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Douglas Fairbanks: A Modern Musketeer DVD Set

Douglas Fairbanks: A Modern Musketeer

Douglas Fairbanks in A Modern MusketeerFlicker Alley, described as “a specialty supplier of fine silent films and classic cinema programming,” in association with the Blackhawk Film Collection, has announced the December 2, 2008, release of “Douglas Fairbanks: A Modern Musketeer,” a five-disc DVD collection featuring eleven early Douglas Fairbanks' vehicles. Fairbanks, one of the founders of United Artists and at one point the husband of superstar Mary Pickford, was one of the biggest film attractions in the world from the mid-1910s to the late 1920s.

The Flicker Alley set includes digitally mastered editions from 35mm or original-negative prints of the following films, most of which were made prior to Fairbanks' swashbuckling phase: His Picture in the Papers, Flirting with Fate, The Mystery of the Leaping Fish, The Matrimaniac (all 1916, produced by Triangle); Wild and Woolly, Reaching for the Moon, and A Modern Musketeer (all 1917-18, produced by Fairbanks for Paramount/Artcraft); When The Clouds Roll By, The Mollycoddle, The Mark of Zorro, and The Nut (1919-1921, produced by Fairbanks for United Artists).

I've seen several of the Fairbanks titles included in the set – though most of those in subpar prints. The Mollycoddle, a funny comedy with Fairbanks as a fop who discovers his macho credentials so he can get the girl before the final fadeout, is my favorite of the batch, though The Matrimaniac has some mirthful moments thanks to Fairbanks' co-star Constance Talmadge – that's one instance, in fact, when a Fairbanks vehicle wasn't all about Fairbanks. (I should add that The Mollycoddle was directed by Victor Fleming, he of Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz.)

Of the ones I haven't seen, A Modern Musketeer sounds particularly intriguing. Only a fragment was known to exist until the Danish Film Institute, in partnership with the Museum of Modern Art and Lobster Films, finished a recent restoration of the complete film, which is accompanied by an optional audio commentary by Jeffrey Vance and Tony Maietta, authors of the new biography, Douglas Fairbanks (Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences / University of California Press, 2008). A Modern Musketeer also boasts a new orchestral score by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra, which also accompanies The Mark of Zorro – the set's only major Fairbanks swashbuckler – digitally remastered from an original 35mm fine grain.

Also of special interest is The Nut, which features a little-seen early appearance by Barbara La Marr, a top name in the 1920s when she was known as “The Girl Who Was Too Beautiful.” The film revolves around an eccentric inventor trying to find investors for the social welfare plans of his girlfriend (frequent Fairbanks leading lady Marguerite De La Motte, one of the inspirations for the rising young actress in A Star Is Born).

Included in the bonus materials are a gallery of rare stills from Douglas Fairbanks' personal collection at the Academy and a booklet essay by Vance and Maietta.

In addition to the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra scores, the following musicians created accompanying scores especially for these editions: Eric Beheim, Philip Carli, Frederick Hodges, Robert Israel (on a vintage Fotoplayer), Rodney Sauer, and Franklin Stover.

The set, produced by David Shepard and Jeffery Masino, carries a suggested retail price of $89.95. (The set is being sold for $69.95 until Dec. 2.)


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