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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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Funded through a successful Kickstarter campaign, Accidentally Preserved offers nine silent films that have survived by way of the 16mm home market, rather than through the preservation efforts of studio or not-for-profit film archives. Seven of the films are edited versions of 1920s slapstick comedies starring such unsung performers as Monte Collins, Paul Parrott, Clyde Cook and Billy Franey; the remaining two films are an early Koko the Clown animation and a two-reel documentary on the Elgin Watch Company. With minor exceptions, the films are in very good-to-excellent condition and provide the viewer with a fascinating look into the types of films ordinary audiences of the time would have seen on a regular basis in their local theaters, and not just the recognized classics of cinema. Aside from that, they are simply enormous fun to watch!
For a detailed discussion of the films themselves, I refer the reader to the Accidentally Preserved website (accidentallypreserved.com), where Steve Massa's solidly researched and well-written notes may be found. No need to duplicate his sterling efforts here.
Great credit must be given to Dino Everett, of the USC School of Cinematic Arts, for his clean, crisp HD mastering of the original 16mm elements, as well as to Marlene Weisman Abadi, for her imaginative logo and package design.
But, of course, the lion's share of honor must go to producer Ben Model, whose project this is. Ben has demonstrated great initiative in not only putting this project together, but in seeing it through to its happy conclusion -- a not inconsiderable feat, given the vagaries of the home market. As always, Ben's musical accompaniment is first-rate, appropriate to the films' pace and content, and a pleasure to listen to on its own merits. His menu design will be little noted by most viewers, but I found it to be elegant and easy to navigate -- a small triumph itself in these days of too-clever screen graphics.
So, congratulations to Ben and his team on a job well done! Buy this DVD now, not just for the simple pleasure of it, but to ensure that similar projects may soon see the light of day. Accidentally Preserved II, anyone?
So far, I've watched three: MARRIAGE SLIPS (1928) with Monte Collins, SHOOTING STRAIGHT (1923) with Paul Parrott, and LOOSE CHANGE (1928) with Jack Duffy. OK, the names Collins, Parrott, and Duffy don't have the same ring as Chaplin, Keaton, and Lloyd but when you love the silent comedy genre, you can't help liking these films. I'm looking forward to watching the remaining films on the disc, none of which should even be in existence today, hence the title ACCIDENTALLY PRESERVED. We are lucky to have them and luckier still that Ben Model decided to make them available on DVD.
Ben Model the producer wisely delegated the musical accompaniment to Ben Model the musician. This music does exactly what the best silent film music is supposed to do: it compliments the visuals and doesn't compete with them. Technically, this disc is professionally presented in the best tradition of the big boys. I like that fact that we are informed that the films are from 16mm and not the better-looking 35mm format. but the transfers are so professionally handled that the films have a 35mm quality. Highly recommended on all counts!
If I must bring up anything negative, I thought the Elgin short was a bit boring after a while and would rather have had another rare comedy short instead.
But the chance to see a new Koko and Paul Parrott along with finally getting a look at Billy Franey was worth the price AND the 5 stars.
Be sure to get Volume 2 and the very inexpensive booklet that will make both DVDs even more enjoyable.
If you buy all this stuff together, you will even get free postage from Amazon!
While you are at it, look up the MUSTY SUFFER DVD and booklet too.