In this day and age of DVDs, Netflix, streaming, and torrents obscure doesn’t mean quite what it used to!
Day 28 – The Most Obscure Film You’ve Ever Seen
The Magic Box (1951, John Boulting)
As the little blurb above alludes to, the film lovers of today live in a day and age where obscure doesn’t mean the same as it once did. As I searched through the list of films I have seen I noticed that the films that would be considered obscure aren’t all that obscure. I decided to forego a lot of the foreign titles because while they may be obscure where I’m from they most likely aren’t obscure in other parts of the world. Recent films especially I left off limits because they have an availability to procure that disqualifies them from being obscure in my mind. The choice I finally decided on is The Magic Box, a little seen drama from John Boulting about the pioneering of the film camera. The Magic Box isn’t a flashy film, it’s a well made drama, no more and no less. The Magic Box is a film that no one I know has seen, it has very few votes on The Internet Movie Database, and I never hear it brought up when discussion of film takes place. As a matter of fact I’m the only person I know who has ever said anything about the film, and that’s obscure enough for me.
Well Bill, you do know someone who has seen it. I purchased it a little over a year ago when I won the monthly review contest at Find-DVD.co.UK and received a 200 pound gift certificate from Play.com. I bought it because Robert Donat is one of my all time greats, and I’ve been slowly adding his films to my collection. Once again, he gives a stellar performance in this little seen film. I found the film fascinating, as I had never heard of William Friese-Greene. But it was sad to see what happened to him. It kind of reminded me of the story of Edwin Howard Armstrong, the man who pioneered FM radio.
Cool, Antares, I remember liking the film a fair bit, especially Donat’s performance. I was surprised to find out it has been seen by so few people, but at least there’s one person I know who has seen it.
You know, about 80 percent of the movies people write about on the Filmspotting forums are obscure enough to me. But then I’m not familliar with Japanese movies or film noir. I guess I’m a bit of a noob. So basically you could have picked almost any movie in your repertoir and I would have been convinced that you’d watched a truly odd movie. It’s all a matter of perspective. Surrounded by filmspotters I think you start to believe you’re more mainstream than you actually are. 🙂
For me it’s an issue of availability, and how the internet and streaming has affected said availability. Our access to film is much more than it used to be, and with that I feel like obscurity has changed. I’m not an expert, so I’m not sure how much it has changed or if what I am saying is completely wrong. What I do know is that movies that were hard to get a hold of ten years ago can new be found with a few clicks of a mouse.
With foreign titles there’s the issue of availability to us versus availability in other places, and I am nowhere near schooled on that issue to actually make any sort of quantifiable statement, thus I went with my gut. I went with the discussions I engage in, and even among other hardcore cinephiles The Magic Box is a movie that I never hear mentioned, and on the off chance it is mentioned it’s usually met with a chorus of, “never seen it/never heard of it.”
Jessica, every point you raised is valid, and I do agree with you, but the above is my reasoning for my choice. 🙂
I saw the film first run at a local art theater in Salt Lake City, Utah when I was about 14 years old. Some years later I acquired a 16mm print that was in black & white. I taped it off a TV broadcast. In short as someone who love film THE MAGIC BOX is something special. This should be made available as a Blu-ray. It would a welcome title for a company like Criterion.
I don’t know, I appreciate that folks like you feel the way you do, but it just didn’t grab me in that way.