Zapruder Film frame 261

Image of an Assassination

A New Look At The Zapruder Film

by Stephan N. Barber
In the new release of the Zapruder film by MPI home video, I have been examining the sprocket area of the film which, until this version of the film was released to the public in 1998, could be viewed only as a series of stills, but never as a motion picture sequence. Now, due to the advance of today's technology, that has changed! In this article, I will be examining the images between the sprocket area as well as the images within the rest of film showing the occupants of the President's limousine, the motorcycle police officers flanking the limousine, and the Secret Service agents traveling immediately behind the President's limousine. Thanks to today's technology, we may now have a better understanding of what took place during the shooting by viewing the Zapruder film in its entirety, as well as examining the film in its original format instead of multi- generation copies.

The MPI Teleproductions version of the Zapruder film, discussed by Barber, is indeed a major advance is making JFK assassination materials widely available to researchers. You may wish to buy the VHS version from Also available is a DVD version.

Sprocket hole area

Examining what is generally filmed in the sprocket area, I was mostly interested in the Secret Service agents traveling immediately behind the presidential limousine. Secret service agents are trained to react upon hearing and/or seeing any unusual sound or activity by spectators along the motorcade routes.

Now that the recent release of the Zapruder film has the sprocket information included, we can see for the first time (in motion) any reaction by the Secret Service agents just after the turn onto Elm Street.

It has been established that Oswald could have fired the first shot around frames 160/161, just before the limousine passes behind the foliage of the oak tree in front of the book depository building. In frames 160/161, not only can we see President Kennedy turn suddenly from looking to his left to looking towards his right, we also can see Governor Connally one second later suddenly turning to look to his right. ( For a more detailed view of this, see the Dale Myers VHS "Secrets of a Homicide" and the more recent ABC News special "JFK Beyond Conspiracy", which aired in November 2003 during the 40th anniversary, available on DVD). Governor Connally remains in this position throughout the ride down Elm Street, until Zapruder frame 224, where he is obviously reacting to a gunshot wound.

An examination of the two Secret Service agents John Ready and Paul Landis, riding on the right running board of the Secret Service car, we can see that both men are looking to their immediate left. At approximately frame 169, agent Ready quickly turns his head to the right front, and appears to be scanning the area. Agent Landis follows with the same reaction. Both men disappear from the film as the splice at frame 207 occurs. It is a known fact that both Ready and Landis are looking sharply to the rear by the time James Altgens takes his famous AP photograph which corresponds with Zapruder frame 255.

The next interesting activity within the Secret Service automobile is that of Clint Hill, riding on the left front running board of the Queen Mary. Hill is looking directly at the presidential limousine in front of him. By the time Zapruder frame 230 is exposed, it is now obvious that Hill is looking directly to his right-at the man with the open umbrella. Meanwhile, Secret Service agent George Hickey, riding in the passenger compartment who also was looking to his left, is now turning to his right. He disappears from the Zapruder film after the splice at frame 207, but Hickey is seen completely facing to his rear in the Altgens photograph which coincides with Zapruder frame 255.

Turning our attention from the Secret Service car onto the two Dallas police motorcycle patrolman flanking the presidential limousine's left side, Bobby Hargis and Billy Joe Martin are seen in the sprocket area during the time when at least two shots have been fired. Both of these officers are facing straight ahead until frame 235 when both Hargis and Martin begin to look to their right, until they both disappear from the film as Zapruder loses them while panning along with the moving limousine. Officer Hargis reappears in the film in the sprocket area as the limousine slows, and we see officer Hargis witness the head shot, which kills the president. At this point, Clint Hill is once again entering the sprocket area, and for the first time, we can actually see his face as he runs toward the presidential limousine, attempting to jump onto the rear of the moving vehicle. He fails to reach the handhold on the trunk, stumbles and has to run four or five steps before regaining his footing and manages to reach the handhold and step onto the foothold on the left bumper of the limousine-all while the limousine driver accelerates. As Hill pulls himself onto the moving vehicle, he reaches towards Mrs. Kennedy, who is on the trunk of the car at this point, puts his right knee on the trunk lid and turns around to look back behind him towards the motorcade. Meanwhile, Zapruder who is shaking uncontrollably trying to stay focused on the departing limousine, loses his subject for a few frames. When he regains tracking, we can see that Clint Hill has one foot on each side of the spare tire compartment connected to the trunk of the limousine, bracing himself. Hill remains in this position until the limousine disappears beneath the Triple Underpass.

Mrs. Kennedy, Governor and Mrs. Connally

It has never been pointed out in great detail what Mrs. Kennedy, Governor and Mrs. Connally are doing in the Zapruder film as the shots are being fired. The following is a brief description of what the Zapruder film reveals as the shots are being fired at the president.

Mrs. Kennedy

In the opening sequence of the Zapruder film when the Presidential limousine first appears, we see Mrs. Kennedy looking slightly to her left. As the limousine progresses down Elm Street, she gradually turns her head further to her left. (This is confirmed by the photograph taken by Robert E.Croft, who stationed himself opposite the Texas School Book Depository building (to Mrs. Kennedy's left) along the South curb of Elm Street. His photograph (circa Zapruder frames160/161) shows Mrs. Kennedy, from all appearances, to be looking directly into his camera lens). We can clearly see her pink pillbox hat above the metal frame hand hold, which is located near the center of the limousine, looking directly to her left. At approximately Zapruder frame 170, she begins to turn her head to her right. By frame 171/172, she begins to turn her head from right to left. She completes turning her head by frame 200 and remains in this position until the car emerges from behind the sign.

In 2000, the Zapruder family gave their first generation copy of the Zapruder film, as well as the copyright on the use of the images to the Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas.

As the president reacts to being shot, Mrs. Kennedy seems to have half a smile on her face as she reaches up and puts her hands on the his left arm. Mrs. Kennedy looks away from her husband as she glances towards Governor Connally, (who has also just been wounded), then briefly looks back at the president. She then turns and focuses her attention on the governor, who is now yelling "Oh no, no, no!". Mrs. Kennedy remains transfixed upon him for the next few seconds. She then turns back towards the president and leans over to look either into his face, or at his neck when he is struck by a bullet in the head. As his head explodes, she reacts by looking at the massive head wound on the top, right side of his head. By reading her lip movement, she cries out what appears to be "Oh my God!". She appears to be attempting to stop her mortally wounded husband from slamming against the seat cushion, by bringing her right arm up and over his left shoulder. She places her arm and hand around his shoulder and neck. As she stands up from her seat, the car accelerates. She frantically places both of her hands on the back of her husband's lifeless head. Mrs. Kennedy begins to panic, and as she rises from the seat, pushes his head away as she abruptly exited the rear of the vehicle. She's gradually thrust rearward, landing her left elbow on the heavily polished slick enamel surface of the trunk lid. She appears to slide a couple of inches as she tries to regain her balance with her right (white gloved) hand (mistakenly thought to be her "reaching for something") which also contributed to her sliding motion due to the cotton gloves against the polished surface of the limousine. When Clint Hill reaches for her, she turns around to look into the back seat of the car. As she does this, Hill puts his right hand on her right shoulder, then moved his hand to her forearm near the elbow and pulled her arm out from under her. This caused her to topple back into the seat. She stretched out her left arm to catch herself and she suddenly disappears into the seat compartment. From this point on until the limousine disappears into the underpass, all we see is the pink pillbox hat and the shoulders of Mrs. Kennedy.

Governor Connally

Many stories have been written about what Governor Connally was doing as the shooting took place based upon both he and his wife's testimony to the Warren Commission along with statements they made over the years. Watching the Governor in the Zapruder film, many things have gone unnoticed. As the car first appears in the Zapruder film, Connally is looking to his right. At approximately frame 164/65 he suddenly turns to look to his left, then turns suddenly back to his right-and remains in this position throughout the ride down Elm Street until he emerges from behind the Stemmons Freeway sign. When he is hit by the bullet his right arm jerks violently upwards, towards his chest, his shoulder buckles and his facial expression displays a mass of pain. He leans noticeably into the seat cushion and turns to look at the president. As he does, his right hand from the wrist down is dangling limply as he still holds onto his hat.

Film Faked?
Odd as it may seem, a whole slew of conspiracists have produced theories of how the Zapruder film has really been faked, forged, or tampered with. Some sober assessments of this notion can be found on web sites run by Clint Bradford and Tony Marsh.

As Connally sees the president with both hands near his chest, he realizes that the president is wounded, and begins to turn towards the front again, saying "My God they're going to kill us all! " when at that moment the president is struck in the head by the final shot. Connally then lurches forward and to his left into his wife's lap and lies there as she is trying to shield his body with hers and the yellow roses given her at Love Field. Clearly seen on the clothing worn by the Governor are pieces of whiteish/grey matter and a large bloodstain on his back near the armpit.He then rises back up again and looks into the rear seat compartment, while Mrs. Kennedy is on the trunk of the car. Connally then disappears behind the shrub that blocks Zapruder's view of Elm Street momentarily. As they approach the triple underpass, we can see Connally, now sitting erect in his seat, obviously in shock after suffering tremendous trauma to his body. As they enter the Triple Underpass, we lose sight of Governor Connally from the Zapruder film.

Mrs. Connally

In spite of what Mrs. Connally has stated she did during the shooting, nothing is more evident of what she actually did do than the Zapruder film itself. Although it is difficult to see her at the opening sequence of the film, we can see her during the entire shooting sequence after the limousine has emerged from behind the Stemmons Freeway sign.

If we look closely, we can see Mrs. Connally look to her right from left, just before the car disappears behind the Stemmons Freeway sign. When the car emerges after the first shot has been fired, Mrs. Connally reacts by first, looking at the president whose elbows are now extended outward, then at the governor whom at this time is yelling "Oh no, no, no". She then turns to look at Secret Service agent Roy Kellerman who -- riding in the passenger side of the front seat of the presidential limousine-turns around to his left and glances into the rear seat compartment. She again looks at the president, (inconsistent with her Warren Commission testimony) who is now falling forward and to his left. She then turns again to look at her husband who is also falling forward and towards her, and it appears she is saying something to him as the last shot is fired which strikes the president in the head.

Mrs. Connally attempts to takes cover for herself and the governor beneath the yellow bouquet of roses given to her at Love Field airport as the limousine is now accelerating and headed for Parkland Hospital. This is the last we see of her in the Zapruder film.

The MPI DVD/VHS of the original Zapruder film has become a recent edition to the assassination research materials already available. It enables us for the first time to actually see what has been unavailable to us in the past, i.e. the sprocket area images in motion, the sharpness and clarity that was lost each time a duplicate copy of the Zapruder film became available to researchers over the years, and most importantly, many unnoticed reactions and/or movements by the occupants in the presidential limousine as well as the motorcycle policemen riding alongside of the Presidential limousine and the bystanders along Houston and Elm streets.

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