'Accidentally Preserved': Rare silent films come to DVD
05:00 AM, Jan 22, 2014
Last month classic movie fans gasped at the results of a new study. The bad news: According to the Library of Congress, 70% of the silent films made in America are believed to be lost.
Historian and silent-film accompanist Ben Model is bringing attention to the importance of film preservation with a series he started called Accidentally Preserved. After a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2012, Model was able to transfer some films in his personal collection to DVD. The first compilation was such a success that he was able to use the profits to produce Volume 2, which went on sale today.
“Accidentally preserved,” a term coined by Model, refers to how some companies in the ’30s and ’40s made copies of silent movies on 16-millimeter film, so people could watch them at home. (Yep, the concept of renting movies dates back that far.) Incredibly, many of these copies have outlived the original 35-millimeter prints, making the movies, well, “accidentally preserved.”
Volume 2’s finds include nine lost and/or rare silent film shorts made from 1919-28. Interestingly, one is a cartoon featuring an animated Charlie Chaplin. Details of all of the films can be found on Ben’s site, accidentallypreserved.com.
Model, who accompanies silent films on piano and organ regularly at the Museum of Modern Art, the Library of Congress and other venues, plans to upload all of the Accidentally Preserved films to his YouTube channel (youtube.com/silentfilmmusic) in the spring.
For now, Volume 2 is on sale exclusively at Amazon. Support it, and you increase the chances of seeing a third volume!
Update: A previous version of this story said the DVD includes a Felix the Cat cartoon. Because of rights issues, Model wasn’t able to include it on the release.