Combustible Celluloid
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With: Babe Ruth, Harold Lockwood, Charles Ray, Colleen Moore, John Gilbert, John Bunny, John McGraw, Felix the Cat, DeWolf Hopper, Billy Bevan
Written by: Various
Directed by: Lawrence C. Windom, Jerome Storm, Francis Ford, etc.
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 250
Date: 03/18/2013

Reel Baseball (2007)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Givin' It the Old Pepper

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Kino's wonderful new two-disc set is geared more toward baseball fans than film fans; these 13 films have little in the way of artistic value. A high point is Headin' Home (1920), a 73-minute feature film starring Babe Ruth in a homogenized version of his own story. It was his first year with the Yankees, and a banner year for him (he hit 54 home runs and batted .376). But the movie is a fairly routine tale with a slim, strong-looking Ruth sandwiched into the role of the small town underdog, shy and good-hearted and undercut by bullies. Ruth also appears in a short one-minute newsreel, looking more like the familiar, well-fed Ruth everyone knows. The set's other feature film is the 55-minute drama The Busher (1919). One short, Casey at the Bat or The Fate of a "Rotten" Umpire, goes all the way back to 1899. Easily the set's pinnacle, however, is the animated cartoon Felix Saves the Day (1922). The real value of the set is that it suggests the strong sense of history behind this game, not just the statistics, but also the intangibles: the ballpark, the weather, the way a team moves together during a double play. It also proves that artists, writers and filmmakers have taken to this game like no other. (I've only got one complaint: Kino does not provide a booklet with details about the films.)

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