Saturday, November 12, 2016

Tonight's Movies: James A. FitzPatrick Traveltalks Shorts, Volume 2 - A Warner Archive DVD Review

One of the Warner Archive releases I greeted most enthusiastically this year was a set of 60 James A. Fitzpatrick Traveltalks Shorts, which I reviewed in June.

The Warner Archive has now released a second set of the shorts.

Volume 2 is a three-disc set which contains an additional 60 Traveltalks shorts, released in the years 1934-1945. I noted that one of the titles, GLIMPSES OF AUSTRALIA (1939), appears to be an inadvertent repeat from Volume 1.

In my review of Volume 1 I discussed a few of the aspects which make Traveltalks special at some length; put more briefly here, they provided a Technicolor training ground for future Oscar-winning cinematographers such as Winton C. Hoch and Jack Cardiff, while bringing glimpses of the faraway world to moviegoers in towns all over the United States.

Seen from the vantage point of today, Traveltalks allow the viewer to time travel to famous sites and cities as they looked in decades past; at times we're also exposed to attitudes which may be uncomfortable for modern audiences, but that's also part of the value.

If anything, I enjoyed Volume 2 even more than the first set. It contains many striking, poignant Technicolor images shot just before the outbreak of WWII, including HOLLAND IN TULIP TIME (1934), CHERRY BLOSSOM TIME IN JAPAN (1936), and HONOLULU: PARADISE OF THE PACIFIC (1935).

From the WWII years there are many shorts shot at our national parks, such as YOSEMITE THE MAGNIFICENT (1941) and GRAND CANYON, PRIDE OF CREATION (1943).

There are also plenty of war-era shorts filmed among our "good neighbors" to the south, including SEEING EL SALVADOR (1945) and MODERN GUATEMALA CITY (1945), as well as showcasing our Canadian neighbors to the north, such as in LAND OF THE QUINTUPLETS (1942) and GLIMPSES OF ONTARIO (1942).

One of my favorites in the set is A DAY AT TREASURE ISLAND (1939), filmed at the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition off the coast of San Francisco. I was delighted the set also included NIGHT DESCENDS ON TREASURE ISLAND (1940), filmed at the same time; I'd never seen it before. The nighttime views are fantastic.

The set I received consisted of silver-backed pressed discs. The prints are very good, although the color is variable; for instance, ZION CANYON OF COLOUR (1934) is rather brown in tone, while HISTORIC MEXICO CITY (1935) has a two-strip Technicolor look.

Highly recommended.

Coming from the Warner Archive next week: Volume 3, the third and final Traveltalks set, which will contain 66 shorts. (Update: Volume 3 has been reviewed here.)

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD set. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop.


Blogger Jerry E said...

I am a sucker for social history so these 'snapshots' sound terrific, Laura.

12:20 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

I think you'd really enjoy them, Jerry!

Showing one or two before an evening's movie would be a great way to work through the sets, sort of like the old theater days where you got a short, a newsreel, etc., before the main features. :)

Best wishes,

1:03 AM  

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