Disc jockey: New set unearths (part of) a presumed lost Hitchcock film

"The White Shadow," one of the earliest film with an Alfred Hitchcock credit, was once thought to be lost, but now exists in partial form. Credit: National Film Preservation Foundation
“The White Shadow,” one of the earliest film with an Alfred Hitchcock credit, was once thought to be lost, but now exists in partial form.
Credit: National Film Preservation Foundation

In his 1996 mock-doc “Forgotten Silver,” Peter Jackson jokingly unearthed the work of a silent-era filmmaker from New Zealand, a pioneer who made major technological leaps (color, synch sound, etc.) years before the rest of the world. In reality, the nation has proven a surprising hotbed of great archival finds — many of them American. About 80 percent of our country’s silent films are designated as completely lost, but some have cropped up in Kiwi collections, having journeyed thousands of miles across the Pacific.

Fourteen of these have been made available in the DVD collection “American Treasures from the New Zealand Film Archive,” put out by the National Film Preservation Foundation. Almost all hail from the U.S. But the biggest find is British: “The White Shadow,” which is now the earliest available film with a credit to Alfred Hitchcock — or would be if more than only the first three reels were found. Hitch was only its assistant director, but he claimed it was the first film he really got his mitts on.

From the available footage, it shows: A convoluted melodrama involving twins (both played by star Betty Compson), it’s nonetheless awash in stylish, mature shots and lighting. The director didn’t fully mature till the silent era was over — and would often insert wordless sequences into his classic work — but “Shadow” shows how far along he was even before he’d officially graduated to leader.

The set does include a complete feature from another major director: 1927’s “Upstream,” a backstage comedy from John Ford. His name tends to be synonymous with John Wayne westerns, like “Stagecoach” and “The Searchers,” but he was a prolific and diverse director, who in 1927, at only 32, had already helmed 50 features, and another couple dozen shorts. (In fact, he would spend most of the ‘30s not making westerns.)

The newly found “Upstream” is no major work, but it is important in understanding its maker. Ford proves nearly as comfortable in the theatrical world as he is among “real men,” and the majority of the running time is devoted to the clowning around — plus a handful of moving character details — that punctuates his best films.

The majority of the set, though, is short work, and it’s a well-curated, fun lot that shows off the vast variety of entertainment from cinema’s first three decades. Train movies — with cameras trapped in cars or attached to the front — were one of the first popular genres during the medium’s infancy. There’s one from 1921 here, plus a cartoon, plus multiple comedies, including the earliest available film starring and directed by Mabel Normand, one of comedy’s earliest female stars.

In fact, one of the revelations is how many women are either the subject — as in the newspaper-set newsreel “The Active Life of Dolly of the Dailies” — or in on the creative process. The more one delves into a history cloaked in shadows, the more surprises await, as with two films boasting early color or a documentary on the making of Stetson hats, whose images of laborers doting on one product at a time prove oddly compelling. With this “Treasures” set, there’s a little more light shed on a history largely in the darkness.

Also out this week:

‘Iron Man 3’
Shane Black, the one-time hotshot screenwriter who penned “Lethal Weapon” and directed Robert Downey Jr. in “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang,” did his best to fun up the threequel in a series that shouldn’t be as entertaining (and pissy) as it sometimes is.

‘Hannibal: Season 1’
The latest attempt to wring cash from Hannibal Lecter has actually proven pretty rich, with Mads Mikkelsen an appropriately charming aesthete who likes driving Detective Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) nuts.

‘Room 237’
A film about obsessives who obsess over Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining” (and Kubrick in general) finds its way to home video, where people can more handily make it their object of obsession.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

FDNY debuts new fire simulator for blazes at…

The New York City Fire Department christened its newest, state-of-the-art, custom-built simulator at its training academy on Randall's Island Tuesday.

Local

Bronx cop saves baby who stopped breathing

A Bronx police officer is credited with saving the life of a 2-month-old baby who stopped breathing Tuesday morning. Police Officer Johnny Castillo, 38, was…

Local

Brewer celebrates Women's Equality Day with voter pledge

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer celebrated Women’s Equality Day Tuesday by pledging to register at least five women voters before the Oct. 10 deadline. Brewer…

Local

NYPD looking for lewd D train rider

The NYPD is enlisting the public’s help to find a man they say performed a lewd act on the D train Saturday evening. The incident…

Entertainment

QUIZ: How many English words do you actually…

Are you as smart as you say you are? Are you a word nerd? Take this quick vocabulary test to find out if you're a true wordsmith. Good luck.

Television

'Pretty Little Liars' recap: Season 5, Episode 12,…

If you've wondered whether Ali and Bethany knew each other, you got an answer tonight: Yes, and in a very tangled way. But many lingering…

Entertainment

Cymbals Eat Guitars Have Everything to 'LOSE'

At its most basic level, a rock band can be thought of as a family, a group of people selflessly devoted to a cause. When…

Entertainment

"Bachelor in Paradise" recap: Episode 4, 'Week Four'

Some things are hard to watch in a “Human Centipede” sort of way. Other things in an “American History X” sort of way. Does “Bachelor…

College

When are 2014 college football playoffs? (Schedule, date,…

When and where are 2014 college football playoffs? A look at the schedule, date, TV, time for the semi-finals at championship game.

NFL

Dimitri Patterson suspended only for rest of preseason…

Dimitri Patterson ended up getting just a slap on the wrist.

Sports

Eugenie Bouchard excited for 'rowdy' fans at US…

Eugenie Bouchard is sure to endear herself to New York's tennis faithful as she tries to win her first grand slam title across the next two weeks.

MLB

MLB Power Rankings: Angels and A's still at…

MLB Power Rankings: Angels and A's still at top, Nationals climb

Wellbeing

Who is having the most orgasms?

  Single lesbians report having orgasms more often than heterosexual women but both gay and straight men still come out on top of the climax…

Home

Jonathan Adler shares his tips for a great…

Jonathan Adler took a break from boogie boarding at his beach house to tell us how to keep that Labor Day party festive.

Travel

Most popular Labor Day weekend destinations

Priceline.com released its Top 20 destinations for the end of summer, including Labor Day weekend. If you’re heading to any of these spots, expect a…

Wellbeing

Working your way to type 2 diabetes: Job…

When it comes to type 2 diabetes, a stressful job can be as risky for your health as a bad diet and no exercise. A…