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Accidentally Preserved: volume 3

Undercrank Productions // Unrated // September 17, 2015
List Price: $19.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by John Sinnott | posted October 3, 2015 | E-mail the Author
The Shorts:

After reviewing Accidentally Preserved Volume One and Volume Two and loving both sets, I was very excited to hear that a third edition was in the works. Undercrank Productions has just released Accidentally Preserved Volume Three and it's just as enjoyable and fun as the first two. Filled with very rare silent era shorts with fine accompaniment, the set includes nine silent short featuring rarely seen stars such as Joe Rock and Jack Duffy.

This set starts off with a short from Mr. &Mrs. Sidney Drew, Wanted, A Nurse. When a gentleman encounters an attractive nurse aiding an ill man on the street, he can't get her out of his mind, so he fakes an illness to get admitted to the hospital in hopes of seeing her again. Unfortunately, the nurses he encounters are not nearly as enticing as the girl of his dreams. Made in 1915, this isn't a slapstick knockabout film that accounts for so much of the output at that time, rather a situation comedy. It has a lot in common with the sitcoms you'd see on TV today, including a need to suspend your disbelief of the premise. Even so, it's a light enjoyable film.

Service a la Bunk is a Bobby Ray vehicle from 1921. He plays a cook in a diner where nothing seems to go right. There are some clever gags, I especially liked the little pedal car he drove, and though it was produced by the company Tusun it has the feel of a Keystone comedy. There's a lot of slapstick and it ends with a chase, and there are some good laughs throughout the film.

My favorite film on the disc is the wonderfully hilarious, and unidentified, A Citrate Special. This short, which seems to be a gag that some studio made for fun rather than for wide distribution, concerns a poor prop man who has trouble keeping a bowl of apples filled on the set, since everyone keeps stealing them. His solution: inject them with castor oil so that whoever eats them gets a case of diarrhea. Unfortunately, the director of the film is the first one to snag an apple, and he spends the rest of this short trying to find a place to use the bathroom. Rather risque for the times, it's still funny today for those, like me, who appreciate low-brow humor.

Joe Rock made comedy shorts in the teens, but he's best remembered as a producer. Rock stared Stan Laurel in a series of two reelers that brought him to the attention of Hal Roach, and created a forgotten yet funny comedy team, The Ton of Fun. He also produced and starred in this film, The Whirlwind (1922). Rock plays a traveling salesman who literally blows into a small town. The village is plagued by incredibly high winds that are constantly blowing. Smitten by a local lass, Rock wants to marry her but the girl's father forbids the match... unless Joe can stop the winds. This is a very cute film with some elegant, if simple, special effects. The mayhem caused by the wind is illustrated by filming those scenes in reverse so it looks like people are rolling up hill and that they're being blown up on top of buildings. It works well in the context of a comedy and adds a lot to the film.

The next film, No Vacancies (1923) is one of those comedies where they throw everything into the mix and hope that something captures the audience's fancy. One of the funniest aspects is the fact that there are so many plots going in the film: a man and wife are looking for a place to live, a hotel manager has to deal with incompetent employees, and a hen-pecked husband deals with his overbearing wife. Add in a lecherous old man (Jack Duffy) and a piano that crashes through walls and you've got a madcap film. Each of the competing plots gets a couple of gags, and then they all intersect nicely at the end. While it does feel like the writers pieced together scenes that were cut from other films, it's still an interesting short.

Fans of the old Blondie movies will enjoy seeing Arthur Lake (who played the hapless Dagwood Bumstead in the long-running film series as well as in the Blondie TV show) in an early comedy, Whose Baby? (1929). When Horace (Arthur Lake) scores a date with Betty (Gertrude Messinger) he's excited, but things go badly when he's asked to hold a baby for a few minutes by an overloaded mother while waiting for her. Betty sees Horace with a child and assumes the worst. The young lad tries to get rid of the baby before rushing after the object of his affections, but that's easier said than done. A funny film that really works well.

A highlight of this volume is the last film in the collection, the second (of two) reel from Half a Hero (1928) staring a very, very young Billy Barty (Willow, Legend, and many, many others). Though the first reel is missing, this starts just when the action is getting hot and it's easy to understand what's going on: two gypsies are trying to steal a horse, and Billy's mother is locked up after she tries to stop them. It is up to the four-year-old and his sister, with the help of a couple of monkeys and a dog, to save her and foil the robbers. It's easy to see why Barty was cast in the lead, he's not only incredibly cute, but has a lot of pluck as well as stage presence. This is a really great film, and I hope the first reel is discovered someday soon. 

There's even more in this great collection. Anne Cornwall stars in Love's Young Scream (1928) and the Big Boy short, Hot Luck, are also included.

The DVD:


The audio accompanying these films is just as good as the soundtrack on the first two 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.


These are exceedingly rare movies, some of them from the only print in existence, but the image quality is surprisingly good. There are some scratches and dirt, and sometimes the detail isn't as sharp as it could be, but these defects never detract from watching the films. Taken from 16mm prints, the picture has good contrast in general and is easy on the eyes overall.



Final Thoughts:

This is another great collection of rare and exceedingly hard to find shorts, often taken from the only surviving print that is in the hands of private collectors. Not only are these silent shorts rare, they are a lot of fun too. All of them are at Highly Recommended.

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Highly Recommended

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