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Critic's Pick: Treasure-trove of silent films on DVD 'Lost & Found'

September 25, 2013|By Kenneth Turan
  • "Upstream" is a 1927 silent film by director John Ford starring Nancy Nash and Earle Foxe.
"Upstream" is a 1927 silent film by director John Ford starring… (Courtesy of Margaret Herrick )

If you care about lost films in general and silent films in particular and can't wait till they arrive on DVD (no names, please), the moment is now. The National Film Preservation Foundation's "Lost & Found: American Treasures From the New Zealand Film Archive" is newly on sale, showcasing highlights from one of the most exciting finds of the last decade.

That would be the discovery in the New Zealand Film Archive of a trove of silent material (detailed in a comprehensive 48-page booklet) that had been thought lost forever. As is often the case, however, these films had merely been left behind at one of the far ends of the Earth, a location considered too far away for Hollywood to demand that material be returned.

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The high point of the find is 1927's "Upstream," an early John Ford feature that is presented here along with a not-seen-before trailer to another lost Ford, 1929's "Strong Boy." It is in fact the smaller, less known items that are the charms of this collection, including Mabel Normand's comic "Won in a Cupboard" and a stunning 1926 Pathecolor newsreel called "Virginia Types: Blue Ridge Mountaineers."

Also unusual on DVD is the Warner Archive Collection release of King Vidor's "Hallelujah," the first all-black major studio feature. Hallelujah indeed.

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