Bioscope Newsreel no. 18

The Ten Commandments (1923), from DVD Talk

Chinese American
The Chinese Film Forum UK is a network based in Manchester, UK that exists for the research and promotion of transnational Chinese film. It organises regular film screenings at the Cornerhouse in Manchester, and in early April there are some silent films: Piccadilly (GB 1929), staring Ann May Wong (5 April); a talk, ‘Beyond Dragon Ladies and Butterflies: Anna May Wong’s Stardom’, given by Mina Suder (5 April); and The Curse of Quon Gwon (US 1916-17), the earliest known example of Chinese-American filmmaking, shown as a double bill with the documentary Hollywood Chinese (US 2008), which looks at the ways the Chinese have been imagined in Hollywood movies, from silents to contemporary cinema (12 April). Read more.

The Ten Commandments – and The Ten Commandments
We must be grateful for our silents where we can find them, and sometimes they turn up on the extras rather than as the main attraction. So it is that Paramount’s six-disc (count’ em) limited edition Blu-Ray release of Cecil B. de Mille’s The Ten Commandments (1956) includes his 1923 The Ten Commandments, with extras all of its own – audio commentary, hand-tinted footage and a two-strip Technicolor sequence. Read more.

Thanhouser – it’s official
The Bioscope somewhat jumped the gun when we announced that the Thanhouser collection of films was appearing online (via Vimeo), but now the news is official, and you can find a list of all the films, with supporting information (and an invitation to help support their online access with PayPal donations) on the Thanhouser site. Read more.

London matters
London Rediscovered is a one-day event on programming and presenting archive films of London, from silents to today, with talks by Patrick Russell (Curator of non-fiction at the BFI), Luke McKernan (a mere blogger), filmmaker Ron Peck, London Screen Archives’ Angela English, and Ian Christie, director of the London Screen Study Collection, curator and film historian. It takes place 29 March at Birkbeck College. Read more.

Last of the silents?
Who will be the last person living who was a silent film performer? Mickey Rooney, who appeared in ‘Mickey McGuire’ silent comedy shorts from 1927, is still with us, but the way she’s going it could well be the indefatigable Diana Serra Cary, who made her first film at the age of two in 1921, under the name Baby Peggy. The Los Angeles Times has an illuminating interview with her, which concludes with the family tragedy that followed when her fame slipped away. “I could never be important to my father again after I became ‘me.'” Read more.

And then there was Laila

http://www.flickeralley.com

Hot on the heels of the exciting news of Kino’s Gaumont Treasures vol. 2 release comes what should be one of the silent feature film DVD releases of the year. Regulars will know that the Bioscope was mightily impressed by the Norwegian film Laila (1929) when it was shown at Pordenone in 2008. Now it is to be released by Flicker Alley on 11 April, and I can only say that every good silent home should have one. It’s a bold move by the American label to release a silent that isn’t a part of the canon and isn’t covered in any film history outside of Scandanavia. But I think word of mouth is going to do the trick and justify their faith in the film.

Directed by the Danish-German George Schnéevoigt (best known as a cinematographer), the film was digitally restored by the Norwegian Film Institute in 2006. If you will forgive me, I can do no better (and it’s a lot quicker) if I repeat the words that I wrote on seeing the film two and a half years ago:

The rediscovery that sent us out into the streets, if not with the intention of dragging in passers-by then certainly floating on air, was unexpected. Laila (1929) is a late Norwegian silent, a daunting 165 minutes long. Expectations were not high from those like me who knew little of this period of Norwegian cinema, though the presence of George Schnéevoigt, cinematographer on a number of Carl Th. Dreyer film, as director, had aroused curiosity.

So, we’re amid the snowy wastes of Norway, at some time in the past. It’s nighttime. Merchant Lind and his wife are being drawn by dog sleigh through the snow, taking their baby daughter Laila to her christening. A pack of wolves attackes them. In the frantic chase, the baby falls out of her sleigh. With the dawn, they seek desperately for the child, only to find an empty papoose. The child must have been devoured by the wolves. But the baby had been found by Jåmpa, the wild-looking servant of the wealthy Lapp Aslag Laagje, whose wife is childless. They decide to adopt the child, but then learn of her true identity. Sorrowfully, they return Laila to her true parents. But then her parents die of the plague …

We were gripped, and we stayed gripped throughout, as this immaculately-paced drama in the remotest of landscapes held you like only the best of silent films can. Exoticism was certainly part of the appeal – age-old, etched faces, rampaging wolves (running over the camera at one point), clashes between Lapps and Norwegians (disparagingly referred to by the former as ‘daros’), some fine ski-ing, and an awful lot of reindeer. Lying just underneath the narrative was a miscenegation theme, as the grown-up Laila (brightly played by Mona Mårtenson), kept in ignorance of her Norwegian parentage, is brought up to expect marriage to Laagje’s foster son Mellet. The film seeks to rescue her from this fate, preferring that she marry instead her first cousin, Anders Lind (Harald Schwenzen), who ends up rescuing her at the altar in a satisfyingly dramatic conclusion, thanks to an intervention from Jåmpa (Trygve Larssen), who puts Laila’s happiness above loyalty to his master (and gets savaged by a pack of wolves for his pains).

This was a work on both an intimate and an epic scale (it is based on a novel by J.A. Friis), excellently played in a fine naturalistic style by all concerned. It was good human drama. It’s hard to make a dull-looking film when you have so much snow to work with, and Schnéevoigt did not fluff a single scene … Fresh, unusual and soundly executed throughout, Laila was the outstanding feature film of the Giornate.

I hope that’s whetted your appetite. You won’t be disappointed.

France’s finest

Kino Lorber are releasing a second DVD set of Gaumont films. The first, Gaumont Treasures vol. 1(1897-1913), featured films made by Alice Guy, Louis Feuillade, and Léonce Perret, and was effectively a cut-down version of a deluxe box set issued by Gaumont in France. Now Gaumont Treasures vol. 2, 1908-1916 is to be released on 19 April, featuring the work of Emile Cohl, Jean Durand and Jacques Feyder. Again it is based on a more extensive French original release (six discs), but the Kino release alone looks sensational – three discs, just under 600 minutes of film, and containing some of the most creative films of the early cinema period. Cohl was the first master of the animated film, Durand produced surrealist comedies and adventure dramas, and Feyder made films of surpassing elegance and wit. There are works from other filmmakers, examples of synchrononised sound films (Phonoscenes) and examples of Chronochrome, Gaumont’s hauntingly beautiful three-colour process.

This is the full list of films (English titles only):

DVD 1: Emile Cohl
Fantasmagoria (1908, 2 min.)
The Puppet’s Nightmare (1908, 2 min.)
Drama at the Puppets’ House (1908, 3 min.)
The Magic Hoop (1908, 5 min.)
The Little Soldier Who Became a God (1908, 4 min.)
The Boutdebois Brothers (1908, 2 min.)
Transfigurations (1909, 6 min.)
Let’s Be Sporty (1909, 5 min.)
Japanese Fantasy (1909, 1 min.)
The Happy Microbes (1909, 4 min.)
Modern Education (1909, 3 min.)
The Living Fan (1909, 4 min.)
Spanish Clair de Lune (1909, 4 min.)
The Next Door Neighbors (1909, 4 min.)
Crowns (1909, 5 min.)
Delicate Porcelains (1909, 3 min.)
Monsieur Clown Among the Lilliputians(1909, 4 min.)
Comic Mutations (1909, 3 min.)
Matrimonial Shoes (1909, 5 min.)
The Enchanted Spectacles (1909, 5 min.)
Affairs of the Heart (1909, 4 min.)
Floral Frameworks (1910, 5 min.)
The Smile-o-Scope (1910, 5 min.)
Childish Dreams (1910, 5 min.)
En Route (1910, 6 min.)
The Mind of the Café Waiter (1910, 5 min.)
Master of a Fashionable Game (1910, 4 min.)
Petit Chantecler (1910, 7 min.)
The Twelve Labors of Hercules (1910, 7 min.)
Petit Faust (1910, 5 min.)
The Neo-Impressionist Painter (1910, 6 min.)
The Four Little Tailors (1910, 7 min.)
Art’s Infancy (1910, 4 min.)
The Mysterious Fine Arts (1910, 5 min.)
The Persistent Salesman (1910, 8 min.)
A History of Hats (1910, 5 min.)
Nothing Is Impossible for Man (1910, 6 min.)
Mr. Crack (1910, 5 min.)
Bébé’s Masterpiece (1910, 4 min.)
Music-mania (1910, 5 min.)

Original music by Bernard Lubat

DVD 2: Jean Durand
COMEDIES
Calino’s Baptism (1911, 3 min.)
Calino Wants to Be a Cowboy (1911, 6 min.)
Zigoto and the Affair of the Necklace (1911, 8 min.)
Calino the Love Tamer (1912, 6 min.)
Zigoto’s Outing With Friends (1912, 5 min.)
Oxford vs. Martiques (1912, 4 min.)
Onésime Goes to Hell (1912, 7 min.)
Calino, Station Master (1912, 6 min.)
Onésime, Clockmaker (1912, 5 min.)
Onésime vs. Onésime (1912, 8 min.)
Zigoto Drives a Locomotive (1912, 6 min.)
Onésime Gets Maried … So Does Calino (1913, 7 min.)
Onésime: Calino’s Inheritance (1913, 1 min.)
Onésime Loves Animals (1913, 6 min.)
Onésime, Tamer of Men and Horses (1913, 13 min.)
Onésime and the Heart of a Gypsy (1913, 7 min.)
Onésime, You’ll Get Married … or Else! (1913, 7 min.)
Onésime’s Theatrical Debut (1913, 10 min.)
Onésime’s Family Drama (1914, 7 min.)

DRAMAS
The Railway of Death (1912, 17 min.)
Burning Heart: An Indian Tale (1912, 13 min.)
Under the Claw (1912, 25 min.)

SPECIAL FEATURE
Jean Durand 1882-1946
Mini-documentary, written by Pierre Philippe, recounting the career of filmmaker Jean Durand through photographs and film clips.

Music by Patrick Laviosa

DVD 3: Jacques Feyder and the Early Masters of French Cinema
JACQUES FEYDER
Heads … and Women Who Use Them (1916, 36 min.)
Friendly Advice (1916, 16 min.)*
Biscot on the Wrong Floor (1916, 15 min.)*
ROMÉO BOSETTI
The Long Arm of the Law (1909, 7 min.)
GEORGES-ANDRÉ LACROIX
The Barges (1911, 10 min.)**
ETIENNE ARNAUD
La Marseillaise (1912, 10 min.)
RENÉ LE SOMPTIER
A Drama of the Air (1913, 17 min.)
HENRI FESCOURT
Child’s Play (1913, 12 min.)
GASTON RAVEL
Feet and Hands (1915, 17 min.)
ANONYMOUS FILMS
A Factory Drama (1912, 13 min.)
The Pavements of Paris (1912, 13 min.)
The Fairy’s Farewell (n.d., 25 sec.)

Music by Patrick Laviosa, Ben Model (*), and Didier Goret (**)

SPECIAL FEATURES

PHONOSCENES (6 min.)
Three early synchronized-sound musical shorts: “Anna qu’est-ce quet’attends?,” “Chemineau chemine,” and “Le Mouchoir rouge de Cholet”

GAUMONT ACTUALITIES (14 min.)
Actualities that reveal the workings of Gaumont, including footage of founder Leon Gaumont demonstrating the operation of a motion picture camera, a hand-crank viewing device, a zoetrope, and dignitaries touring the Gaumont Studios

TRICHROMIE FILMS (12 min.)
Excerpts of Gaumont’s revolutionary full-color film process
(1913-1919)

This is a sensational collection. Here is the infant cinema already able to hold its held up as a mature medium, capable of displaying artistry of the highest order. With this and volume one of Gaumont Treasures, plus Flicker Alley’s five disc set of the works of Georges Méliès (plus an ‘encore‘ sixth disc), and the recent Spanish release of a Segundo de Chomón DVD set, we are astonishingly blessed with DVD releases of early French cinema. And there will be more – a four-disc set of the works of Albert Capellani, another director of style and vision, is promised by Pathé in May.

Parbleu!

Bioscope Newsreel no. 17

From http://www.ebk-ink.com/tsff/home.html

How can it be Friday again? Where are the days going to? Has there been any news? – I mean silent news of course, news of the inconsequential, non-life-threatening kind. Well, here’s some.

Sound of Silent Film Festival
Chicago’s Sound of Silent Film Festival describes itself “the only film festival that features modern silent films screened to live music, composed especially for the films by Chicago composers”. The festival includes works by Martin Scorsese (his bloody 1967 short film The Big Shave), Gus Van Sant, Manoel de Oliveira (the only living director to have made a silent film the first time around), Manga creator Osama Tezuka and a horror comedy created especially for the festival, which takes place April 1-3 at the Chopin Theatre. Read more.

Dante on DVD
Early Italian filmmakers loved the classics and loved spectacle. Both come together in L’inferno (1911), one of several bold attempts to put Dante on screen, notorious for its nudity, acclaimed for its Doré-inspired visual imagination and ingenious effects. It has been released on DVD by the Cineteca Bologna’s as part of its Cento anni fa series. An earlier DVD release had a score by Tangerine Dream which dividied opinion; this release comes with ambient sounds composed by Edison Studio and a piano score by Marco Dalpane. Read more.

Festival du film muet
Switzerland’s silent film festival (every country should have one) takes place in Servion, 24-27 March. Foolish Wives, Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde, Swiss title Der Bergführer, and Seven Chances are the films on show. Read more.

Toronto goes to hell
And there’s another silent film festival, this time in Toronto, taking place 30 March-7 April. Now in its second year, festival highlights include another Italian vision of hell, Maciste all’Inferno (1926), King Vidor’s The Jack Knife Man (1920), Clara Bow in It (1927), and – from the infernal regions once more – F.W. Murnau’s Faust (1927). Read more.

‘Til next time!

Thanhouser on Vimeo

As many will know, the name of the Thanhouser Film Company – a mid-ranking American company of the early cinema period – has been kept very much alive by the efforts of the Thanhouser family, with DVD releases, research and publications. Now Ned Thanhouser has gone one step further by releasing a number of Thanhouser films previously available on DVD through the Vimeo online video site.

Above, for example, is the famous The Evidence of the Film (1913). Discovered in 1999 on the floor of a Montana projection booth, it is a crime tale typical of the period made especially fascinating on acount of its filmmaking background. It has acquired the status of a classic, and in 2001 was selected inclusion in the National Film Registry by the National Film Preservation Board of the Library of Congress. It comes with original music composed and performed by Ray Brubacher.

Some fifty videos have been made available on the Thanhouser Vimeo channel over the past few weeks. They include The Voice of Conscience (1912), the five-reeler Woman in White (1917) based on Wilkie Collins’ novel, the Wagner-based Tannhäuser (1913), She (1911) with Marguerite Snow and James Cruze, a number of Shakespeare titles including The Winter’s Tale (1910), Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1912) with James Cruze in the dual role, and perhaps the most celebrated of all Thanhouser films, The Cry of the Children (1912), on child labour reform, which uses an Elizabeth Barrett Browning poem (Thanhouser was notable for its dedication towards the literary classics) to highlight the wretched living and working conditions of the contemporary poor.

Each of the videos comes with informative but not too extensive background notes, and all in all this is a bold and welcome move on Thanhouser’s part. Quite probably it’s a reaction to the several examples of these films which can be found on YouTube, which have been ripped from the DVD releases by other hands. Far better, of course, that the videos come from a legitimate source, and hopefully it will help promote DVD sales in any case and further the preservation and promotional work of the Thanhouser Company Film Preservation, Inc.

Update: There is now a page on the Thanhouser site which lists all 56 films, provides links to the videos, and supplies useful background notes. See www.thanhouser.org/videos-online.htm.

Bioscope Newsreel no. 16

http://www.chaplinmuseum.com

Raymond Griffith: A Physiognomic Appreciation
David Cairns has been writing about comedian Raymond Griffith, “the most shamefully neglected performer in Hollywood history”, both on his Shadowplay blog and and his regular ‘The Forgotten’ column for the online cinematheque site MUBI. Read more (and more here).

Master of mise-en-scène
The Wall Street Journal writes in praise of Joseph Von Sternberg and the recent Criterion three-DVD set of his silent films Underworld, The Last Command and The Docks of New York. “With pristine prints and the welcome addition of Robert Israel’s newly composed but historically informed scores, film lovers can savor the work of a great director unhindered by expressive constraints”. Read more.

San Francisco 1906 in colour
Not colour film, unfortunately, but colour images taken by inventor Frederic Ives in 1906 of the city after the earthquake have been discovered by the Smithsonian Institution (actually a year ago, but the Internet is such a slow communicator of information at times). The Bioscope has previously written about the Kromskop, which helped inspire British inventors Edward Turner and G.A. Smith working on the first colour cinematography systems. Read more.

Dovzhenko on DVD
David Parkinson at the Oxford Times enthuses eloquently over the DVD releases of Alexander Dovzhenko’s Zvenigora (1928) and Arsenal (1929). “Anyone who considers modern sound cinema to be more sophisticated than the wordless pictures made between 1895-1930 should take a look at Alexander Dovzhenko’s Zvenigora … a dazzling array of artistic theories and screen techniques to explore such diverse topics as Ukrainian mythology, Soviet industrialisation, pacifism, the beauty of the landscape and the arrogance of the European bourgeoisie”. Read more.

Chaplin trouble
The long-promised Charlie Chaplin museum, converted out of the comedian’s home in Vevey, Switzerland, is in trouble. Art Info reports of Chaplin’s World: The Modern Times Museum that “financial difficulties have led to the purchase of the house and its surrounding land by two investors with shady connections, and supporters now wonder whether or not the museum — in planning for ten years — will ever see the light of day”. Read more.

The end of times
Happier Chaplin news from Leonard Maltin, who reports on the dedicated efforts by a group of film buffs and local history enthusiasts at William S. Hart Park in Newhall, California to mark the 75th anniversary of Modern Times, the film that called an end to the American silent film era. Read more.

‘Til next time!

Bioscope Newsreel no. 15

Photograph taken filming of Hide and Seek, Detectives (1918): (L-R) unknown, Tom Kennedy, Ben Turpin, Charles ‘Heinie’ Conklin, Eddie Cline, and Marie Prevost. From Steve Rydzewski (see http://www.flickr.com/photos/wiggleyears)

Behind the scenes the Bioscope is toiling away at two or three major posts, which always take a while to research, but in the meantime here’s your regular Friday round-up of some interesting (we hope) news snippets on silent film and such like.

Cinefest 31
Syracuse’s annual convention of silent and early sound film takes place 17-20 March. Among the auctions and dealers’ tables you can see Lonesome, What Price Glory? (1927), Happiness (1917), The Hushed Hour (1919), Mannequin (1926), and much more. Read more.

National Inventors Hall of Fame
Stephen Herbert’s estimable Muy Blog (on Eadweard Muybridge) reports on the National Inventors Hall of Fame inductees for 2011. They include some major names from the worlds of photography and early film: Thomas Armat (1866-1948), for his motion picture projector, Hannibal Goodwin (1822-1900), for discovering transparent flexible nitrocellulose film, Frederick Ives (1856-1937), for innovation in colour photography, Charles F. Jenkins (1867-1934), for the projector he developed with Armat, and Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904), for stop action photography. Read more.

The Great White Blu-Ray
The British Film Institute much acclaimed restoration of Herbert Ponting’s The Great White Silence (1924), will get a Blu-Ray and DVD release in June. The film documents Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s failed attempt to be first to the South Pole. It’s also the first British silent film to make it to Blu-Ray. The dual-format package will include the 1933 re-edited sound version of Ponting’s film, Ninety Degrees South. Read more.

The Marie Prevost Project
Stacia Jones at the excellent and supremely well-named She Blogged by Night has been surveying the career of Marie Prevost in a series of posts. Her trawl through Prevost’s many lost films from the late teens brings up a marvellous array of photographs, posters, lobby cards and slides for the actress who went from Mack Sennett bathing beauty to 1920s stardom to a wretched end in the 1930s. Read more.

The hipster YouTube
Fortune magazine looks into the success story that is Vimeo, the online video site that just does everything right – and apparently invented the ‘like’ button. Proof that you can succeed in online video without recourse to theft, negativity or skateboarding dogs. Read more.

‘Til next time!

Bioscope Newsreel no. 14

Busy times continue, meaning that the Bioscope is rather just ticking over at the moment, but here are your Friday news snippets. Weighter posts will follow in good time, I promise.

Harold Lloyd in 3-D
The iconic clock-face sequence from Harold Lloyd’s Safety Last (1923) has been digitally remastered, colourised and converted to 3D, with the approval of his granddaughter Suzanne Lloyd. Says Suzanne,

The tasteful colorization and 3D conversion that Legend3D has performed on my grandfather’s Safety Last clip has given it new life. Harold Lloyd’s film masterpiece from 1923 has been updated for audiences old and new, preserving the magic and dignity of the original film.

Some may beg to differ. Read more.

Our Hospitality on Blu-Ray
New from Kino next month will be the Bioscope’s favourite Buster Keaton film, Our Hospitality (1923), on Blu-Ray and a special 2-disc DVD edition. It comes with a Carl Davis score performed by the Thames Silent Orchestra and a score compiled by Donald Hunsberger. It follows on the heels of Kino’s Blu-Ray releases of The General, Steamboat Bill Jr., Sherlock Jr. and The Three Ages. Read more.

Scotland’s first Hollywood star
A feature film is to be made of the life of Cissie Loftus, Scottish stage actress whose success in America led to the leading role in the film A Lady Of Quality (1913) and a long career on stage and occasionally on film (her last film was The Black Cat in 1941), though with a tragic personal life. Read more.

The death of 16mm
Filmmaker Tacia Dean in The Guardian bemoans the end of professional 16mm printing in the UK with the closure of Soho Film Lab’s printing services. “Many of us are exhausted from grieving over the dismantling of analogue technologies. Digital is not better than analogue, but different. What we are asking for is co-existence.” Read more.

‘Til next time!

Max and the girls

Max Davidson in Why Girls Say No (1927)

The Bioscope is going to try and devote more attention to new DVDs and new print publications in our field. But will we have any more welcome a title to announce than the latest offering from Germany’s Edition Filmmuseum, due out in February? It’s Max Davidson Comedies, a collection of twelve comedy shorts (two of them talkies) on a 2-disc set. Davidson was a Hollywood supporting actor who enjoyed a brief period as a star attraction when he appeared in a series of comedies made in the late 1920s for Hal Roach Studios. His speciality was Jewish humour, and though some have expressed doubts about the durability of such ethnic humour, the exuberant freshness of Davidson’s comedy, coupled with a knowing sense of the world’s follies which gives him a particularly modern appeal, have made Davidson a great festival favourite. Titles such as the sublime Pass the Gravy (a strong candidate for funniest silent comedy short of them all) and the gloriously named Jewish Prudence are essential viewing and a tonic for our tired times.

The full list of titles is:

DVD 1
* Why Girls Say No 1927, 22′
* Jewish Prudence 1927, 21′
* Don’t Tell Everything 1927, 22′
* Should Second Husbands Come First? 1927, 21′
* Flaming Fathers 1927, 24′
* Hurdy Gurdy 1929, 20′

DVD 2
* Call of the Cuckoo 1927, 19′
* Love ’em and Feed ’em 1927, 9′, tinted
* Pass the Gravy 1928, 25′
* Dumb Daddies 1928, 15′
* Came the Dawn 1928, 17′, tinted
* The Boy Friend 1928, 19′
* The Itching Hour 1931, 18′

The films features new scores by Joachim Bärenz, Christian Roderburg and Stephen Horne, a 20-page bilingual Booklet with essays by Richard W. Bann, Steve Massa, Stewart Tryster and Stefan Drössler, and copies of scripts, cutting continuities, stills and lobby cards of all the lost Max Davidson comedies as additional DVD-ROM features. The PAL DVD is region 0, with German or English titles.

While we’re here, we ought also to mention an Edition Filmmuseum release from last month, Female Comedy Teams. This shows the efforts made by Hal Roach Studios in the late 20s and early 30s to create female comedy duos, such as Anita Garvin and Marion Byron, Thelma Todd and ZaSu Pitts, and Thelma Todd with Patsy Kelly. The 2-disc set contains films that are mostly new to me, and I’m certainly very keen to see Garvin and Byron’s A Pair of Tights (1929), confidently described on the site as “one of the greatest silent two reel comedies ever done”.

Just the first two films on the disc (both Garvin and Byron) are silent, but in our new expansive spirit we’ll acknowledge the existence of the Thelma Todd sound shorts as well. The full list of titles is:

DVD 1
* Feed ’em and Weep 1928, 16′ (Garvin & Byron) [New score by Günter A. Buchwald (piano & violin)]
* A Pair of Tights 1929, 19′ (Garvin & Byron) [New scores by Joachim Bärenz (piano) and Christian Roderburg (percussion)]
* The Pajama Party 1931, 20′ (Todd & Pitts)
* On the Loose 1931, 20′ (Todd & Pitts)
* Show Business 1932, 19′ (Todd & Pitts)
* Asleep in the Feet 1933, 18′ (Todd & Pitts)
* Work in Progress: The Restoration of GOING GA-GA 5′

DVD 2
* The Bargain of the Century 1933, 19′ (Todd & Pitts)
* Beauty and the Bus 1933, 17′ (Todd & Kelly)
* Babes in the Goods 1934, 19′ (Todd & Kelly)
* Maid in Hollywood 1934, 19′ (Todd & Kelly)
* The Misses Stooge 1935, 18′ (Todd & Kelly)
* Top Flat 1935, 19′ (Todd & Kelly)

There is a 20-page bilingual booklet with essays by Anke Sterneborg, Dave Stevenson and Cole Johnson, and a DVD-ROM section with further essays, documents and stills. Again, it’s a PAL DVD, region 0, with German or English titles.

Trailers for both DVDs can be viewed on the Edition Filmmuseum site.

The genius of Segundo de Chomón

Une Excursion Incohérente (1909)

For some while we have been bemoaning the lack of a DVD of the work of Segundo de Chomón, the brilliant Spanish trick filmmaker from the 1900s period, whose work is frequently compared to that of Georges Méliès. Examples of his work ripped from a VHS of unclear history can be found online in assorted places, but at last we can report the publication of an official DVD, Segundo de Chomón, el cine de la fantasía.

Produced by the FilmoTeca de Catalunya, and with films taken from the collections of the BFI, CNC Archives du Film, Eye, La Cineteca del Friuli and others, the multi-region DVD contains 31 titles (144 minutes of film), with an original music score by Joan Pineda. There is a booklet, Segundo de Chomón: Más allá del cine de las atracciones 1902-1912, written by Joan M. Minguet, author of the main work on de Chomón, Segundo Chomón. El cinema de la fascinació (2009). There are subtitles available in Catalan, Spanish and English.

The films are:

Los Héroes del Sitio de Zaragoza (1905)
L’Hereu de Can Pruna (1904)
Barcelone, Parc au Crépuscle (1904)
Le Roi de Dollars (1905)
Plongeur Fantastique (1905)
Ah! La Barbe (1905)
Les Cent Trucs (1906)
Le Courant Électrique (1906)
L’Antre de la Sorcière (1906)
Le Spectre Rouge (1907)
La Boîte à Cigars (1907)
Les Oeufs de Pâques (1907)
Sculpteur Express (1907)
Les Tulipes (1907)
En Avant la Musique (1907)
Kiriki, Acrobates Japonais (1907)
La Maison Ensorcelée (1907)
Les Lunatiques (1908)
Les Papillons Japonais (1908)
L’Insaisissable Pickpocket (1908)
Création de la Serpentine (1908)
Electric Hôtel (1908)
Le Petit Poucet (1909)
Le Voleur Invisible (1909)
Voyage sur Jupiter (1909)
Le Théatre Electrique de Bob (1909)
Une Excursion Incohérente (1910)
Gérone, la Venise Espagnole (1912)
Superstition Andalouse (1912)
Métamorphoses (1912)
Barcelone, Principale Ville de la Catalogne (1912)

Segundo de Chomón (1871-1929) became involved in film through his wife, who was an actress in Pathé films. In 1902 he became a concessionary for Pathé in Barcelona, distributing its product in Spanish-speaking countries, and managing a factory for the colouring of Pathé films. He began shooting actuality films of Spanish locations for the company, then 1905 moved to Paris where he became a trick film specialist. The body of work he created over five years was outstanding. Films such as Le Spectre Rouge, Kiriki – Acrobates Japonais, Le Voleur Invisible and Une Excursion Incohérente are among the most imaginative and technically accomplished of their age. De Chomón created fantastical narratives embellished with ingenious effects, gorgeous colour, innovative hand-drawn and puppet animation, tricks of the eye that surprise and delight, and startling turns of surreal imagination (see, for example, the worms that crawl out of a chocolate cake in Une Excursion Incohérente, one of a number of films where visitors or tourists are beset by nightmarish haunted buildings, a favourite de Chomón theme).

It is curious why he is not generally known as one of the early cinema masters, except among the cognoscenti in the field. Perhaps it is because there is a smaller body of work than that created by Georges Méliès (his works can perhaps be described as a cross between that of Méliès and another who combined trickery with animation, Emile Cohl); perhaps it is because he was a Spaniard working in France for the key part of his film career that has meant that neither side has championed him as much as they might have done. De Chomón carried on as a filmmaker, specialising in trick effects, working for Pathé, Itala and others, and contributing effect work to two of the most notable films of the silent era, Pastrone’s Cabiria (1914) and Abel Gance’s Napoléon (1927). Perhaps the publication of Segundo de Chomón, el cine de la fantasía will bring hilm back into the spotlight that his genius undoubtedly merits.

Le Théatre Electrique de Bob (Bob’s Electric Theatre), from UCLA’s YouTube channel, where it is dated 1906 though this is apparently the 1909 version of the film also on the DVD (see UCLA’s Silent Animation site)

Another example of Segundo de Chomón’s work to be found legitimately online is on the Europa Film Treasures site, the ingenious Les Kiriki – Acrobates japonais (1907).

(A question to those who might know – the DVD seems to be derived from the earlier VHS set, maybe from the 1980s, examples of which you can find draped all over YouTube. Can anyone confirm this?)