Did you know there is still such a thing as a silent film accompanist? I did not until Ben Model asked us to review his latest DVD, Accidentally Preserved Volume 2. The films themselves are from Model's personal collection and though, according to some of the title cards that precede each short, there are sometimes other prints lying around,they have not really been available to the public. Three of the nine, Sherlock's Home, The Little Pest, and Cook, Papa, Cook, are transferred from the only known print so have not been seen in a very, very long time. The prints used here are generally in excellent shape.
That would be reason enough for a film fan to want to look into Accidentally Preserved. What very much adds to the interest and makes at least one volume of Accidentally Preserved a must for any serious film collector is the quality of the music Model performs for each of the shorts. I am certainly not a connaisseur but Model's original scores sound to me like the real thing: what a talented musician would have played to each short when it was shown in theatres ninety some years ago.
Model not only has a great ear for silent films but he also knows how to select them. Some, like the Charlie Chaplin cartoon that makes Steamboat Willie look like Pixar, may be there mostly for curiosity and historical reasons, but the majority of the shorts here are inherently fun to watch. Even the safety film / story about the danger of blasting caps is entertaining.
Most interesting for comedy fans are Sherlock's Home starring Alberta Vaughn as a Telephone Girl. The story focuses on a hotel switchboard operator named Gladys who catches the eye of boxing champ Hurricane Sherlock. She is really not interested at first as he comes across as a blowhard. The plot takes a few original twists after that. Cook, Papa, Cook stars Henry Murdock as one half of a bickering couple. His wife challenges him to make breakfast and disaster ensues as the poor man can't even make toast. I liked the way Model's music reflects the doorbell ringing and he tosses is a very subtle sound effect for a car horn.
You can go to Ben Model's website www.silentfilmmusic.com for more information on him and his projects.
Titles in Accidentally Preserved Volume 2 are:
Bobby Vernon in WHY WILD MEN GO WILD (1920) – 12 min
Chaplin cartoon: CHARLEY ON THE FARM (1919) – 10 min
Alberta Vaughn in SHERLOCK’S HOME (1924) – 21 min
Neely Edwards in THE LITTLE PEST (1927) – 10 min
Lloyd Hamilton in PAPA’S BOY (1927) – 16 min
"Big Boy" in HELTER SKELTER (1929) – 8 min
Henry Murdock in COOK, PAPA, COOK (1928) – 9 min
Blasting Cap Safety: HOW JIMMY WON THE GAME (1928) – 14 min
Animated ad: CHRISTMAS SEALS FILM (1925) – 3 min