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FLICKS FILM AND VIDEO NOTES : Silent Devotion : Leif Engeswick depends on garage sales, flea markets and luck to locate copies of early films.

October 11, 1990|LEO SMITH

For Ventura's Leif Engeswick, silence is truly golden. In fact, he collects it--in the form of silent movies. To date the professional organ builder has collected more than 30 copies of films, along with one original, dating back to about the turn of the century.

Engeswick's interest in silent films goes back a long way.

"I started watching old movies when I was 4 years old. It was a staple of Saturday morning television," he said. "Then when I was in junior high, public television always had good series about silent films."

Engeswick began purchasing his silent-movie copies in 1970 from an Iowa company called Blackhawk Films. Since the early 1980s, when the company went out of business, he has depended on garage sales, flea markets and luck.

It was luck that led Engeswick to the one original film in his collection, which he purchased earlier this year.

"A friend of mine in Camarillo collects antique cameras and projection equipment," he said. "I was looking at his collection when I found a little reel of film on a dusty shelf. It turned out to be a comedy, about 1 1/2 minutes long. By the way it's put together and by the way it's shot, it looks to me like it was made within a year or two of 1900."

The five-scene film follows two mischievous preteen boys through a series of pranks. Unfortunately, a portion of the first scene was cut, presumably along with the title of the movie.

Among the copies in his collection, Engeswick is particularly pleased to have four works directed by motion picture pioneer D.W. Griffith.

"He was the first person to really understand that a motion picture and a stage play are not the same thing," he said. "Prior to his work, movies all looked like photographed stage plays. He pushed the cameras closer to the actors so the audience could see the face clearly. Close-ups had been around before, but no one had used them to emphasize what a person was thinking."

Engeswick likes to share his silent-film fascination. He occasionally puts on shows for community groups, churches, senior citizen centers and hospitals, and for the past 12 years he has visited Balboa Middle School.

Remember Gen. George Custer's most recent last stand? It was in the form of two videos depicting the final battle, shown in August at the Ray D. Prueter Library in Port Hueneme.

Well, Custer will be up to his old tricks again on Wednesday, with a repeat presentation of the videos "Red Sunday" and "Custer's Last Fight." When the videos were shown during the summer, many of the 50 or so people who showed up to see them had to be turned away. The crowd was about twice the size expected. This time around, library personnel are prepared.

Show time is 7 p.m. and there is no charge. The library is at 510 Park Ave.

From the Ojai Film Society: This week it's the 1988 Pedro Almodovar movie, "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown." It will be shown Sunday at 4:30 p.m. at the Ojai Playhouse, 145 E. Ojai Ave.

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