The National Film Preservation Foundation has dedicated an entire three-DVD collection to the American West and the Western. For hardcore fans, this collection truly is a treasure.
The set includes promotional films that look at Western destinations and events, including a brief 1926 newsreel, “Indians Bury Hatchet on Custer Battlefield,” that took place on the 50th anniversary of the famous battle.
But the bulk of the collection offers Western movies, a number of them discovered only recently in New Zealand’s film archive. The features are what make this box set so fantastic. Former outlaw and gubernatorial candidate Al Jennings plays himself in an hour-long 1918 feature, The Lady of the Dugout. A 1915 picture features lawman Bill Tilghman, who brought Jennings to justice, and shows how he and other real-life officers captured members of the Doolin Gang, including Cattle Annie and Little Breeches.
Texas lawman Eugene Buck plays himself in Ammunition Smuggling on the Mexican Border. The 1914 docudrama re-creates the controversial 1913 event involving Buck and a group of pro-Zapata, anti-Huerta Mexican revolutionaries. It’s an amazing footnote to the movie The Wild Bunch (or maybe it’s the other way around).
This 10-hour collection is already at the top of my 10-best list for 2011. I can’t imagine anything coming along before the end of the year that will threaten its standing. Treasures 5 is as good as it gets, and then some.