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Robert Harris

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These are the little discs that could.

With a tiny potential audience, Ben Model's Undercrank Productions is going full passion ahead in releasing two sets of Very early Lon Chaney films. Pre-Lon Chaney in a way, all preserved by The Library of Congress.

Appropriately entitled "Before the Thousand Faces," the first is three feature or partial features produced 1915-16. The second offers five features, reconstructions, partials or fragments from 1914-1917.

All of these films from Universal survived not by design, but by chance.

All have scores by Jon Mirsalis, and are not being released for those who find anything outside of the Marvel or DC Universes are not worth viewing.

Let me be very clear. These are antiques, created while Griffith was still creating the language of cinema, and they make use of many of his early advances.

The quality ranges from acceptable, based upon the fact that it is unique, and derived from a 16mm blow-up negative of an 8mm print, to quite acceptable, coming from 35mm nitrate. The scores by Jon Mirsalis work beautifully with the imagery.

The first set includes the following three films:

A Mother's Atonement - 1915 (20 minutes)
If My Country Should Call - 1916 (24 minutes)
The Place Beyond the Woods - 1916 - 39 minutes


The second set includes 5 films, or partial films.

By the Sun's Rays - 1914 (13 minutes)
The Oubliette - 1914 (46 minutes)
The Millionaire Paupers - 1916 (6 minutes)
Triumph - 1917 (33 minutes)
The Scarlet Car - 1917 (62 minutes)


These two releases are meant for those with an interest in early silent cinema, film restoration and preservation, and keeping the early cinema alive. The first set was previously released on DVD five years ago, and has not been upgraded.

Image – n/a

Audio – 5 (musical score)

Pass / Fail – Pass

Plays nicely with projectors - Yes

Highly Recommended

RAH
 

Capt D McMars

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These are the little discs that could.

With a tiny potential audience, Ben Model's Undercrank Productions is going full passion ahead in releasing two sets of Very early Lon Chaney films. Pre-Lon Chaney in a way, all preserved by The Library of Congress.

Appropriately entitled "Before the Thousand Faces," the first is three feature or partial features produced 1915-16. The second offers five features, reconstructions, partials or fragments from 1914-1917.

All of these films from Universal survived not by design, but by chance.

All have scores by Jon Mirsalis, and are not being released for those who find anything outside of the Marvel or DC Universes are not worth viewing.

Let me be very clear. These are antiques, created while Griffith was still creating the language of cinema, and they make use of many of his early advances.

The quality ranges from acceptable, based upon the fact that it is unique, and derived from a 16mm blow-up negative of an 8mm print, to quite acceptable, coming from 35mm nitrate. The scores by Jon Mirsalis work beautifully with the imagery.

The first set includes the following three films:

A Mother's Atonement - 1915 (20 minutes)
If My Country Should Call - 1916 (24 minutes)
The Place Beyond the Woods - 1916 - 39 minutes

The second set includes 5 films, or partial films.

By the Sun's Rays - 1914 (13 minutes)
The Oubliette - 1914 (46 minutes)
The Millionaire Paupers - 1916 (6 minutes)
Triumph - 1917 (33 minutes)
The Scarlet Car - 1917 (62 minutes)

These two releases are meant for those with an interest in early silent cinema, film restoration and preservation, and keeping the early cinema alive. The first set was previously released on DVD five years ago, and has not been upgraded.

Image – n/a

Audio – 5 (musical score)

Pass / Fail – Pass

Plays nicely with projectors - Yes

Highly Recommended

RAH
the fact that they suvive at all is amazing. You had mentioned that these films by "Universal survived not by design, but by chance." Can you elaborate on this, sounds like a back story there?
 

Robert Harris

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the fact that they suvive at all is amazing. You had mentioned that these films by "Universal survived not by design, but by chance." Can you elaborate on this, sounds like a back story there?
Not a backstory of any importance.

Universal had a purge in 1948, and destroyed their entire silent library.
 

Capt D McMars

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Not a backstory of any importance.

Universal had a purge in 1948, and destroyed their entire silent library.
Black And White Vintage GIF
 

Stephen_J_H

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MielR

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the fact that they suvive at all is amazing. You had mentioned that these films by "Universal survived not by design, but by chance."
It's why Chaney's "London After Midnight" no longer exists. The studios saw no value in silent films and had no foresight about the future home video market.
 

Robert Harris

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It's why Chaney's "London After Midnight" no longer exists. The studios saw no value in silent films and had no foresight about the future home video market.
London After Midnight no longer survives by chance, and bad luck, not by design. M-G-M took quite good care of its silent library.
 

MielR

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London After Midnight no longer survives by chance, and bad luck, not by design. M-G-M took quite good care of its silent library.
I'm sorry but I have to respectfully disagree. MGM didn't intentionally destroy their silent films to reclaim silver or shelf space like some studios did, but what happened in that 1965 vault fire was no less negligent than the Universal fire in 2008.
An example of why Robert Harris's presence here is so valuable. Knowledge vs. received opinion.
No safety copies in alternate locations, no sprinkler system, etc., etc. Those are facts, not "received opinion". But I appreciate your comment and your praise for Mr. Harris nonetheless.
 
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Robert Harris

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I'm sorry but I have to respectfully disagree. MGM didn't intentionally destroy their silent films to reclaim silver or shelf space like some studios did, but what happened in that 1965 vault fire was no less negligent than the Universal fire in 2008.

No safety copies in alternate locations, no sprinkler system, etc., etc. Those are facts, not "received opinion". But I appreciate your comment and your praise for Mr. Harris nonetheless.
I stand by my words. Huge difference between a vault fire, and an exec edict to destroy elements. Please look at the number of M-G-M silents that survived.
 

Robert Crawford

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Well, it's kind of late to be assigning blame. Mistakes were made in the past, whether intentional or not, and with those mistakes, we lost some cinematic history.
 

Robert Harris

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For the record, a nitrate vault fire can be caused by something as insignificant as as spark from an errant light switch, most of which in nitrate vaults, are on the exterior wall.
 

MielR

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Well, it's kind of late to be assigning blame. Mistakes were made in the past, whether intentional or not, and with those mistakes, we lost some cinematic history.
But mistakes are still being made, and it's only a matter of time before another disaster. The Universal vault fire was only 14 years ago, and not only were master recordings lost (everybody from Billie Holiday to Cheryl Crow), but films and videotapes also. No sprinklers! Safety copies? Stored on the same site. An inventory of the vault's contents? Also up in flames. These mega-corporations should not be trusted as the sole guardians of our music & film heritage.
For the record, a nitrate vault fire can be caused by something as insignificant as as spark from an errant light switch, most of which in nitrate vaults, are on the exterior wall.
But MGM knew this, and still didn't have back-up safety copies made for nearly one-third of their silents. By 1965 it's feasible this task could have been completed, but MGM opted not to. Yes, other studios were much worse than MGM, but that is cold comfort when you consider what was lost.
 
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Stephen_J_H

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But MGM knew this, and still didn't have back-up safety copies made for nearly one-third of their silents. By 1965 it's feasible this task could have been completed, but MGM opted not to. Yes, other studios were much worse than MGM, but that is cold comfort when you consider what was lost.
And hindsight is 20/20. Think about MGM's financial state in 1965.
 

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