Accidentally Preserved: Volume 5 | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Tuesday, May 21st, 2024  

Accidentally Preserved: Volume 5

Studio: Undercrank Productions

Apr 13, 2024 Web Exclusive Photography by Undercrank Productions Bookmark and Share

The fifth volume of Undercrank Productions’ Accidentally Preserved series brings together four silent films that have been lost in time, saved only by their 16mm editions developed for the home video market in the 1920s-1940s. It’s a situation that almost seems too good (and too baffling) to be true. Because these films have been out of commission for so long, their physical release allows new generations of silent film enthusiasts, and cinephiles as a whole, to discover some of the lesser-known works of cinema’s premier era.

The longest and most developed film of the bunch, Lorraine of the Lions (1925), follows a circus ship that goes down in a typhoon, leaving a sole child, Lorraine, and the circus animals she’s friends with stranded on a remote island. After seeing a vision of young Lorraine in his house, her grandfather goes on a long quest to find her. Years later, after Lorraine has grown up, the two reunite, and he introduces Lorraine and her best friend, the circus gorilla, to common society, for better and worse. The Tarzan-esque film is wildly entertaining, despite the general absurdity of its plot (which is, like many silent films, part of its charm) and a somewhat rushed love story between Lorraine and one of the ship’s captains.

Ironically, Lorraine of the Lions is followed by the series’ shortest and least developed film, Love at First Flight (1928). This 18-minute film follows a pilot and his assistant who land on a beach of dancing women. The comedy, produced for Pathé, includes several sequences in color, which provide a welcome relief to the film’s number of overwrought and oddly overlong sequences. A smaller, Tom and Jerry-esque plotline during the film’s first half, following a cat and a mouse bickering on the plane’s nose that leads to its eventual descent, gives the film much-needed life through its randomness, quick pacing and surprising pertinence to the film’s plot.

Hoofbeats of Vengeance (1928) is an early Western, where the film’s horses are the stars. The film technically follows an officer on a mission to find the group of scavengers who have murdered the owner of “Rex, the Wonder Horse.” But, at the same time, Rex is always at the center of the story, allowing the film to function more as a revenge tale told through the eyes of the horse itself. The 47-minute film is action-packed, using its chase premise to deliver high-stakes thrills that move quickly and engagingly. But, the film’s most memorable scenes are those in which the horses have their own lines, including one where Rex is threatened and trash-talked to by one of the smuggler’s horses.

Finally, The Fourth Commandment (1927) breaks from the rest of the series’ trend of stories revolving around the relationships between humans and animals. This film follows a young couple who gets married, only to run into trouble a couple of years later when one of their mother-in-laws moves in with them. From there, the film explores the typical mother/daughter-in-law conflict, as their distinct personalities and ways of living constantly clash. The story’s stakes and pacing lose steam when the film’s tension boils over before its third act. Regardless, a heartwarming conclusion and the way the film explores the theme of honoring your family (even if its Biblical affiliations are overdeveloped and over-utilized) make it a worthwhile watch.

Despite having dissimilar plots, all of the films are linked by new scores by Jon C. Mirsalis, which both bring life to the stories and help further differentiate them. Given the importance of scores in silent films, a lacking score could have ruined any of these stories. Mirsalis’ comprehension of each film’s different tone and intensity and his recognition of certain stylistic and sonic parallels present across the films allow his scores to perfectly and memorably animate everything on-screen.



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