American Surrealism

Edwin S. Porter and other early filmmakers used bizarre sets, fantastic costumes, and magic lantern tricks to illuminate their fantasy films. American parody supplied Douglas Fairbanks with enough unusual material to produce the truly surreal When the Clouds Roll By (1919). The expressionistic Cabinet of Dr. Calagari (1919) influenced American sensibilities throughout the 1920s as seen in Beggar of Horseback (1925), The Life and Death of 9413-A Hollywood Extra (1927) and The Telltale Heart (1928). The emphasis shifted when amateurs J.S. Watson, Jr., Joseph Cornell, and Orson Welles crafted a unique variety of American surrealism on film unfettered by European concerns.

Jack and the Beanstalk (1902)—Edwin S. Porter
Dream of a Rarebit Fiend (1906)—Edwin S. Porter
The Thieving Hand (1907)—creator unknown, Vitagraph
Impossible Convicts (1905)—G.W. "Billy" Bitzer
When the Clouds Roll By (1919)—Douglas Fairbanks & Victor Fleming (excerpt)
Beggar on Horseback (1925)—James Cruze (excerpt)
The Fall of the House of Usher (1926-27)—J.S. Watson, Jr. & Melville Webber
The Life and Death of 9413: A Hollywood Extra (1927)— Robert Florey & Slavko Vorkapich
The Love of Zero (1928)—Robert Florey & William Cameron Menzies
The Telltale Heart (1928)—Charles Klein
Tomatos Another Day (1930/1933)—J.S. Watson, Jr. & Alec Wilder
The Hearts of Age (1934)— William Vance & Orson Welles
Unreal News Reels (c. 1926)—Weiss Artclass Comedies (excerpt)
The Children’s Jury (c. 1938)—attributed Joseph Cornell
Thimble Theater (c. 1938)—Joseph Cornell
Carousel: Animal Opera (c. 1938)—Joseph Cornell
Jack’s Dream (c. 1938)—Joseph Cornell

Year: 1902-1938
Running time: 161 minutes
Contents: 17 Films
Format: B/W;
Sound & Silent
Region: 0
Available as part of 7-disc box set

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"An amazing collection, with plenty of playful surrealism and literate influences, many films long thought lost and many more never known to even have existed."
—The Guardian, London

is one of a seven-DVD series exploring American avant-garde cinema from 1894-1941. Presented by Anthology Film Archives in association with the British Film Institute, Cineric, Film Preservation Associates, Deutsches Filmmuseum, George Eastman House, The Library of Congress and The Museum of Modern Art.

"Orson Welles’ The Hearts of Age is his surreal celebration of Death, as impersonated by the man himself in leering expressionist makeup."
—City Pages, St. Paul/Minneapolis

Films preserved by
The American Film Institute
Anthology Film Archives
British Film Institute
Film Preservation Associates
Larson-Casselton Collection
Lawrence Jordan
The Library of Congress
Paramount Pictures

Music by
Eric Beheim
Robert Israel
Donald Sosin
Alec Wilder

Notes by
Kevin Brownlow
Bradley Eros
Robert A. Haller
Jan-Christopher Horak
David James
Lawrence Jordan
Jeanne Liotta
Bruce Posner
David Shepard
Paul Spehr

Curated by Bruce Posner
Produced for DVD by David Shepard
Released by Image Entertainment

Sponsored by Anthology Film Archives, New York, and Deutsches Filmmuseum, Frankfurt am Main.
Made possible in part by Cineric, Inc., Eastman Kodak Company, and Film Preservation Associates, Inc.

Special Contents of this Edition © 2005 by Anthology Film Archives