This is a very interesting collection and will surely inspire its share of historical research: three-and-a-half versions of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Two versions of the Universal super production (1927), the World Film feature (1914) and the Vitagraph two-reeler (1911).
Thanks so much to Kino for providing a review copy!
Before we go further, I am going to state the obvious: Uncle Tom’s Cabin rather famously contains racial stereotypes and racial slurs. These things, up to and including the unredacted n-word, are included in these uncensored films. I agree with making these films available to the public but I recommend showing caution before screening them for young children. In fact, the disc does contain a content warning along these very lines, which is wise.
For context, I also recommend reading Migrating to the Movies: Cinema and Black Urban Modernity by Jacqueline Najuma Stewart, Returning the Gaze: A Genealogy of Black Film Criticism 1909-1949 by Anna Everett, and Slow Fade to Black by Thomas Cripps.
Finally, this is a review of the contents of the disc. A discussion of Uncle Tom’s Cabin and its complex and controversial history is an article unto itself and not something I will be undertaking at this time. So, let’s dig in.
One of the more interesting items included on this disc is the 1958 re-issue of the 1927 film with its title cards cut and added narration by Raymond Massey. This release was clearly inspired by Charlie Chaplin’s successful re-release of The Gold Rush and will make for an interesting comparison for those of you interested in the presentation of silent films in the mid-century. I should also note that the 1927 film features Margarita Fischer and the 1911 has Mary Fuller, two popular actresses who have relatively few pictures available on home media.
This collection is quite valuable for anyone interested in portrayals of race and slavery in mainstream American films of the silent era. I do also urge anyone watching these films to seek out black voices from the time and appreciate that there were always viewers, critics and academics who pushed for sympathetic and non-stereotyped portrayals in the movies.
As you can see, the quality is quite high. The disc also includes an audio commentary by historian Edward J. Blum to accompany the 1927 film and a booklet with an essay by David Pierce.
This collection is extremely valuable for anyone diving into silent film history, especially if you are focusing on matters of race. It would also made an interesting companion to Kino’s earlier release of Pioneers of African-American Cinema because these films showcase the kind of content that black filmmakers were responding to.
Kino is also sponsoring a Bluray giveaway of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Here’s how it works:
- Leave a comment stating why you would like to win this disc before October 24, 2019. It can be anything from “this is my field of academic study” to “I just want more silent movies!”
- I will randomly draw a winner on October 25, 2019 and inform them. They have five business days to respond with their mailing address before I draw an alternate.
- You MUST have a USA mailing address in order to win the disc.
That’s it! Best of success to all of you!
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