It’s estimated by Deutsche Kinemathek that 80–90% films, and 75% of all silent films are now lost. Many made even before the 1900’s are gone, with over 3500 lost films having been recorded by archivists and historians. So it’s an invaluable service that Undercrank Productions is giving its movie loving audience by delivering previously unseen and rare short films by many movie stars audiences have never even heard of. While the shorts aren’t always pristine, the fact that they get a new life on DVD is a wonderful gift to film enthusiasts that want to learn more about the film stars of yesteryear and how they helped shape the genres.
Undercrank Productions makes available Volume 2 of silent film comedian Marcel Perez, a comedian very much in the vein of Chaplin and Keaton who is quite funny most of the time. The restoration is pretty great all things considered, and while there are some film streaks and occasional artifacts, this is a collection worth owning if you are a cineaste. “The Short-Sighted Cyclist” from 1907 is a one reeler showcasing Perez’s slapstick skills, and it’s one that helped launch his career. It’s a fun and funny short about Perez who, with bad eye sight, has to ride across town as a messenger and things go awry.
“Some Hero” from 1916 is an action melodrama, where Perez fights bad guys to save his girl, chews through thick ropes after he is tied up and yes, gets a safe dropped on him! That old gag. “Lend Me Your Wife” from 1916 features Perez as Tweedle Dee, who is kicked out of his boarding house because he can’t pay his bill. He also hilariously hits his land lady with a piece of toast and jelly. When Tweedle Dee is taken in by a kind couple, he receives news that he’s inherited his uncle’s wealth, but only if he is married.
When he decides to pretend he’s married to the wife of the man who took him in, things get wacky. “Oh! What a Day” from 1918 is a funny bit of slapstick where Perez takes a girl to the Jersey shore for a boat ride and accidentally fills his care with booze instead of gas, and “Chickens in Turkey” 1919, where Perez dresses as a woman to board a ship of women, but has to run when the captain starts taking a fancy to him There’s also 1916’s “A Scrambled Honeymoon,” 1921’s “Pinched,” 1921’s “Wild,” and a two minute fragment that was saved from 1923’s ”Friday the 13th.”
The short films are all accompanied by wonderful piano work by Ben Model, whose own music compliments these silent shorts and enhances the experience big time. Kudos to Mr. Model who keeps to the tradition of upbeat and exciting silent film music.