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Reviews of silent film releases on home video.
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The Mystery of the
Leaping Fish

(1916)

 
Flicker Alley
2008 DVD edition

Douglas Fairbanks: A Modern Musketeer (1916-1921), color-toned black & white, color-tinted black & white and black & white, 760 minutes total, not rated,
including The Mystery of the Leaping Fish (1916), color-toned black & white, 27 minutes, not rated.

Flicker Alley, FA0011,
UPC 6-17311-67359-7, ISBN: 1-8939-6735-2.
Full-frame 4:3 NTSC, five single-sided, dual-layered DVD discs, Region 0, ? Mbps average video bit rate, ? kbps audio bit rate, Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, chapter stops, five slimline DVD keepcases in cardboard slipcase, $89.95.
Release date: 2 December 2008.
Country of origin: USA

Our first look at this five-disc, eleven-film collection has generally been a delight, and the release of these films on DVD home video has been a long time coming for the relatively neglected Douglas Fairbanks. At first overwhelming, this collection of films released by Triangle, Artcraft Pictures and Fairbanks’ own United Artists is a great overview of the first phase of Fairbanks’ motion picture career, predominantly comprised of his light-hearted comedies, leading to the well-known action-adventure films of the 1920s.

The films are accompanied by musical scores performed by Eric Beheim, Philip Carli, Frederick Hodges, Robert Israel, Rodney Sauer, The Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra, and Franklin Stover.

Included is a 32-page booklet with an essay by Jeffrey Vance and Tony Maietta. The supplemental material includes productions stills and pressbook reproductions, an audio essay for A Modern Musketeer, and a reproduction of Fairbanks’ first film contract. This boxset collection won an award at Il Cinema Ritrovato in 2009 for excellence.

 

Note: A few DVD players have encountered problems playing some discs in this boxset. Flicker Alley has inititated a program to replace defective discs from this Fairbanks set. Click here to report defective discs.

 
USA: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 0 NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.com. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
Kino on Video
2001 DVD edition

The Gaucho (1927), black & white, 96 minutes, not rated,
with The Mystery of the Leaping Fish (1916), black & white, 26 minutes, not rated.

Kino International, K215, UPC 7-38329-02152-8.
Full-frame 4:3 NTSC, one single-sided, single-layered DVD disc, Region 1, 4 Mbps average video bit rate, 192 kbps audio bit rate, Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, no chapter stops, standard DVD keepcase, $29.95.
Release date: 9 October 2001.
Country of origin: USA

Ratings (1-10): video: 9 / audio: 7 / additional content: 8 / overall: 8.

The highlight of the supplemental section is the DVD premiere of a new transfer from a very good to excellent 35mm print of Fairbanks’ bizarre comedy short The Mystery of the Leaping Fish (1916). The film has previously been available on a number of VHS tapes transferred from lousy 16mm reduction prints. The 35mm print is slightly speckled and lightly scuffed, but with a broad range of greytones and excellent image detail. The transfer is generously cropped and presented full-frame. The print does seem to be missing a few bridging snippets of footage and some intertitles slip by a little too quickly, but it is a pleasure to behold after years of viewing horrible 16mm copies. The film itself is a parody of super detective Sherlock Holmes, with Doug appearing as Coke Ennyday, the hopped-up detective who liberally avails himself of cocaine and a number of injections of another narcotic to assist him in his investigations. The film also stars a young Bessie Love as the object of A.D. Sears’ brusque attentions, who is himself a drug smuggler!

This strange film is accompanied by an equally strange and spare score for acoustic guitar, trombone and bass composed by Larry Marotta. The film includes several detailed views of seaside piers, street scenes and location stores (we think in the New York area), serving as a great documentary glimpse back into another time. We have to wonder whether Coke Ennyday’s checkered automobile has survived intact somewhere, perhaps?

 
USA: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 1 NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.com. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
 
Canada: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 1 NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.ca. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
Other silent era DOUGLAS FAIRBANKS films available on home video.

Other SHORT COMEDY FILMS of the silent era available on home video.

Douglas Fairbanks filmography in The Progressive Silent Film List
 
 
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