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Keepers of the Frame [VHS]

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Product Details

  • Actors: Forrest J Ackerman, Eric Aijala, Alan Alda, Laurence Austin, Stan Brakhage
  • Directors: Mark McLaughlin
  • Writers: Mark McLaughlin, Randy Gitsch
  • Producers: Earl McLaughlin, Randy Gitsch
  • Format: Black & White, Color, NTSC
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Number of tapes: 1
  • Studio: Winstar
  • VHS Release Date: March 21, 2000
  • Run Time: 70 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 1572528095
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #430,665 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Editorial Reviews


This cautionary, eye-opening documentary presents an impassioned case for film preservation, as if any were necessary. An oft-quoted statistic is that half of all sound films have been lost forever and that nearly 90 percent of all silent films no longer exist.

Movies are more than just the world's most popular art form. Says actor Roddy McDowall, "[film] is a wildly important part of our heritage... a record of mores, styles, and fashion." This record, though, has been severely compromised due to shortsighted neglect (30 years ago, one archivist notes, there was no film preservation movement in this country) as well as the unstable nature of the highly flammable nitrate stock on which films before the 1950s were shot. For film buffs, Keepers of the Frame will be heartbreaking. There are harrowing images more unnerving than anything in The Blair Witch Project, from irretrievable, bleached-out silent film footage to photos of a poorly maintained archive strewn with rotting films. A preservationist recalls visiting one such archive and being told that one of the garbage prints was Citizen Kane.

Keepers of the Frame celebrates real movie heroes, not only the archivists and technicians dedicated to keeping "the American memory intact" but also ordinary enthusiasts such as John Harvey, who maintains his own private archive of films made in the widescreen Cinerama process. It is to these people, film historian Leonard Maltin notes, that so much of film history "owes its very life." --Donald Liebenson

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Kim Patrick on June 14, 2000
Format: VHS Tape
This story offers a heartbreaking view of what has happened to the precious films from the early days. These films, which started the industry, are cast aside, rotting. A passionate lover of the early film period, silent films especially, this documentary hit especially close to home for me. In fact, it is heartbreaking for anyone who has ever loved silent films. The film consists mostly of just showing what has become of these treasured items, essentially they have been all but destroyed, and those few that are left are so near-death that they really aren't survivors. A treasure for anyone who loves film and the silent era of film, but be prepared to be shocked and horrified at the treatment of these classics.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Samantha Glasser VINE VOICE on December 19, 2008
Format: VHS Tape
Nitrate won't wait. It is the mantra of film preservationists everywhere. But why should you care if a bunch of hundred year old movies vanish, never to be seen again? Not only are these movies entertaining, but they're an important part of our culture. And it isn't just old movies that are deteriorating. Technicolor movies fade too, and the bleeding color sometimes takes the image with it. And safety film might be more stable than nitrate, but it deteriorates too.

As a film enthusiast, I find this documentary to be powerful and important. Most people do not realize that their favorite movies are at risk, that even movies made a year ago might not survive forever. We take many things for granted as a culture, including the preservation of our time. We laugh at elderly people who attempt to recreate their past through stories, but if our visual representation of our past is gone, all we will have are stories too.

I was disappointed not to see Kevin Brownlow or David Shepard (although Shepard is mentioned), because both men have done a lot to preserve and restore films. However, the people that do appear like AFI's Jean Firstenberg, film star Roddy McDowall, and author Leonard Maltin all provide interesting stories and sound arguements. They are obviously passionate about their work.
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