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Reviews of silent film releases on home video.
Copyright © 1999-2014 by Carl Bennett
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Hoodoo Ann
(1916)
 

Noted by silent film enthusiasts for her charming juvenile and ingenue roles, Mae Marsh starred in her first film for the Fine Arts studio in Hoodoo Ann (1916), a vehicle that brought forth all of the celebration of innocence and charge of deep emotion that Marsh specialized in.

Orphan Hoodoo Ann hasn’t a friend in the world. Hungry for affection, she looks for playmates among the children and is rebuffed at each turn. When the orphanage burns to the ground, she is adopted by a kindly couple who have lost their daughter.

Her teenage years finds her falling mutually in love with neighbor boy Jimmy Vance (Robert Harron). At a movie house they watch what amounts to a parody of William S. Hart westerns, inspiring Ann to a round of acting. She finds a handgun in the attic and begins acting out the scene with her prop when the gun discharges, hitting a neighbor. Fearful and uncertain of the future, Ann feels the jinx of her childhood has returned and refuses Jimmy’s proposal of marriage. When the police suspect the neighbor’s wife of his murder, Ann steps in to reveal the truth.

While it is not going to come close to equalling the great silent era productions, this pleasing little film has its moments of mild comedy and fleeting moments of poignant emotion. Mae Marsh is outstanding among a good cast of D.W. Griffith stock players in this five-reel programmer. — Carl Bennett

Image Entertainment 2007 DVD edition

True Heart Susie (1919), color-tinted black & white and black & white, 86 minutes, not rated,
with Hoodoo Ann (1916), black & white, 64 minutes, not rated.

Film Preservation Associates, distributed by Image Entertainment, ID3846DSDVD, UPC 0-14381-38462-8.
Full-frame 4:3 NTSC, one single-sided, dual-layered DVD disc, Region 0, 7 Mbps average video bit rate, 224 kbps audio bit rate, Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, 12 chapter stops, standard DVD keepcase, $24.99.
DVD release date: 28 August 2007.
Country of origin: USA

Ratings (1-10): video: 9 / audio: 8 / additional content: 8 / overall: 8.

Gorgeous! This edition of Hoodoo Ann has been mastered from a 35mm fine-grain master positive that has been duplicated from the original nitrate camera negative. The quality of the slightly-windowboxed standard-definition video transfer is excellent, well-representing the sharp image detail and balanced range of graytones in the source print.

The high, variable bit rate of the video compression maintains a convincingly filmlike look on a high-definition television capable of up-conversion. The source print itself does have a moderate amount of speckling, a few fine vertical scratches, other transient print flaws and flashes of beginning print decomposition, but overall the disc is a satisfying pleasure to watch.

The film is accompanied by a fine music score compiled and performed on piano by Rodney Sauer.

We highly recommend this edition of Hoodoo Ann for Mae Marsh’s charming and sometimes heart-rending performance, and for the disc’s high visual quality.

 
USA: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 0 NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.com. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
 
Canada: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 0 NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.ca. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
Unknown Video 2004 DVD edition

Hoodoo Ann (1916), black & white, 65 minutes, not rated,
with The Making of Broncho Billy (1913), black & white, 9 minutes, not rated, and Broncho Billy and the Greaser (1914), black & white, 15 minutes, not rated.

Unknown Video, no catalog number, unknown UPC number.
Full-frame 4:3 NTSC, one single-sided, single-layered DVD-R disc, Region 0, 4 Mbps average video bit rate, 384 kbps audio bit rate, Dolby Digital 2.0 mono sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, 3 chapter stops, standard DVD keepcase, $18.95.
DVD release date: 22 November 2004.
Country of origin: USA

Ratings (1-10): video: 7 / audio: 5 / additional content: 6 / overall: 6.

This public-domain edition of Hoodoo Ann has been mastered from a 16mm fine-grain negative from the Blackhawk Films collection, which features exceptional image clarity when compared to other reduction prints. It is marked with a moderate amount of speckling and dust, and momentary examples of processing spots and beginning decomposition. Overall, the print is very pleasing viewing, with its broad range of graytones and impressive image quality for a reduction print.

The presentation, originally prepared for videotape release in 1999, features custom musical accompaniment performed on a small electric organ by Bob Vaughn.

This disc is a standout — you’d almost think you were watching a 35mm print — among the small-budget video productions of silent era films available from the small public-domain companies.

 
USA: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 0 NTSC DVD-R edition from Amazon.com. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
Other silent era MAE MARSH films available on home video:
The Birth of a Nation (1915)
A Child of the Paris Streets (1916)
Intolerance (1916)
Polly of the Circus (1917)
 
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