up of a can revolving on a seaming chuck which sparks dramatically as a seaming roll makes contact. The resultant fire and explosion, with cans seen raining down on cars and in the street outside of the cannery, is Angelique's revenge for yet again being spurned by vampire Barnabas Collins, played by Johnny Depp.

Eva Green is bewitching as Angelique Bouchard

Eva Green is mesmerising as the witch Angelique, and co-stars include Michelle Pfeiffer, Helena Bonham Carter, Jackie Earle Haley, Jonny Lee Miller, Bella Heathcote and Chloe Grace Moretz: a real star-studded cast.

But for the Eurocan engineers who supplied and set up the cannery equipment, the real star of the show is the Metal Box 10-6C seamer cursed by Angelique - although the real villain that emits the magical spark is a 1A seamer. This close-up shot was originally mocked up at Eurocan's workshop, and developed by the film's special effects engineers. To create the spark both the 1st and 2nd operation seaming rolls on the 1A were drilled and fitted with flints, and stopped from rotating, so during the seaming operation the flints contact the revolving chuck and create that famed spark! Simples!

Eurocan worked on the Warners Bros. movie over a period of six months in the spring and summer of 2011 at Pinewood Studios, where the whole Collinsport town and harbour was constructed, the largest outside set ever created at Pinewood.

Back in the mid 1700s Barnabas spurns Angelique, who in revenge turns him into a vampire and buries him in a coffin on the outskirts of Collinsport, an American New England fishing harbour founded by the Collins family. When Barnabas is released in 1972 by a gang of construction workers, who quickly become fodder for the bloodthirsty vampire, Barnabas finds his descendants down on their luck, and the family fish cannery in sad decline. This is in stark contrast to the prospering Angelbay cannery and fishing fleet operated by Angelique.

When Mike Standish, the Set Decorator, first contacted Eurocan there was a certain amount of disbelief and suspicion about his invitation to build two working fish canneries for a new one hundred million dollar movie! You just don't get those sort of calls very often.

And in fact there was a third set to create, the derelict Collins cannery before Barnabas starts his modernising project to compete with Angelbay. "That was the easier challenge," jokes John Jenner, Eurocan MD, "we had enough equipment in our warehouse of perfect age and condition to suit, complete with rusty cans, dust, grime and cobwebs." A 1970's Metal Box 08-10 seamer was literally uplifted and put straight on the set; although sadly only a fleeting look inside the door of the derelict cannery survived Tim Burton's editing.

Barnabus and the Collins family looking into the derelict canneryMetal Box 08/10 Can SAeamer

Indeed, whilst the canneries feature strongly in the story, and are in the background as the film is played out on the Collinsport set, the equipment inside features for less than a minute in the film, which is incredible considering the detailed planning, research, construction and set up that was involved.

Art Directors Neil Callow and Dean Clegg, with Mike Standish and his team, were escorted the length and breadth of the UK and Ireland by Eurocan to identify equipment of suitable age and application. Eurocan was then tasked with purchasing this equipment, and configuring it into working systerms at Pinewood Studios. Wet fish chutes and conveyors, washers, nobbing stations, packing stations, overhead empty can cable conveying, can seamers, retorts, and tray packing and conveying were all part of the scope of supply, as well dozens of pieces of set dressing items, including old electrical control panels, stairways, and tote bins - the list was endless.

 

Metal Box 10-6C Can Seamer
An original 1970's Metal Box 10-6C Can Seamer as installed by Eurocan on the Collins Canning Co. film set

The lead engineer at Pinewood for Eurocan was Brian Matthews, with a crew that included mechanical, conveying and electrical engineers who were all present at various times during filming. Both Brian and John Jenner were asked to get into costume during filming in the Collins cannery set, to be available to provide technical support. Both had to go to make-up, although Brian's moustache is the real deal!

All the cans were supplied by sister company Promocan, and included open top, closed bright cans, and labelled cans. The label designs were created by Anita Dhillon the films Graphic Designer and were themed for both Angelbay and Collins canneries. A quantity of 99x50 'giant tuna' cans were also commissioned by Rick Heinrichs, the Production Designer. Being a non standard welded can specification, Promocan built a special rig to cut down 99x119 cans and re-flange them for seaming. Sadly, they never made it onto the set.

 

John Jenner and Brian Matthews Tom Mursell
John (left) and Brian in Collins Canning Co. costume Tom Mursell of Promocan dressing pallets of cans

Whilst Dark Shadows has received mixed reviews, box office receipts are holding up and a sequel is being rumoured.

Any film that pays homage to the can industry deserves our support; it is coming to a screen near you. Watch the trailer now...

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