Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Hitchcock Nine

One cause (you really can't call it a charity) that I care a lot about is film preservation. So much of our 20th Century history is contained on film, but with time comes decay and many are in danger of losing their luster or being lost forever. I know Martin Scorsese has been very instrumental in the cause for years.

The British Film Institute is currently seeking donations to help restore Hitchcock's surviving silent films. There's a certain urgency there. This isn't like remastering Wizard of Oz for the seventh time. If something isn't done, they will be GONE. Consider that 90% of all silent films are already gone forever. 90 percent. While that does include "realities" or bland sorts of things that wouldn't interest audiences today, it also includes great comedy, Oscar nominees, even a Titanic film featuring a survivor of the event. Nitrate film was highly flammable, and many were lost in fires. Others were used to fuel fires back then sometimes; preservation didn't seem as important then.

Only recently was a near-complete print discovered of Fritz Lang's Metropolis. This seminal science fiction work was for decades seen only in incomplete versions because all other known prints were gone. If it hadn't been for a miraculous find, we would have never known what we were missing.

But now we have the opportunity to make sure that the earliest Hitchcock works are not lost. He is one of the most important British directors, and his silent work influences much of his early sound work. The last of the nine, Blackmail, also bears the distinction of I believe being the first British sound picture. It's England's Jazz Singer.

If you can, or know people who care about these sorts of things who can, please donate to BFI or follow the link to learn more.

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