Gift guide


More Treasures From American Film Archives 1894-1931

National Film Preservation Foundation, $79.95

The National Film Preservation Foundation is no dummy. After an almost 10-hour free fall through three DVDs' worth of film that has never been available in the U.S. in any commercial format, "Trailers for Lost Films (1923-1928), 10 Minutes" plunges the saber in one last time. Remaining films from the Twenties: 20%; from the teens: 10%. Particularly heartrending is the handsome trailer from Ernst Lubitsch's 1928 Emil Jannings epic, The Patriot. "This film does not survive." Such a lonely pronouncement is only amplified by Lubitsch's masterful Lady Windermere's Fan being the centerpiece of this fascinating film history compendium. Volume one, 2000's Treasures From American Film Archives DVD box set, also collected 50 unseen films from the climate-controlled vaults of the UCLA Film and Television Archive, the Library of Congress, and New York's Museum of Modern Art, among others – some feature-length, others as brief as 15 seconds. "Dickson Experimental Sound Film" (1894), the initial synchronization of sound and picture, clocks in at the latter run time and, according to thorough (and legible) onscreen notes, plus consistently lively commentary from a team of film experts, remains the first instance of a director directing himself. In fact, W.K.L. Dickson directed at least 80 short films for the (Thomas) Edison Manufacturing Company. Twenty seconds of Annie Oakley and her rifle also from 1894, 14 pastoral minutes of D.W. Griffith's "The Country Doctor," and 1910's silent debut of "The Wonderful World of Oz" – compressed into 13 dreamy minutes – prep "The Invaders" (1912), a gripping Western possibly ghost-directed by John Ford. A five-minute soundie of George Bernard Shaw wraps disc one. The second shakes out turn-of-the-century street life, propaganda, newsreels, and 74 minutes from Twenties box office king, Rin-Tin-Tin ("Clash of the Wolves"). "Gus Visser and His Singing Duck" likely had little use for German shepherds. Eddie Cantor schtick (1923), Alice Guy Blanche's deadly "Falling Leaves," and Zora Neale Hurston's jaw-dropping "Fieldwork Footage" highlight disc three with 88 minutes of Lady Windermere's Fan (1925), a silent adaptation of Oscar Wilde that crackles with visual acuity, economy of style, and that singular Lubitsch touch that will hopefully survive us all.

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