A collection of enchanting silent films, "A Christmas Past" offers a nostalgic peek into the Yuletide pleasures of the early 1900s. Evoking the Victorian charm of Currier and Ives prints, these picturesque comedies and ten... more »der dramas were produced as cinematic Christmas cards offered to moviegoers of the silent film era. Includes D.W. Griffith's "A Trap For Santa" (1909, 16 min.); the Edison Studio's "A Winter Straw Ride" (1906, 7 min.), "A Christmas Accident" (1912, 15 min.), "The Adventures of the Wrong Santa Claus" (1914, 14 min.), "Santa Claus Vs. Cupid" (1915, 16 min.), "A Christmas Carol" (1910, 10 min.), and "The Night Before Christmas (1905, 9 min.); plus "A Holiday Pageant At Home" (1901, 5 min.) and "Santa Claus" (1925, 29 min.). Features an original score by Al Kryszak.« less
Chip Kaufmann | Asheville, N.C. United States | 11/01/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Most of the selections in this collection are short films that were originally made by the Edison Company. These include a 1905 version of THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS and a 1910 version of A CHRISTMAS CAROL which are quite good considering their age and length. Unfortuntaely the transfer speed for both is much too fast which mars their effectiveness. There is also a D.W. Griffith Biograph short, A TRAP FOR SANTA which is surprisingly moving.
The prize of the collection is SANTA CLAUS, a 30 minute short, parts of which were actually filmed at the North Pole. Just wait till you catch a glimpse of those vintage toys and watch out for Santa's telescope! My children love these films and adults can go back to their childhood with them as well. They are quaint visions of long ago and far away that cannot help but touch the child in all of us. Think of them as moving picture cards from the Victorian Era.
These films come from that vast storehouse of films known as the Killiam Collection. Paul Killiam was an entrepeneur who began collecting silent films in the 1950's. He once had a program on ABC called SILENTS PLEASE. Thanks to him many silent films that would have been lost were saved including the Biograph and Edison shorts. He died in 1998. It would be great to get more of these on DVD in a restored condition. Thanks to Kino International for doing their usual fine job in making these films available once again. "Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night".
POSTSCRIPT: I just want to say that I think the controversial score by Al Kryszak is highly appropriate. The melancholy nature of the music perfectly captures the spirit of a type of Christmas that never will return."
A lovely Christmas valentine from another era
Stephen H. Wood | South San Francisco, CA | 12/15/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Kino Video's lovely A CHRISTMAS PAST is for a limited audience who knows the names of Edwin S. Porter, Thomas Edison as a filmmaker, and D.W. Griffith when he was still doing short subjects. Over 121 minutes, it presents a nostalgic Currier and Ives-like Christmas in silent tales ranging from 1901 to 1925. The prints are flawless by any standards, and the music score includes violins and Christmas bells.
A HOLIDAY PAGEANT AT HOME (1901) runs 5 minutes and has kids presenting a little skit for Mom and Dad.
A WINTER STRAW RIDE (1906) should be called "A Winter Sleigh Ride". It runs 7 minutes and was directed by Edwin S. Porter for the Edison Corp.
A TRAP FOR SANTA (1909) is a 16 minute D. W. Griffith short about two kids trying to trap Santa in the middle of the night to see if he really exists. It has poignancy because a destitute father runs away from home and Mom plays Santa. But then Dad returns, and there are two Santas!
A CHRISTMAS ACCIDENT (1912) is a 15 minute Edison Corporation short, directed by Bannister Merwin. I think this is the one with wealthy and poor families living side by side, and the wealthy family doing something nice for the poor family at Christmas when a roast is delivered to the wealthy house.
THE ADVENTURES OF THE WRONG SANTA CLAUS (1914) has a father and a burglar fighting it out over who is the real Santa for a family. The burglar steals all the presents, and Dad goes after him in costume to have a happy ending. This is also a 14 minute one reeler from Edison.
THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS (1905) is the first version of Clement Moore's famous story. It runs 7 minutes and was directed for Edison Corp. by Edwin S. Porter.
SANTA CLAUS VS. CUPID (1915) was written for the Edison Corp. by Alan Crosland (1927's THE JAZZ SINGER). This Christmas romance runs 16 minutes.
SANTA CLAUS (1925), ostensibly filmed with the real Santa at the real North Pole, focuses on Christmas Eve and delivering presents. But two children ask Santa what he and Mrs. Claus do the rest of the year. At 29 minutes, this is the longest film here and the most recent.
Finally, we have a 10 minute version of A CHRISTMAS CAROL from 1910 and the Edison Film Manufacturing Corporation. It is fun to see an attempt to tell the story in one reel.
A CHRISTMAS PAST will not be for everyone. But audiences excited by what I say about the contents should find it the ultimate Christmas Eve or Night treat. This is a long ago Christmas and quite exquisite.
Great Piece of Americana
Claudio D. Duckardt | Hialeah, Florida | 12/28/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is one of those rare oppurtunities to see some obscure images from a time long, long ago. With the exception of perhaps one episode, most of the players are unknown people who gave their interpretation of a Christmas story. I felt like I was looking through a time machine, and the feeling of great nostalgia came over me. These are Christmas stories from the past presented by people who are long gone, but how much we have in common! I read some reviews that blast the soundtrack. I thought it was great and very appropriate. I especially enjoyed the use of Christmas bells, and think that the score helps add the feeling of nostalgia to this beautiful presentation. I ignored this title until catching it on TMC. If you enjoy silent films, this title is a must."
"Santa Claus" and other Mildly Amusing Sleigh Rides in Time
mwreview | Northern California, USA | 12/17/2003
(3 out of 5 stars)
"A Christmas Past is a compilation of rare films from the trove of the late silent film collector Paul Killiam who released many videos of rare silent films that would probably never have seen the light of day otherwise. I have a few of his other films that has his voice as commentary during the shorts. A Christmas Past does not include his commentary but does offer some rare and some very old clips to put one in the holiday spirits. The oldest films I found to be the most interesting. The first one is a glimpse at a family's celebration of Christmas filmed in 1901! Some future stars are also seen on here like Henry B. Walthall of Birth of a Nation fame in the 1909 A Trap for Santa directed by D.W. Griffith. The plot lines are very slow going by today's standards, of course, and the novelty of seeing something so old wears off after the first few minutes. Back in 1906, when motion pictures were still young, just watching people fall out of a horse-drawn cart and women in long dresses chasing after the guys down a hill on the silver screen in A Winter Straw Ride was enough to be great fun. It may produce a few chuckles today.1925's "Santa Claus" is the best of the collection. Some of the footage was shot in the North Pole. In this 29-minute film, one gets a look at the life of Santa from his reindeer herd to his ice castle with his elf labor force working on tons of toys. You even get guest appearances from the Easter Bunny and Jack Frost! This film is great for little kids as it shows Santa looking through his giant telescope to see who is deserving of toys. It is shown very clearly that Santa is not opposed to crossing out names if he sees these children displaying acts of cruelty or selfishness. WARNING: this film reveals the shocking revelation that Santa will simply bypass a residence if the chimney is not to his liking. Of course, he has probably changed his policy since 1925 as so few families have chimneys these days. The silent movie buff will appreciate the rare films but, for most, A Christmas Past is a nice novelty or conversation piece to bring out every other Christmas or so but is probably not an awe-inspiring experience, especially for the younger generations of the age when they start saying "So what." Still, anytime a previously unavailable silent is released is a plus in my book and I hope more films from the Killiam and other collections are made available as a historical document on what life was once like (or at least the "idealized" life)."
Wonderful Classic Movies
mwreview | 01/04/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I bought this DVD right before Christmas, it's fantastic! It brings back a time before The Malls and credit cards took over the meaning of Christmas..."