This is the fifth collection of rare, vintage movies from the National Film Preservation Foundation in their ongoing TREASURES series and it is one of their very best. If you are at all interested in not only the Western genre but the in the Old West itself, then you owe it to yourself to purchase this set. Not only does it aid in funding future film preservation but it gives you the opportunity to see some old friends and some genuine rarities. In the old friends category, if you're familiar with silent films, we have Clara Bow, Tom Mix, Richard Dix and Broncho Billy Anderson. A pristine print of Victor Fleming's MANTRAP (1926), the film Clara Bow made just before IT made her a superstar, shows the 21 year old off to good advantage as a Minneapolis manicurist who goes out West with one man and becomes involved with another. Then there's WOMANHANDLED (1925) with silent leading man Richard Dix where the title says it all. Other features with forgotten pre-Hollywood performers include THE LADY OF THE DUGOUT (1918), AMMUNITION SMUGGLING ON THE MEXICAN BORDER (1914), and SALOMY JANE also from 1914.
As good as the features are, the real treasures here are the short features that include BRONCHO BILLY AND THE SCHOOLMISTRESS (1912), Biograph's THE TOURISTS (1912) with an 18 year old Mabel Normand, and Thomas Ince's astonishing 1914 pro-Native American drama LAST OF THE LINE (PRIDE OF RACE) with Sessue Hayakawa. In addition to these are recent discoveries from the New Zealand Film Archives, newsreels involving the changing face of the Old West, and the remarkable early color advertisement film SUNSHINE GATHERERS (1921) which showcases sunny California and Del Monte brand canned fruits. It's a history lesson (revisionist in some cases), a cinematic trip back in time to a vanished landscape, and an opportunity to see some well known silent performers early in their careers. As is always the case with the NFPF TREASURES series, the prints are top quality (though not always perfect) with excellent commentary available separately and suitable newly recorded background scores. To top it off there's a 110 page booklet chock full of fascinating details. A must for any film buff especially those of you interested in the history of cinema.