This is the first volume in a video series that purports to present "Rare Film Masterpieces From The Library Of Congress
." I guess we could say that the video has some value, in that the short films contained *should* be available for viewing. But, unfortunately, the presentation is so shoddy, and the descriptions of the films are so riddled with falsehoods, that it turns out to be a very great disservice to film historians that this video was produced at all.
No greater travesty than this video could be produced. This video absolutely defiles the name of Edwin S. Porter, by misrepresenting his films, and thereby misrepresenting the entire early history of American Cinema. One of Porter's greatest innovations was the development of the cross-cut, as illustrated in the film Life Of An American Fireman... only you won't see it on this cassette. Instead, you will see several scenes from the original footage assembled in the wrong order, in an incomprehensible mess, with no warning to suggest that this is not how the film was meant to be seen. But, considering the quality of the rest of the cassette, this should be no big surprise.
The video starts off with a single scene from the film Elopement On Horseback, which the video box describes with the phrase "Tells its story in four complete scenes." Apparently, only the scene of the woman climbing out the window onto the back of a horse was deemed fit to include on the video. What happens in the other scenes, we can only guess.
Then there's the strange circumstance that the piano soundtrack starts ten seconds late, and begins with the vocal gasp of the pianist who clearly noticed that he missed his starting cue. How this could wind up on the final tape is a great mystery. Didn't anyone tell the producers about the concept "take two?"
In several other cases, the descriptions on the box are entirely misleading, and we get other odd "quirks," such as the film The Seven Ages, which shows *eight* stages of life, two of which happen to be *exactly the same*. Most likely, these were alternate takes, not intended to be cut together into the final product. But who would know, based on the way the film is presented here?
It's absolutely stunning that such a video could be mass produced and distributed to universities and libraries all across the country. Is this true incompetence, or simply an evil ploy to misrepresent cinema history? I wish that I could credit the producers with such diabolical cleverness, but I must conclude that this sham-historical video is the product of pure, unadulterated idiocy.