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Thursday, September 26, 2013

I'm Just Off a Ninety-Year Old Rollercoaster!


This Nitrate Train Ride Will Leave You Dizzy

Lyman H. Howe's Famous Ride on a Runaway Train is one of many subjects contained in a newly-released DVD of rarities from New Zealand archives. Greenbriar will cover others from this extraordinary disc as they are watched. The Cinerama crowd had nothing on Lyman H. Howe, who arrived generations earlier to subjective thrill rides that put theatregoers in roller coaster seating, or at least its equivalent, to wit the runaway train that is centerpiece of this six minute thriller-diller. I predict myself watching Howe's Famous Ride many more times, and showing it to company. How many ways does it please? More than I count from initial viewing, attention caught up by careening passage over mile-high trestles and seemingly sheer inclines. Boy, did trains take perilous route back then! I'd have been scared to climb aboard given awareness of wilds they traversed. So what were chances of plunge off mountainsides or tumbling off bridges? The roller coaster effect is thrillingly maintained. Just like that inspiration, the ride starts slow, folks sat serenely on observation platforms for slow climbs upward. Then H --- breaks loose and we're free railing. Program notes for the Treasures DVD (via New Zealand archive) say patronage went nuts for a reel itinerant exib Lyman H. Howe had taken on roads since forever, adding footage here, sharpening edits there, until he had half-a-dozen visceral minutes to put audience hair on ends. Added beauty to the 35mm nitrate find is wedding of an original soundtrack replete with agitatado music, train whistles, the blood-racing gamut. Here's advise: Be sure to catch this train on as large a screen as accessible --- it excites best when views are life-sized. Talk about a single subject being worth price of the disc! (which contains, as well, many other shorts and a new-discovered John Ford feature) Result like what's got here give film preservation reason for being --- show this to a deep-pocket crowd and I'll bet they'd give it up ($) toward further preservation. Pardon me now while I watch Lyman H. Howe's Famous Ride on a Runaway Train --- again.

2 Comments:

Blogger Reg Hartt said...

Thanks for bringing this to our attention. Just ordered it.

4:36 PM  
Blogger Jim Lane said...

Your thoughts mine precisely, John. Can there be any doubt that Fred Waller saw this short (or one of its predecessors) and had it in mind when he was mulling over what he could shoot to demonstrate Cinerama?

3:22 AM  

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