Monday, October 01, 2012

Mysteries of Myra UPDATE!

Deep contrast and wide spectrum of mid-tones.
A framegrab from the surviving footage

Below this nerd-out rant is the original Pulp Reader post about the silent serial The Mysteries of Myra. It has been considered long lost but The Serial Squadron's Eric Stedman edited together the novelized story and press materials into a book. And a mighty fine book it is too.

Well there is now an update to the status of Myra. On the tail of the announcement that Trail of the Octopus will be out on DVD any time now (exciting news indeed!), it was also announced that some found footage of Myra will be shown at the Serial Squadron's streaming website "Chapters" just in time for Halloween, starting on October 27th.
The "Thought Monster" escapes!
Another frame from the footage.

I was honored to be able to preview the footage and it is pretty outstanding to see. It once again reaffirms (in my opinion at least) that the era of the silent serials was truly the height of the art form. At the time, made more for adults than children, the subject matter was more daring and psychologically intense, with more artful cinematography and story-lines you would find in the best of the thriller pulps. Those stark Noirish tonal ranges and shadows you may associate with the likes of Fritz Lang are common in many of the early silent serials. And speaking of visuals, a lot of this footage seen here is in really great shape, with very sharp image, great contrast and very stable. 

I won't spoil anything that goes on in the footage you will see, but will say that it is more than worth seeing. The only regret is that it leaves me wanting to see the rest of the serial. But it is an amazing and rare opportunity to see what still exist and who knows, as Eric states below, even more footage will hopefully, eventually show up. Many serials have been previously considered lost and have since not only turned up but have been made available to the public.
Entrance to the Lair.
Click on the pic to see more of the crisp detail

ere's what Eric has to say about the footage and what is being done with it:

...there's about a half hour's worth of footage left which I've already put together and restored, including the last reel which is knock-out amazing, and the quality of the transfer is eye-popping, without question the highest quality transfer of any serial I've ever seen, done in new digital HD/Blu-ray quality, with an image size about 8 times larger than regular DVD resolution. One reel is in another archive which we're expecting to get ahold of later on. We may not have it by Halloween but it's not impossible. Anyway what exists has already been put together and is ready to go in case the new reel comes in and has to be added more quickly. We're not going to put it all on DVD at the moment pending decisions as to how to handle possible re-creation of the rest of the serial, which we want to do a good job of if we embark upon such a major project.

It was a thrill to see the footage and I'm inspired to re-read the book in time to catch the official stream release at Halloween time.  The cool thing is that you can too!  And no, I don't work for Eric or the Squadron, but I love to share cool stuff (that's what the blog is all about after all) and this is really cool!
Aleister Crowley  would be proud!
Another frame grab and another amazing scene.

Original Post about the publication of the book:

I love pulps. I also love cliffhanger serials. And maybe more than anything, I love behind the scenes info and history about movie and television production. As my poor suffering wife can attest, my bookshelves are jammed with reference books and guides about pulp characters, old movies, radio dramas and T.V. shows.

Enter Eric Stedman, an entrepreneur who dedicates long hours to the restoration and preservation of many cliffhanger movie serials. At The Serial Squadron you can get a taste of the massive amount of work he has put into the genre through his line of restored movie DVDs along with relevant books and audio.

One of Eric's latest projects (one of many ongoing productions) is the novelization of a lost serial from 1916. THE MYSTERIES OF MYRA is a strange brew of action, intrigue, magic, spiritualism, monsters and zombies. As Eric put it "an X-Files of 1916". Unfortunately quite possibly all prints of MYRA were lost in a warehouse fire. At least at this date it is still considered a lost serial. This is truly unfortunate as from the evidence at hand and eloquently shown in this book, MYRA may be one of the most astoundingly put together serials of the silent and talkie era. From the looks of the stills and behind the scenes photos and info, this was a lavish production with impressive sets and intriguing special effects.

The process of this production was a painstaking one, as Eric explains:
Tracy Burton ... took on the job of interpreting fuzzy microfilm versions of the newspaper serializations of the story -- virtually all of which were incomplete, damaged, or otherwise messed up, which means after her pass through it and interpretations she was able to make, it took two other guys (me and Dr. Daka) hours and hours to fill in the missing words and correct errors. Daka discovered ... that there were about 5 different versions of the text, also, which all appeared in different newspapers, with different illustrations.

Along with reconstructing the various newspaper serializations of the story into a coherent novel, Eric delved deeply into researching the production history of MYRA, which is contained in a lengthy introduction and includes many production photos and biographies of cast and crew.

So here we have it; a novel that any pulp writer would dream to write, which is based on a legendary serial that no longer exists, along with a lot of tasty background info and photos. A perfect storm of entertainment for anyone who is into pulps, serials and movie history bound into one handsome tome.

This is the sales blurb for the book, which concisely explains what it's all about:

BEWARE THE BLACK ORDER! So comes the warning from the spirit of Myra Maynard's father, who reaches out to her from beyond the grave to warn her of danger from the masters of the occult arts that lurk in the shadows and mark her for murder on her eighteenth birthday. Only the world's first psychic detective, Dr. Payson Alden, and his friend Haji the Brahman mystic, can save clairvoyant Myra from the terrors of The Grand Master of the Order, who tries to claim not only her fortune but her life by means of suicide-inducing spells, invasion of her chamber by spirit assassins, and even reanimation of the dead by a fire elemental. Originally a fifteen-episode serial shot in Ithaca, New York (before Hollywood became the center of American movie-making) in 1916, painstakingly reconstructed from the original screenplay, novelization, and existing stills. Includes background information, behind-the-scenes photos and cast biographies.

At $25 it is well worth the price of admission and I urge you to head over to the Serial Squadron and pick up a copy.