Combustible Celluloid
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With: Charlie Chaplin, Stan Laurel, Georges Méliès, Charles A. Lindbergh, Josephine Baker, Lillian Roth, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Django Reinhardt, Jacques Tati, Michel Simon, Oliver Hardy, William Frawley
Written by: Various
Directed by: The Lumière Brothers, Georges Méliès, D.W. Griffith, Lois Weber, Dave Fleischer, Ub Iwerks, George Pal, Chuck Jones, Thomas Ince
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 420
Date: 18/03/2013

Saved from the Flames (2008)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Cinema Museum

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Buy Saved from the Flames: 54 Rare and Restored Films 1896-1944 on DVD

Flicker Alley, the little company that could, continues to impress, releasing quality items that rival The Criterion Collection and Kino. Their newest is a pocket cinema museum, a three-disc set full of short gems of all stripes, all supposedly "saved from the flames." The 54 films included run a combined seven hours, so I'll just mention the highlights. There's an interesting, culturally disturbing film about "Japanese" acrobats who do some amazing tricks, circa 1907. (And I'll admit it took me a few moments to figure out how.) An Excursion to the Moon is a deliberate copy of Melies' A Trip to the Moon (1902)... an early version of Gus Van Sant's Psycho. I loved The Automatic Moving Company (1911), an unbelievably painstaking animated short in which furniture moves itself into a home. Charlie Chaplin stars in a fascinating early short, Kid Auto Races at Venice (1914), which has to be one of cinema's first attempts at post-modernism. As the races are being filmed, The Tramp keeps trying to maneuver himself in front of the camera, even if he has to walk out onto the track in front of speeding go-carts. Fans of There Will Be Blood will be surprised by California Election News #2 (1934), in which people on the street explain why we should not vote for Upton Sinclair as governor. (The entire reel was faked, paid for by a panicky right-wing.) And what's a film museum without something by D.W. Griffith? Here we have For His Son (1912), an astonishing little two-reeler about an inventor who sells a soda filled with cocaine so that his son will have lots of money. Just scratching the surface, this set also includes films by the Lumière Brothers, Georges Méliès, Mack Sennett and the animators extraordinaire Max and Dave Fleischer, documentary footage and newsreels, footage of Charles Lindbergh, comedies (one with Stan Laurel), cartoons, jazz films, ads and promos, and even a Western. As a bonus, the very last film is a compilation of kissing scenes cut from other films, just like in Cinema Paradiso (1989). Any cinema buff would love this.

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