The latest offering in film historian/archivist Ben Model’s DVD series brings together eight productions that are believed to be lost in their original 35mm format but managed to survive in the 9.5mm format that was used for home movie viewing during the mid-20th century. (More popular in Europe than in the U.S., the 9.5mm technology had the sprocket holes curiously placed down the middle of the film rather than on its edge.) As with previous releases, the versatile Mr. Model composed and performed original music for these rediscovered gems, which run the gamut from joyful slapstick to intense melodrama.
For sheer fun, a trio of comedies starring long-forgotten clowns are the highlights of this offering: diminutive Bobby Ray vainly attempts to become a pugilistic powerhouse in Meet Father (1924), the intense Glenn Tryon pursues driving lessons despite no talent at vehicular operation in The Wages of Tin (1925) and British funnyman Walter Forde tries to push an insurance policy to meet his sales quota in Walter’s Paying Policy (1926). Rural humor is on display with the team of Sid Smith and Jimmie Adams in wonderfully silly Nonsense (1920), while the Fleischer Studios put their animation aside for some racy live-action shenanigans in ‘Morning, Judge (1926).
Also involved abridged versions of the rare comic silent Western A Man’s Size Pet (1926) and the action-rich dramas The Ninety and Nine (1922, starring Warner Baxter and Colleen Moore in a race-against-death involving a train rescuing a fire-trapped community) and Tides of Passion (1925, with Griffith leading lady Mae Marsh in a tale of jealousy, adultery and seriously inclement weather) provide a more comprehensive view of what 1920s audience appreciated.
The selection of films in this DVD were culled from the USC Hugh H. Hefner Moving Image Archive, and the HD transfers for these rare movies is uncommonly vibrant. Running the emotional gamut from guilty pleasure buffoonery to emotionally devastating artistry, these films are a true joy to behold.