For the first time ever, America's film archives are joining forces to release their most exciting, unseen treasures on DVD. The 50 films in this four disc set have been meticulously preserved by eighteen of the nation's p... more »remiere archives, including the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian, the Museum of Modern Art, George Eastman House, UCLA, and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Featuring numerous supplements and produced by the nonprofit National Film Preservation Foundation, "Treasures from American Film Archives" shows the amazing variety of films made from coast to coast over the last 100 years. With narration by Laurence Fishburne, this set is an absolute must for film collectors! Films include: Groucho Marx's home movies (1933, 2 min.), D.W. Griffith's "The Lonedale Operator" (1911, 17 min.), the earliest film version of "Snow White" (1916, 63 min.), "The Fall of the House of Usher" (1928, 13 min.), "Negro Leagues Baseball" (1946, 8 min.), "The Autobiography of a Jeep" (1943, 10 min.), Joseph Cornell's found footage film "Rose Hobart" (1936, 19 min.), "Returning on the Zeppelin Hindenburg" (1936, 7 min.), the early 2-color Technicolor feature "The Toll of the Sea" (1922, 54 min.), the William S. Hart western "Hell's Hinges" (1916, 64 min.), the first commercially-shown U.S. film "Blacksmithing Scene" (1893, 1 min.), plus silent features, documentaries and newsreels, avant-garde shorts, early animation and special effects films, home movies, and much more.« less
A form of time travel for lovers of film and history
Culbert Laney | Colorado Springs, CO United States | 11/28/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The majority of this deluxe boxed set is devoted to early silent films. I do not consider myself a particular fan of silent films, and yet most of these I found to be wonderful. While the four feature films were fine, I especially enjoyed the shorts, which commonly consider everyday life at the turn of the century. These silents have a spirit of joy and excitement, and a genuine sincerity, that I've never seen in film before. With only a few exceptions, these silents are in an excellent state of preservation, often offering an amazingly clear window on the past. The main exception is an early version of "Snow White," the one that inspired the famous Disney version. All copies were once believed lost; however, a below-average quality but still quite watchable print was found only a few years ago. The musical accompaniment, custom produced for these DVDs, adds immeasurably to the experience. These silents are highly recommended to anyone interested in the history of film or history in general. I am unaware of any other source of silent shorts on DVD, certainly not of this quality or extent.Besides the silents, the set also offers several other categories of films, including those produced for the government, commercial and promotional films, home movies, and art shorts. These are generally oldish but not antique, none more recent than 1985. The offerings in the last three categories are generally weak. The art shorts, especially, with their emphasis on the abstract and modern, had little appeal for me. Even though many of them are relatively recent, they have been rarely shown, and with good reason. The big surprise is the quality of the government films, especially "The Battle of San Pietro," directed by John Huston, a true work of art, and one of the finest pieces in the set. Even "We Work Again," with its tiresome script intended to convince blacks of the benefits of government assistance during the depression, features beautiful cinematography, unfortunately uncredited, and ends with four minutes from a famous Orson Welle's adaptation of a Shakespeare play, of which no other footage exists. Each disc is arranged in roughly chronological order, taking viewers on four trips through time, from the 1890's to the modern age. The set includes a 130 page booklet describing each film; these descriptions also appear on the DVDs themselves. The menus on the DVDs are professional, attractive, and easy-to-navigate. The transfers to DVD are excellent, with no digital artifacts that I could see.This set could easily have been dry and academic. Instead, at its best, it's extremely moving, entertaining, and expressive of the past. The commentary could have condemned the past in light of today's viewpoints and ideologies; instead, with unexpectedly rare exceptions, its fair and informative. This set should have broad appeal for those willing to adjust to the limitations of early film technology. Overall, I cannot recommend this set highly enough."
DVDs of the century!
Stephen Fesenmaier | charleston, wv USA | 10/08/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In my opinion, this is the single greatest group of items ever restored and made available to the American public. For years many companies, such as Kino, Milestone, and Zeitgeist, have been restoring and making some of the greatest features and shorts available to new generations of film viewers. This new collection spans the galaxy, covering all kinds of films which have been impossible to see on video - or in any other way. Hollywood has always been mined for its masterpieces, especially since cable tv exploded. Now, traveling the entire vast country, gems from little known collections such as the Minnesota Historical Society and West Virginia's Archives and History collection will be made available to millions of people who never knew they existed. As a film exhibitor, librarian, restorer, critic, etc. for almost 30 years, I would give this collection SIX STARS as the single greatest gift ever from America's film archives to its citizens."
Essential viewing (and reading) for film lovers
Culbert Laney | 10/15/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I had high hopes for this set, and it actually surpassed my expectations. I worked in a film archive for 10 years and have seen a lot of movies, but quite a few of the items in this set were new to me; others were old favorites that have never been widely available before now, like Joseph Cornell's beautiful and goofy Rose Hobart. Sometimes the attempt to represent the enormous range of material preserved in American archives starts to feel a little strained, but the remarkable freshness of so many of these films--especially the more ephemeral shorts--overcomes any sense of historical tokenism. The accompanying book is far superior to the average DVD liner notes, providing scholarly and informative program notes by Scott Simmon along with background information on the preservation of each film & explanations of the musical accompaniment for the silent titles. Overall I found this set not only praiseworthy but highly entertaining--only the "about the archives" essays narrated by Laurence Fishburne are tinged with institutional dullness. Buy the set now--if it goes out of print (and I fear this is just the kind of "specialty" item that won't stay in print very long), you'll regret not owning it."
"Treasures" set is NOT region encoded
Scott Simmon | San Francisco, CA USA | 10/17/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Just to correct the misimpression in Christoph Berner's review below: The "Treasures from American Film Archives" DVD set is NOT region encoded. That was just an Amazon error. It can be played in all "regions." (I'm the curator of the set, so pardon the "5 stars," which I'd award to the 18 collaborating archives.)"
A good collection, but the sequel boxed set was better
calvinnme | 05/18/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This original set of films from the American Film Archives is interesting to students of cinema history and history in general, but it is not that entertaining in the ordinary sense. The first set I bought, "More Treasures from the American Film Archives" seemed to do a better job of mixing pure entertainment with films that had a social or historical significance than this one. That set included one or two silent feature films including an early Ernst Lubitsch, a Rin Tin Tin silent, and a very early gangster film, on each DVD along with the short subjects. That being said, this is a unique and interesting set of films that I found very worthwhile. However, if you are uncertain, start with the "More Treasures from the American Film Archives" set first. If you don't like that set I am almost sure you will not like this one. Nobody else bothered to list all of the films on this set and their descriptions, so I do that next:
ACADEMY FILM ARCHIVE, ACADEMY OF MOTION PICTURES ARTS AND SCIENCES: 1. Luis Martinetti, Contortionist (1894, 1 minute), kinetoscope of the Italian acrobat made by the Edison Co. 2. Caicedo, King of the Slack Wire (1894, 1 minute), the first film shot outdoors at the Edison Studios. 3. The Original Movie (1922, 8 minutes), silhouette animation satire on commercial filmmaking, by puppeteer Tony Sarg. 4. League Baseball (1946, 8 minutes), footage featuring Reece "Goose" Tatum, the Indianapolis Clowns, and the Kansas City Monarchs.
ALASKA FILM ARCHIVES, UNIVERSITY OF ALASKA AT FAIRBANKS 5. The Chechahcos (1924, 86 minutes), first feature shot entirely on location in Alaska. This is a melodrama set during the Alaska gold rush with some great scenery included.
ANTHOLOGY FILM ARCHIVES 6. Rose Hobart (1936, 19 minutes), artist Joseph Cornell's celebrated found-footage film that mainly takes footage from Hobart's film "East of Borneo", combines it with some other scenes, and winds up as a surreal short. 7. Composition 1 (Themis) (1940, 4 minutes), Dwinell Grant's stop-motion abstraction. 8. George Dumpson's Place (1965, 8 minutes), Ed Emshwiller's portrait of the scavenger artist and his home.
GEORGE EASTMAN HOUSE 9. The Thieving Hand (1908, 5 minutes), special-effects comedy. 10. The Confederate Ironclad (1912, 16 minutes), Civil War adventure with the heroine saving the day. 11. The Land Beyond the Sunset (1912, 14 minutes), social problem drama about a tattered newspaper boy who yearns for a better life. 12. Snow White (1916, 63 minutes), live-action feature of the Brothers Grimm tale starring Marguerite Clark. 13. The Fall of the House of Usher (1928, 13 minutes), avant-garde landmark created by James Sibley Watson, Jr., and Melville Webber from Poe's short story.
JAPANESE AMERICAN NATIONAL MUSEUM 14. From Japanese American Communities (1927-32, 7 minutes), home movies shot by Rev. Sensho Sasaki in Stockton, California, and Tacoma, Washington.
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS 15. Demolishing and Building Up Star Theatre (1901, 1 minute), the time-lapse demolition of a New York building, preserved from a paper print. 16. Move On (1903, 1 minute), Lower East Side street scene, preserved from a paper print. 17. Dog Factory (1904, 4 minutes), trick film about fickle pet owners, preserved from a paper print. 18. Princess Nicotine; or, The Smoke Fairy (1909, 5 minutes), special-effects fantasy of a tormented smoker, by the Vitagraph Company. 19. White Fawn's Devotion (1910, 11 minutes), probably directed by James Young Deer and the earliest surviving film by a Native American.
MINNESOTA HISTORICAL SOCIETY 20. Cologne: From the Diary of Ray and Esther (1939, 14 minutes), small town portrait by amateur filmmakers, Dr. and Mrs. Dowidat.
MUSEUM OF MODERN ART 21. Blacksmithing Scene (1893, 1 minute), first U.S. film shown publicly. 22. The Shoe Clerk (1903, 1 minute), comic sketch with celebrated early editing. 23. Interior New York Subway, 14th St. to 42nd St. (1905, 5 minutes), filmed by Biograph's Billy Bitzer shortly after the subway's opening. 24. Hell's Hinges (1916, 64 minutes), William S. Hart Western about a town that earns its own destruction. 25. The Lonedale Operator (1911, 17 minutes), D.W. Griffith's rescue drama, starring Blanche Sweet. 26. Three American Beauties (1906, 1 minute), with rare stencil color.
NATIONAL ARCHIVES AND RECORDS ADMINISTRATION 27. We Work Again (1937, 15 minutes), WPA documentary on African American re-employment, including excerpt from Orson Welles' stage play of "Voodoo Macbeth". 28. The Autobiography of a Jeep (1943, 10 minutes), the story of the soldier's all-purpose vehicle, as told by the jeep itself. 29. Private Snafu: Spies (1943, 4 minutes), wartime cartoon for U.S. servicemen, directed by Chuck Jones and written by Dr. Seuss. 30. The Battle of San Pietro (1945, 33 minutes), celebrated combat documentary directed by John Huston. 31. The Wall (1962, 10 minutes), USIA film on the Berlin Wall made for international audiences.
NATIONAL AIR AND SPACE MUSEUM 32. From The Keystone "Patrician" (1928, 6 minutes), promotional film for new passenger plane. 33. From The Zeppelin Hindenburg (1936, 7 minutes), movies by a vacationing American family made on board 1 year before its destruction.
NATIONAL CENTER FOR JEWISH FILM 34. From Tevye (1939, 17 minutes), American Yiddish-language film, directed by Maurice Schwartz, adapted from Sholem Aleichem's stories.
NATIONAL MUSEUM OF AMERICAN HISTORY 35. From Accuracy First (ca. 1928, 5 minutes), Western Union training film for women telegraph operators. 36. From Groucho Marx's Home Movies (ca. 1933, 2 minutes).
NATIONAL MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY 37. From Beautiful Japan (1918, 15 minutes), early travel-lecture feature by Benjamin Brodky.
NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY 38. From La Valse (1951, 6 minutes), pas de deax from George Balanchine's 1951 ballet, featuring Tanaquil Le Clercq and Nicholas Magallanes and filmed at the Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival. 39. Battery Film (1985, 9 minutes), experimental documentary of Manhattan, by animator Richard Protovin and photographer Franklin Backus.
NORTHEAST HISTORIC FILM 40. From Rural Life in Maine (ca. 1930, 12 minutes), footage filmed by Elizabeth Wright near her farm of Windy Ledge, in southwestern Maine. 41. From Early Amateur Sound Film (1936-37, 4 minutes), scenes of family life captured by sound-film hobbyist Archie Stewart.
PACIFIC FILM ARCHIVE 42. Running Around San Francisco for an Education (ca. 1938, 2 minutes), early political ad, shown in San Francisco theaters, that helped win approval of local school bonds. 43. OffOn (1968, 9 minutes), Scott Bartlett's avant-garde film, the first to fully merge film and video.
UCLA FILM AND TELEVISION ARCHIVE 44. Her Crowning Glory (1911, 14 minutes), household comedy, with comic team John Bunny and Flora Finch, about an eight-year old who gets her way. 45. I'm Insured (1916, 3 minutes), cartoon by Harry Palmer. 46. The Toll of the Sea (1922, 54 minutes), Anna May Wong in an early two-strip Technicolor melodrama, written by Frances Marion. 47. The News Parade of 1934 (10 minutes), Hearst Metrotone newsreel summary of the year. 48. From Marian Anderson: The Lincoln Memorial Concert (1939, 8 minutes), excerpt from a concert film, reconstructed from newsreels, outtakes, and radio broadcast materials.
WEST VIRGINIA STATE ARCHIVES 49. From West Virginia, the State Beautiful (1929, 8 minutes), amateur travelogue along Route 60. 50. From One-Room Schoolhouses (ca. 1935, 1 min), amateur footage from rural Barbour County."