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(Jun 06, 2013)
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"Accidentally Preserved: Rare and Lost Silent Films from Vintage 16mm Prints" is a collection of nine short films made from 1920-1928, presented in new HD transfers with new musical scores on piano or theatre organ by Ben Model. The films are all new to DVD, and three of them have not been seen by anyone in several decades.
During the 1930s and 1940s companies like the Kodascope and Universal Show-At-Home libraries made 16mm copies of silent movies for people to rent and watch at home. It was like Netflix for the art deco era. Because these movies were on 16mm safety film, many of them have outlived the original 35mm nitrate prints of silent films that are now lost or extremely rare. It's as if these movies were...Accidentally Preserved.
Renowned silent film accompanist/historian Ben Model has taken nine of the rare and lost silent films in his 16mm collection and produced this Accidentally Preserved DVD, bringing these rarities to a new audience in new HD digital transfers. Each film on this DVD has a new musical score by Ben Model performed on piano or theatre organ.
Unavailable to the public for decades, these delightful comedy shorts -- as well as the lost, unknown Elgin Watch factory film -- return to screens to entertain us once more.
Be sure to pick up the new companion guide, "Accidentally Preserved: notes on the films", now available exclusively on Amazon! The booklet, written by Steve Massa and Ben Model, contains background info on the films and fits perfectly inside the DVD case.
The films of Accidentally Preserved: volume 1:
Wallace Lupino in THE LOST LAUGH (1928) – 9 minutes
Jack Duffy in LOOSE CHANGE (1928) – 11 minutes
Monte Collins in WEDDING SLIPS (1928) – 9 minutes
Paul Parrott in SHOOT STRAIGHT (1923) – 10 minutes
Elgin Watch Company - THE HOUSE OF WONDERS (ca. 1931) – 23 minutes
Clyde Cook in THE MISFIT (1924) – 12 minutes
Cliff Bowes in CHEER UP (1924) – 10 minutes
Koko the Clown in MECHANICAL DOLL (1922) – 7 minutes
Billy Franey in THE WATER PLUG (1920) – 12 minutes
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Top Customer Reviews
The quality of the movies is generally good; this isn't always a given with old silents, and I wondered how they'd be given that the material in this case came through irregular sources, but I was pleased. All but one of the selections are comedies. The personality most likely to be familiar is Koko the Clown, who was in a number of Betty Boop cartoons; here he's in an early Fleischer cartoon from the "Out of the Inkwell" series, appearing in some scenes superimposed on live action. If you've seen _Who Framed Roger Rabbit_, you might be inclined to cry out, "It's DIIIIIIIIIIP!!!" at one point. My favorite selection, at least for the moment, is "The Lost Laugh," a domestic comedy with a husband who manages to keep a sense of humor in spite of lots of things going wrong.
The one non-comedy is "The House of Wonders," a film produced by the Elgin Watch Company that today would be called an infomercial. Even though its purpose is obvious, I learned quite a bit from it about how watches were made around 1930 and got a hint of how tedious factory work must have been then.
Ben Model's accompaniment is appropriate and unobtrusive.
This DVD isn't for everybody, but if you like discovering obscure old movies, I think you'll enjoy it.
You won't find the 'big-names'; Keaton, Chaplin, etc. in this set - but that's okay, as their films, fortunately, remain more or less complete to the present day. This DVD pays righteous tribute to the clowns wrongfully relegated to almost near obscurity by the general public, which is a shame, because their talents don't deserve to be forgotten.
I'm talking about Wallace Lupino, who along with his brother Lupino Lane, came from a long line of successful entertainers; Monte Collins, comedy writer and performer who graced the screen with his somewhat unconventional looks for over thirty years; Paul Parrott who was just as talented as his own brother Charley Chase (and nearly as often, overlooked); and...well, the list goes on and on. What makes these performers unique, however, is their ability to entertain us, and make us laugh. No mean feat in this world of ours.
The DVD presentation is first rate. The menu system rivals that of anything being released today by the major studios, and the film scores complement the visuals perfectly. Though the ravages of time have left their thumbprint on some of the film elements, the overall quality is very good, in some cases, exceptionally good.
If you like to laugh, buy this set. If you're interested in film history, buy this set. If you're looking for a great DVD bargain, buy this set. You will not be disappointed.
As for me, I'm hoping this is just the first volume of many. It may be a tough act to follow, but Accidentally Preserved, Volume 1 has wet my appetite for great things to come.
Undercrank Productions has given these crisp 16mm prints a Hi-Definition Digital Transfer (probably 2K but it does not specify), and the quality shows in the viewing! This is no cheap "Alpha Video" DVD, this is up there with the Kino DVDs. 90% of the time the contrast is perfect, there are a few over exposed shots that I suspect happened as an exposure error during the original printing of the 16mm film. There will be negative scratches as the original 35mm nitrate negatives are showing their age in the 1930's when these 16mm prints were made. Consider that those negatives seem to no longer exist, these 16mm reduction prints are the closest we will get to the original camera images.
No DNR was used to clean up the scratches but that is fine as in most cases they are not obtrusive. When they are it is just a reminder as to how fragile the original negative was in just a few short years of production. They had no duplicate printing negative in those days, the camera originals were used to make all prints until they wore out.
There is an ever so slight window-boxing to allow people who have their TVs set for over-scan (the factory pre-set) to see the entire picture uncropped. Those who have their TVs properly set not to overscan will not be bothered by the sliver of black around the image.
***My favorite is Clyde Cook's "The Misfit", Clyde is channeling Buster Keaton in this under-rated film.***
Ben Model, the archiver of most of these rare prints, performs the soundtracks to perfection.
Why not 5 stars? Because these are the films that ran at theaters who could not book Chaplin, Keaton, Lloyd, Chase, Laurel or Hardy. That is not to say that they are bad, some are quite good. But none of them equal the talents of mentioned masters of comedy. The only familiar face you will see is that of Max Fleischer's cartoon star Koko the Clown, the only "A" picture here. Some others may look familiar, partly because they resemble their more famous brothers. Paul Parrott bares a close resemblance to his brother who uses the stage name of Charley Chase. Ida Lupino also looks like Lupino Lane.
Many of these were produced by the poverty-row studio Educational Pictures, an oddly named comedy producer who started out making educational films for schools but ended up making comedies. Or the low-budget Cristie Comedies distributed by Paramount.
Most of these are "one-reelers" which run about 10 minutes. The only exception is the painfully boring industrial film "The House Of Wonders" which runs 23 minutes (I only made it through 10 minutes). It is this industrial film that prevents me from using the "PLay All" function of this DVD. Your pleasure will be interrupted right in the middle for a 23 minute commercial. There is the "Next" button on your remote to get past this should you choose the "Play All" function. Another reason why I chose to pick & choose the play order is that there seems to be no rhyme or reason to the sequence of the films and I prefer to create my own sequence.
This release just makes you wish that the people who did the "Cut To The Chase" Charley Chase DVD had taken the same care to produce a quality image such as this!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
If I must bring up anything negative, I thought the Elgin short was a bit boring after a while and would...Read more