Great news! Today Undercrank Productions releases its 4th volume of rare surviving silent films entitled Accidentally Preserved. The first three volumes consisted of home-market 16mm prints; the new one is 9.5mm, a European format (though most of the films are American). Here are my reviews of Volume One, Volume Two, and Volume Three. Thus far the Law of Diminishing Returns has NOT come into play; the new installment is just as entertaining and fascinating as the previous ones. In fact, if anything, this one contains a bit more star power than the past three; I think you’ll find more names you recognize. In the set:
Sid Smith and Jimmie Adams play a couple of farm hands vying for a girl’s affections (and fortune) in this Jack White helmed short for Educational. It may be the funniest and most inventively gag packed Educational short I have seen — it feels almost like the writers threw everything they had into it. For physical comedians, it’s a rich mine of stuff to steal (my primary reason for watching silent comedies).
Meet Father (1924)
Bobby Ray struggles to win a girl by studying boxing out a book, and taking on a much tougher rival. But quicksand saves the day.
The Wages of Tin (1925)
Glenn Tryon rents a Ford (the titular tin as in “Lizzie”) from Roach heavy Noah Young to impress his girl and mangles it.
A Man Sized Pet (1925)
This one was interesting for all sorts of reasons. One is that it is a Universal comedy — most of those didn’t survive. And it’s part of a series of western comedies starring former real life cowboys Peewee Holmes and Ben Corbett. The titular pet is a bear who scares the bejesus out of everyone he encounters, and the hilarity is compounded by the inevitable costume party — and the man-in-a-bear-costume who attends.
Walter’s Paying Policy (1926)
I found this one more interesting than funny. While I have seen MANY British silent comedians, they are almost always the stars of American films. This may actually be the first British produced silent comedy I have ever seen. Which leads to another interesting feature — it may be the first time I have seen London locations in a silent comedy. (Which is ironic because I have Paris locations in DOZENS of silent comedies in the films of Max Linder and others). At any rate, the star of this one is Walter Forde, a former music hall performer who enjoyed a long career in films both before and behind the camera. In this one he plays a clerk vying with a rival to sell an insurance policy. The comedy seems mostly character based — kind of light on the gags.
‘Morning Judge (1926)
One of the “Carrie of the Chorus” series, starring Peggy Shaw (obviously a different Peggy Shaw from the contemporary performance artist) and produced/directed by the Fleischer Brothers (better known of course for their cartoons Betty Boop, Popeye, etc). In this one a prudish “Uplift Convention” led by Flora Finch tries to shut down a “sinful” show, climaxing with the local fire department destroying a house.
In addition to these half-dozen comedies, the DVD includes two melodramas, each of which comes with big stars.
The Ninety and Nine (1922)
Colleen Moore and Warner Baxter! This is a feature (based on a 1902 play) that was cut down to two-reel length; the makers of the DVD have thankfully filled in the missing bits of the story, which we’d never understand otherwise. The exciting climax of the film has the titular locomotive racing through a forest fire to save the day. The film’s other positive attribute? One of the characters is described as “the Village Simpleton”. I will ALWAYS watch a movie with a village simpleton.
Tides of Passion (1925)
Mae Marsh, well known to John Ford fans, here starring in her last film for Vitagraph, directed by J. Stuart Blackton. This is another feature cut down to the length of a short (and I must say I’m grateful…it is very hard to sit through a silent dramatic feature). In this one Mae’s soldier beau is called up on active duty and he gets shipwrecked on an island where he is cared for by another gal, causing romantic complications. And Mae pines…and stares at the sea.
As with all the previous editions of Accidentally Preserved, no silent film collection would be complete without it! Order your copy here.