From American Cinematographer, Cinematic Glory by David E. Williams (March 1998)
The Elephant Man was principally shot at Wembley Studios in Panavision, utilizing Kodak's Plus-X stock-- the only monochrome emulsion which met Francis' standards and was available in sufficient quantities. Due to the dearth of black-and-white features, most of Britian's labs had let their processing equipment fall into disrepair, necessitating that the cinematographer do extensive tests with several facilities. Rank finally won the contract. Nopted Francis in the informative tome The British Cinematographer,
"Rank's processing produced a result which immediately filled me with confidence. My first impressions were that the [plus-x] had increased in speed and the grain had diminished to such an extent as to be negligible... above all, it was true black-and-white stock with every minute tone in between."
- Freddie Francis, BSC
Despite the promise, Kodak's emulsion varied in sensitivity (increasing by a full stop at one point), and Rank had some problems delivering the image quality Francis demanded. However, as audiences would attest, the efforts paid off, resulting in an evocative film which retains a haunting, dreamlike textural quality while effectively rendering the gritty reality of the story and setting.