Restoring movies from the silent film era is one thing. Writing music for these restored films is a whole other thing. This is what Ben Model does. I am a fan of his work and his latest work just proves this guy must be the reincarnation of some twenties' theatre organist. The Family Secret, the third Undercrank Productions release, features child star Baby Peggy (Diana Sera Cary) in the title feature as well as in two shorts: Circus Clowns and Miles of Smiles.
I am sure some people are fooled by the quality of the musical score for these films and think all Ben Model does is follow the original sheet music. Nothing could be further from the truth. Model composes all of the music you hear. He always has just the right tone and pace for each of the scenes.
The Family Secret (1924, 60 minutes) is the story of Margaret, the daughter of a rich New York family who secretly marries a man of much lesser standing. Her father is dead set against this and sends her away. This is convenient as she happens to be pregnant. Margaret returns with child in two but her father still refuses to acknowledge the fact she is married. This get melodramatic, though there are a few comic moments, and the ending is a bit unusual.
Circus Clowns (1922) is about Baby Peggy being part of a traveling circus. It seems she kidnapped.. There are quite a very good sight gags in this one. I really liked the rain scene with detective I.M. Brilliant and the bits with the dog after the rescue.
Miles of Smiles (1923) starts with one twin escaping her crib, getting lost, and becoming a municipal train conductor which was probably a precursor to the tramway. She accidentally finds her way back home which leads to a lot of confusion and a very funny chase scene.
Viewers who, like myself, are not familiar with the silent film era will miss some of the codes of the time, For example, I only figured out later that Margaret's secret pregnancy is in fact announced to the audience in an early scene. No big deal though.
There is a very short “behind the scenes” style clip at the end.
If you are a film lover, you have to have at least one DVD of Ben Model scored collection of silent era films.
Check out our review of Accidentally Preserved Vol. 2 by Ben Model