We know about lost silent films but what about the films that survive, they’re just unidentified? It’s a more common phenomenon than you might think: one misplaced label, one missing opening title and the film’s identity is a mystery.
Mostly Lost is the Library of Congress’s answer to the predicament. Their annual event invites film nerds to test their knowledge and try to identify mystery films. And it works! Every year, films are identified and reclassified as found.
Undercrank Productions has released a sequel to their first collection of Found at Mostly Lost silent films and movie nerds can rejoice because there are some real rarities here. We get ten films ranging from 1906 to 1922 with scores by Ben Model, Philip Carli and Andrew E. Simpson. You can order a copy here.
A huge thanks to Ben Model and Undercrank Productions for supplying a screener. (Disclosure: I have engaged Mr. Model’s services as an accompanist but all opinions are my own.)
I am a huge advocate for stepping outside our comfort zones and trying out films from every part of the silent era and of every genre. Well, this set doesn’t have every genre but it comes as close as any single disc can. We get animation, drama, a melodrama spoof, comedy, westerns…
Here’s the selection:
And the Villain Still Pursued Her; or The Author’s Dream (1906) – Vitagraph
The Faithful Dog; Or, True to the End (1907) – Eclipse
The Falling Arrow (1909) – James Young Deer
Adolph Zink (1903?) – Thomas A. Edison Co.
In The Tall Grass Country (1910) – Francis Ford (brother of John), Edith Storey
The Noodle Nut (1921) – Billy Bletcher
Fresh Fish (1922) – Bobby Bumps
Derby Day (1922) – Monty Banks
Do Me a Favor (1922) – Snub Pollard
The Sunshine Spreader (1920s)
Some of the films show their age but this is more than understandable. In most cases, though, the quality is pristine and The Sunshine Spreader looks like it was filmed yesterday. The Library of Congress has done their usual excellent work on the transfers.
The music is, as expected, quite excellent and all three accompanists do much to enhance the experience of watching these films.
What’s great about this set is that it’s kind of like someone hit the shuffle button at the Library of Congress and we get to enjoy a totally random assortment. I love it! Curation is great but there’s something so fun about a good old fashioned grab bag.
This collection is extremely fun, especially if you are a little familiar with silent films and tired of the same old same old. This is a perfect gift for the film geek who has everything because I promise you they will not have these films.
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How great that these “mostly” lost shorts are now found/identified.
I wonder what kinds of methods are used to make the identifications. And how many “film nerds” are involved in the process.
Here’s a description of the event from LoC. I’m not sure how many attended but to answer your second question, the attendees are encouraged to talk during the film and name anything they recognize, be it actor, make and model of car, landmarks or anything else that might help pinpoint the year of the production, its studio or its filming location.
Thanks Fritzi for this info!
In case others may be interested, I’ve now learned that this is an annual event, in June, with about 200 attendees typical. It runs for 3 or 4 days and combines a film festival (at night) with the screenings of unidentified films (during the day).
It’s held at the Library of Congress’ facility in Culpeper, Virginia. I think l’ll be there next June!
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