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Category:    Home > Reviews > Silent Films > Comedy > Satire > Action > Melodrama > Western > Gangster > Romance > Horror > Mystery > Accidentally Preserved: Volume 5 with Lorraine Of The Lions (1925*), Love At First Flight (1928), Hoofbeats Of Vengeance (1928*) and The Fourth Commandment (1927*/Undercrank Blu-ray)/The Boob (1926/MG

Accidentally Preserved: Volume 5 with Lorraine Of The Lions (1925*), Love At First Flight (1928), Hoofbeats Of Vengeance (1928*) and The Fourth Commandment (1927*/Undercrank Blu-ray)/The Boob (1926/MGM)/Why Be Good? (1929/First National/Warner Archive Blu-ray)/The Cat and The Canary (1927/*Universal/MVD/Eureka! Blu-ray)

Picture: C+/B/B- Sound: C+/B-/B* Extras: D/D/B Films: C+/C+ & B-/B-

PLEASE NOTE: The Boob/Why Be Good? Blu-ray is now only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series and can be ordered from the link below.

Now for a group of silent films that show how great these films are, could be and are...

We start with the Undercrank label's great series of silent movie Blu-rays with a new double set, Accidentally Preserved: Volume 5 featuring four films almost totally lost, originally shot on 35mm film, but all of those copies and originals are gone (all shot and made on highly flammable nitrate film,) so we have four more films presented in surviving form as best they can be from 2K scans in conjunction with the Library of Congress. The films this time are...

Edward Sedgwick's Lorraine Of The Lions (1925, 76 minutes surviving from a 16mm reversal print) reuniting Patsy Ruth Miller and Norman Kenny from the 1923 Hunchback Of Notre Dame in a nature comedy where she is spoofing Tarzan, but as a female. We've seen this often over the years, no matter the gender of the lead, but it reminds us of how hugely successful the Edgar Rice Burroughs books were immediately and that we still know the character and his basic story over a century later means you'll get the jokes here too. Not bad.

Eddie Cline's Love At First Flight (1928, in a light sepia-tinted 16mm Kodascope reduction print, with the 2-strip Technicolor sequence in cheaper, inferior Dunning Color; see more below) is a self-distributed Mack Sennett comedy that has some fun moments and a few chuckles. I liked this, thought it was worthy of comedy of the time and they have a fun cat in there too. The fascination with and love of airplane flight at the time really shines here.

Henry MacRae's Hoofbeats Of Vengeance (1928, in a 16mm light sepia and blue for night tints reduction print) with Rex, King Of The Wild Horses, is amusing and for western fans or even animal lovers goes with the cycle of animal adventure films of the time that included Warner's Rin Tin Tin and into the sound era with the likes of Lassie. Its fine for those interested, but was made when the ideas were still fresh.

And Emory Johnson's The Fourth Commandment (1927 in a multi-tinted 16mm reduction print) is a sappy melodrama pushing the religious angle more than you would see today and maybe hoping to evoke a connection with any Biblical epic one could think of at the time. They could have overdone it even more, but it was more than enough for me. All but Flight were made by Universal.

There are sadly no extras, but its nice these films survived just the same and you can find more great restored silent classics by Undercrank elsewhere on this site.

Warner Archive has delivered a restored double feature with William A. Wellman's The Boob (1926, MGM) lightly sending up the Old West and gangsters, but with several stereotype in tow. It contrast city wealth with country limitations, but not in any bold or challenging way, though in some amusing ways. Joan Crawford shows up in an early role that helped her to become the legend and big box office she would become and there is some money and effort in the film. Only Wellman's ninth film, he went on to direct over eighty feature films including the 1937 A Star Is Born, Wings (1927,) Public Enemy, Safe In Hell (now also on Blu-ray; both 1931,) Beau Geste (1939,) Roxie Hart, The Ox-Bow Incident (both 1942) and Blood Alley (1955) making him a very successful journeyman director. You can see some of that energy here.

William A. Seitzer's Why Be Good? (1929) is the big surprise here, a film I have seen clips of before and may have seen in full eons ago, with the incredible actress and star Colleen Moore as a shopgirl who sees a guy (Neil Hamilton, later Commissioner Gordon on the 1960s Adam West Batman TV series) she really likes, not knowing he is the son of the owner of the department store she works for. Can a beautiful poor gal and rich guy meet, fall in love and find happiness?

Ironically made just as The Great Depression was on the way, both have overprotective fathers who react in different ways and the film can have some really bold, tough moments, but it also has some great comedy, some interesting romance and the leads have real chemistry. Moore was one of the most beautiful actresses of her time and as hard as this might be to believe, Hamilton was shockingly debonaire and often so in his original run of lead roles in his time. So much so that he could have played Bruce Wayne in a Batman film. One of the last great films of the 1920s, to have it survive, be preserved and issued in such pristine form is a real pleasure to see and treat to view. Warner Bros. had bought First National Pictures about this time with some of their massive Jazz Singer profits and this made them a major studio permanently.

A big, ambitious production, it is one of my favorite silent films and I cannot recommend it enough!

Director Seitzer later married Laura La Plante (for a time) from Leni's The Cat and The Canary (see below,) directing her in a few films and became a major comedy director working with the likes of Laurel & Hardy, The Marx Brothers, Abbott & Costello, Carmen Miranda and even Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers. After watching this film, you'll see exactly why!

There are sadly no extras, but I hope this is just the beginning of such releases from Warner Archive.

And that leaves us with Paul Leni's The Cat and The Canary (1927,) the biggest classic here, one of the original haunted house and lone-woman-in-the-house movies with the amazing Laura La Plante as Annabelle West, part of a group invited to a mansion of a rich, deceased man who gathers a group of people together to reveal who gets what. She goes into shock when she finds out she is getting all the money, but with one catch. If she gets to sick, physically and/or mentally afterwards, she loses every penny and the money will go to whomever is next on the list.

All of them stay at the house as bad things start happening, especially to her and by coincidence, a mad killer is on the loose. Far fetched as that may seem, it does not hurt the film much, as the visuals and the pace just keep on going. At the time, this was exciting, even groundbreaking filmmaking that led to many a horror and mystery film as director Leni really pushes the camera, editing and technology of the time.

Those expecting an outright horror film should know that this has some comedy in it, but it is contextual and not slapstick, so Abbott & Costello meeting various monsters is not what is going on here. There is not explicit comic relief character, but the mystery is well done, based on the original John Willard stage play that later inspired Agatha Christie, her U.S. counterpart, the underrated Mary Roberts Reinhart (The Bat), James Whale's The Old Dark House (1932, with Gloria Stewart (of Cameron's Titanic,) Melvin Douglas, Charles Laughton and Boris Karloff) and La Plante would reunite for a similar film with Leni a year after Canary in The Last Warning. Even the Neil Simon comic play and movie (1976) of Murder By Death partly references this classic, not to mention other endless cartoons, radio dramas, movies and TV shows that did the same.

So if you are a serious fan of horror, mysteries and suspense, this Cat and The Canary is a must see!

Extras are nice, many and include (per the press release):

  • Limited Edition O-Card slipcase featuring new artwork by Graham Humphreys

  • 1080p HD presentation on Blu-ray from a 4K digital restoration of the original negatives supplied by the Museum of Modern Art

  • DTS-HD MA 5.1 score by Robert Israel; compiled, synchronized and edited by Gillian B. Anderson, based on music cue sheets compiled and issued for the original 1927 release

  • Brand new audio commentary by author Stephen Jones and author / critic Kim Newman

  • Brand new audio commentary by Kevin Lyons and Jonathan Rigby

  • Mysteries Mean Dark Corners: brand new video essay by David Cairns & Fiona Watson

  • Pamela Hutchinson on The Cat and the Canary: brand new interview with writer and film critic Pamela Hutchinson

  • Phuong Le on The Cat and the Canary: brand new interview with film critic Phuong Le

  • A Very Eccentric Man & Yeah, a Cat!: extracts from John Willard's original play

  • Lucky Strike: Paul Leni gives a full-throated endorsement to the product that got him through filming The Cat and the Canary

  • and a collector's booklet featuring new writing on the film by Richard Combs, Craig Ian Mann, and Imogen Sara Smith.

Sadly, many other versions of the story have been lost, but you can also read about the decent 1978 remake with Honor Blackman (Goldfinger, The Avengers) at this link:


Now for playback performance. The 1080p 1.33 X 1 black & white digital High Definition image transfer can show the age of the materials used, but these look as good as they can for their age and Cat is tinted in various colors throughout, while Lions is a brown sepia tint all the way and the rest of the Preserved films in sepia and blue tints and maybe a few more on Commandment. Flight originally had some two-strip Technicolor before the company perfected color with their three-strip process. More specifically, they are two separate strips printed on a blank 35mm nitrate film to give you the final color result, just after eliminating cement from the format which was melting and left the prints falling apart. Universal rarely used this version of the color format,but that would soon change as sound arrived. The Warner Archive films look the best in pristine black and white throughout, benefitting and lucking out by being preserved early and surviving since.

As for sound, the four films on Preserved have lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo scores by Jon C. Mirsalis that are decent and sound good, but also limited by the older, compressed codec. Wish they were lossless. The Warner Archive double feature has its music presented in DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 lossless mixes that feature a Arthur Barrow stereo music score for Boob and the original monophonic Vitaphone soundtrack with music and sound effects for Why Be Good? That both play just fine. Cat has a score by Robert Israel that is fine, but some might find the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix a little overpowering and too new or new-sounding. Still, it is not bad and ambitious just the same. You can play it lower and that might work better for you.

To order the Warner Archive The Boob/Why Be Good? Blu-ray, go to this link for it and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


- Nicholas Sheffo


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