The following is a guest post by Jenny Paxson of the Packard Campus.
Friday, October 21 (7:30 p.m.)
Pioneers of African American Cinema
To commemorate the recent release of Pioneers of African-American Cinema, a 5-Disc Blu-ray and DVD set by KinoLorber and the Library of Congress, the newly-restored digital restoration of Oscar Micheaux’s Within Our Gates (Micheaux Book & Film Company, 1920) will be screened. Micheaux wrote, produced and directed this groundbreaking motion picture, the earliest surviving feature film directed by an African American, which is considered one of the first of a genre that would become known as “race films.” Many critics have seen Within Our Gates as Micheaux’s response to D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation, in which African Americans were depicted as generally negative stereotypes, as they were in almost all films of the day. Despite Micheaux’s limited budget and limited production values, it still effectively confronted racism head on with its story of a teacher (Evelyn Preer) determined to start a school for poor black children. Contemporary viewers may find it difficult to defend Micheaux’s balancing act between authenticity and acceptability to white audiences, but that’s what he believed was necessary simply to get the film made. Within Our Gates was added to the National Film Registry in 1992. Music for the film on the Blu-ray release was composed by electronic and experimental hip hop musician Paul D. Miller, a.k.a. DJ Spooky, who will introduce the program. Two short films also featured in the collection will precede the feature: Verdict Not Guilty (1934), made by self-taught filmmakers James and Eloyce Gist, and the recently-rediscovered comedy Hot Biskits (1931), the earliest known film directed by Spencer Williams.
Saturday, October 22 (7:30 p.m.)
Son of Frankenstein (Universal, 1939)
Boris Karloff made his final appearance as the man-made monster in this third installment of Universal Studio’s lucrative Frankenstein series, following Frankenstein in 1931 and The Bride of Frankenstein in 1935. Director Rowland V. Lee, best known for sweeping costumes dramas, helped to resuscitate the studio’s sagging horror genre by insisting on a much bigger budget than was originally allotted and hiring a stellar cast including Basil Rathbone in the title role and Bela Lugosi, in what is considered by many his finest performance, as the grave robber Ygor. Lionel Atwill as the affected one-armed police inspector was the inspiration for the role of Inspector Kemp played by Kenneth Mars in Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein (1974). The imposing sets designed by studio art director Jack Otterson enhanced the eerie feel of the film which proved to be a big hit, bolstering Universal’s profits.
For more information on our programs, please visit the website at: www.loc.gov/avconservation/theater/.