Silent Film Accompanist/Historian Ben Model Offers A DVD
Accidently Preserved Serves Them Rare
Sometimes you can judge a DVD by its cover, Accidentally Preservedhaving one both creative and apropos. The title is stamped as a shipping lapel on a worn box like ones crossing country between 16mm collectors a generation ago (and topresent day, for all I know). Those belts we tried fastening tight would invariablycome loose, and who knew if leaders on film within would stay intact for the journey? Ben Model knows collecting from way back and hoisted many a battered case to and from screenings, UPS depots, wherever movies began or ended trips to those who'd enjoy them. It isn't news for ones who've seen/heard him perform that Ben Model is the best silent film accompanist working. Any program with him at a keyboard will be enriched. To this we may add compilation and release of DVD's, produced by Model under the banner of Undercrank Productions, from which wondrous things are certain, judging by Accidentally Preserved as debut disc.
The program includes nine subjects, all but one comedic, and beautifully derived off collector prints. Three were from Greenbriar's archive, and I was floored by quality Model drew from 16mm out of storage at NC's Dungeon Central. To richly entertaining reels comes scoring of Ben Model's customarily high caliber, his music groovable with or without slapstick support. So bring in the clowns, but in Accidentally's case, let it be fun faces new to many of us and all the more rewarding for discoveries to be had. So how much of Wallace Lupino, Jack Duffy, Monte Collins, Paul Parrott, Clyde Cook, Cliff Bowes, and Billy Franey have you seen? Me neither ... but here they all are, Accidentally Preserved a crash (bam, splatter, plunge) course in speechless comedy's past that I'd not trade for a reborn Robert Youngson. And producer Model has pre-credit explanatory titles just like Blackhawk Films used to! I got misty reading, then enjoying, as in 8mm thread-up days on the Bell and Howell.
These subjects are unique because they've been seen by practically nobody since on-screen funnymen plied trade.
I watched and learned, the latter courtesy detailed program noteswritten by laff-movie expert Steve Massa and posted at the Accidentally Preserved website. Massa, along with archivist/historian Bruce Lawton, has been presenting his Silent Clowns film series in NYC since 1997 to ongoing acclaim and packed attendance. He also has a book just out, Lame Brains and Lunatics, that I would call an ideal companion to viewing of the DVD. Steve Massa's knowledge in this field is second to none. Lame Brains and Lunatics offers career detail and filmographies for a gallery of clowns time forgot; undeservedly, claims the author, who makes the case for reevaluation of names that may not be familiar, but deserve a look-in, that option now available thanks to Accidentally Preserved. Do note "Volume One" at the top of Undercrank's DVD, indication there'll be further gather of rarities. According to Ben Model, success of this project has already paved ways for the next release, so aficionados should have plenty to look forward to.