Saturday, March 9, 2019

DVD: Kidnapped -- March 9, 2019

Moving Picture World, 29-September-1917
Moving Picture World, 29-September-1917
Fritzi, the proprietor of the wonderful blog Movies Silently, is now a DVD producer.  For her first production, she had a brilliant idea which requires a little bit of explanation.

Moving Picture World, 03-March-1917
On 11-February-1917, inventor Thomas Edison turned 70 years old.  He received a testimonial banquet from his employees in West Orange, New Jersey.  The article's history is not entirely accurate.  I highlighted some of the text of the article.  

"Trade Honors Edison, Its Creator, on Natal Day

"First Real 'Feature' Made and Modern Conquest Subject
"Shown at Testimonial Banquet to 'Father of Pictures'

"A SHOWING of the first great 'feature' motion picture ever produced was one of the striking features of a testimonial banquet that was tendered to Thomas A. Edison, in honor of his seventieth birthday, at Orange, N. J., by the employees of the Edison Affiliated Industries. The banquet to (the - JT) famous inventor, who devised the first motion picture camera as well as the first machine designed to project moving pictures on a screen, was given by the various divisions of the vast Edison industries, for the purpose of emphasizing the high regard in which Mr. Edison is held by those who are engaged in the production of the various devices that owe their existence to his rare genius and unremitting toil. The Edison studios of Bedford Park, N. Y., were strongly represented at the banquet and contributed largely to the entertainment that followed the dinner.

"The affair was of decided interest to the motion picture world not only because of the showing of the historic first 'feature' production, but because it marked the first public showing of Edison Conquest Pictures, new productions that have been made on lines laid down by Mr. Edison, and that represent his conception of ideal motion pictures. The contrast between the first actual photoplay ever produced and the new productions of the Edison studios was highly impressive.

"The first feature production that ever was made, the picture that was shown last night, was 'The Great Train Robbery,' a photoplay that will be remembered by many of the pioneers in the film industry, and the forerunner of all Western thrillers. It was released November 30, 1903, and it marked a decided advance in the evolution of the silent drama. It was the first story with a definite plot to be produced as well as the first production to reach the length of one-reel. Previous to that time, only short subjects, ranging in length from twenty-five to three hundred feet, had been made. 'The Great Train Robbery' was approximately seven hundred and fifty feet in length, a stupendous production for that era.

"The popularity of the production is indicated by the fact that estimates show that it made approximately $400,000 for the Edison Company, a record that few productions have approached.

"Four of the new Edison Conquest pictures, including a production of Robert Louis Stevenson's 'Kidnapped,' were included in the program. Motion picture authorities present were authority for statements that the new pictures are going to make a big advance in motion picture production.

"Among the figures of prominence in the film world who were present were. W. W. Hodkinson, who will direct the distribution of Conquest Pictures; George Kleine, of the Kleine-Edison-Selig-Essanay, through which a series of five-reel Edison master-pictures are being released, and L. W. McChesney, manager of the Thomas A. Edison,. Inc., studios.

"The divisions that united in giving the testimonial banquet to Mr. Edison were: The Motion Picture Division, of Bedford Park; the Musical Phonograph Division, the Storage Battery Division, the Dictating Machine Division, of Orange; the Primary Battery Division, of Bloomfield, N. J., and the Chemical Manufacturing Division, of Silver Lake, N. J."

Motion Picture News, 24-March-1917
Thomas Edison, or his ghostwriter, said:
"We have all heard a great deal during the past few years about the growing demand for better films for motion picture patrons of all ages. I have felt from the very start that little would be accomplished toward meeting this demand seriously until some responsible producer thought more of the future good of the business than the present gain. I have assumed the investment necessary to produce a better grade of clean and wholesome films with full confidence that the American people will support 'EDISON CONQUEST PICTURES' so that they may ultimately produce a fair return on their original cost. These pictures are free from all features which have made the motion picture objectionable to many people and may be viewed by the entire family.


The idea behind Conquest Pictures, made by the Edison Company and distributed by K-E-S-E (Kleine-Edison-Selig-Essanay) was to provide theaters with a complete package, a feature film and a set of short subjects.  The Conquest idea was not Edison's, but was conceived by George Kleine (The "K" in K-E-S-E).

Motion Picture News, 24-March-1917
The Conquest slogan was "The Open Road to Romance and Knowledge."  I'd like to know what a barefoot boy with a bindle has to do with conquest.

Moving Picture World, 29-September-1917
Conquest Program No. 9 was a package made up of a five-reel feature adaption of Robert Louis Stevenson's popular adventure novel Kidnapped and four short subjects, a scenic view of Provincetown, Massachusetts, a silhouette version of "Little Red Riding Hood," a microscopic view of pond life, and "Friends, Romans and Leo," a one-reel comedy.

Fritzi had the idea of recreating the program.  All five movies still exist, against great odds, and she was able to assemble them into a new package on a DVD-R.  Maestro Ben Model provided a suitable piano accompaniment for each element. Fritzi raised money for the production through a Kickstarter campaign.

The full title is Kidnapped: A Complete 1917 Night at the Movies.  I find it interesting that no one seems to have thought of doing a complete program like this.  I suppose the poor survival rates of silent films makes it difficult to put together a group like this.

Moving Picture World, 06-October-1917
"The program is about the average quality of Conquest programs."

'Friends, Romans and Leo" was a comedy about a slave, played by Raymond McKee, who saved the Roman Emperor from a moneylender and won the hand of the Emperor's daughter.  It had many anachronistic jokes. The lion was funny. Alan Crosland directed.

"Little Red Riding Hood" was an adaption of the fairy tale done in silhouette.  When I hear of a silhouette film, I think of Lotte Reiniger's animated movies, but this film was done with live action. I noticed that in close shots, we could see some of the features of the actors.

Moving Picture World, 13-October-1917
"Quaint Provincetown" had some interesting views of life in a town inhabited by fishermen and artists.  It had no narrative flow.

Moving Picture World, 06-October-1917
"Microscopic Pond Life" was well photographed and nearly as exciting as you might expect.

The feature, Kidnapped, moves swiftly through the events of Stevenson's novel.  Raymond McKee was too old to play David Balfour, but he was fun to watch.  Joseph Burke played David's Uncle Ebeneezer in an over-the-top way, which was appropriate for the part.  Robert Cain was suitably colorful as Alan Breck.  The settings were frequently beautiful.  Alan Crosland directed.  So Raymond McKee and Alan Crosland were involved in this movie and "Friends, Romans and Leo."

Kidnapped: A Complete 1917 Night at the Movies is worth seeing and it makes a nice companion to the Kino box set Edison - The Invention of the Movies: 1891-1918.  I recommend it highly.

You can order it from Amazon.

I should take this opportunity to mention that Fritzi has also created a podcast which is worth a visit:

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