Rare Lon Chaney and Occult-Themed Silents

From Undercrank Productions on October 17th

 

Today, silent-centric video label Undercrank Productions announced that they will debut five rare silent films on DVD on October 17th. Three titles starring Lon Chaney, A Mother’s Atonement(1915), If My Country Should Call (1916) and The Place Beyond the Winds (1916) will be released as Lon Chaney: Before the Thousand Faces.  While two occult-themed silents, Whispering Shadows (1921) and The Devil’s Assistant (1917) will be released together.  The titles are 20-68 minutes long, so each release is a single DVD.

Here is the full press release from Undercrank Productions:

 

“LON CHANEY: BEFORE THE THOUSAND FACES”, TRIO OF EARLY CHANEY SILENTS UNSEEN FOR 100 YEARS, PLUS LOST OCCULT-THEMED “WHISPERING SHADOWS” NEW ON DVD FROM UNDERCRANK PRODS.

Pair of Halloween-Season Releases Showcase Early Chaney Dramas from 1915-16, Plus Rare Obscure 1921 Creeper

Digitally Restored and with New Musical Scores

NEW YORK, N.Y. (WEDNESDAY September 27th, 2017) – Undercrank Productions (undercrankproductions.com) announced today that they will be releasing the DVDs Lon Chaney: Before the Thousand Faces and Whispering Shadows on October 17, 2017 and both will be available on Amazon.com.

Lon Chaney’s film work from the 1920s is well known and – with the exception of the notoriously lost London After Midnight (1927) – is mostly available on home video. However, only a small percentage of the 118 films Chaney made at Universal in the 1910s survive, and have never been available for fans.  Lon Chaney: Before the Thousand Faces contains three feature films from this era: A Mother’s Atonement(1915), If My Country Should Call (1916) and The Place Beyond the Winds (1916). Each has been newly scanned from the only surviving archival 35mm prints, preserved by the Library of Congress, and all three films feature new musical scores by Jon C. Mirsalis.

“The mission of Undercrank Productions’ DVD releases has always focused on making undiscovered classics available to fans,” says Undercrank’s Ben Model. “These two DVD releases, produced and scored by two of my film accompanist colleagues, were another opportunity to showcase the holdings of the Library of Congress and the USC Hugh M. Hefner Moving Image Archive as part of our ongoing work to bring obscure films to the fans who want to see them.”

Jon Mirsalis, both a Lon Chaney historian and well-known silent film accompanist, selected these three rare titles for this release, having first seen and impressed by them in the late 1970s. The films have not been in circulation largely because each is incomplete, missing 1 or 2 reels. For this release, Mirsalis has reconstructed missing footage with titles based on contemporary reviews and copyright records. The films’ new availability gives Chaney fans the opportunity to see him in dramatic, supporting roles before made before starring for Universal and then MGM in the 1920s.

A contemporary review proclaims “Whispering Shadows is the possessor of a ‘kick’, the kind of a ‘kick’ which creeps through your veins when you are anticipating something unwelcome while enshrouded in darkness”. Whispering Shadows (1921) stars Lucy Cotton as a woman whose fiancée’s rival embezzles funds from her father’s financial firm, framing her fiancée for the crime. When the father dies unexpectedly, evidence proving the guilty party surfaces…in the form of messages from Cotton’s father from beyond the grave! This moody occult-themed independent production only survives in a print on the rare 28mm film format, preserved by the Library of Congress. Rounding out the disc is the equally obscure The Devil’s Assistant (1917), in which Margarita Fischer portrays a woman whose rejected suitor transforms into the Devil himself, administering opiates to his medical patients and in particular to Fischer. Her red-tinted descent into madness and hell possesses visual effects remarkable for an independent production in 1917.

The Whispering Shadows disc was scored on theatre organ by Andrew E. Simpson, who also funded the project via Kickstarter earlier this year. Simpson had created and performed his score for the film at a show held during the Library of Congress’ annual Mostly Lost Film Identification Conference in 2015. That screening was unique and a cinema first, in that the Library of Congress’ 28mm print was projected that evening on vintage 28mm projectors. The equipment, originally designed for living-room-only use in the late 1910s, had been retrofitted for theatrical use and operated by Dino Everett, Chief Curator of the USC Hugh M. Hefner Moving Image Archive.

Lon Chaney: Before the Thousand Faces features 2K scans from 35mm preservation materials from the Library of Congress. Both A Mother’s Atonement andIf My Country Should Call are from the Library of Congress’ Dawson City collection, a huge cache of lost silent films discovered in the Yukon in 1978 recently profiled in Bill Morrison’s documentary Dawson City: Frozen Time (2017). Whispering Shadows is presented in a 2K scan of the Library of Congress’ preservation of its vintage 28mm print. The USC Hugh M. Hefner Moving Image Archive provided the rare film element for The Devil’s Assistant, seen here in a new HD scan. A documentary short by Ben Model on the 28mm film format, Everett and the 2015 Mostly Lost screening can be found on YouTube.

LON CHANEY: BEFORE THE THOUSAND FACES
The Films:
A Mother’s Atonement (1915) – directed by Joseph De Grasse; starring Cleo Madison, Arthur Shirley, Lon Chaney, Wyndham Standing; 20 mins.
If My Country Should Call (1916) – directed by Joseph De Grasse; starring Dorothy Phillips, Helen Leslie, Frank Whitson, Lon Chaney, Albert MacQuarrie; 24 mins.
The Place Beyond the Winds (1916) – directed by Joseph De Grasse; starring Dorothy Phillips, Jack Mulhall, Lon Chaney, Joseph De Grasse; 39 mins.
Genre: Drama
DVD Street Date: October 17, 2017
DVD SRP: $19.95
83 mins – B&W – stereo – NTSC – not rated
new musical scores composed and performed by Jon C. Mirsalis
Jon Mirsalis website: www.lonchaney.org
produced for video and restored by Jon C. Mirsalis
DVD produced by Ben Model, in association with Greenbriar Picture Shows
released by Undercrank Productions

WHISPERING SHADOWS (1921)
Directed by Emile Chautard; starring Lucy Cotton, with Charles A. Stevenson, Philip Merrivale, Robert Barrat; 68 mins.
bonus:
THE DEVIL’S ASSISTANT (1917)
Directed by Harry A. Pollard; starring Margarita Fischer, Monroe Salisbury, Jack Mower, Kathleen Kirkham; 23 mins.
Genre: Drama/Horror
DVD Street Date: October 17, 2017
DVD SRP: $19.95
91 mins – B&W/tinted – stereo – NTSC – not rated
new musical scores composed and performed by Andrew E. Simpson
produced for video by Andrew E. Simpson – www.andrewesimpson.com
DVD produced by Ben Model
released by Undercrank Productions

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