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One-Reel Wonders of the 1930s

In the 1930s, the one-reel short subject was an important part of the cinema-going experience. This collection brings together some popular (and unusual!) examples.
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Format:  DVD-R
sku:  ALP 8253D
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DVD-R Details

  • Run Time: 1 hours, 20 minutes
  • Video: Black & White
  • Encoding: Region 0 (Worldwide)
  • Released: July 23, 2019
  • Originally Released: 1930
  • Label: Alpha Video

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In the 1930s, the one-reel short subject was an important part of the cinema-going experience. Changes in distribution brought about by the Great Depression meant that theatre owners now had to buy a program of features, cartoons, newsreels and shorts directly from the studios themselves, creating a need for regular series of short subjects. This collection brings together examples from some of the most popular (and unusual!) series.

THE GLACIER'S SECRET (1930): A thrilling installment of RKO's Vagabond Adventures Series in which British actor Tom Terriss makes a perilous trek across a glacier near the South Pole. Directed by D.W. Griffith protégé, and later exploitation filmmaker, Elmer Clifton.

BATTLE OF THE CENTURIES (1932): Brothers Stacy and Horace Woodward were innovators in the use of microscopic camera technology, and made several acclaimed short films during the 1930s about the miniature world of insects. In this "Pictoreel", they show us a grisly war between ants and termites happening inside an old tree stump.

KRAZI-INVENTIONS (1936): A series of comedic sketches depicting wacky inventions from the early 20th century, including an automatically-tipping hat, a water-dowsing burglar alarm, and a machine that plants hair on your head. Directed by William Watson, a veteran of comedy shorts for Keystone, Hal Roach, and Al Christie.

GLIMPSES OF THE HEART OF PARIS (1936): André de la Varre was a globetrotting cinematographer who called himself "The Screen Traveler". In the 1930s, his independently-produced travelogues were a regular part of movie theaters' programs. Here he takes us to the heart of Paris, with plenty of views of Notre Dame, "that grand old church in all its gothic beauty."

SILVER THREADS (1937): Columbia's Strange as It Seems series was conceived as an answer to Warner Brothers' Ripley's Believe It or Not short subjects. This entry tells the sad tale of Hart Danks, the composer who died penniless after signing away the rights to his most famous composition, "Silver Threads Among the Gold." Narrated by Robert Sherwood, author of Waterloo Bridge and speechwriter for FDR.

ADVENTURES OF BUNNY RABBIT (1937): This adorable short is considered the most successful ever made by ERPI Classroom Films (later Encyclopedia Britannica.) Nature photographer Lynwood Chase had submitted a silent film about a family of bunny rabbits to the distributor, who added a voiceover by artist James Brill. By speaking to children at their own level, and asking them questions, Brill made a breakthrough. Adventures of Bunny Rabbit would be followed by other short animal pictures, including Three Little Kittens, Snapping Turtle and The Hare and the Tortoise.

WALTER FUTTER'S CURIOSITIES #13 (1930): Walter Futter was a producer who specialized in accumulating stock footage from amateur filmmakers, earning him the nickname "the junkman of filmdom." His Curiosities series, distributed by Columbia, showcased some of the most bizarre examples. This entry includes turkeys being paraded up and down the streets of Mexico, a literal "love nest" for honeymooners in the trees of San Bernardino, and a hot springs in California that produces black writing ink!

COL. STOOPNAGLE'S CAVALCADE OF STUFF NO. 1 (1938): Radio comedian F. Chase Taylor, better known as "Colonel Stoopnagle", regularly made these parodies of movie newsreels for 20th Century Fox. Taylor had previously appeared on screen in Paramount's International House (1933) and was the cousin of famed horror writer H.P. Lovecraft.

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Product Info

  • Sales Rank: 1,456
  • UPC: 089218825391
  • Shipping Weight: 0.25/lbs (approx)
  • International Shipping: 1 item

Film Collectors & Archivists: Alpha Video is actively looking for rare and unusual pre-1943 motion pictures, in good condition, from Monogram, PRC, Tiffany, Chesterfield, and other independent studios for release on DVD. We are also interested in TV shows from the early 1950s. Share your passion for films with a large audience. Let us know what you have.
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