Treasures from American Film Archives: 50 Preserved Films (1895-1985, 2000)
Worldcat Link for Inter-Library Loan: http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/45184522
Released by: Image Entertainment
Although it’s out of print, a number of libraries (738, according to Worldcat) have at least one or two volumes on their shelves, and used copies turn up on the internet as well. This is a really wonderful collection of rare American movies that are held in a variety of archives and film collections across the country. I’ve used them for a few recent reviews (“Hell’s Hinges,” “The Dog Factory,” and “Snow White”) and there will be others in coming months and years. The movies are truly diverse, and only a few are readily available elsewhere. The quality is very good, with restored Intertitles and tinting on a number of the longer movies. Not all of the films are silent, but many are, and these are accompanied by piano scores from Martin Marks, who does quite well and occasionally sneaks another instrument in where needed. The whole thing comes with a really excellent informational booklet that discusses each film’s historical context, the music, and the preservation, as well as further sources of information. There’s also an index by archive and contact information for the archives. Indeed, this is one of the most “archives-friendly” collections you’ll ever find, because it includes a brief description of each collection as a bonus feature with every movie! I got a kick out of the fact that it described both of the libraries my parents worked at as well as the Anthology Film Archives in New York, where I have attended a few screenings.
I mentioned the diversity of the films. In addition to the usual narrative dramas and comedies, whose titles you may know, there are also more obscure/ephemeral types of film represented. These include newsreels, army education/propaganda films, amateur and home movies, and art films. One that stands out is John Huston’s “The Battle of San Pietro,” a propaganda film that was never shown because army brass felt it was anti-war (Huston reputedly replied that if he ever made a movie that was for war, he should be taken out and shot). Also exciting is the government-produced movie about the Berlin Wall, made to be shown to audiences in the Soviet Bloc but actually illegal to screen for Americans during the Cold War, lest the government propagandize their own citizens. A poignant moment comes with home movie footage of Japanese American communities in the late 1920s, and similarly touching is footage of some of the stars of the “Negro Leagues” warming up for a ball game. But, really, each of these movies is a gem, and the collection as whole lives up to its claim to be a treasure trove.