What were your favorite silent film finds of 2017? (Books, movies, music)

We’re going to be a bit materialistic this time around. We’ve talked about silent film experiences, now let’s discuss some of the THINGS that we love. Specifically, is there a silent-related book, home video release or album that you were particularly excited to obtain?

There were so many amazing releases this year that it’s difficult to narrow it down but I think I am most thrilled to own the four-disc set Kafka Goes to the Movies released by Edition Filmmuseum. (It is a “joint project of film archives and cultural institutions in the German-speaking part of Europe” and has released some awesome sets.)

I am still burrowing into its contents but the idea of using archival holdings to act as a companion to Hanns Zischler’s book of the same title is brilliant and nerdy. Franz Kafka was an avid moviegoer, you see, and wrote about his experiences at the theater. His writings gives us a window into the viewing habits of Europeans during the silent era, a combination of local productions and Hollywood fare. You can order a copy here.

By the way, the people at Edition Filmmuseum were super nice and helpful (I had a little trouble getting my PayPal account to cooperate at checkout) with the order and the discs arrived very quickly. (I’ll be digging into the contents next spring as I will be dedicating an entire month to it and you’re welcome to watch along with me.)

What were your favorite treasures this year? If your picks are on the obscure side, please be sure to let everyone know where it can be purchased. (Obviously, this may not be possible if you received the item as a gift.)

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26 Replies to “What were your favorite silent film finds of 2017? (Books, movies, music)”

  1. I saw Pola Negri in The Spanish Dancer at the LOC Packard Campus. The plot was predictable, but well played by Negri, Antonio Moreno, Kathlyn Williams, and Adolphe Menjou. The restoration was gorgeous and brought the large scale production to life. I bought Beggars of Life. The crisp image allowed me to appreciate that Brooks was actually a pretty good actress. I purchased the BFI Napoleon, and finally got to see what all the fuss was about. Great film, and commentary track (unlike so many, it was worth listening to). I also just recently purchased the Masters of Cinema Lubitsch in Berlin set after reading your review. I’ve only seen Die Puppe so far, but it alone is worth the price of the set.
    Hilarious. I love Ossi Oswalda! If you live in blu-ray zone A, but have a multi-region disc player, you can buy the Zone B blu-ray from Amazon UK.

  2. I’m going to say Beggars of Life and Zaza. Can’t wait for the Gloria Swanson films that are coming out in 2018. Also proud that I found such good deals on eBay for “It” and “The Black Pirate”. Now I can’t wait for “Passion of Joan of Arc” which is coming out in March.

  3. 2017 silent finds? It’s a tie for #1 :

    -Reading and re-reading Slapstick Divas. What a fascinating encyclopedia of feminine film talent. Thank you, Steve Massa!

    -Viewing ’20s nitrate newsreels bequeathed to our local polytechnic university. Screened ’em myself (haven’t done THAT in a good long while- doing it made me remember why). They were riveting, marvelous, an engrossing trip back in time.

    1. Forgot to add that some of said newsreels have since gone on to be copied (due to a generous local benefactor) and will be made generally available later on. Will update when I get the word.

  4. The End of the World (Danish: Verdens Undergang), a 1916 Danish science fiction drama film directed by August Blom and written by Otto Rung, starring Olaf Fønss and Ebba Thomsen. Their attempt to depict apocalyptic disaster charmingly veers from quaint to startlingly realistic. Overwrought yet seemingly sincere depictions of panic only added to the effect. This is one movie I’m grateful survived through serendipity in a near-pristine print, and best of all, it’s available for free viewing anytime in an excellent 480p scan that looked great on my 42-inch flat screen tv: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4FTXX6yG2XI

  5. I was happy to buy Grapevine Video’s lovely dvd of Dress Parade this year. I also purchased Skyscraper (1928) and The Leatherneck (1929) from eBay. So enjoyable!

    Here’s the link for Skyscraper:
    https://m.ebay.com/itm/SKYSCRAPER-1928-DVD-WILLAIM-BOYD-ALAN-HALE-SUE-CAROL/253320321797?hash=item3afb115b05:g:64cAAOSw9N1VjgQ2

    And here’s the link for The Leatherneck:
    https://m.ebay.com/itm/THE-LEATHERNECK-1929-DVD-WILLIAM-BOYD-ALAN-HALE/263371131042?hash=item3d522488a2:g:F4EAAOSwv-ZaGvN7

  6. For me, the big one, after many missed opportunities and snowed out shows, was finally getting to see Safety Last on the big screen with musical accompaniment. It was a treat getting to see my favorite silent film like it was meant to be seen.

    I did buy a number of movies this year, but the best purchase I made was an HD TV and a blu-ray player – of course, now I want to replace all my DVDs with blu-ray…

  7. I bought “Beggars of Life” but can’t watch it because I live in the wrong region! Any suggestions, or do I splash out on a suitable
    blue ray player?
    Also enjoyed “When Knighthood was in Flower” and “The Docks of New York”
    Merry Christmas to all ☺

  8. Not a new release, but for me the find of the year was Louis Feuillade’s “Fantomas”. The jaw-dropping visual clarity of the print is stunning, and the characters and stories are wonderful. Next: “Les Vampires”!

  9. I’m quite a newbee in the silent film field (my specialty is animation film), but my top 2017 (non-animated) discoveries are the 1905 film ‘La Poule aux oeufs d’or’ (The Hen That Laid the Golden Eggs), a remarkably elaborate and entertaining fairy tale film from Pathé (available on the British DVD ‘Fairy Tales – Early Colour Stencil films from Pathé’), Émile Cohl’s short absurd comedy ‘Le placier est tenace’ (1910), which anticipates several Tex Avery cartoons (available on the French double-DVD-set ‘Émile Cohl – L’agitateur aux mille images’), and the Keystone shorts ‘The Rounders’ (1914, the only film starring Charlie Chaplin and Roscoe Arbuckle as a comic duo) and ‘The New Janitor’ (1914, arguably Chaplin’s best comedy at Keystone). Both Chaplin shorts are available on the DVD-set ‘Chaplin at Keystone’, but you guys already knew that, of course.

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