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Accidentally Preserved Volume 4

Undercrank Productions // Unrated // November 15, 2016
List Price: $19.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by John Sinnott | posted November 12, 2016 | E-mail the Author
The Shorts:



Undercrank Productions has gone back to the vaults once again and
has emerged with Accidentally Preserved Volume Four. The
series presents movies that only exist thanks to the home market,
movies that were sold (or rented) directly to consumers on smaller
(and therefore less expensive) gauge film. Sometimes these reduction
prints are the only versions that survive, with no examples to be
found in film archives around the world. This time the disc presents
eight movies that only exist on 9.5mm prints. While these offer less
resolution that 16mm the images are still clear and all of the films
presented here look decent.



While the 9.5mm film was never a leading format in the US, they were
very popular in Europe and England. Since three strips of 9.5mm
could be derived from a single reel of 35mm film, the larger gauge
film was used to imprint three side-by-side images, processed, and
then cut to save on costs. The perforations were added in between
the frames rather than on the side.



The shorts included in this collection are:



Nonsense (1920) - this is the type of silent short where they come
up with a bunch of gags and drape a plot. Two farm hands are vying
for the attention of a beautiful young lady and start to fight. (One
of them even encases his opponent in a bale of hay, pours gasoline
on it, and then sets the whole thing on fire. They're serious about
this gal.) But it's all for naught: The local crook, an older,
heavyset man, manages to sweet talk the lady into running off with
him by promising her a lavish life of luxury. The reality is quite
different though, and her two suitors take off to save her from a
life of being a dance hall girl. There's something about an
inheritance too, but they seem to have forgotten about that by the
end of the picture.



This is a typical silent comedy short, with some decent gags and a
few laughs. The one part the interested me the most was a fairly
standard bit that was filmed incorrectly. At one point one of the
two rivals is at the top of a ladder and his opponent pushes it
over. The man on the ladder lands on the roof of a nearby building.
This is a gag that's in a lot of shorts, but they always undercrank
the camera so that the action looks faster when projected. The
cameraman forgot to do that in this case, and you can see the man
and ladder slowly being lowered onto the roof. It was a treat to see
this standard joke running in real time.




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The Ninety and Nine (1922) - I was excited to discover that there
was an early Colleen Moore film on this disc. I'm a big fan of the
actress and a lot of her work is lost. Unfortunately this really
isn't enough to evaluate her performance since this version cuts the
seven reels down to one, mainly preserving the exciting last-minute
rescue at the end. There is some introductory text screens that
explain the plot (it's impossible understand in this abridgement
without them) but this shortened version lacks the emotional impact
of the rescue since viewers don't really know who any of the
characters are. The full version of the movie still exists, and this
would be an interesting extra if it that were to ever be released to
home video.



Meet Father (1924) - This one-reel comedy stars Bobby Ray, a
one-time child actor who was able to continue working in front of
the camera as an adult. Here he plays a bookish man who has to win
the approval of his girlfriend's father before they can be married.
The father has his eye on a boxing champion as the perfect
son-in-law, so Bobby tries to learn the art of self-defense from a
book. It doesn't go as well as he was hoping.



The Wages of Tin (1925) - an amusing comedy starring Glenn Tryon.
Another man who wants to impress his girl, Glenn decides to rent an
automobile and take the young lady for a ride. So, like Bobby Ray in
the previous short, he gets a book and tries to figure out how to
operate a car. There's a great scene where he arrives at the rental
place and the proprietor, realizing that Glenn has never driven in
his life, has one of his assistants give Glenn a two-minute lesson
before turning him loose on the streets. A nice one-reeler.



The Tides of Passion (1925) - Mae Marsh stars in this two-reel
edition a lost seven-reel feature. While the plot is more or less
intact, it can be a bit hard to follow in places. The story revolves
around a soldier who gets shipped off to India, leaving his wife
(Marsh) at home. While away the man starts fooling around with women
and gets into all sorts of trouble. It's a nice drama, and I imagine
the full version has more impact. This was Mae Marsh's last silent
film.



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A Man's Size Pet (1926) - This two-reel comedy has a western
setting... something you don't see too often. A pair of ranch hands
compete for the attention of the same girl, while trying to avoid
her pet... a black bear.



Walter's Paying Policy (1926) - A comedian by the name of Walter
Forde stars in this British two-reel comedy that can't quite avoid
some of the more common pitfalls that the best silent shorts
sidestep. Walter and his coworker, Paderewski, are employed by the
Busy Bee Insurance Co. (motto: You will not be stung by Busy Bee).
When the boss reads that a local businessman, Max Gruff, has
purchased "the world's most famous vase," he decrees that whoever
can get the policy to insure the antique will get a promotion.
Walter and Paderewski scamper off to Gruff's office, but he does not
believe in having insurance at all, so it's a bit of a difficult
sale.



The reason this film isn't more successful is because there's little
internal logic, it's just a series of gags. In the first reel Walter
and Paderewski spend all of their time trying to get into Gruff's
office. They use some creative and cleaver techniques, but once they
get in (and they do several times) the same thing happens: the
salesman presents his business card, Gruff tears it up, and throws
the man out. Rinse and repeat. The third or fourth time this happens
you start to wonder why they don't realize that handing him a card
just won't work. Later the story shift's to Gruff's house, where the
two insurance agents gain access by dressing up as a window washer
and painter. Where do they get the uniforms? They are literally
lying on the ground outside the house. Why are they there? Who
knows? In a Lloyd or Keaton comedy, and especially Chaplin's, there
would be a reason for the uniforms to be there and the comedians
would have a plan once they got to meet Gruff. They were tightly
scripted, something this (and in all honestly, a lot of silent and
sound shorts) was not.



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'Morning, Judge (1926) - the set ends on a high note with this
madcap comedy from the "Carrie of the Chorus" series starring former
Ziegfeld girl Peggy Shaw. It also features comedians Flora Finch and
Joe Burke and was directed by none other than Dave Fleischer (of
Koko the Clown and Betty Boop fame). In this tale a local theater is
shut down by a temperance group, and one of the stage hands invites
the chorus girls to stay at his father's house until it can reopen.
After all, his mother (the leader of the group that shut down the
theater) is going to be away at a national convention. Unfortunately
the mother returns early to find her husband with a house full of
scantily clad woman, and a wanted criminal breaks in after hearing
that the group's funds are stored in the same house. Chaos ensues.
The scenes at the end with the volunteer fire department, obviously
patterned after the Keystone Cops are hilarious.



The DVD:





Audio:



The audio accompanying these films is just as good as the soundtrack
on the first three volumes. If you've ever seen a silent film with
random music played over it (as public domain publishers often do)
you'll know how much a good score adds to the viewing experience.
Ben Model provides the music for these shorts, from scores he
composed, and they are great. These tracks fit the subject matter
and the music (preformed on both organ and piano) really helps to
bring the films to life. There are no dropouts or other audio
defects.



Video:



These are exceedingly rare movies, some of them from the only print
in existence, but the image quality is generally good. Since these
are all sourced from 9.5mm film, the unrestored picture is not as
sharp or detailed as even 16mm, to say nothing of 35mm. The contrast
varies but is overall fine but there is some print damage in the
form of scratches and dirt on most of the films. Even so, these
movies are not hard on the eyes.



Extras:



None.



Final Thoughts:



While I have to admit that this volume was a bit more hit-or-miss
than the previous installments, Accidentally Preserved Volume Four
is another great collection of rare and exceedingly hard to find
shorts. There are some real gems in this collection and it is well
worth checking out. Recommended.


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