Today’s PSA: Film Preservation

Just think about the following facts:

Over 80% of all silent films are lost FOREVER;

Nearly half of all the films ever made (up to and including the present day) are lost FOREVER.

Film is not only a wonderful form of entertainment and amusement for us all, but it is an indelible marker of our culture and society, too. It is a legacy that we leave for future generations to understand who we were and where we were, frozen for that particular moment in time.

Please take a moment to look at this short video about the Celeste Bartos Film Preservation Center of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA).

The Center, located in Hamlin, Pennsylvania, comprises two buildings on a 38-acre estate. This includes a 7,900-square-foot facility for the Museum’s holdings of 5,000 fragile nitrate films, dating from 1894 to 1951; and a much larger 28,000-square-foot main building that houses some 9,000 titles on acetate-based “safety stock.”


To find out more about film preservation in general, please check out these resources:

National Film Preservation Foundation

National Film Preservation Board (Library of Congress)

Women’s Film Preservation Fund

The Film Foundation

Film Preservation in the Digital Age (article)


Back in the Public Domain

Here is a treasure trove of film available for cineastes everywhere.

This site contains feature length films as well as animated shorts, home movies, etc.

Here is a sample of some of the films on offer:

Panic In the Streets featuring Richard Widmark and Jack Palance (directed by Elia Kazan)

The Red House (1947) featuring Dame Judth Anderson and Edward G. Robinson

His Girl Friday (1940) featuring Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell

Dressed to Kill (1946) featuring Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes

Night of the LivingDead (1968)

Reefer Madness

Nosferatu …. you get my point.

My suggestion would be to take some time and look at all the videos that are available. They are available for download and streaming.


Happy Viewing!

Coming up at BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music)

A Place In The Sun

Last month, I saw the film Fish Tank (which I have discussed already in a previous post) at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. It is a fantastic venue to catch films and I recommend it to anyone who is in the NYC area or plans to visit the area.

I checked their calendar of events for upcoming screenings and plucked a bit of repetory cinema I think many will enjoy, That’s Montgomery Clift, Honey! during the month of March. Montgomery Clift the actor and the man always fascinated me. Before I knew his films very well, I remember watching one of those “beyond belief”-type shows as a kid and hearing the ghost story of how the spirit of Clift haunts a landmark Hollywood hotel.

After watching many if not all of his films, I was “haunted” but in a totally different way. With an artist like Clift, it helps to watch his films sequentially. This is especially true when looking at his films in the context of what was happening in his life off-screen (notably his disfiguring car accident) and how it affected his on-screen. persona.

Coming to a Theatre Near You ….

cinema screenI may not have to tell many of you out there, but when it comes to classic movies, you should take every opportunity to see them on the big screen. I was not always a purist in this regard. I figured I could watch TCM or AMC with and get a satisfactory cinematic experience. Then I saw the restored version of Vertigo (1958) at my alma mater’s movie theatre. There is nothing like it.

The problem then becomes, where to find screenings? In places like NY or LA there is not much of a problem. I know Chicago has a couple of cool places too! But it gets a little tricky outside of major metropolitan areas. There are many resources out there, but here is one site that I think is a good starting off point.

If you want to know about a film festival-go here!

Ever wonder if there was one place where you could find out information about ALL the film festivals EVERYWHERE? There are likely several such site on the world wide web, but this is one that I keep coming back to:
They even have a social networking piece ….

A Great Book for Movie Fans!

I was listening to the radio a couple of weeks ago and the author of this book, Roger Clarke was being interviewed. The book is entitled, Story of the Scene: The Inside Scoop on Famous Moments in Film.

Well the book finally arrived this week and I have already started reading it. It actually is a very breezy, fun read. I would say it is a coffee table book but really it is a small book. The format book is very simple – each page (listed in alphabetical order) is accompanied by a production still or movie poster. The stories are behind the scene detail of how a famous scene took place in a famous movie. Some of the details I thought I knew; other details were surprising. For instance, the behind the scenes detail of the bird attack scene in Alfred Hitchock’s “The Birds” was news to me. I could have sworn that … well I will let you read it for yourself to find out. It is definitely a book that you will want to peruse and read selectively as opposed to reading straight through – at least that will be my approach to completing the book.

It is a must-read for a cinephile!

clarke booke Book Details:
Story of the Scene: The Inside Scoop on Famous Moments in Film (Professional Media Practice). by Roger Clarke, copyright 2009. Published by Methuen Dram. Paperback (176 pages)

Films currently in the public domain

Admit one to your computer screen!

Admit one to your computer screen!

One of the fantastic things about the internet is the availability of streaming videos out there. Any film scholar can tell you that issues of copyright and ownership often got confusing at times. For example, many of the films of Alfred Hitchcock, most famously Vertigo, were in the courts for years as the legal system was asked to determine ownership. The result was an unfortunate one; one in which we the viewing public were not able to enjoy these films. Another consequence was that the prints were at times left to deteriorate due to neglect. Fortunately for us, many of these treasures have been identified and properly preserved or are in the process of being so.

Another fate suffered by older films is that motion picture companies who own these films hold the films in their vault and debate whether to release them for sale or distribution.

Thankfully, many groups holding these films in either case have come up with a solution to satisfy film fans everywhere – make these films available in the public domain. Take, for instance. A click on their Movies (Full Length), will display a plentiful supply of classic titles, enough to whet any movie lovers’ appetite. There is some Hitchcock (39 Steps, Lady Vanishes); His Girl Friday; Orson Welles’ The Stranger and more recent films such as Broken Flowers, The Last Days of Disco, Your Friends and Neighbors, etc. You can spend some time looking at the feature films and documentaries.

The one suggestion I have is to check the offering often. A couple of months ago I watched Otto Preminger’s Where the Sidewalk Ends. When I recently checked the movie list, it was not there.

3D: Old/new Wave of Future?

In the film community there has been a lot of talk surrounding the future of 3D in cinemas. A favorite film critic of mine, BBC’s Mark Kermode, has talked at great length about 3D and the issue of piracy. I have embedded one of his video blogs that discusses that very problem:

Meanwhile I had the pleasure last weekend of seeing the sixth installment of the Harry Potter film series (Half Blood Prince or HBP) in IMAX 3D. The Lincoln Center cinema was one of a handful of theatres nationwide showing HBP in IMAX ahead of the July 29th nationwide release in this format (click here to find out why).

I will spare you an actual review of HBP since I am an unapologetic devotee of both the books and the movies. I will however comment on the “IMAX 3-D” experience. Simply stated the best experience for me was watching the trailer for the Disney IMAX 3D version of A Christmas Carol, starring Jim Carrey.

As far as the feature presentation goes, the 3D was reserved for the first twenty minutes. Wow! There was a lot of deatheater flying, and swooping down alleys, across bridges and in narrow alleyways. The result left me a little light headed. For my movie-going companions, the experience was a bit more extreme; the experience bordered on nausea. At first, I thought it was just me but was I glad to find out I was not the only one.

At the end of the twenty minutes, I was more than happy to take off my 3D glasses at the prompting of the flashing of the red glasses on the cinema screen. The whole process of being instructed to do something in a movie theatre was a little disconcerting.

Another observation is that in a few scenes there was a weird ghostly/shadowy thing going on. Maybe it was just the print (hmm?).

My conclusion? Just give the IMAX experience if you want to get me excited about going to the movies – 3D is for the birds.

Criterion Collection Blow-Out at Barnes and Noble!!!!!

Criterion Titles
Criterion Titles

Check out this limited time offer! Usually these disks run in the forty dollar range, so being able to get them at 20 bucks is a fantastic opportunity! I have already indulged and may go back for more ….

Click here for more on the Criterion Collection.

You may be wondering why film fans are clamoring for such a special deal. Criterion DVDs and Blu Rays go beyond the standard issue disks not only in the quality of the digital transfer, but also in the meticulous detail that goes into developing the special features. Not only do the folks at Criterion get noted film scholars and filmmakers  to provide commentary and/or essays, but their producers have apparently scoured the world to get any existing information out there in the public domain pertaining to a particular title.

Take my Criterion Blu Ray version of “The Third Man;” Here are just a few of the listed Special Edition Features:

– Two audio commentaries (by Steven Soderbergh and Tony Gilroy) and one by film scholar Dana Polan

– Abridged recording of Graham Greene’s treatment, read by Richard Clarke

– A 2005 documentary on the making of the film

– Joseph Cotten (Holly Martins’) alternate opening voice-over narration for the U.S. version of the film

– Booklet featuring an essay by critic Luc Sante

…. and much much more!

As you can see, if you are a particular fan of a title that Criterion offers, owning one of these disks is like having a master class in that movie. I cannot recommend them enough.

Shoutout to the TCM Underground!

tcm underground

Over the past several months, I have found myself watching several movies from the TCM Underground that I have recorded due to their late airings.  From what I can gather, the goal of the Underground is to showcase cult films.  Previously I reviewed Two Thousand Maniacs on this blog – it was also shown on the Underground.  These films cover the gambit from your Plan Nine from Outer Space, which by all accounts is just bad on all levels, to Night of the Living Dead, a quintessential well-made cult classic.  Therefore, you can see that all the films do not necessarily have to be bad.  I am just making it a goal of mine to see a few of the really awful ones.  The way I figure, you really do not know how good a movie is until you have sat through a poorly made movie.

An innocent girl! A life destroyed!

An innocent girl! A life destroyed!

It is in that spirit that I viewed 1934’s Road to Ruin.  Reading the movie synopsis on my guide I was certain that it was in the same vein as Reefer Madness and other exploitation cautionary tales made at this time.  Over the course of the next 60 minutes, I knew I was not watching high art but I would be lying if I said the film’s concluding scenes did not a little sadden me.  It just goes to show that any movie, even a turkey, can elicit a visceral response from your audience.

Visit the TCM Underground for more information, including schedules, video clips, wallpapers and more fun stuff!


To read more about cult cinema, there is a great series of articles in the December 2008 issue of Cineaste magazine.  These articles cover a wide range of topics related to cult films.