Ever wonder what a night at the movies was like in the silent era? Here's your chance to experience it! We hope to recreate 1917 cinema-going EXACTLY as it was experienced but we need your help to pull this off.
The project will include a feature and the four short films that originally accompanied it. This isn't guesswork, the program was sold as a package 100 years ago and every film survives.
Our goal is to fund the transfer, scoring and DVD release of Kidnapped (1917), based on the famous Robert Louis Stevenson swashbuckling novel. The Library of Congress has a a 16mm copy in its collection-- the only known surviving print of this late Edison feature. The film has been all but unseen since its 1917 release (and even listed as lost by some authors!) but critics of its day raved about its quality, its performances, its camera work and the absorbing way it presented its story.
Modern audiences will find that it is a fast-paced, exciting swashbuckler with a charismatic performance from Robert Cain as Alan Breck, a Scottish rebel. Moody lighting and good use of a real ship and outdoor shooting locations are the icing on the cake.
Director Alan Crosland would go on to make Don Juan and The Beloved Rogue, so this costumed adventure is clearly in his wheelhouse. He also made movie history as the director of The Jazz Singer. Kidnapped proves that Crosland had a strong grasp of his trade early in his career.
Kidnapped was released as the feature of "Conquest Program No. 9" by Edison and the program included a comedy short, a silhouette fairy tale and two documentary shorts. All four of these shorts survive and are held by the Library of Congress.
Every short, every actuality will be included. We're essentially creating a time machine in DVD form. Isn't that amazing?
The additional Conquest materials will get the same treatment as Kidnapped: professional transfer, editing and a score by Ben Model.
A big tip of our hats to Rob Stone and the wonderful staff of the Library of Congress for their kind help and for keeping these films safe and sound for future generations to enjoy.
Why we need your help
This rare set of films is exciting but the cost of transferring and scoring puts them out of reach for individual fans. But if we all work together, we can return this piece of film history to the general public for all to enjoy.
Anything you can do to help would be enormously appreciated, be it financial backing or sharing our campaign with your friends, followers and family. And all backers who pledge $25 USD or more will receive a copy of the feature and shorts on DVD.
Even if you can't back us financially, please consider spreading the word about this project. We truly appreciate any buzz you can generate on social media.
Our eventual goal is to make the program DVD available for retail sale so that the general public can enjoy these fine films, most of them for the first time in a century.
Note: Due to the prohibitive cost of international shipping, all backers eligible for a DVD who live outside the United States will receive their disc in a paper sleeve instead of a plastic case. We will also provide the disc artwork in a downloadable format. International backers are responsible for any taxes and customs levied by their nation of residence. The disc will be a region free, NTSC encoded DVD-R.
(All clippings are courtesy of the Media History Digital Library.)
In addition to several silent partners and business helpers, here is our main production crew:
Fritzi is the founder, chief cook and bottle washer at Movies Silently, a site created with the goal of making silent films fun and accessible. She has written for the San Francisco Silent Film Festival and the Keaton Chronicle. She's also the person responsible for starting this madcap journey into releasing a rare Edison feature. When she's not writing about silent films, she's preparing vintage recipes and serving them to unsuspecting friends and family.
Christopher Bird is a film editor and director. For six years he was Kevin Brownlow’s co-director and editor, and worked on the restorations of Napoleon and The Cat and the Canary. He has edited TV programmes for all the major UK broadcasters, as well as two feature films. His work has won an International Emmy and a Rose d’Or. He has just directed the documentary Queen: Rock the World about the band's 1977 tour of America, made entirely from unseen archive footage. He is a long time silent film enthusiast and film collector.
Ben Model is one of the nation's leading silent film accompanists, performing on both piano and theatre organ. Over the past 30+ years he has created and performed several hundred live scores for silent films on piano and theatre organ, for films lasting anywhere from one minute to five hours. Ben is a resident film accompanist at the Museum of Modern Art (NY) and performs regularly at the Library of Congress' Packard Campus Theatre. His recorded scores can be heard on numerous DVD/Blu-Ray releases, on TCM and on his YouTube channel. Ben is a regular accompanist at classic film festivals around the U.S.A. and internationally, and he performs at universities, museums, and historic theaters. Ben is the producer and co-founder of The Silent Clowns Film Series, now in its 21st season in NYC. Ben's composed ensemble scores for films by Chaplin and Keaton are performed around the U.S. every year by orchestras and by concert bands. Ben has co-curated a number of film series for MoMA, and also programmed three recent DVD box sets of Ernie Kovacs television shows.
Risks and challenges
There are no real risks associated with this project. Backers of this project will likely be film buffs and will understand that these are unrestored silent movies transferred from 16mm prints. It won't look like something showing at the local IMAX; it's 100 years old, it will show its age to some extent. That being said, this is the only known copy of the feature and a rare chance to let it see the light of day once again. To have all the surviving shorts available as well is film nerd heaven.
Further, the project collaborators are experienced in their fields, which considerably lowers the risk of unexpected issues.
As the film is edited and scored, we will be sending out regular updates to backers letting them know how things are progressing. If there are any unexpected delays, we will inform you via project updates.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (15 days)