Treasures from American Film Archives

Treasures from American Film Archives

The Treasures From American Film Archives series of DVDs is produced by the National Film Preservation Foundation (NFPF), a nonprofit organization created by the U.S. Congress in 1997. The NFPF publishes these DVD sets, with accompanying booklets and extensive commentary, to promote the preservation of American film.

For more than a decade, the NFPF’s Treasures DVD series has made available preservation work on rare, vintage movies from the archival community. In collaboration with archives, scholars, and musicians, the sets present long unseen American films with new musical accompaniment, onscreen program notes, and a printed catalog. Many of these films are silents, but other genres include films produced for the government, commercial, political, industrial and promotional films, home movies, and art shorts. Experimental films that test early advances in sound or color are included as well as early, rare, curious, unique, or important films by familiar or obscure film makers. The works are digitally mastered from the finest archival sources available and newly recorded music in two-track stereo is provided.

To date, five sets of DVDs have been released comprising 214 films on 16 discs for a total run time of 2,861 minutes (47.7 hours). These sets are:

  • Treasures from American Film Archives: 50 Preserved Films (2000), 50 films on 4 discs.
  • More Treasures from American Film Archives, 1894-1931 (2004), 50 films on 3 discs.
  • Treasures III: Social Issues in American Film, 1900-1934 (2007), 48 films on 4 discs.
  • Treasures IV: American Avant-Garde Film, 1947-1986 (2008), 26 films on 2 discs.
  • Treasures 5: The West, 1898-1938 (2011), 40 films on 3 discs.


The DVD sets

Treasures from American Film Archives: 50 Preserved Films (2000)

  • Number of discs: 4
  • Number of Films: 50
  • Date range: 1893-1985
  • Total Run Time: 642 min (10.7 hrs)
  • Narrator: Laurence Fishburne
  • Booklet: 150-page book of program notes

The films:

Disc 1

Disc 2

Disc 3

  • The Chechahcos (1924, ? min,)
  • The Zeppelin Hindenburg (1936, 7 min.)
  • We Work Again (1937, ? min.), documentary; includes 4 minutes of the only film of Orson Welles's legendary 1936 Haiti-set stage production of Macbeth

Disc 4

More Treasures from American Film Archives, 1894-1931 (2004)

  • Number of discs: 3
  • Number of Films: 50
  • Date range: 1894-1931
  • Total Run Time: 573 min
  • Booklet: 200 page illustrated book with film notes and credits

Four feature films (over an hour in length) are included in this set; also: 46 short advertisements, documentaries, promotional and educational films, and some surprisingly good early experiments with color and sound.

The films:

Disc 1

  • The Country Doctor (1909), a D.W. Griffith short made for Biograph; a tale of a physician torn between his duty to family and profession
  • The Hazards of Helen, an action-packed episode from a movie serial
  • Dickson Experimental Sound Film (ca. 1894’ 15 sec.), two men dancing and a man playing a violin in front of a huge metal cone (the microphone for the wax cylinder the sound was recorded on)
  • The Suburbanite (1904), a polite comedy about the exploits of a middle-class family moving to the "burbs" of New Jersey
  • The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1910, 13 min.)
  • The Invaders (1912, 41 min.), Sioux and Cheyenne conflicts in Thomas Ince's early western featuring real Lakota Sioux
  • Gretchen the Greenhorn (1916, 58 mi.), Dutch migrants who fall victim to a gang of counterfeiters; featuring 18-year-old Dorothy Gish (Lillian's little sister)

Disc 2

  • Gus Visser and His Singing Duck (ca. 1925 - 90 sec.) It's another synchronized sound experiment, and remains a hoot.
  • The Teddy Bears (1907), an Edison short with impressive puppet animation
  • A trio of 12-minute, `Early Color Films', from 1916, 1929 and 1926 that used different experimental color processes. The 1926 entry is The Flute of Krishna, choreographed by Martha Graham.
  • Clash of the Wolves (1925, 74 min.), a Rin Tin Tin silent.
  • There It Is (1928, 19 min.), animation by the Inkwell Studios; a Charley Bowers absurdist comedy two-reeler; Bowers is a great unknown silent movie comedian, a stop-action animation innovator and a rather surreal moviemaker

Disc 3

  • Rip Van Winkle (1896, 4 min.), a series of very short scenes adapted from a popular stage play starring Joseph Jefferson (an established stage actor since before the Civil War); produced and shown on mutoscope machines, a flip-card, peep viewer affair that lost out to projector presentation of films.
  • Ernst Lubitsch's version of Oscar Wilde's Lady Windermere's Fan (1925, 89 min.) starring Ronald Colman
  • Life of an American Fireman (1903- 6 mins), an Edwin S. Porter short
  • Falling Leaves (1912 - 12 mins)
  • Also on each disc is a silent Fleischer brothers animation.

Treasures III: Social Issues in American Film, 1900-1934 (2007)

  • Number of discs: 4
  • Number of Films: 48
  • Date range: 1894-1931
  • Total Run Time: 738 min (12.3 hrs)
  • Booklet: 200 page illustrated book with film notes and credits

Exposing abuse or lampooning reform, films in the early 20th century put a human face on social problems and connected with audiences in a new way. Topics include: prohibition, abortion, unions, atheism, the vote for women, organized crime, loan sharking, juvenile justice, homelessness, police corruption, immigration -- in their first decades, movies brought an astonishing range of issues to the screen.

The films:
Disc 1 – “The City Reformed”

  • The Black Hand (1906, 11 min.), earliest surviving gangster film. Two members of a gang write a threatening letter to a butcher, demanding money, or else they will harm his family and his shop.
  • How They Rob Men in Chicago (1900, 25 sec.), an elderly man is robbed in Chicago, but some money is left behind on his unconscious person. A policeman happens by, takes the money, and leaves the victim unattended.
  • The Voice of the Violin (1909, 16 min.), a terrorist plot foiled by the power of music.
  • The Usurer's Grip (1912, 15 min.), melodrama arguing for consumer credit co-operatives.
  • From the Submerged (1912, 11 minutes) - Drama about homelessness and slumming parties.
  • Hope: A Red Cross Seal Story (1912, 14 min.), a town mobilizes to fight TB.
  • The Cost of Carelessness (1913, 13 min.), traffic safety film for Brooklyn children.
  • Lights and Shadows in a City of a Million (1920, 7 min.), a charitable plea for the Detroit community fund.
  • Six Million Children are Not in School (1922, 7 min.), newsreel inspired by census data.
  • The Soul of Youth (1920, 80 min.), William Desmond Taylor's feature about an orphan reclaimed for society through the court of Judge Ben Lindsey.
  • A Call for Help from Sing Sing (1934, 3 min.) - Warden Lawes speaks out for wayward teens.

Disc 2 – “New Women”

  • Kansas Saloon Smashers (1901, 1 min.), Carrie Nation swings her axe.
  • Why Mr. Nation Wants a Divorce (1902, 2 min.), role reversal temperance spoof
  • Trial Marriages (1907, 12 minutes), male fantasy inspired by a reformer's proposal. A man tries marriage to several women and finally gives up on matrimony entirely.
  • Manhattan Trade School for Girls (1911, 16 min.), training impoverished girls for better jobs.
  • The Strong Arm Squad of the Future (1912, 1 min.), a suffragette cartoon.
  • A Lively Affair (1912, 7 minutes), comedy with women playing poker and child-caring men. The moral is that this is what to expect if women get the vote.
  • A Suffragette in Spite of Himself (1912, 8 min.), boys' prank results in an unwitting crusader.
  • On To Washington (1913, 80 sec.), news coverage of the historic suffragette march.
  • The Hazards of Helen, Episode 13 (1915, 13 min.), Helen thwarts some robbers and overcomes workplace problems.
  • Where Are My Children? (1916, 65 min.), Lois Weber's film against abortion brings in the issue of birth control as well, which is a bit confusing to modern audiences; Tyrone Power's father stars in this one.
  • The Courage of the Commonplace (1913, 13 min.), a young farm woman dreams of a better life.
  • Poor Mrs Jones! (1926, 45 min.), why women should stay on the farm; a woman works endless hard hours on the farm and believes her sister who lives in the city has a much a better life, until she visits her for a week and realizes that the grass is not always greener on the other side.
  • Offers Herself as a Bride (1931, 2 min.), a woman comes up with a way to survive the depression.

Disc 3 – “Toil and Tyranny”

  • Uncle Sam and the Bolshevik (1919, 40 sec.), anti-union cartoon from Ford Motor Company
  • The Crime of Carelessness (1912, 14 min.), business version of the Triangle Factory fire
  • Who Pays, Episode 12 (1915, 35 min.), lumberyard strike brings deadly consequences
  • Labor's Reward (1925, 13 min.), surviving reel showing the American Federation of Labor's argument for buying union.
  • Listen to Some Words of Wisdom (1930, 2 min.), why personal thrift feeds the Great Depression
  • The Godless Girl (1928, 128 min.), Cecil B. DeMille's sensational film about girls' reformatories and his last silent picture.

Disc 4 – “Americans in the Making”

  • Emigrants Landing on Ellis Island (1903, 2 min.), actual footage of the event
  • An American in the Making (1913, 15 min.), U.S. Steel film promoting immigration and industrial safety
  • Ramona (1910, 16 min.), Helen Hunt Jackson's classic about racial conflict in California as told by D.W. Griffith; stars Mary Pickford
  • Redskin (1929, 82 min.), racial tolerance epic shot in two-strip Technicolor. Richard Dix plays Wing Foot, son of a Navajo chief who suffers heartache and prejudice before the film's happy ending with Wing Foot bringing peace between the Navajo and Pueblo peoples; about half the film features two-tone color using red and green filters; a technique already used in the 1910s but not often employed due to the extra work and expense. In "Redskin" colour is used only for the scenes showing the Navajo and Pueblo Indian people and their land.
  • United Snakes of America (1917, 80 sec.), World War I cartoon assails home front dissenters
  • Uncle Sam donates for Liberty Loans (1919, 75 sec.), very odd patriotic cartoon.
  • 100% American (1918, 14 min.), Mary Pickford buys war bonds and supports the troops.
  • Bud's Recruit (1918, 26 min.), brothers serve their country in King Vidor's earliest surviving film
  • The Reawakening (1919, 10 min.), documentary about helping disabled veterans build new lives after the war
  • Eight Prohibition Newsreels (1922-23, 13 min.), footage on raids along with various opinions about the effectiveness of Prohibition

Treasures IV: American Avant-Garde Film, 1947-1986 (2008)

  • Number of discs: 2
  • Number of Films: 26
  • Date range: 1894-1931
  • Total Run Time: 312 min (5.2 hrs)
  • Booklet: 70-page book of program notes; forward by Martin Scorsese

Independent cinema from Bruce Baillie to Andy Warhol, artists who worked outside the mainstream and redefined American film are collected in this set. An array of films never before released on VHS or DVD with styles ranging from animation to documentary are showcased in this collection of classics and rediscoveries, selected from five of the nation's foremost avant-garde film archives.

The films:
Disc 1

  • Film No. 3: Interwoven (1947-49, 3 min.) - Harry Smith
  • Notes on the Circus (1966, 12 min.) - Jonas Mekas
  • Here I Am (1962, 10 min.) - Bruce Baillie
  • Fake Fruit Factory (1986, 22 min.) - Chick Strand
  • Odds & Ends (1959, 4 min.) - Jane Conger Belson Shimane
  • Eyewash (1959, 3 min.0 - Robert Breer
  • Peyote Queen (1965, 9 min.) - Storm de Hirsch
  • 7362 (1967, 10 min.) - Pat O'Neill
  • Aleph (1956-66(?), 8 min.) - Wallace Berman
  • Note to Patti (1969, 7 min.) - Saul Levine
  • By Night with Torch and Spear (1940s?, 8 min) - Joseph Cornell
  • The Riddle of Lumen (1972, 13 in.) - Stan Brakhage
  • The End (1953, 34 min) - Christopher Maclaine

Disc 2

  • Bridges-Go-Round (1958, 4 min.) - Shirley Clarke
  • Go! Go! Go! (1962-64, 11 min.) - Marie Menken
  • Little Stabs at Happiness (1959-63, 15 min.) - Ken Jacobs
  • Chumlum (1964, 23 min) - Ron Rice
  • Mario Banana (No. 1) (1964, 4 min.) - Andy Warhol
  • I, an Actress (1977, 9 min.) - George Kuchar
  • The Off-Handed Jape... and How to Pull It Off (1967, 8 min) - Robert Nelson, William T. Wiley
  • New Improved Institutional Quality (1976, 10 min.) - Owen Land
  • Hamfat Asar (1965, 13 min.) - Lawrence Jordan
  • Necrology (1969-70, 11 min) - Standish Lawder
  • Fog Line (1970, 11 min.) - Larry Gottheim
  • (nostalgia) (1971, 36 min.) - Hollis Frampton
  • Bad Burns (1982, 6 min) - Paul Sharits

Treasures 5: The West, 1898-1938 (2011)

  • Number of discs: 3
  • Number of Films: 40
  • Date range: 1894-1931
  • Total Run Time: 596 min (9.9 hrs)
  • Booklet: 132-page book

A set celebrating the dynamic, gender-bending, ethnically diverse West that flourished in early motion pictures, but has never before been seen on video. both narrative and nonfiction films. travelogues from 10 western states Kodachrome home movies; newsreels about Native Americans; and documentaries and industrial films about such Western subjects as cattle ranch-ing

The films:
Disc 1

  • The Tourists (1912, 6 min.), Mabel Normand runs amuck in Albuquerque’s Indian market.
  • The Sergeant (1910, 16 min.), first surviving narrative shot in Yosemite.
  • Salomy Jane (1914, 87 min.), Gold Rush tale with America's first Latina movie star Beatriz Michelena.
  • Sunshine Gatherers (1921, 10 min.), canning California Del Monte brand canned fruits, in Prizmacolor.
  • Deschutes Driftwood (1916, 10 min.), riding the rails along the Deschutes and Columbia Rivers.
  • “Promised Land” Barred to “Hoboes” (1936, 2 min.)
  • Last of the Line (1914, 26 min.), Thomas Ince's cross-cultural tragedy, with Sessue Hayakawa.
  • The Indian-detour (1924, 16 min.), in the Southwest on a Fred Harvey Company motor tour.
  • Native American in Newsreels (1921–1938, 5 min.), Indians Invade Nation’s Capitol and 4 other stories.
  • We Can Take It (1935, 21 min.), Civilian Conservation Corps at work.

Disc 2

  • Over Silent Paths (1910, 16 min.), daughter avenges her father’s murder.
  • Life on the Circle Ranch in California (1912, 12 min.), cattle ranching in Santa Monica.
  • Broncho Billy and the Schoolmistress (1912, 14 min.), America’s first cowboy star courts a pistol-packing schoolmarm.
  • How the Cowboy Makes His Lariat (1917, 3 min.), Pedro Leon demonstrates the vaquero’s art.
  • Mexican Filibusters (1911, 16 min.), intrepid woman does her bit for the Mexican Revolution.
  • The Better Man (1912, 12 min.), Mexican bandit proves his worth.
  • Ammunition Smuggling on the Mexican Border (1914, 41 min.), Texas sheriff reenacts kidnapping by revolutionists.
  • Lake Tahoe, Land of the Sky (1916, 6 min.), travelogue celebrating the new auto road.
  • Mantrap (1926, 71 min.), wilderness comedy with Clara Bow and a woman-hating attorney; a Minneapolis manicurist who goes out West with one man and becomes involved with another; Victor Fleming
  • From The Golden West (1938, 8 min.), oil wells, drive-ins, and more in Kodachrome home movies.

Disc 3

  • Lady of the Dug-Out (1918, 64 min.), Al Jennings plays himself as a bank robber with a heart of gold; W.S. Van Dyke
  • From Passing of the Oklahoma Outlaw (1915, 13 min.), Bill Tilghman reenacts his capture of the Wild Bunch.
  • The Girl Ranchers (1913, 14 min.), comedy in which sisters inherit the Rough Neck Ranch.
  • Legal Advice (1916, 13 min.), Tom Mix falls for a lady attorney.
  • Womanhandled (1925, 55 min.), sparkling Gregory La Cava in which a modern ranch poses as the Old West to fool New Yorkers.
  • Beauty Spots in America: Castle Hot Springs, Arizona (1916, 6 min.), spa for the rich and famous.
  • Romance of Water (1931, 10 min.), how L.A. got its water.
  • A New Miracle in the Desert (1935, 1 min.), bringing Colorado River water to California.
  • The West in Promotional Travelogues (1898–1920, 22 min.), tours in 7 states, including Seeing Yosemite with David A. Curry.

Awards for the Treasures series DVDs

  • National Society of Film Critics' Film Heritage Award
  • VSDA's Best in Show Non-Theatrical Award

Film archives utilized in the series

External links

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