THE DOUGLAS MACLEAN COLLECTION – A DVD Review by John Strange

THE DOUGLAS MACLEAN COLLECTION – A DVD Review by John Strange

Those of you who regularly read my reviews know how much I love movies, all movies.  I am also a fan of history, including the history of Hollywood and filmmaking.  The home video releases from Undercrank Productions are all snapshots of Hollywood’s early days.  I love this!

The Douglas MacLean Collection is an excellent example of a window in the early days of filmmaking.  Douglas got his start in film in 1914.  In the early 1920s, he starred in a number of comedies for the Thomas H. Ince Corporation.  Thomas Ince is given credit for refining the model of production that became known as the Hollywood “studio system”.  This studio is the subject of the bonus extra on this DVD.

The feature films that Ben Model and Undercrank Productions present on this DVD are two comedies from the early 1920s, One a Minute (1921) and Bell Boy 13 (1923).  These films were preserved by The Library of Congress National Audio-Visual Conservation Center.  The scores for the DVD are by Ben Model.

First up is the film One a Minute (1921), a tale that exemplifies the infamous P.T. Barnum quote, “There’s a sucker born every minute”.  When young college graduate Jimmy Knight returns home to take over the reins of his late father’s drug store, he finds the store in dire straits with a competitor about to open across the street that could drive the family business into ruin.  And to make it even more interesting?  He met the competitor’s daughter on the train home and is smitten!

The movie takes a wild idea young Jimmy has and runs with it for all they are worth.  The film’s humor comes from the sheer audacity the young man (and his newspaper publisher buddy) displays as he gets pushed deeper and deeper into his scheme!  I had a great time watching it!

Bell Boy 13 (1923) Brings us a story of ne’er-do-well Harry Elrod, nephew of Ellrey Elrod (John Steppling), a very rich man who controls a company that deals with stocks and bonds.  Harry wants to marry the love of his life, actress Kitty Clyde (Margaret Loomis), but Uncle Ellrey absolutely refuses to give his blessing to the union.

Harry manages to get away from his uncle after a series of escapades that include firemen and a female suitor singing what appears to be a horrible rendition of “Fly, Birdie, Fly!”.  Once he finally arrives at the rendezvous with Kitty, she slaps him verbally, telling him if he doesn’t have a job, she won’t marry him!

He takes a job as a bell boy for the hotel where Miss Clyde is staying.  His adventures as a bell boy are typical for a comedy of his time, filled with wrong rooms and the attitude that got him in trouble in the first place.  The events flow surprisingly well right up to the very satisfying ending for our young Harry!

The bonus, “A Trip Through the World’s Greatest Motion Picture Studios” (1920), takes us through a studio that is still in use today!  Following the death of Ince, his studio has been owned and operated by many well-known filmmakers and studios, including Cecil B. Demille, RKO/Pathé, Desilu Productions, Sony Pictures Entertainment, and presently is the home of Amazon Studios.  Howard Hughes was among the people to have had offices at the studio over the years.

Thomas H. Ince was ahead of his time.  He made this documentary short in 1920 about the inner workings of his studio.  It premiered at Grauman’s Million Dollar Theater (first of the Grauman theaters that later included Grauman’s Egyptian and Grauman’s Chinese theaters on Hollywood Blvd.) in August of that year.  It was then offered to distributors to promote the studio.

I found this information on the DVD (with some additional information taken from Wikipedia).  I love that Undercrank Productions gives us a short introduction to each film, feature or short.  We see some information that gives us some of the history or other info to help us get to know the featured performer better.  In the introductions to the two films, we discover that “During the peak of his popularity, Douglas MacLean appeared on screen with nearly the same frequency as the outputs of Charles Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, and Buster Keaton combined.” We also learned that “MacLean’s films were not box office smashes but they were consistently profitable and well received.”

It saddens me that more of his films don’t appear to have survived.  Per the Wikipedia page for Mr. MacLean, the Library of Congress has seven of his films preserved.  Having seen the two films on this DVD, I would love the chance to see some of the other films.  I give One a Minute (1921) and Bell Boy 13 (1923) 5 Stars.  The prints of the films were preserved from what must have been pretty good prints with only a few things having to be recreated (usually title cards are what have to be made to replace ones that are damaged or missing).  Ben Model did a great job, as always, on the music scores that accompanied the films.

I give 4.5 Stars for the short documentary only because it has a few rough spots that the preservationists were not able to repair.

 

Directed By:

  • One a Minute (1921)
    • Jack Nelson
  • Bell Boy 13 (1923)
    • William A. Seiter

Cast:

  • One a Minute (1921)
    • Douglas MacLean, with Victor Potel, Marian De Beck, Frances Raymond, Andrew Robson, Graham Pettie
  • Bell Boy 13 (1923)
    • Douglas MacLean, with John Steppling, Margaret Loomis, Jean Walsh, Eugene Burr, Emily Gerdee, William Courtwright

Films:

  • One a Minute (1921)
  • Bell Boy 13 (1923)

Extras:

  • “A Trip Through the World’s Greatest Motion Picture Studios” (1920) – a revealing documentary by and about the Thomas H. Ince Studios in Culver City, California, where Ince refined an efficient model of production that became known as the Hollywood “studio system”. The site is presently the home of Amazon Studios.

Specifications:

Runtime:

Films:

  • 100 Minutes
    • One a Minute (1921) – 56 min.
    • Bell Boy 13 (1923) – 44 min.

Extra:

  • 23 Minutes

Studio:

  • Undercrank Productions

Release Date:

  • 02/18/2020

Region:

  • 0 (Worldwide)

Website:

MPAA Rating:

  • Not Rated

Selig Rating:

Film Rating:

  • 5 Stars

Bonus Features Rating:

  • 4.5 Stars

Picture Quality Rating:

  • 5 Stars

Audio Quality Rating:

  • 5 Stars

 

Selig Rating Scale:

5 Stars: Should add to your DVD collection at any cost

4 Stars: Worth owning, but try to catch it a sale

3 Stars: Plan to get it, but wait to buy it used

2 Stars: Worth taking a look at, but not owning

1 Star: Pick it up at a garage sale and use it for drinks

0 Stars: Makes a great Trap Shooting target