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Treasures from American Film Archives: Encore Edition

Mel Blanc , Verner Clarges , A.C. Abadie , Carol Lynn    NR (Not Rated)   DVD
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)

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It may look like a grab bag at first--50 preserved films from 18 American archives spanning the years 1893 to 1985 and encompassing everything from documentaries and home movies to experimental films and animation--but this unprecedented collection has a clear focus. It celebrates the scope and wealth of cinema history's "orphans," the films abandoned by the marketplace and left to nonprofit organizations to rescue. This is the proof of their efforts, and only a tiny, tantalizing example of what has been preserved. The "stars" of the set are the features: the startlingly savage 1916 William S. Hart Western Hell's Hinges and the luscious 1922 two-strip Technicolor feature The Toll of the Sea (the first color feature ever made) with Anna May Wong. Also included are The Chechahcos from 1924 (the first film ever shot in Alaska) and the extravagant (if stagy) original 1916 Snow White. John Huston's stunning documentary The Battle of San Pietro and Joseph Cornell's obscure but entrancing 1936 surrealist classic Rose Hobart are further highlights.

But there are wonders to be found throughout the collection, from a trip through Interior New York Subway circa 1905, to the gorgeous avant-garde 1928 The Fall of the House of Usher, to the only film of Orson Welles's legendary 1936 Haiti-set stage production of Macbeth in the 1937 documentary We Work Again. The breadth of work is astounding and all of it is fascinating, whether it's a revealing glimpse of a forgotten social landscape in a home movie; the preservation of theater, dance, and concert recitals in one-of-a-kind records; or an ancient work of pioneering cinema.

The four-disc set is handsomely designed, with easy-to-navigate menus featuring extensive notes and short documentaries about each archive (narrated by Laurence Fishburne), and a detailed, informative 150-page booklet accompanies the set. It's a one-of-a-kind project and a true film treasure. --Sean Axmaker


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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars The Bureaucrat's Delight May 11 2003
Format:DVD
This is just about the most disappointing DVD purchase I've made. To say that is not to detract from the goal of preserving and presenting rarely seen, non-Hollywood projects. Most of the items in these eleven plus hours are passably interesting, and several are more than that. Still, the label "treasures" suggests a qualitative richness that simply isn't there, for the good reason that the selection criteria were obviously political, not aesthetic.
By "political" I mean that the goal clearly was to demonstrate the breadth (or, if you must, the "diversity") of American film culture, rather than presenting the best the participating archives had in their collections. So we get standard narratives, experimental shorts, home movies, propaganda, ethnic cinema, records of theatrical performances and documentaries, but what we for the most part do not get is a collection of outstanding films. You can practically feel the politically correct clerks checking off their demographic lists to be certain the collection is "inclusive." The bland results are the perfect bureaucratic solution: the discs won't offend anyone.
Some of the films are more famous than others, such as D.W. Griffith's short "The Lonedale Operator" or John Huston's "The Battle of San Pietro." Even these are not necessarily the filmmakers' best work, however, although it is nice to have copies of them for analytical purposes. The less well-known works vary widely in quality and interest. Many seem to have been included just because they are "rare." Rarity does not necessarily imply value, however. (Maybe I should apply for a National Endowment of the Arts grant to preserve *my* home movies.)
The navigation is simple, devoid of the gimmicks that can make DVDs more obnoxious than entertaining.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Slices of Film History Preserved on DVD July 22 2002
Format:DVD
This is the first review I am writing for amazon because I want to praise a great collection. Yes, there are many "slice-of-life" clips, that once you watch them, you may ask yourself: "Why bother?"
There are many reasons. If you view films as merely an entertaining diversion at best, then this is not the set for you... If you want to see different styles of filmmaking through different periods of history with differing motives, equipment, and budgets, then get ready for a great ride. You are presented with amateurs, professionals, auteurs, and the casual filmmaker, but all of them took their craft seriously enough to warrant being included in this set.
"Rose Hobart" is amazing. "Fall of the House of Usher" is very innovative. "Hell's Hinges" is one of the most straightforward portrayals of redemption I have ever seen with the greatest pre-John Wayne Western actor/director: William S. Hart. "Battle of San Pietro" is an interesting look at John Huston looking at war while making a government film. The Groucho Marx home movie is fun. The films which show life in the early part of the century are priceless.
Laurence Fishburne's commentary on the archive houses is respectful and informative. A fine choice to document the hard work and dedication of these restoration organizations.
A Final Note, There is a film on this collection called "Battery" which is an experimental film melding line animation with photography, and it uses battery park and the world trade center as its backdrop. The music for the film is very compelling, and the shots of an empty battery park with the twin towers appearing obfuscated by trees gave me goosebumps in this post 9/11 world. A very compelling short film...
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4.0 out of 5 stars A real treasure. Oct. 9 2001
Format:DVD
The "Nation Film Preservation" was founded back in 1997 and consists of 18 film archives from all around the US. This box set of 4 DVDs contains no less than 50 preserved films, most of them silent, but also rare documentaries, like a film about the "Hindenburg" (which let us take a peek into the airship's dining room and the cockpit, and we also learn that the "Hindenburg" needed 59 hrs. for an average flight from Frankfurt to New Jersey !).
There is a lot of of curious stuff like Groucho Marx's Home Movies (!) for example, or a very early version of "Snow White from 1916 complete with green (!!) dwarfes, or an awafully dated William S.Hart western called "Hell's Hinges" (which was co-directed by its star !).
But its not all like that. "Treasures" also contains some utterly important films, like Scott Bartlett's pioneering avantgarde film "OffOn", and a short documentary called "The Wall" (about the building of the Berlin wall), which was never before seen in the US, or Joseph Cornell's wonderful, but also very rarely shown "Rose Hobart" (the great, great grandfather of the video clip !).
This set comes along with a 150 page booklet, in which you can research all the informations you need about the preserved films (you can also switch to the DVD menue for a narrated presentation of each one of the film archives.). It contains also notes about film preservation itself, as well as information about the musical accompaniments. And there we have the only flaw of the entire set: the muscial accompaniments of the silent pictures !
They are consisting only of piano music, which is, by any means, not very varied and at times terribly boring.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A real treasure.
The "Nation Film Preservation" was founded back in 1997 and consists of 18 film archives from all around the US. Read more
Published on Oct. 9 2001 by "verill"
3.0 out of 5 stars Rent (If You Can); Don't Buy
This is a somewhat risky set to buy. Of the twelve or so hours available, I find very little to recommend to anyone. Read more
Published on Oct. 1 2001 by gov
3.0 out of 5 stars Somewhat interesting but....
This collection is a little bit strange. It sounds like it should be both fascinating to watch as well as an important historical document. Read more
Published on Aug. 21 2001 by Guy
5.0 out of 5 stars Dude, where's my mom?
I bought this for my mother for mother's day. She loved it. My mommy wouldn't get off the couch for a several nights. Read more
Published on July 4 2001 by MegaMegaWhiteThing!
2.0 out of 5 stars This is a Shell of a "Set"
How does this set represent film history? I wasted my money. I want my money back.
Published on April 16 2001
5.0 out of 5 stars Get out your credit card.
I have never added my opinion to Amazon before, but I feel moved to do so after watching this DVD set, which is worth every penny you'll pay for it (and some of which goes to... Read more
Published on April 13 2001 by Michael E. Barrett
5.0 out of 5 stars rob giampietro is an italian god
such distractions from the multifarious stereo cacophony in my mind cannot be ingnored or ignobled. films, yes. Read more
Published on Feb. 13 2001 by adam dehavenon
5.0 out of 5 stars A form of time travel for lovers of film and history
The majority of this deluxe boxed set is devoted to early silent films. I do not consider myself a particular fan of silent films, and yet most of these I found to be wonderful. Read more
Published on Nov. 27 2000 by Culbert Laney
5.0 out of 5 stars "Treasures" set is NOT region encoded
Just to correct the misimpression in Christoph Berner's review below: The "Treasures from American Film Archives" DVD set is NOT region encoded. That was just an Amazon error. Read more
Published on Oct. 17 2000 by Scott
5.0 out of 5 stars 5 Stars, but Europeans cannot watch it!!!!!!!
Well, for a silent film fan this content must be truly exciting. But for no good reason the DVD was released with a Region 1 encoding, virtually ignoring DVD viewers in Europe, who... Read more
Published on Oct. 16 2000 by Christoph Berner
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