We’re back with another unboxing. This one is a little different as it is going to be covering a reconstruction of a semi-lost film, Vitagraph’s 1915 smash hit The Juggarnaut.
Thanks to Dustin of Harpodeon for the review copy!
Quick bit of background: The Juggernaut no longer exists in its complete form. The two surviving reels are taken from different cuts of the movie: the second reel of the original five-reel premiere version of the the fourth reel of the four-reel British release version.
Fortunately, that surviving fourth reel contains the main showstopper of the picture: the elaborate and terrifying train wreck, surely the single most visually impressive sequence from 1915 that I have yet viewed. (And I do not make that statement lightly.)
The rest of the film’s continuity is recreated with stills and title cards. We hope that the missing reels will eventually be recovered but until then, this will at least give us a taste of what audiences of 1915 enjoyed. The film was cited for years after as one of the proudest cinematic accomplishments and I certainly agree with this assessment as far as spectacle is concerned.
The Juggernaut starred Earle Williams and Anita Stewart, two of the biggest star names in cinema in the 1910s but criminally underrepresented on home video. It’s nice to have a taste of the work they released at the height of their popularity.
Here are some samples:
The Bluray also contains an alternate cut that follows the four-reel release continuity (and has a slightly different ending), as well as The Firing of the Patchwork Quilt (1911), a railway-themed short, railway actualities, and assorted research materials related to The Juggernaut.
Motion pictures that only survive as fragments are incredibly difficult for the general public to access unless they star big names and even then there are no guarantees. I very much appreciate this chance to fill some gaps in film history and showcase some of the powerful filmmaking that was being done in the mid-1910s but has now been all but forgotten. Railway nerds will also want to check this one out because it’s one of the best train wrecks ever filmed.
Dustin of Harpodeon details the provenance of the footage and the restoration process in a series for his blog if you have any questions about the hows, whys and wheres of this release.
Availability: You can buy this Bluray from Harpodeon via eBay. It also comes with a mini poster, which is a nice little extra.
You can also purchase the items on the Bluray separately as downloads directly from Harpodeon. Obviously, you don’t get the poster this way but you do get instant gratification. (Rubs hands together greedily.) I have used this download system before and it works very well, assuming you have a decent internet plan.