Friday, June 9, 2017


Two obscurities of vintage cinema have recently been released to DVD and through lesser-known independent distributors. While a few in the hobby tend to dismiss anything released under an independent label, these two offerings are proof that the best restoration jobs can be made available through the efforts of fan boys who want to see the films restored properly. The Mysterious Airman is a 1928 silent serial that was once thought to be "lost," featuring biplanes and exciting action with screen icons Walter Miller and Eugenia Gilbert. Produced by the Weiss Brothers, only the first reel of chapter nine is still considered missing, reconstructed from stills and a plot synopsis. An aircraft corporation is under attack by a band of mysterious flyers, whose leader is known as "Pilot X." It takes a hero willing to risk his life to unmask the identity of the villain, and their motives.

Few silent serials exist today and many of them are incomplete, missing segments and whole chapters. Originally part of the holdings of Kit Parker with his acquisition of Weiss Global International in 2004, Parker was approached by film archivist Jeff Joseph of SabuCat Productions, who offered to loan a near-complete original 35mm tinted nitrate print. Dr. Andrew Simpson of the Library of Congress Packard Campus in Culpepper, Virginia, produced a new piano score. A commentary track is also available on the disc from historian Richard M. Roberts. (Last month I had my DVD cover insert autographed by Richard personally.)

Of recent a number of silent serials have begun making their way to DVD for fans and collectors to purchase and view. While a number of them have been "altered," such as replacing the original dialogue cards with new ones in an effort to watermark or brand the print, purists prefer to view the films as they were meant to be seen  -- unaltered. But sometimes artist interpretation of "restoration" versus "alteration" is loosely interchanged. Thankfully the Sprocket Vault has released The Mysterious Airman to DVD as a true restoration -- the type of restoration we fanboys wish all silent films received. No alterations. You can purchase your copy here:

Willie Whopper has come to DVD and BluRay (as a combo pack) and fans of vintage animation can enjoy all 14 animated classics from UB Iwerks, produced in the 1930s, from the best surviving masters. Among the highlights are both Willie Whopper cartoons made in Cinecolor, Davy Jones' Locker and Hell's Fire, taken from the original camera negatives. Unseen for over 80 years except as black and white or faded dupes, these two cartoons are again presented in all their two-color glory. Like The Mysterious Airman, the picture quality is superb on every level. 

As if a major restoration from archival elements was not enough, both the DVD and BluRay contain a number of bonus extras such as the script for a never-produced Willie Whopper cartoon, original production art, a gallery of stills, a 12-page booklet documenting the history of the cartoon character, a few bonus cartoons and audio from the 78s (jazz recordings which were featured in the animated cartoons). 

Steve Stanchfield of Thunderbean continues to work alongside film archives to digitally restore vintage animated cartoons. Most of the cartoons he put out are in the public domain which means the former owners would never consider spending thousands of dollars or man hours restoring old cartoons that -- in the minds of studio heads -- have no financial value. Here, Steve partnered with Blackhawk Films and UCLA to obtain the best materials to work with. Being UB Iwerks productions the cartoons are not brilliant gems -- but the best of the Willie Whopper cartoons warrant viewing. Steve is presently working on a restoration of every Flip the Frog cartoon ever made (from 35mm elements), along with the ComiColor series. I will be among the many to purchase a copy of each to continue showing my support. I recommend you send a thank you note to Steve for providing this service by purchasing a copy of the DVD/BluRay combo pack today. Financial support helps with future projects.

You can purchase a copy here:

Disclaimer: Unlike most products, these DVDs were not sent to me with the request of a review on my blog. I purchased these on my own accord to help support the endeavors of The Sprocket Vault and Thunderbean Animation.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Two times you call film enthusiasts "fanboys" (or "fan boys" idk why it's spelled differently each time) There are fangirls too y'know hun ;-)

Post a Comment