Kidnapped: A Complete 1917 Night at the Movies
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(Jul 27, 2018)
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A complete night at the movies-- exactly as it was presented in 1917.
This DVD contains a complete program of films made by the legendary Edison film studio: a feature film adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's "Kidnapped" and all four shorts that originally accompanied it: a live-action silhouette performance of Little Red Riding Hood, the scientific short Microscopic Pond Life, the Roman era slapstick comedy Friends Romans and Leo and the travelogue Quaint Provincetown.
Ads for the series of Conquest Programs boasted that it was an "open road to romance and knowledge" and that the films were "guaranteed censor proof" with their combination of family-friendly comedy, drama, science, history and travel. The Kidnapped program was the ninth in this series. This is the first time the entire program has been available to the general public since its release in 1917.
All of the films feature authentic period tinting and original piano scores composed and performed by Ben Model. They were preserved and transferred by the Library of Congress from 16mm prints derived from producer George Kleine's personal collection. The entire production was successfully crowdfunded in 2017.
This release is a rare opportunity to enjoy a complete authentic silent era movie experience and is invaluable to collectors, historians and educators.
**Please note that this edition DOES NOT INCLUDE A BOOKLET, which was a special bonus for backers of the crowdfunding campaign.
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Along with the Flicker Alley and the Kino releases comes this offering from newcomer Movies Silently headed up by silent film blogger Fritzi Kramer (check out her website for some pretty choice reviews), composer Ben Model, and Christopher Bird. They used a Kickstarter campaign with over 300 contributors to bring a complete 1917 program back to contemporary audiences via DVD/Blu-Ray. The program consists of four short films and a short feature based on Robert Louis Stevenson's KIDNAPPED. All were produced in the waning days of the Edison Studio and were released under the Conquest Pictures banner. The four shorts are FRIENDS, ROMANS & LEO - a broad comedy set in Ancient Rome, LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD - a silhouette film of the famous fairy tale, QUAINT PROVINCETOWN - an actuality about the town and the fisherman there, and MICROSCOPIC POND LIFE which has groundbreaking photography of the titular creatures.
KIDNAPPED was directed by Alan Crosland who started with the Edison Studio and who wound up directing THE JAZZ SINGER for Warner Brothers which brought about the end of the Silent Era. Crosland, who died in 1936, is a forgotten director today. He was capable of working in a variety of genres. KIDNAPPED was an early swashbuckler that takes advantage of several outdoor locations. The winter scenes were reportedly shot in Sandy Hook, Connecticut. These are contrasted with the obvious studio interiors which looked liked those of a decade earlier. The performances are old fashioned but solid, the action robust, and the pace quite decent. All in all it makes for engaging viewing especially for silent movie lovers.
So hats off to Fritzi Kramer and friends at Movies Silently for bringing us this trip back in time. The 16mm prints from the Library of Congress look remarkably good thanks to tweaking from Christopher Bird and Ben Model's piano accompaniment enhances the viewing experience. I have a fondness for movies made on the East Coast before the 1920s when Hollywood took over. I have Kino's EDISON set and now this collection. Someday I hope to have a restored version of the 1910 Edison FRANKENSTEIN and speed corrected versions of the 1910 CHRISTMAS CAROL and 1905 NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS (both in Kino's CHRISTMAS PAST set). Then I will truly be a happy camper.
A quality protective case holds a sumptuous book with bios, film-history info, and terrific stills. A DVD with a picture of the star of the show. A big gorgeous ticket with a perforated tearable stub! (Okay, that one’s too big to fit in the box.) This is 1917 in its complete glory--all that's missing is an ad for Liberty Bonds!
Impressive how the program builds from the silly to the surreal to the verité to the downright nerdy, all before the feature:
Friends, Romans, and Leo was funnier than I expected—and more relevant, too. Change a few characters to current political figures, and you’d have a SNL opener! The bankruptcy gags say it all.
Little Red Riding Hood: Innovative live-action silhouette technique brings different dimensions to the familiar story. Details you don’t expect, and an inadvertent chuckle or two.
Quaint Provincetown: I want to go back in time and visit. Eat with them and nap on their couches, and especially hug their cats. This is the power of the documentary camera. This is the depth of silent filmmaking that the casual fan may not know existed. Of the five items on the bill, this is the one my mind wanders back to.
Microscopic Pond Life: Wild contrast with the human/feline Cape Cod life. My microscope never made anything look this good. I was even stumped by one of those lil critters.
Kidnapped explodes the myth of the flat and/or exaggerated 1910s silent. It’s got a good story, nuanced acting, real eighteenth-century houses, cool tension, all enhanced by Ben Model’s stirring piano. (Look, no spoilers!)
Seeing the whole evening in order and in context was magical--what a treat for the original audience! Of course, we were less prepared than they were because we kept mixing up Kidnapped with Treasure Island, but that’s completely beside the point.
I’m honored to have donated to the making of this amazing artifact—all respect to the Library of Congress and Movies Silently!
In addition to the feature movie, you also get cute period interludes and shorts which add to the movie-going simulation. This is an excellent touch.
The original music is also excellent. All too often a fine silent film has some obnoxious layered over the top at the end of the production. This production uses professional musician and a nice accompaniment. If you have watched live accompanied silent films and wish more DVDs has this type of music, you will be especially pleased.