Vintage Film Buff

Milestone, Flicker Alley, Oscilloscope, Cinema Guild...they're all here.
Post Reply
Message
Author
User avatar
HerrSchreck
Joined: Sun Sep 04, 2005 11:46 am

Vintage Film Buff

#1 Post by HerrSchreck » Sun Dec 24, 2006 4:44 am

VINTAGE FILM BUFF site and catalog

Apparently a very new dvd company/site devoted to-- at least they're up front about it-- DVD-R's.

But man what DVD-R's... what taste!

Murnau's CITY GIRL, Mamoulian's CITY STREETS, MISTER WU from 1927 with Lon Chaney in the dual role (I've been dying to see this sucker since I saw the clips in the Branagh doc, and the recounting how he rode around town in a public streetcar as the elederly chinaman to see whether or not he got any oddball looks, or simply just blended in i e Accepted As Real), tons and tons of pre codes of all stripe, some even bundled as star tributes... one for the ol'd Dock Walloper himself George Bancroft, also Mister ALIBI as well as mister BIG HOUSE himself, Chester Morris... 'nother for Anna May Wong" DAUGHTER OF SHANGHAI, DAUGHTER OF THE DRAGON, KING OF CHINATOWN; The final Louise Brooks Paramount vehicle THE CANARY MURDER CASE (where, when they ex post facto dubbed it into a talkie, her voice was dubbed by her visual acolyte, Margaret Livingston of SUNRISE & LAST WARNING fame... clearly it is very important, when getting someone to dub your voice to put a voice to your visual performance, that the person look just like you),

plus silents, pre-code, pre-code-preCODE!!!!!!!!! SOme pretty cool stuff in here. Obviously run by some passionate folks with very good taste and knowledge of some of the huge gaps out there in distribution. Take a sec and go thru this fucking list-- could be better but could be worse.

Anybody know anything about these folks? ANybody buy anything yet?

User avatar
david hare
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 8:01 pm
Location: WellyYeller

#2 Post by david hare » Sun Dec 24, 2006 6:03 am

Ummm.. given the kerfuffle over on MoC about bootlegging and plain theft etc, it's at least good to read about black hole PD material that's been booting around for years which definitely needs broader sharing. Even TCM has been screening things like City Streets without any clear copyright so I say all more power to this site.

But maybe I'm nailing my toe to the floor.

User avatar
HerrSchreck
Joined: Sun Sep 04, 2005 11:46 am

#3 Post by HerrSchreck » Sun Dec 24, 2006 6:25 am

Yeah, being pretty much the point-- dvd - r in this case meaming budget discs made by all manner of means to get material out there even if it means projecting a 16mm reduction against your kitchen wall and digivid-ing it.. or, furchrissakes, analog homeviding it; lord knows its how a lot of us nutcases got to see tons a stuff before silent and japan/russki/cocteauish-french material became available. Someone say BLOOD OF A POET? BACKSTAIRS? Bresson?

Basically doing what Alpha (dressed up dv-r's... don't kid yourself folks) is doing-- getting free-for-all material nobody's been bothering with out there... because no current official release exists and nobody's even close to doing anything with "vault" materials.

They serve a purpose. God bless Grapevine in the old days, even for some items today. Alpha, I could rhapsodize about their z-picture collection. Their THE BRAIN/HEAD THAT WOULDN'T DIE is actually from a digibeta, a real dvd transfer! And then there is THE TERROR OF TINYTOWN, The First All Midget Western-Musical (as if others followed!)

They serve a purpose, and aint really robbing anyone.

User avatar
david hare
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 8:01 pm
Location: WellyYeller

#4 Post by david hare » Sun Dec 24, 2006 6:32 am

Agreed - anyone who can replicate endlessly and distribute for el maximo cheapo The Head with Two Things (I mean the Thing with two Heads) and Brain that Wouldn't Die is doing the planet a huge service.

They are plasma to the veins of lunatics like nous.

User avatar
HerrSchreck
Joined: Sun Sep 04, 2005 11:46 am

#5 Post by HerrSchreck » Sun Dec 24, 2006 7:42 am

davidhare wrote:el maximo cheapo The Head with Two Things (I mean the Thing with two Heads)
Would that perchance the glorious MANSTER be? Ah, ambrosia. That lucky occidental bastard could say "ahh" eat two perfumey geishas in one lucky lick. SOme people get all the Sinister Science Injections.

User avatar
david hare
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 8:01 pm
Location: WellyYeller

#6 Post by david hare » Sun Dec 24, 2006 4:47 pm

No, Head with two Things (I mean Thing with two Heads) is a Ray Milland AIP Z-ster posing as commentary on racism. It's a riot. Also a sort of rip off of the esteemed Manster, AND Incredible Two Headed Transplant.

While on this topic also essential viewing The Brain that Wouldn't Die.

User avatar
Scharphedin2
Joined: Fri May 19, 2006 7:37 am
Location: Denmark/Sweden

#7 Post by Scharphedin2 » Sun Jan 28, 2007 7:56 am

Schreck, did you ever pick up any of the discs from this "Vintage Film Buff"?

Off topic, but did you ever check out any of the discs from www.reelclassicdvd.com ? A new poster (Forgotten Goldfish) over in the Keaton on DVD thread linked to their site, and it looks very promising.

User avatar
HerrSchreck
Joined: Sun Sep 04, 2005 11:46 am

#8 Post by HerrSchreck » Sun Jan 28, 2007 9:52 am

That print of VARIETE looks SOOOOOOOOO much better than the washed out horrible print on the vhs I've had forever-- I wonder if it's the full film or the amrican edit which chops off the prologue explaining how Jannings & DPutti hooked up (which I've yet to see... thus my drooling for the FWMS resto coming up).

HOW MOLLY MALONE MADE GOOD (1915) looks interesting, plus many Maurice Tourneurs (father of Jaques.. anyone who has not seen the sublime BLUE BIRD from the wonderful Eastman house resto-- from a couple years ago funded by the Saving The Silents Congressional grants-- is depriving themselves of a totally enchanting masterpiece which blew me away-- almost a benevolent pre (1918) Caligari-type expressionism is on display here, total innovation and enchantment). THE LADY OF THE LAKE (1928) too.

No I haven't dipped into VFB yet, though I do want DR WU and will get it eventually.

Forgotten Goldfish
Joined: Wed Jan 24, 2007 8:25 pm

#9 Post by Forgotten Goldfish » Sun Jan 28, 2007 11:17 pm

I know I'm continuing an OT issue (please feel free to relocate me if appropriate), but I've bought a number of Reelclassicdvd releases and can therefore say a little more on the subject than I did in the Keaton thread.

The company offers careful, accurate but unrestored transfers, usually (perhaps always) from 16mm reduction positives. Don't, therefore, expect miracles; but everything I've encountered has been solid and reliable -- indeed the quality has been remarkably consistent (in marked contrast, say, to Alpha's or Grapevine's releases!). The recent American Slapstick 3DVD set is a collection of their transfers, and is entirely representative of the standard they achieve.

Hope the above comments help.
Last edited by Forgotten Goldfish on Sun Mar 04, 2007 7:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
Felix
Joined: Fri Nov 24, 2006 1:48 pm
Location: A dark damp land where the men all wear skirts

#10 Post by Felix » Tue Jan 30, 2007 3:45 pm

Forgotten Goldfish wrote:I know I'm continuing an OT issue (please feel free to relocate me if appropriate), but I've bought a number of Reelclassicdvd releases and can therefore say a little more on the subject than I did in the Keaton thread.
Thanks for this Goldfish. How did you order? I don't know if the phone number gives me enough info to contact them from the UK (any idea?) and the e-mail ordering looks pretty awful but I am tempted for Variety alone...

Forgotten Goldfish
Joined: Wed Jan 24, 2007 8:25 pm

#11 Post by Forgotten Goldfish » Tue Jan 30, 2007 8:14 pm

Yes, the ordering options are rather inconvenient.

You're more fortunately situated than I. Daytime in New Jersey is sleep time for me, and vice versa; so I couldn't pursue the option of telephoning.

What did I do? I sent an initial email query, then airmailed payment by International Postal Order; it costs a little, but I'd prefer to pay the extra money and have a bit of added safety. I've placed three orders with Reelclassicdvd this way, and all three worked out fine.

Under no circumstances would I personally send anyone my credit card information by email, even in multiple emails. Someone who manages to see one email could potentially see two, or three.

User avatar
Felix
Joined: Fri Nov 24, 2006 1:48 pm
Location: A dark damp land where the men all wear skirts

#12 Post by Felix » Fri Feb 02, 2007 4:39 pm

Forgotten Goldfish wrote:Yes, the ordering options are rather inconvenient.

You're more fortunately situated than I. Under no circumstances would I personally send anyone my credit card information by email, even in multiple emails. Someone who manages to see one email could potentially see two, or three.
Thanks for this, ironic that phoning is easier from the UK. I may try that. I totally agree about the e-mail, if one can be intercepted, so can three.

Variety is so tempting I think I have to try...

User avatar
HerrSchreck
Joined: Sun Sep 04, 2005 11:46 am

#13 Post by HerrSchreck » Sun Feb 04, 2007 8:31 am

Felix wrote:Variety is so tempting I think I have to try...
As tempting as VARIETE' does indeed look, I'd hold off as the Murnau Foundation should be wrapping up their resto of the film as we speak. My guess is these guys above have the old Paramount release for the US which whacks the whole prologue off of the film explaining how Jannings & DePutti get together. I've been waiting for years to ditch my old vhs which is of a vid camera vidding a wall projection of the cut 16.

Probably Freund's must daringly photographed film. Astounded it's taken as long as it has to get a release (though without Gosfilmofond we'd probably stuck with home 16's for half of these silent masterpieces).

Forgotten Goldfish
Joined: Wed Jan 24, 2007 8:25 pm

#14 Post by Forgotten Goldfish » Thu Mar 01, 2007 7:28 pm

[Removed in view of problems kindly pointed out by subsequent posters.]
Last edited by Forgotten Goldfish on Sun Mar 04, 2007 7:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
Scharphedin2
Joined: Fri May 19, 2006 7:37 am
Location: Denmark/Sweden

#15 Post by Scharphedin2 » Thu Mar 01, 2007 9:07 pm

Thank you Goldfish for this excellent post!

For those of us, who have never ordered anything from these types of companies, could you give an idea of how these films look as compared to films of the same period that are out on more "official" labels?
Last edited by Scharphedin2 on Wed Mar 07, 2007 1:37 am, edited 1 time in total.

Forgotten Goldfish
Joined: Wed Jan 24, 2007 8:25 pm

#16 Post by Forgotten Goldfish » Fri Mar 02, 2007 6:10 pm

[Removed in view of problems kindly pointed out by subsequent posters.]
Last edited by Forgotten Goldfish on Sun Mar 04, 2007 7:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
HerrSchreck
Joined: Sun Sep 04, 2005 11:46 am

#17 Post by HerrSchreck » Sun Mar 04, 2007 3:17 am

Scharphedin2 wrote:Thank you Goldfish for this excellent post!

For those of us, who have never ordered anything from people like Vintage and Grapevine, could you give an idea of how these films look as compared to films of the same period that are out on more "official" labels?
The biggest difference (I take it we're talking about silents) is that these "home labels" generally use 16mm reduction prints, whereas the aboverboard labels (Moc, Kino, CC, Flicker Alley, BFI, Image Ent, etc) almost exclusively use 35's. So there is going to be a marked difference between image depth, detail, and general quality. Not to mention that the home labels will never really be able to provide any restored prints. If the prints look good it's quite simply because the print happens to be in good shape.

Also, for the most part, any tints on these home labels are probably going to be electronic, and not genuine film tints or toning.

And of course-- and this is one of the reasons that Forgotten Goldfish has blooped over just a bit-- the films that you will see on a label like Grapevine are going to be almost exclusively pd. This is the reason the dude at Grapevine (I can't remember his name offhand but I was in contact with him a bit a few years ago) really faded into the background. Through Kino, Transit films & the FWMS started laying down dibs on some of his biggest pieces of bread and butter when they signalled their intent in the zone 2001-03 to lay down dibs on all that classic German material, even stuff that they hadn't put down on dvd. Even David Shepard had to yeild and start releasing more non-European stuff and get into producing/distributing as well. For years he distributed thru Kino & Image his 35's of much of the classic Langs & Murnau's etc, and the boxes never mentioned the Stiftung or the Uraguay Round Agreement. Once the Stiftung started hitting all these titles with whole-hog, very expensive restorations, they were not going to allow anyone to stand in their way with what they considered "bootleg" titles of prints which may have been used in the composites which comprised parts of their restos. So Grapevine and similar co's had to regroup. It was a bitch for a lot of people because even non-Murnau titles like CALIGARI & WARNING SHADOWS, which were big sellers (well, at least CALIGARI) for these little , were restored by and copyrighted by the FWMS.

It's nice to see them surviving, however, because there are films they make available that these larger co's will probably never get around to.

User avatar
david hare
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 8:01 pm
Location: WellyYeller

#18 Post by david hare » Sun Mar 04, 2007 4:25 am

I hope City Girl's reputation is extended with releases like this - although Im not pleased about them tinting the existing print.

The problem for me with Murnau's received reputation as a master is it so much leans on the blind adoration of that Weimar/Reinhardt/Welschemrz school of literary immersion often to the point of kitsch in things like Faust (which really coexisted with and was a rival to Lang and the Expressionists.) I frankly think his German films - overall - are wildly overrated in comparison to the three American pictures whose formal beauties are barely if ever discussed. I certainly include City Girl with them, based on my boot copy - it doesn't require the massive imaginative effort of something genuinely "lost" like Four Devils to provoke excitement and admiration. God only knows what rights conidtions still apply, but all these boots and bittorrents are apparently PD.

User avatar
HerrSchreck
Joined: Sun Sep 04, 2005 11:46 am

#19 Post by HerrSchreck » Sun Mar 04, 2007 5:10 am

davidhare wrote:II frankly think his German films - overall - are wildly overrated in comparison to the three American pictures whose formal beauties are barely if ever discussed. .
I don't know that I see that in Murnau. First off his American output is wildly fetishized, with SUNRISE a perennial champion of S & S and Cahierist Top Ten lists and often sitting comfortably at number one. TABU as well-- a considerable achievement for a late silent-era film with no camera movement whatsoever.

Moving to his German material I find it hugely variegated. Despite the literary sourcing of FAUST we find Goethe heavily strained with a cinematic mesh to acquire the simplest narrative arc. A very good article by Gary Johnson in

Images journal describes how this is essentially not a movie in service of Goethe's literary tale, but how Goethe's tale is put into the service of providing those elements distilled clearly enough to make it into Murnau's visual film (along with a whole hodgepodge of other folkish & pulp & literary sources):
After the great success of The Last Laugh, Murnau earned increased creative freedom on his next productions for UFA. Significantly, the studio also provided Murnau with the monetary backing to do almost anything he wanted. Murnau responded by choosing to film one of the classic German stories, Faust. But Murnau had more in mind than just filming Goethe's classic tale. Working with screenwriter Hans Kyser, Murnau cobbled together the legend of Faust using bits of Marlowe and Gounod and German folk legends. Precisely because of this approach to Faust, contemporary German audiences reacted in outrage. It wasn't the Faust they expected. One of the great historians of German silent cinema Siegried Kracauer said, Faust "misrepresented, if not ignored, all significant motives inherent in its subject matter. The metaphysical conflict between good and evil was thoroughly vulgarized." However, Lotte Eisner wrote (in The Haunted Screen), the film "starts with the most remarkable and poignant image the German chiaroscuro ever created. The chaotic destiny of the opening shot, the light drawing in the mist, the rays beaming through the opaque air, the visual fugue which diapasons round the heavens, are breathtaking." Both writers were onto something. In Murnau's Faust the struggle between the devil and Faust never becomes particularly complex or profound, but at the same time, Murnau imbues the proceedings with truly astonishing imagery. French New Wave director Eric Rohmer wrote a book-length study of Faust where he argued that "Murnau was able to mobilize all those forces which guaranteed him complete control of the film's space. Every formal element--the faces and bodies of the actors, objects, landscape, and such natural phenomena as snow, light, fire, and clouds--have been created or recreated with an exact knowledge of their visual effect. Never has a film left so little to chance."
The same goes for TARTUFE, which has been hypersimplified in the service of distillation of pure imagery.

But if one looks at the vast bulk of Murnau's German output-- PHANTOM (a popular contemporary novel), SCHLOSS VOGELOD (a flumpy CAT & CANARY-type stage play), NOSFERATU (relatively contemporary genre novel), THE LAST LAUGH (an original script by Mayer provided with no intertitles), JOURNEY INTO THE NIGHT (Mayer script based on a play), JANUSKOPF (Jekyll-Hyde ripoff, thus another contemporary genre novel), THE BURNING SOIL (an original script from what I can gather), THE FINANCES OF THE GRAND DUKE (another contemporary novel scripted by von Harbou) along with FAUST & TARTUF-- we see about as variegated pool of source material imaginable.

But they all share one thing in common-- none are ponderous or heavy handed, all employed to an astonishingly pure visual sense not seen before or since. And certainly the man who made famous 'The purely visual film without intertitles' can't be pegged for literary verbosity, shakespearian high-mindedness or antique long-windedness or ponderous complexity. What i find most remarkable in fact about Murnau is his seamless moving between production environments without any effect whatsoever upon his output. He was an incredibly consistent filmmaker who got the fuck away from whatever or whomever threatened to pollute his own filmmaking sense. His gently stubborn, and endlessly rich dedication to his own interior world is visible in nearly full effect (to ever so slightly wavering degrees of masterpiece) in all his films starting with and after NOSFERATU... and given the great number of those films, and the very short time within which they were produced, this fact is truly remarkable. In one quick decade, after a mere two year vocational warmup and schooling, he produced an output that intimidates the entire 100-plus years of film, including the 40, 50 year careers of many a celebrated 'auteur'.

Forgotten Goldfish
Joined: Wed Jan 24, 2007 8:25 pm

#20 Post by Forgotten Goldfish » Sun Mar 04, 2007 7:18 pm

HerrSchreck wrote:The biggest difference (I take it we're talking about silents) is that these "home labels" generally use 16mm reduction prints, whereas the aboverboard labels (Moc, Kino, CC, Flicker Alley, BFI, Image Ent, etc) almost exclusively use 35's.
I think there's some slight misunderstanding here. Only one of the Vintage/Grapevine films I discussed -- City Girl -- is a silent. And that film, at least according to the reference works I've consulted, survives only in 16mm. We'll never see it in 35mm.

I fully agree, though, with your criticism of the "bloopiness" of my posts, which I've therefore removed. I freighted them so heavily with sub-qualifications and sub-sub-qualifications because I wanted to give readers sufficient data to make up their own minds about the issues involved -- but I see now that this was more of a problem than a help! Thanks for pointing it out.
davidhare wrote:Im not pleased about them tinting the existing print.
Agreed. I'm pretty sure that when Murnau was making the film, he never thought of it with tints. If he had, he wouldn't have filmed the extraordinary Zolaesque scene in Kate's apartment the way he did; it poses insuperable problems for 1920s-style tinters.

User avatar
HerrSchreck
Joined: Sun Sep 04, 2005 11:46 am

#21 Post by HerrSchreck » Mon Mar 05, 2007 1:38 am

Forgotten Goldfish wrote:I think there's some slight misunderstanding here. Only one of the Vintage/Grapevine films I discussed -- City Girl -- is a silent. And that film, at least according to the reference works I've consulted, survives only in 16mm. We'll never see it in 35mm.

I fully agree, though, with your criticism of the "bloopiness" of my posts, which I've therefore removed. I freighted them so heavily with sub-qualifications and sub-sub-qualifications because I wanted to give readers sufficient data to make up their own minds about the issues involved -- but I see now that this was more of a problem than a help! Thanks for pointing it out.
You, sir, just went from "extremely interesting & intelligent new participant" to "paranoid head zapping sparks" in no time flat!

WTF!!?? I said you "blooped" over one thing (meant inocuously, incidentally, not to sting you), which was the reason for Mr Grapevine's retirement! i.e.
And of course-- and this is one of the reasons that Forgotten Goldfish has blooped over just a bit-- the films that you will see on a label like Grapevine are going to be almost exclusively pd
I didn't criticize anything (else) in (including the style of) your post!

And there's no confusion-- I simply answered scharf2's question about the general difference between VFB & the more aboveboard labels ie the tinting & the 16 vs 35 issue. He asked furchrissakes!

Christ... I thought I had some sinister moments. Please do us all a favor and put your excellent and much appreciated (by myself as well) post back.

Forgotten Goldfish
Joined: Wed Jan 24, 2007 8:25 pm

#22 Post by Forgotten Goldfish » Wed Mar 07, 2007 12:24 am

No offence taken, Schreck. And the same goes for my previous post, too: I was genuine, not ironic, when I expressed gratitude to you for the problems which you pointed out ... or at least which I thought you pointed out!

My earlier posts were "removed because of problems kindly pointed out by subsequent posters" [plural]. I wasn't thinking only of you. And some of the other issues were more than supported by an email I promptly received from a senior UK collector (not, as far as I know, a member of this forum). However, I'd better not say any more on the subject, because I don't want unwittingly to cause further hostility. My aim in this post (as in its predecessor) is to pour oil on troubled waters, not on raging flames!

User avatar
HerrSchreck
Joined: Sun Sep 04, 2005 11:46 am

#23 Post by HerrSchreck » Mon Nov 19, 2007 10:35 am

More interesting stuff up at VFB:

A Russian silent version of Queen of Spades (that's right, the same story Thorold Dickinson directed w Anton Walkbrook, just this is from the pre-USSR Rus from 1916).

Sternbergs Underworld for those who still havent seen it.

Pre-codes, early talkies, etc.

User avatar
Kinsayder
Joined: Mon Oct 10, 2005 6:22 pm
Location: UK

#24 Post by Kinsayder » Mon Nov 19, 2007 5:03 pm

Does anyone have any feedback yet on this company and the quality of their stuff? There's a mention of them in alt.movies.silent which is favourable, as far as it goes.

User avatar
HerrSchreck
Joined: Sun Sep 04, 2005 11:46 am

#25 Post by HerrSchreck » Mon Nov 19, 2007 5:38 pm

Although the Goldfish removed some of his posts (the guy was excellent then all of a sudden got the willies about himself and deleted the reviews he'd put up) he had primarily good things to say about VFBUFF. I sort've keep reigniting the convo here to see if anyone else has bought.

I'm probably going to go ahead and take the plunge on MR WU. I want that film, and also QUEEN OF SPADES.

EDIT: Incidentally, their url seems to have changed.

Post Reply