The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, Kino DVD (left) and Republic Pictures Home Video laserdisc, from Steven Hill’s Movie Title Screens Page
Now here’s an epic undertaking, which some (most) may dismiss as mad, while the dedicated few may admire for its imagination and method. When I used to work as a cataloguer adding records to the BFI’s database, I used to ponder how useful – or at least interesting – it would be to have a frame grab of the title of a film appearing on the front page of a film’s record. It would help pinpoint the correct way of describing the film (except for such notorious example as Manhattan, which has no opening title, or Olivier’s Henry V, whose opening title is something quite different – go check), the source of possibly the most ruthlessly accurate of all film reference books, Markku Salmi’s National Film Archive Catalogue of Stills, Posters and Designs (1982). Even now (I will confess it), whenever I see a film title, something in me thinks, how useful if someone were to collect those. Ridiculous, yes, but surely useful, somehow.
And dang me if someone isn’t doing just that. Welcome to Steven Hill’s Movie Title Screens Page. Hill has taken on the task of publishing screen grabs of every film title frame that he can, mostly from VHS and DVD copies, giving title, year, director, image source, aspect ratio and Amazon link. Several films are represented more than once for different release versions. It’s arranged alphabetically, with no search option unfortunately, so there’s no immediate way of finding which silent titles are included, but silents there are. On quick inspection I found The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, The Cat and the Canary, The Manxman, The Adventure of Prince Achmed, The Gold Rush, The Golem, The Last Laugh, The Ten Commandments, Waxworks, London After Midnight (no kidding, it’s there) and many more.
Steven Hill has apparently been working on this for eleven years, and receives contributions from others dedicated to the cause. The Movie Title Screens page is but one section of his personal site, which has several other film sections, of which Fay Wray Pages has the most relevance to silents.
Anyway, a magnificent undertaking in its own way. And I’m sort of glad that he decided to take on the task, and not me.