Lost No More! 10 Rare Films
DVD STREET DATE: OCTOBER 30, 2018/UNDERCRANK PRODUCTIONS
Ben Model of Undercrank Productions has assembled a wonderful selection of films identified at the Library of Congress’ annual Mostly Lost workshop. Paired with wonderful scores from Model, Philip Carli, and Andrew Simpson, these short films are a glimpse into short subjects of the past.
The DVD has wonderful scores from Ben Model, Philip Carli, and Andrew Simpson.
The DVD is presented in mostly chronological order, the oldest film perhaps being an 11-minute film of the vaudeville entertainer Adolph Zink doing a series of quick changes and make-up for a variety of roles he assumed in his act. Other films from the first decade of the 1900s include a comical dream sequence of a writer with a vivid imagination (“The Author’s Dream,” 1906), a love story featuring a kidnapped damsel-in-distress who knows how to wield a bow and arrow well enough to get a note to her lover but NOT well enough to make short work of her captors (“The Falling Arrow,” 1909), and a romance gone awry with mistaken identity, a lost-and-found photograph, a meddling neighbor, and a careless hunter (“In the Tall Grass Country,” 1910).
My favorite film in this collection from the first decade of the 20th century, however, is probably “The Faithful Dog,” alternately titled “True To the End,” produced in 1907 by the Eclipse studio. In it, a well-trained dog accompanies his blind master as he begs for spare change on the street. As the man becomes ill, the dog goes to the doctor to get help and the pharmacist for medicine for its master. In the final minutes of the film, the dog is extremely loyal to his master. I must confess to wiping away a couple of tears as I reflected on my own pets and the love and loyalty I felt from and for them.
I must confess to wiping away a couple of tears as I reflected on my own pets and the love and loyalty I felt from and for them.
The other half of the films in this collection are from the early 1920s. I’ll talk about my two favorites here.
“The Noodle Nut,” a comedy from 1921, was a good collection of laughs with a girl who functions mostly as a McGuffin. I must confess that I found the gag with the revolving door a bit tiresome after the first minute, mostly because…well, anyone who can understand spatial relationships will see and understand. Still, the comedy of error after error made for an enjoyable film and I really did find myself rooting for the hero.
“Fresh Fish” is an animated film with live action interspersed. The combination works extremely well and the characters were funny and likable. The kid-cameraman is wonderful, bedecked with a soft hat as the old cameramen used to wear and a matter-of-fact attitude that is reflected in interviews with guys like Charles van Enger (who was the cameraman on such films as The Phantom of the Opera, 1925).
Also included are the comedies “Derby Day,” “Do Me a Favor,” and a delightful little love story, “The Sunshine Spreader.”
The full line-up is here:
- Adolph Zink (1903) – Thomas A. Edison Co. – 11 minutes
- And the Villain Still Pursued Her; or the Author’s Dream (1906) – Vitagraph – 8 minutes
- The Faithful Dog; or, True to the End (1907) – Eclipse – 8 minutes
- The Falling Arrow (1909) – James Young Deer – 8 minutes
- In the Tall Grass Country (1910) – Francis Ford, Edith Storey – 10 minutes
- The Noodle Nut (1921) – Billy Bletcher – 8 minutes
- The Sunshine Spreader (1920s) – 22 minutes
- Fresh Fish (1922) – Bobby Bumps (animated) – 7 minutes
- Derby Day (1922) – Monty Banks – 12 minutes
- Do Me a Favor (1922) – Snub Pollard – 10 minutes
The films are presented in an unrestored way but are nonetheless enjoyable. There was a moment in “Grass Country” where I’d wished that the text of the letter had been lengthened so that I could read the letter without rewinding and pausing the disc, but that’s usually part of presenting preserved films as-is.
If you enjoy pre-1929 cinema, this collection is for you! Thank you to Ben Model of Undercrank Productions for sending me a copy for review.