Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Douglas Fairbanks A Modern Musketeer |
His Picture in the Papers / The Mystery of the Leaping Fish / Flirting With Fate / The Matrimaniac / Wild and Woolly / Reaching for the Moon / When the Clouds Roll By / The Mollycoddle / The Mark of Zorro / The Nut
Actor: Douglas Fairbanks
Director: Victor Fleming;Allan Dwan;John Emerson
Genres: Action & Adventure, Westerns, Classics, Comedy, Drama
I would pay full price for this, and did!
M. Boxwood | 11/23/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It's unjust to rate this set by cost alone. Is it comparatively more expensive than other DVD sets? Perhaps. Does it provide more entertainment pleasure than most DVD sets? For lovers of silent film and the incomparable Doug, absolutely yes.
Fairbanks' historical advanture films of the 1920s have been readily available since the late 1990s, thanks to the quality work of Kino. His earlier work has been less well-represented and accessible; when obtainable, his pre-1920 movies have been mastered from shoddy source elements and usually accompanied by wholly inappropriate music. This boxed set of eleven remastered and restored films from Flicker Alley does a great deal to remedy this oversight.
Flicker Alley continues to provide rare historic films that are of remarkable picture quality and feature marvelous scores.
This set is being released in tandem with film historian Jeffrey Vance's biography of the great star and adventure film pioneer. Doug's costume swashbucklers are generally excellent, but his screen persona before he donned a cape and picked up a rapier is equally fascinating.
1916's "His Pictures In The Papers" features Doug as the meat-loving son of a vegetarian food magnate who finds love with an equally carnivorous young woman. It is also a wry and prescient commentary on fame and the lengths some will go to in order to achieve it. Also from 1916, "The Mystery Of The Leaping Fish" is probably the most unconventional film Fairbanks ever appeared in, as it features him as the cocaine-addicted detective "Coke Ennyday." It was co-scripted by Tod Browning and features a flair for the bizarre he would put on ample display when directing "Dracula" and "Freaks" in the early 1930s. "Flirting With Fate" also features some darker-hued humor in its story of a depressed artist who arranges to be killed just before finding good fortune. The final film from 1916, "The Matrimaniac," co-stars Constance Talmadge in a comic tale of the lengths a young couple will go to in order to tie the knot. Both "Flirting With Fate" and "The Matrimaniac" were available from Kino on VHS but not DVD.
Fairbanks' screen personality develops more fully in the three films he made for Artcraft in 1917 and 1918. They are all notable for dealing with the theme of having one's expectations for an idealized life being challenged. The delightful "Wild And Woolly" has the Wild West-obsessed Doug finding that the Old West does not require as much taming as he once surmised. Similarly, "Reaching For The Moon" chronicles Doug's realization that the life of a European monarch is not the fairy tale he once believed it to be. It is also an interesting comment on America's perceptions of World War I-era Europe with its depiction of a continent dominated by an unending number of assassination plots and murky counterplots. "The Modern Musketeer" demonstrates the limits and the advantages of living life according to a naive sense of chivalry exemplified by D'Artagnan. Its 17th century prologue provides a window into the sort of costume roles Doug would be playing in the years ahead.
"When The Clouds Roll By" from 1919 is notable for its more surreal elements including an incredibly original and complicated dream sequence. 1920's "The Mollycoddle" and 1921's "The Nut" offer two final opportunities for Doug to display his athleticism in a modern setting. "The Mollycoddle" is almost a prototype of "North By Northwest" with Doug as a foppish American "corrupted" by the soft life in Europe who is mistaken for an American agent by a gang of ruthless smugglers. "The Nut" is an amusing film featuring Doug as an eccentric inventor whose efforts to help a young woman in her reform campaign go awry.
The final film in the set, "The Mark Of Zorro," was shot prior to "The Nut." Its overall success with critics and moviegoers convinced Doug that he should focus his efforts on producing similar period adventures. It is a film that has been widely available for years, but this is the finest print of the film that I have ever seen.
A previous reviewer gave mention to the current economic turmoil our country is trying to negotiate. In a world where multiplexes are populated by heroes such as Batman and James Bond who seem motivated more by a grim sense of duty and self-loathing than honor, it is a tonic to watch a performer who takes delight in overcoming adversity and fairly dares the viewer not to share his sense of joy. The films of Douglas Fairbanks champion the concepts of hard work, optimism, and ingenuity; the very traits we will have to exhibit in order to rise as a nation once more. Because the demand for this set is probably not large, I very much doubt that it will be available elsewhere for significantly less. Is 90 bucks a lot of money to part with? Sure, I'm not independently wealthy. But as a fan of Fairbanks', the good humor he continues to give me is a source of inspiration that cannot be assessed in mere dollars.
Some of the more watchable and entertaining films of the 191
calvinnme | 09/26/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I'm a big fan of silent film, but I've found very few films from the 1910's to be very watchable. Most of the dramas from that very early period of the silent era are overacted and static, and the comedies are mainly pants-kicking fests. There are a few exceptions - for me anyways. These are most of the films I've found from the 1910's that hold up over time:
1. The Buster Keaton - Roscoe Arbuckle collaborations
2. Chaplin's Mutual comedies
3. De Mille's "The Cheat"
4. D.W. Griffith's work
5. The early films of Douglas Fairbanks
Fairbanks had quite a penchant for comedy, and I really enjoyed his early films. It's been awhile since I've seen them - not even TCM will show films this old that often. They have a sophistication and humor about them that are just delightful.
This five-disc DVD collection includes eleven of the films which made Fairbanks famous before he starred in the costume features and swashbuckling tales of the 1920's for which he is best remembered. My favorites that are in this set are "The Nut" and "The Mark of Zorro". I also really liked "The Matrimaniac". It paired Fairbanks with largely forgotten silent comedienne Constance Talmadge and is really quite funny. There's something about Fairbanks in these early films that reminds me of Buster Keaton, although Fairbanks doesn't play characters that were quite so overwhelmed as Keaton's were.
The set begins with four films produced in 1916 through Triangle-Fine Arts: His Picture in the Papers, The Mystery of the Leaping Fish, Flirting With Fate and The Matrimaniac. "The Mystery of the Leaping Fish" has Fairbanks playing "Coke Ennyday" the scientific detective. Directed by Tod Browning and costarring a very young Bessie Love, it is the strangest film in this set.
The collection continues with three films produced by Fairbanks for Artcraft / Famous Players-Lasky Corp. in 1917 and 1918: Wild and Woolly (1917), Reaching for the Moon (1917) and A Modern Musketeer (1918). Finally, four features that Fairbanks produced for United are included: When the Clouds Roll By (1919), The Mollycoddle (1920), The Mark of Zorro (1920) and The Nut (1921). "The Mark of Zorro" is probably here to contrast what is more typical of Fairbanks' films in the twenties with what he had been starring in up to that point.
Fairbanks' films were quite good not just because of his talent in front of the camera, but because of the talent behind it. Anita Loos wrote several of the screenplays, and Allan Dwan and Victor Fleming were among Fairbanks' early directors.
Many of the films in this collection have been digitally mastered from 35mm or original-negative sources with music scores created for these editions by Eric Beheim, Philip Carli, Frederick Hodges, Robert Israel, the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra and Franklin Stover. A Modern Musketeer, long thought to survive only as a fragment, is finally complete in a new restoration by the Danish Film Institute with an optional audio essay by Jeffrey Vance and Tony Maietta. The Mark of Zorro is digitally re-mastered from an original 35mm fine grain.
Stills gallery containing over 40 images from Fairbanks's personal collection courtesy of the Douglas Fairbanks Collection, Margaret Herrick Library, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Original pressbook materials from His Picture in the Papers, Wild and Woolly, Reaching for the Moon, A Modern Musketeer, The Mollycoddle and The Nut courtesy of Jeffrey Vance, who has also written a new essay for this collection."
Like buried treasure finally unearthed!
Barbara (Burkowsky) Underwood | Manly, NSW Australia | 12/01/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Receiving this very attractive 5-disc set really is like finding buried treasure of which perhaps only a small number of people were aware even existed. Although the name of Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. is familiar to many, his fame in our day has focused only on his immensely successful and popular 1920s action-adventure dramas such as Robin Hood, The Three Musketeers and The Iron Mask. This is about to change, thanks to dedicated silent film producers like David Shepard, and Flicker Alley whose DVDs are always of top quality. Now the modern world can finally see the real Douglas Fairbanks in a surprising and delightful variety of films which made him a superstar already back in 1916. Ten of the films in this selection are examples and highlights of his successful career from the years 1916 to 1921, and the eleventh film is a wonderful new digitally mastered version of "The Mark of Zorro" which began his legendary series of swashbuckling adventure films of the Twenties. A much better picture quality and superb new musical score than previous releases of "Zorro" already make this release worth getting, but there are many more treats in store for Fairbanks fans and general silent film enthusiasts alike, in particular "A Modern Musketeer", complete for the first time after the latter half of the film was presumed lost until recently.
With Douglas Fairbanks, what you see is what you get. Always full of exuberance and positive energy, the Broadway stage could not contain his spirit, and even motion pictures struggled to keep up with him. His dynamic style bursts out of the screen in every scene, and some of his athletic abilities are absolutely astonishing. For example, several scenes in some of these films show Fairbanks scurrying up buildings with the effortless ease of Spiderman, but without tricks or special effects. He learned various skills such as roping and riding in order to do his own stunts and always be himself in every scene, complete with his ever-present grin and irresistible charm. But he was even more than just a breathtaking on-screen persona because he was active in writing, producing and directing most of his films, and worked with the best cast and crew in the industry to achieve an ever higher standard. The themes, genres and stories in this selection are as surprising, intriguing and entertaining as the man himself, with a fast-paced, action-packed, Western ("Wild and Woolly"), a crime adventure with humour ("The Mollycoddle"), impressive special effects - for 1919 - in an unusual parody about psychology ("When the Clouds Roll By"), a satire about fame and vegetarians ("His Picture in the Papers") and a most bizarre black comedy about drug addiction and smuggling ("Mystery of the Leaping Fish"). While some of these have been available and even reasonably well-known among fans, this set also includes some rare gems such as "Reaching for the Moon", in which Doug the Dynamo plays someone much like himself, who cannot be contained in a dull button factory job and dreams of rubbing shoulders with kings. In fact, most of these films show a great deal of the real Fairbanks personality, and his genuine enthusiasm still flows and reaches out to the viewer nearly a century later with nothing lost in the passing of time. And those viewers familiar only with some of his famous action hero roles will be surprised to see Fairbanks as quite a brilliant and effective comedian in different styles of comedy and with various acting techniques. The films are immensely enjoyable on their own, but an excellent 32-page booklet provides background information on each one, and the producers have chosen the best silent film composers for each film, such as Robert Israel, the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra and Eric Beheim, to name a few. This first rate treatment gives due credit to one of early Hollywood's great pioneers and stars, and this set definitely belongs in any serious silent film collection.
Early Fairbanks Shows Evolution of the Actor
Robert M. Fells | Centreville, VA USA | 02/15/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I won't duplicate the previous comments on the individual films but I think I can add a few original observations. I was fortunate in the late 1960s and early 70s to be able to watch the Douglas Fairbanks swashbucklers from the 1920s. As a film collector, I even owned a few and could watch them on the big screen. I also studied Fairbanks' five talkies, in some cases viewed original prints that I have not seen around since then. But it is only now with the Flicker Alley set that I can appreciate the pre-ZORRO Fairbanks of his modern dress comedies and they show Doug quite unlike his later screen persona. He was obviously experimenting with his character during the 1916-1920 period and tried out things he would decide to drop in later films. For example, FLIRTING WITH FATE casts Doug an an artist, and a rather wimpy one at that. Even in his last comedy before he turned to all swashbucklers, THE NUT, which was made after ZORRO for a little box office insurance in case ZORRO tanked, there are whimsical touches to the Fairbanks character never seen in his subsequent swashbucklers. The modern dress films were evidently wearing thin after five years so Fairbanks incredibly managed to reinvent his screen persona in THE MARK OF ZORRO and he never looked back. Career-wise, this was and remains a fabulous accomplishment.
The Flicker Alley set also traces the evolution of Fairbanks as his own film producer and it is hard to ignore the fact that as Fairbanks advanced as a producer of increasingly opulent films during the 20s, he unfortunately stopped growing as an actor. It is almost as though Fairbanks the producer didn't want to risk his money on Fairbanks the actor except on tried and true characterizations. In essence, Fairbanks' subsequent action films - 1921's THE THREE MUSKETEERS, 1922's ROBIN HOOD, 1924's THE THIEF OF BAGHDAD (the most elaborately produced of his films that made even Doug realize there was a limit to what he could spend and still make money), then the ZORRO sequel, 1925's DON Q, SON OF ZORRO, and the early Technicolor THE BLACK PIRATE in 1926 (although most theaters outside of big cities showed it in b/w), all have Doug playing only a slight variation of his Zorro character.
Perhaps sensing his films were getting a bit predictable, he played an earthy character in 1927's THE GAUCHO seemingly inspired by Rudolph Valentino (who died the previous year) but its relative lack of success sent him hurrying back to the tried and true in his last silent, a sequel to THREE MUSKETEERS, 1929's THE IRON MASK, which was said to be only a modest success. Faced with trying to reinvent himself a second time, he seemed not to want to bother. As producer, he was fascinated by many technical details such as the use of panchromatic film and, of course, color photography. Yet when sound films arrived, he had no interest in the technical possibilities of the new medium.
By the sound era, Fairbanks the producer was badly treating Fairbanks the actor. I think movie audiences of the early 30s were very disappointed with the cheap production values of Fairbanks' talkies and that probably ended his popularity more than his limitations as a talkie actor. Talkies such as the comic travelogue, AROUND THE WORLD IN EIGHTY MINUTES, or MR. ROBINSON CRUSOE, filmed on location in Tahiti, were cheesy looking compared to the opulence of his silents of just a few years earlier. But we're getting ahead of ourselves. Flicker Alley's A MODERN MUSKETEER returns us to Fairbanks' halcyon days in the teens when success just seemed to be a matter of ambition. We sure could have used Fairbanks' optimism in the Great Depression years of the early 1930s - but that's yet another story. One last point worth noting, Flicker Alley's transfer of THE MARK OF ZORRO is absolutely stunning - we're talking "High Definition" type quality. If they ever try to upgrade this film any further, they will have to put it in 3-D."