DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

“Accidentally Preserved, Vol. 1” (9 Silent Shorts) (2013)

Nine rare or lost silent film shorts which will appeal greatly to fans of the silents.

Published on July 6, 2013

“Accidentally Preserved, Vol. 1” (2013)

Rare/Lost Silent Films from Vintage 16mm Prints
Titles: The Lost Laugh – Wallace Lupino; Loose Change – Jack Duffy & Neal Burns; Wedding Slips – Monte Collins; Stoot Straight – Paul James Parrott; The House of Wonders – Elgin Watch Co. industrial film; The Misfit – Clyde Cook; The Water Plug – Billy Franey; Mechanical Doll – Fleisher “Out of the Inkwell” cartoon; Cheer Up – Cliff Bowes 
Studio: Ben Model [6/6/13]
Video: 4:3 black & white
Audio: PCM mono
Length: 103 min.
Rating: ****

These are the results of a labor of love by silent film preservationist and original score composer Ben Model, and would appeal primarily to fans of comedy silents. There were evidently quite a few reductions of such shorts from 35mm to 16mm made for the more wealthy home market enthusiasts who had a 16mm projector for home showings. These Netflix for the art deco era were made mostly on Kodak safety film, so many have outlived the original dangerous 35mm originals, which were on nitrate stock. These were the original home theater. (I well remember going to an acquaintance’s home showing of a 16mm print of Fellini’s Juliet of the Spirits, and thinking “Wow, wouldn’t it be great if I could show such films in my home.” And now I can and do.)

None of these nine films would have survived to the present day if it were not for the “accidental” preservation of them by these marketers of silent movies for the 16mm home movie market. They are not well-known film comedy favorites such as Chaplin and Keaton, but some of these shorts have some quite hilarious bits in them. The Accidentally Preserved web site has a detailed note on each of the nine films. There are also two departures from the comedy shorts theme: an over-long 23-minute silent documentary on the Elgin Watch Company, which may try your patience but makes you realize the demanding assembly-line work the watchmakers had to do. The other is a 1922 cartoon from the outlandish Max Fleicher, who provided an antidote to Disney nicey-nice animation. This rare footage shows Koko the clown and Bettie Boop in all their glory, and even includes some early combinations of live-action footage with animated characters, as later perfected in Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

The Lost Laugh stars Wallace Lupino in a short about a husband greeting every catastrophe that besets him with a smiling face and laugh, and he does get into some dozies.  Wedding Slips is quite a nine-minute production, with a just-married couple crashing into a gypsy caravan on the way to their honeymoon spot. Shoot Straight is like a live-action series of erstwhile hunter gags taken from later Elmer Fudd cartoons. In Cheer Up, the closing short, two guys are rivals for the hand of Virginia in marriage, and after one of them weds her the rivalry does not end.

The DVD is a DVD-R, which is made on demand depending on orders that come in. I received a copy of some notes about this collection of silents which you probably won’t see anywhere else, but if yours lacks a description of each one, you can find it at the AccidentallyPreserved.com web site.

—John Sunier




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