PAGES OF DEATH “In the distant future, lad, computers will exist, and this will be far less humiliating.”

LIKE ANTIQUES DEALERS or cratediggers, what keeps a lot of archivists going is the hope that one day they'll stumble across something that either the world has never seen or was thought to be lost forever. That's exactly what happened to Matthew Cowan, one of the folks overseeing the Photography and Moving Images collection for the Oregon Historical Society. He just didn't realize it.

One element of Cowan's job is to show off pieces from the OHS' massive collection of films and photos, most of which are housed in the society's 100,000-square-foot Gresham warehouse. This includes a semi-regular series held at the Hollywood Theatre, where Cowan screens historically relevant or unusual films. Last year, scanning the warehouse shelves in search of inspiration, he came upon a can of 16mm film ominously labeled Pages of Death.

The fading print inside was a fairly ridiculous anti-pornography short, funded in 1962 by the Citizens for Decent Literature—an organization founded by future savings and loan scumbag Charles Keating. Despite having no apparent connection to Oregon, Pages of Death had wound up in OHS' stacks. It wasn't until after the New Year—and after a well-received screening at the Hollywood—that word started to spread that OHS' print of Pages might be the only one in existence.

"It was on my list to think about what best to do with it," says Cowan, who previously worked at Anthology Film Archives in New York. "But by that point, it was listed on Wikipedia as a lost film, and mentioned in a clickbait article [on the website Gambit] about lost titles of interest. So I thought, 'Let's let people see it.'"

To do so, Cowan made a digital copy of the film and dropped it on the OHS YouTube channel. News of the find spread, and Pages has now racked up more than 125,000 views.

Even Cowan admits that, among the thousands of films considered "lost," Pages of Death is a minor entry. But watching the film in 2016 does offer a glimpse of how far the '60s had to go before arriving at the Summer of Love.

The plot, such as it is, concerns a teenager who, after months of consuming porn mags and stag films, is somehow compelled to rape and murder a young girl. This lurid, unintentionally hilarious tale is played out like a low-rent episode of Dragnet, complete with morally indignant cops and the gratuitous reading of a composition by the victim (she writes about "looking forward to a very good future"). The 27-minute film is capped off by a direct-to-camera plea by Tom Harmon, a former Heisman Trophy winner and sportscaster (and father to NCIS star Mark Harmon), who quotes J. Edgar Hoover and urges viewers to stop this "tide of filth."

"This film is a shining example of American life coming out of the conservative 1950s and the fear of youth," says Cowan. "If the young kid in that film didn't go to jail, he'd probably have wound up a dirty hippie by 1969."

What Cowan isn't entirely sure about is how the OHS ended up with Pages of Death. He guesses it was part of a donation from a personal film collection that also included contemporaneous industrial films and other sponsored fare.

"There's no logical reason we should have it in our collection," Cowan says. "Or that we should have a copy of Autopsy [Dissection Technique Evisceration], Part 1. That's the nature of archives and one reason I like working in them. Somehow a lost film managed to stay and not get thrown away, burned, or torn apart years ago."