Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Reel Baseball |
The Busher/Heading Home + Shorts
Actors: Charles Ray, Colleen Moore, Babe Ruth
Genres: Comedy, Drama, Sports
Studio: Kino International Release Date: 04/03/2007
The Old Ball Game.
Chip Kaufmann | Asheville, N.C. United States | 04/07/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Being a film historian, a silent film enthusiast, and an avid baseball fan, this set was tailor made for me and I eagerly awaited its release since Kino first announced it. Perhaps it was the keen anticipation or maybe I've become spoiled by recent silent film releases but I was somewhat disappointed by this set at first but it quickly grew on me. Part of the reason had to do with the fact that I watched the shorter material first saving the two features for last.
I found the visual quality of HIS LAST GAME, THE BALL PLAYER AND THE BANDIT, BUTTER FINGERS, and CASEY AT THE BAT to be below the standards usually set by Kino. Most are from 16mm transfers which cut the tops off the pictures and have serious contrast issues while the source prints on a couple are really beat up. A number of these prints come from the Library of Congress which means that they are probably all that's available but a little restoration work would have been nice. FELIX SAVES THE DAY is battered in places but this is the best looking version I've ever come across.
Moving on to the longer works the quality gets a lot better. It was especially nice to see HEARTS AND DIAMONDS from 1914 which would be one of the last efforts of the Falstaffian sized John Bunny (he died in 1915) once the most popular film comedian in the world. When he enters the ball park it's clear the fans are cheering him for who he is. This and the two features make the entire 2 DVD set more than worthwhile. The completely fictionalized HEADIN' HOME shows Babe Ruth in 1920 when he was still very athletic although there is not as much baseball action here as you would expect. Ruth has a natural ability before the camera which was later used to good advantage in other movies such as PRIDE OF THE YANKEES.
THE BUSHER is one of the few surviving features of ill-fated movie pioneer Thomas H. Ince and stars Charles Ray, Colleen Moore and a young John Gilbert. The print quality on both is very good and THE BUSHER even has its original florid intertitles. The newly recorded organ and piano music by three different performers makes for a proper accompaniment to the various offerings. Overall I'm glad to have this set and recommend it not only to lovers of silent film but to social historians and to baseball fans as well. It's absolutely fascinating to see how they did things differently so long ago and invariably a little sad when you see a simpler time that has gone for good."
A Home Run for Silent Film Lovers Who Are Also Baseball Fans
Cinestuff | Columbus, OH USA | 05/01/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A delightful collection of 2 features and 11 shorts, all but one silent with appropriate and effective musical scores, from the fine folks at Kino, who help keep silent film lovers happy with regular release of pre-talkie goodies! (The lone talkie item here is an early experiment in sound presenting the stage actor DeWolf Hopper presenting a recitation of "Casey at the Bat." This was one of the highlights for me - I really enjoyed the actor's totally over the top performance (he was clearly aware of what he was up to, and having a good time doing it!) The other titles on the two disc set provide straight dramas, comedies, westerns(!), and more.
Babe Ruth's feature is pretty incredible in plot, but entertaining none-the-less, and the Babe doesn't strike out with his acting, which is appealing if a bit lacking in theatrical polish. Charles Ray, Colleen Moore and John (here Jack) Gilbert offer a good introduction to a type of silent film that was very popular - it might be called a "small town boy makes good, before he goes bad, before he learns what's best for him" movie.
Another reviewer complained that the films had too little baseball content - perhaps he should just buy a box set of some historic World Series and forget about dramatic and comedic presentations. While the baseball content of many of the films is lower than THE NATURAL or PRIDE OF THE YANKEES, baseball is at the thematic core of all these films, although more prominent in some than others. I love old movies and baseball and didn't feel a bit cheated.
Sign me up for REEL BASEBALL II!"
Nostalgic small town baseball from a long ago era
Stephen H. Wood | South San Francisco, CA | 05/03/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Baseball fans of all ages will probably greatly enjoy the labor of love, REEL BASEBALL, 1899-1926, which runs over four hours on two disks. But devotees of small town America before World War One and later during the Jazz Age, may love it even more. It's a valentine to the America that was, when baseball was played on vacant lots in small towns and whole towns went to a game at the local stadium.
Disk One starts with a shockingly thin Babe Ruth in HEADIN' HOME (1920), which is a 73 minute feature about Babe leaving his town for the big city and success, then returning home at the end. It is followed by a 1 minute Kinogram with The Babe, the 12 minute HIS LAST GAME (1909), and the 12 minute THE BALL PLAYER AND THE BANDIT (1912), starring someone named Harold Lockwood. I should note that this entire set is all silent, with a variety of music scores that range from gramophone to piano to Wurlitzer organ. Print sources include Film Preservation Associates, Lobster Films in Paris, and the Library of Congress. The films have been magnificently preserved.
Disk Two is long and may play better in two sittings. It starts with a 55 minute baseball and romance feature called THE BUSHER (1919), starring Charles Ray, Colleen Moore, and John Gilbert. There are two versions of CASEY AT THE BAT--a 1 minute short from 1899 and a 6 minute experimental sound recitation by DeWolf Hopper from 1922. HOW THE OFFICE BOY SAW THE BALL GAME (1906) runs 5 minutes as an excerpt. ONE TOUCH OF NATURE (1917) is an 18 minute excerpt that seems complete. Those who remember rotund comic John Bunny will love the 33 minute HEARTS AND DIAMONDS (1914). FELIX SAVES THE DAY (1922) is a 7 minute animation and live action cartoon that is great fun. BUTTER FINGERS (1925) stars Billy Bevan (who had a long screen career into the 1940s) and runs 16 minutes. And we finish off with HAPPY DAYS (1926) at 14 minutes.
Notice that a lot of these silent shorts do not have big name stars. Baseball in its many forms is the star in these nostalgic films from a lovely, long ago era when the sport was still great fun, something a whole town turned out to see, and gambling was not yet part of the game. I highly recommend this Kino blockbuster, especially to an older audience that may remember some of these players and remember small town baseball fondly.
Truthfully You'll Need To Be Attracted By Something Other Th
Goodbye Cruel World | Under Your Skin | 10/20/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Contrary to what most people today might think, there are many great silent movies collected together on DVD, but Reel Baseball is not one of them. The Busher is pretty bad as a movie, and loveable fat comic John Bunny (killed in part by his chronic obesity shortly after making the film) is unable to salvage much from his performance as a shameless gold digger in 1914's Hearts and Diamonds. Home run wizard Babe Ruth's little remembered flair for hamming it up does add a few smiles into the mix, and seeing him so young and athletic is somehow surprising.
That's not important, though. What does make this DVD marginally worth seeing is the age of its venerable cinematic contents, and frankly that's the selling point I'll highlight in my review. The addition of the seconds-long Thomas Edison clip from 1899 connects our age to another century by showing people doing something familiar to us today---playing a sport and assaulting an official over a bad call---and reinforces for us the universality of human experience: in this case adrenaline-fueled frustration inspiring an entertaining bout of on-field violence.
As for the main features, The Busher is the best of a mediocre lot. Again, since it's from 1919, long ago by human terms, there is a certain pleasant fondness in seeing that those who lived back in that time were so like us, despite the superficial ways in which they differed. The anorexic plot of The Busher with its small town boy makes it big in baseball, crashes, burns, crawls home...well, it's a short film, so you can bear it without too much mental trauma. Its leading men, by the way, Charles Ray and Jack Gilbert, were among the first Hollywood superstars, and the rise and fall of these two and the twists and turns of their careers and personal lives match anything the industry's tabloid darlings of today have to offer. (Gilbert was an unrepentant drunk who was once jilted at the altar by his would-be great love, Greta Garbo; Ray arrogantly refused roles offered and tried to found his own production company, which left him bitter and destitute, his proverbial boats burned behind him.) Somehow watching all of these early films and knowing what is in store for the casts grants a humbling, god-like power absent from sitting in on a contemporary movie.
For those who love baseball in its more innocent form, this DVD will be meaningful, but for everyone else, I suspect the main attraction, if any is to be found, will be the fact that it hearkens from Hollywood's nascence at the conclusion of the nineteenth and dawning of the twentieth-century. I'll give Reel Baseball two stars for the stories themselves but one extra star because it is cinematic history.