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Treasures from The American Film Archives - 50 Films

USA 1893 - 1965

Justly re-issued, America's film archives joined forces to release their most exciting, unseen treasures in an 'encore' DVD. The 50 films in this four-disc set have been meticulously preserved by eighteen of the United States' premiere archives, including the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian, the Museum of Modern Art, George Eastman House, UCLA, and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Featuring numerous supplements and produced by the non-profit National Film Preservation Foundation, "Treasures from American Film Archives" shows the amazing variety of films made from coast to coast over the last 100 years. With narration by Laurence Fishburne, this set is an absolute must for film collectors! Films include: Groucho Marx's home movies (1933, 2 min.), D.W. Griffith's "The Lonedale Operator" (1911, 17 min.), the earliest film version of "Snow White" (1916, 63 min.), "The Fall of the House of Usher" (1928, 13 min.), "Negro Leagues Baseball" (1946, 8 min.), "The Autobiography of a Jeep" (1943, 10 min.), Joseph Cornell's found footage film "Rose Hobart" (1936, 19 min.), "Returning on the Zeppelin Hindenburg" (1936, 7 min.), the early 2-color Technicolor feature "The Toll of the Sea" (1922, 54 min.), the William S. Hart western "Hell's Hinges" (1916, 64 min.), the first commercially-shown U.S. film "Blacksmithing Scene" (1893, 1 min.), plus silent features, documentaries and newsreels, avant-garde shorts, early animation and special effects films, home movies, and much more.


In 2004 we reviewed More Treasures From the American Archives and soon after that the initial DVD release of this series, "Treasures of the American Archives", went out of print.  Seeing copies go for obscene amounts on EBay and other online auctions stirred the National Film Preservation Foundation to re-issue this release (called "encore"). It is something that is both a prized keepsake not only for film fans but for all those interested in history. Everyone should have the opportunity to own and view this astounding collection.


What this DVD set does is bring together over 50 early U.S. films that have remained unseen outside of museums and festivals - some for almost a century. Although many are in the "Silent era", it is not exclusive to soundless cinema, but balanced with a unique variety. Filmmakers persistently challenged technical limitations, exploring new equipment, photographic techniques, audio synchronizations and presentation formats. I really can't speak highly enough about this set - 11 hours of "buried treasure". These 'orphan' films finally have an wide interactive medium with the massive power of digital versatile disc. It is 'essential' by any standards. out of

DVD Review: Image Entertainment -  Region 0 - NTSC

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Distribution Image Entertainment -  Region 0 - NTSC
Audio English narration (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
Time Over 11 hours of material on 4 DVDs
Intertitles Original English where offered
Features Release Information:
DVD Production: Image Entertainment

Aspect Ratio:
Various from (Picture boxed) 1.15:1  to Full Screen (Standard) - 1.33:1

Edition Details:

  • Narrated by Laurence Fishburne
  • Over 300 interactive screens
  • Newly recorded music scores
  • 4 illustrated booklets with film notes and credits
  • Number of discs: 4

DVD Release Date: May 10th, 2005
Cardboard Sleeve Box with 4 Keep Cases each containing a booklet


'The primordial soup of the medium of film"

Experimentation, initially conceived ideas still in place today, initial works by acclaimed directors, first use of two-strip color, early sports films, Edison experimentation, innovative animation - obscure, rediscovered and immensely compelling. Fishburne's occasional narration is a perfect touch to further appreciation of what we are viewing.

The image varies from severely damaged (as expected) to surprisingly intact for extremely aged films. Aspect ratios have been maintained and occasional black bars down the side are exhibited dependant on the film and its original format.

Menu navigation is a bit of an ordeal with so many prospects attached to each disc, but the best option is the "Play All" where you can simply sit back and watch it unfold in front of you.

The newly recorded musical accompaniments are excellent. Narration is in two track stereo. There are no subtitles and all inter-titles are in English. 

This DVD Boxset is so profound it deserves nothing less thanout of  

Gary W. Tooze

NOTE: Wanted to mention that, though a lot of the recent things coming out on DVD are commendable, there are a lot of problems that have cropped up. For example: in the TREASURES FROM AMERICAN FILM ARCHIVES, there are several problems.

1) Joseph Cornell's ROSE HOBART has the wrong soundtrack! When the movie was shown (it's part of the "Essential Cinema" cycle at Anthology Film Archives, which means that it has played "in repertory" at Anthology since 1970), the soundtrack takes a few bars, and then repeats and repeats. But in the DVD compilation, they run the record onto two other songs! (When ROSE HOBART was first screened at Anthology, when it opened, Joseph Cornell was still alive, and he supervised the soundtrack, the looping of the particular song.)

2) TOLL OF THE SEA is slightly off in terms of the color. Yes, it was an unstable early Technicolor experiment, but when I saw it (when it was newly restored) it had a little more vibrancy in the blue/green tones. Now, it's a little too "rosy".

3) Scott Bartlett's OFFON is too contrasty. It's been "pushed" so that the contrast is rather more extreme than it was when originally screened
(Thanks Daryl!)

The 'Treasures Collections' - #1 - 50 films preserved by America's premier archives, #2 - More Treasures from American Film Archives 1894-1931, Treasures III: Social Issues in American Film 1900-1934, Treasures IV: American Avant-Garde Film, 1947-1986 and Treasures 5: The West, 1898-1938.


NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Sample Bitrate (from disc 1):


Average Bitrate: 5.5 mb/s
NTSC 720x480  

Menu screens : 50

DVD Menus
Samples (Disc 1 only)


Small Sampling


Capture from John Huston's documentary "The Battle of San Pedro" (1945, preserved by the National Archives and Records Administration)


Capture from Blacksmithing Scene, the first publicly exhibited film in America (1893, preserved by the MoMA)


Capture from The Fall of the House of Usher (1928, preserved by George Eastman House)


 Capture of William S. Hart in Hell's Hinges (1916, preserved by MoMA)


 Capture of The Keystone "Patrician" (1928, preserved by the National Air and Space Museum)

 Capture of Marion Anderson: The Lincoln Memorial Concert (1933,  preserved by the UCLA Film and Television Archive)


 Capture of Negro League Baseball (1946, preserved by Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences)


 Capture of Scott Bartlett's OffOn (1968, preserved by the Pacific Film Archive)


 Capture of One-Room Schoolhouses (1935, preserved by the West Virginia State Archives)


 Capture of Princess Nicotine of The Smoke Fairy (1909, preserved by the Library of Congress)



 Capture of Private Snafu: "Spies" by Chuck Jones (1943, preserved by the National Archives and Records Administration)


 Capture of Rose Hobart by Collage artist Joseph Cornell (1936, preserved by Anthology Film Archives)



 Capture of Anna May Wong in The Toll of the Sea - the earliest surviving two-strip Technicolor feature(1922, preserved by the UCLA Film and Television Archive)


Associated Silent Era Reading  (CLICK COVERS or TITLES for more information)


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Distribution Image Entertainment -  Region 0 - NTSC



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Gary Tooze


Many Thanks...