on 6 October 2010
A total of four Mitchell & Kenyon releases are available from the BFI which include "The Lost World of Mitchell & Kenyon", "Mitchell & Kenyon: Edwardian Sports", "Mitchell & Kenyon in Ireland" and "Electric Edwardians: The Films of Mitchell & Kenyon".
Dr. Vanessa Toulmin of the National Fairground Archive at the University of Sheffield identified and researched over 28 hours of footage and presents the best clips from the footage from 1900-1905 in this DVD release of "Electric Edwardians: The Films of Mitchell & Kenyon".
According to Dr. Toulmin, "The films on this DVD have been selected to illustrate life in the United Kingdom in the period leading up to the Great War, the so-called "Gilded Age", when the forces of modernity were apparent in transport, civic and urban planning and the growth of the consumer society."
"Electric Edwardians: The Films of Mitchell & Kenyon" is presented in 1:33:1 and is in black and white. BFI has done a remarkable job in restoring these films. The picture quality of some of these films that are nearly 110-years-old are fantastic. It's important to note that the PQ is pristine and devoid of scratches and any problems but considering how these older films look, especially over a 110-years later, I'm impressed.
There is only one film that didn't turn out that well and it was "Burnley vs. Manchester United" from 1902. This one has plenty of fading and scratches but is still visible. This is a DVD release and so, you will see combing but it's definitely not noticeable unless you really look for it. But all the other footage and its clarity are absolutely wonderful. You can tell that the BFI really put a lot of passion, a lot of time into restoring the films of Mitchell & Kenyon.
Audio for "Electric Edwardians: The Films of Mitchell & Kenyon" is presented in Dolby Digital Stereo featuring music with optional commentary by Dr. Vanessa Toulmin, without subtitles and commentary subtitles on. I've read some who felt Dr. Toulmin's commentary was hard to hear but dialogue was very clear, it's just a British accent that is either subjective to the listener. And as an American listening to the commentary, I had no problems understanding her commentary at all.
"Electric Edwardians: The Films of Mitchell & Kenyon" comes with the following special features:
* Interview with Vanessa Toulmin - (14:07) Dr. Vanessa Toulmin of the National Fairground Archive is very knowledgeable in the films of Mitchell & Kenyon and she talks about what she enjoyed about the films and what the films means to her. A pretty informative and entertaining interview.
* Pictures of Crowd Splendour - (10:03) Featuring a reading of an essay by Tom Gunning about how people reacted to the filming of crowds, especially the working class.
* Road to Restoration - (20:46) An in-depth featurette on the challenges of the restoration process by the National Film and Television Archive of the nitrate films of Mitchell & Kenyon and how bad they were due to chemical degradation and what was needed to restore it. This featurette is probably one of my favorite featurettes on the restoration of an older film. Well-done!
In the main menu of the special features, you will see a finger pointing to the left. Click on it and you will open up a new menu which features five more Mitchell & Kenyon films: "Diving Lucy" (1903, 1:45, with music and commentary), "Race for the Muriatti Cup, Manchester" (1901, 1:24, silent), "Comic Pictures in High Street, West Bromwich" (1902, 2:34, silent), "Royal Proclamation of Death of Queen Victoria, Blackburn" (1901, 2:15, silent) and "Bradford Coronation Proession" (1902, 1:16, silent).
"Electric Edwardians: The Films of Mitchell & Kenyon" comes with a DVD slipcase, the DVD's are kept in a digipack and comes with an in-depth 24-page booklet written by Dr. Vanessa Toulmin.
Well-researched, well-presented and overall, a fantastic job done by Dr. Vanessa Toulmin and the National Film and Television Archive and giving viewers a chance to see this rare footage of people in the Edwardian era.
As a fan of early cinema, what I enjoyed about "Electric Edwardians: The Films of Mitchell & Kenyon" is that it focuses on society. A society that was not to familiar of what the camera can do (thus they are posing like they are in photograph) but most of all, it's an honest and entertaining time capsule of life in the UK over a 110-years ago.
Where a lot of wonderful footage from the 1890-1910 were more or less the experimenting of camera, special effects and what can be captured on film, Mitchell & Kenyon were two people who were taking advantage of the opportunities of rapid industrialization and filming what they saw of life around them. Granted, the people at the time may have enjoyed it at first, similar to home movies but in a more grander scale but they grew tired of seeing themselves and thus, it pave the way for people wanting to watch entertainment on film.
These films were probably not meant to be seen by anyone over a hundred years later. Like many silent films especially the kind of films that feature society, as society evolved, a lot of these films were considered archaic and no one would care for them. It was the mindset of those years because so many were starting to be churned out. But like all films created on nitrate, many of them deteriorated, combusted, were used as resin during the war-time and were considered not as important as people wanted the next big thing.
Fortunately for viewers of today, especially those who appreciate these rare classics, Sagar Mitchell placed these into steel canisters. Canisters that held films that the Mitchell and Kenyon family were not aware of until 1994 when they were found and then for the world, many of us having the opportunity to see it due to the amount of work that went in to restore the original negatives and fix them up, especially since they were damaged (as shown in the restoration featurette).
I will say that "Electric Edwardians: The Films of Mitchell & Kenyon" is subjective to the viewer. For those who enjoy older cinema or more for the historical uses of the cinema during the time of Alice-Guy Blaché, Thomas Edison, George Melies, R.W. Paul can appreciate this DVD, those who love history can appreciate this DVD, those looking for a story and a plot, this is not that type of DVD release. Think of it like watching clips from many home videos, but in this case, film from 1900-1906 courtesy of Mitchell & Kenyon.
As mentioned, the BFI have released four Mitchell & Kenyon releases total thus far and this release of "Electric Edwardians" is just fantastic. I enjoy how Dr. Toulmin has broken down the film and made searching for films so easy in this DVD release. Every film has a chapter break and I was happy to see that. The picture quality and how well the majority of the footage was is quite impressive. Too bad the Manchester United was not the best looking film but still, it is easily viewable. The music and commentary were well-done and also, it was great to find the five hidden Mitchell & Kenyon films (see easter eggs above).
My favorite film were the society-based footage from the "People and Places" segment. I love seeing how these cities were back then, how traffic was and how people traveled. Although, I do wonder how fast those Trams were going because it seem like they were so slow and seeing how people in bikes were going much faster than the Trams. I can't imagine how long it took for one to get from place to place. Also, I found it interesting how goalies back then were bigger men. But it was great to see that even in the early 1900's, football competitions were very well attended.
Also, I found it interesting to see how people were dressed. Everyone was dressed quite nicely, occasionally you would see people and kids with faces all dirty. I have to admit that while I was watching, I tried to see if there would be a glimpse of anyone that was of Asian or Black during the Edwardian Era. As an American, I'm curious to see if any one of color were show on the films of Mitchell & Kenyon.
Overall, "Electric Edwardians: The Films of Mitchell & Kenyon" is a fantastic release and you can find this available pretty cheap on Amazon UK (along with other BFI classics). In the US, this was released by Oscilloscope Laboratories/Milestone Films back in 2009. Both have the same content although I'm not sure if the booklet that came with the BFI version is included with the Oscilloscope Laboratories US version.
If you enjoy history, especially British Edwardian Era history and want to see 40 fantastic films from that era courtesy of Mitchell & Kenyon, "Electric Edwardians: The Films of Mitchell & Kenyon" is highly recommended!