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Barnes & Noble -"Treasures" is the operative word in this truly amazing set of four DVDs, featuring a collection of early cinema, rescued silent gems, documentaries, home movies, and avant-garde films. It's an absolute must for anyone interested in film history, or, for that matter, in 20th-century American history. Predictably, the lion's share of the material presented here is from the silent era. The most astonishing of these include: a 1928 Expressionist rendering of Poe's Fall of the House of Usher, transferred from a stunningly pristine print; Interior New York Subway 1905, a single-take, 5-minute film that doubles as priceless documentary and proto-avant-garde art film; Hell's Hinges, a surprising 1916 western feature by William S. Hart, offering as bleak a view of the American West as anything by Sergio Leone or Sam Peckinpah; and The Toll of the Sea starring Anna May Wong, one of the earliest surviving Technicolor features. Some of the most profound documentary shorts you will ever see are also included here. Director John Huston's Battle of San Pietro, made in 1945 for the Office of War Information, chronicles what appears to be a typical battle in the Allies' Italian campaign during World War II. With its stark combat footage, tender portraits of individual G.I.'s, and Huston's own pointed, folksy narration, it is an extraordinary film. The Wall 1961, made as propaganda for the U.S. Information Agency and rarely seen in this country, laments the first anniversary of the Berlin Wall, paying tribute to those who successfully escaped East Berlin, and those who died trying. Other unexpected, golden nuggets include a Chuck Jones cartoon written by Dr. Seuss, from the Army's "Private Snafu" series, complete with a Carl Stalling score and voices by
Mel Blanc. We Work Again, a short documentary celebrating the generation of African Americans who were able to go back to work thanks to the WPA, features an unbelievable four minutes from Orson Welles's stage production of Voodoo Macbeth of which no filmed footage was previously thought to exist. And Marian Anderson's historic 1939 concert at the Lincoln Memorial is moving beyond words. Every single one of the 50 films presented in this fine collection offers something truly special and startling. Together, they form an invaluable panorama of nearly forgotten American film history.