Nitrate film rolls

Rolls of nitrate film prints.

“At that time, 35 millimeter nitrate film was so flammable that you couldn't even bring a reel onto a streetcar.”

Nitrate film base was the first transparent flexible plasticized base commercially available, thanks to celluloid developments by John Carbutt, Hannibal Goodwin, and Eastman Kodak in the 1880s. Eastman was the first to manufacture this for public sale, in 1889. Unfortunately, nitrate also had the drawback that it was extremely flammable (being essentially the same chemically as gun cotton, nitrocellulose) and decomposed after several decades into a no less flammable gas, leaving the film sticky and goo-like (and ultimately dust).

In Inglourious BasterdsEdit

Shosanna plans to burn the cinema during the film premiere, using Ada Mimieux's collection of 350 film prints. The Narrator explains how dangerous the film nitrate is, explaining it burns three times faster than paper. It was so dangerous, you couldn't even bring a film roll on a bus.

Later, Shosanna is seen gluing her film to the Stolz der Nation film roll, and keeping it fixed to seal properly using a holding lock.

At the end of the Stolz der Nation film, Marcel ignites the nitrate film stash from behind the screen, which causes a massive fire inside cinema auditorium.


  • The clip in which the bus conductor tries to prevent Stevie from boarding with the film cans, to indicate the flammable nature of early nitrate film reels, comes from the 1936 film Sabotage.
  • In the projection booth, projectors are show with visible running film reels, which would have been totally unthinkable at that time. All projectors were equipped with fire proof boxes in which the reels would run. These boxes had only small windows for the projectionist to check for the amount of run off or taken up film. If the film started burning, only the few inches actually running through the mechanics would be affected, not the major portions in the fire proof boxes.