A Basic West Virginia 
Film Festival:  
Using Films and Videos 
in WVLC Collection

August 2003

Selected by
Steve Fesenmaier
Research Librarian
West Virginia Library Commission



Introduction: 

During the last few years West Virginians have become acutely aware of their visual history. WVPBS’ series West Virginia: A Film History was broadcast in 1995. Hollywood produced films such as October Sky, The Mothman Prophecies and A Beautiful Mind showed West Virginians that their history was interesting to people all over the world. In the last few years B.J. Gudmundsson, working with the Pocahontas County Free Libraries system, has shown that local filmmakers can make high-quality,
low-cost films about local history. Indeed, many filmmakers in the state, most notably Robert Gates, who made his landmark film about stripmining, In Memory of the Land and People, have been making 16 mm films about the many dramatic events taking place now in the state. Daniel Boyd, founder of WV State College’s Paradise Film Institute, has produced three low-cost feature films using local people and starring local actors, and has taught hundreds of college-aged students how to make documentary and dramatic films right here. The following is a selection of these films aimed at introducing people all over the state to their own filmic history.

 

 

Program 1 – The first Hollywood-based film about West Virginia - Tol’able David.

 

TOL’ABLE DAVID

120 M.  1921  B&W  SILENT VHS/16MM  M.O.M.A.

One of the finest films of the silent era. Directed by Henry King. Filmed on location in Appalachian Virginia - Bluegrass (Near Pocahontas County). Explicit references to West Virginia including the “Hatburn Clan.” Combines the Biblical tale of David with the family feud story. Starring David Barthelmess of BROKEN BLOSSOMS fame.

 

Program 2 – The first Hollywood-based film made in West Virginia - Stagestruck.

 

STAGESTRUCK

90 M.  1925  VHS/16MM PARAMOUNT EASTMAN HOUSE

The Ohio River Town of New Martinsville, WV is the setting for this classic comedy starring Gloria Swanson and directed by one of the pioneers of American Film, Allan Dwan. Swanson plays Jennie Hagen, a waitress in a diner who is in love with the cook. The cook meets a showboat lady.  The two ladies end up in a boxing match worthy of Buster Keaton! Swanson was one of the leading ladies of the silent film era, her masterpiece being QUEEN KELLY.

 

Program 3 – The first independent documentary feature –

West Virginia, The Beautiful

 

WEST VIRGINIA, THE BEAUTIFUL - 1929

76 M.  1929  B&W  VHS SILENT WV DIV. OF CULTURE & HISTORY

This film was made by amateur filmmaker Rev. Ottis Snodgrass. The black and white, silent film shot in 1929 takes the viewer on a journey along the path of US Route 60, The Midland Trail, from the Kentucky border through West Virginia and to the Virginia border. Important landmarks, from the site of the State Capitol building destroyed by fire in 1921 and the beginning phases of the new capitol to the Greenbrier and the view from the overlook at what would become Hawks Nest State Park, are included in this film. Everyday life along US Route 60 – the salt works, a chemical plant, tourist camps, colleges, and various modes of transportation – automobiles, passenger and logging trains, a ferry and steamboat are brought to life. At the end of the film, Snodgrass provided the words to the state song “The West Virginia Hills” for a sing-a-long.

 

Program 4 – The first independent dramatic feature – Teenage Strangler

 

TEENAGE STRANGLER

67 M.  1964  VHS.  SOMETHING WEIRD

Directed by Bill Posner; producer and screenwriter Clark Davis. Filmed on location in Huntington, WV. The following is part of a review by Mike Weldon, editor of Psychotronic Video #7–Fall 1990: "I love obscure early 60s regional movies like this!  A mystery 'lipstick' killer is strangling schoolgirls with stockings in the Huntington, West Virginia area (where this marvel was filmed). Some of the characters are straight out of REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE, but with Southern accents. Jimmy, a member of the Fastbacks, a pretty harmless 'gang' (they wear black jackets with bulldogs on the backs) is a suspect.  He stands up for a guy everybody calls Runt, and has a girlfriend named Betty Jean. His family had to relocate because of his police record. (He had covered for his nervous little brother, Mickey, the real culprit.) Jimmy even has a drag race with Curley, the gang’s tough guy. Kids do the twist and drink pop at Marty’s where Betty Gay (not Betty Jean) announces, 'Fellow citizens and lovers of good music – For those of you that pledge allegiance to Peter, Paul and Mary...The Beatles...The Teen Queens...Paul Anka, and The Chad Mitchell Trio...' and some guy (who used to be in The Astronauts) sings 'Yipes Stripes.' Despite Betty Gay’s horrifying list, the instrumental rock on the soundtrack (by Danny Dean And The Daredevils) is fine..."

 

Program 5 – West Virginia’s greatest Hollywood film – The Night of the Hunter.

 

THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER

91 M.  1955  B&W 16MM/VHS

Filmed partially in Moundsville, WV, Charles Laughton’s only film as a director is considered a unique masterpiece of American cinema. A psychopathic preacher goes on the trail of hidden money, the secret of which is held by two children. A weird, manic fantasy in which evil confronts the power of innocence. Cast: Robert Mitchum, Shelley Winters, Lillian Gish.

 

Program 6 – Two Famous Documentaries on Destruction in West Virginia –

Buffalo Creek and In Memory of the Land and People.

 

BUFFALO CREEK 1972: AN ACT OF GOD?

30 M.  B&W  16MM/VHS  APPALSHOP

Covers the destruction and clean-up following the Buffalo Creek flood, interviews with survivors, the people’s hearing, wildcat strikes in Logan County mines, the demonstration of the Pittston Coal Company stockholders meeting, and an interview with the president of Pittston.

 

IN MEMORY OF THE LAND AND PEOPLE

50 M.  1978  OMNIFICENT SYSTEMS

This documentary is an independent production by Robert Gates on the ravages of stripmining. There is no script. No narrator. Music of Bartok is interwoven with songs and dialogue of people who live in the stripped regions.

 

Program 7 – Daniel Boyd’s last feature – Paradise Park.

 

PARADISE PARK

100 M.  1992  VHS  BIG PICTURE HOPE VIDEO

An elderly resident of an Appalachian trailer park wakes up one morning with a vision that God will visit the park later that evening and grant all the tenants a wish. The love-hate relationship this memorable group of wonderful characters have with their impoverished existence surfaces, in funny, often bittersweet ways as the effects of floods, unemployment and family strife trigger fantasies of love, wealth, elaborate song and dance numbers and dreams of what’s yet to be. Does God make it to the trailer park? Well, one thing’s for sure – Life will never be the same in Paradise Park. With original song by T. Graham Brown, Johnny Paycheck, Razzy Bailey, Larry  Groce, Webb Pierce. Starring: Larry Groce, Lina Basquette, Dusty Rhodes, Webb Pierce, Porter Wagner and Johnny Paycheck.

 

Program 8 – Jacob Young’s West Virginia – Dancing Outlaw and Beyond.

 

DANCING OUTLAW – & OUTTAKES—SPECIAL DIRECTOR’S EDITION

60 M.  1993  VHS  WNPB-TV

Jesco is famous everywhere. DANCING OUTLAW has become a cult classic. Includes the original DIFFERENT DRUMMER SERIES of the DANCING OUTLAW plus never before seen footage and outtakes of the best mountain dancer left in these here parts.

 

HOLY COW!  SWAMI

180 M.  1996  WNPB-TV

Jacob Young, famous for creating DANCING OUTLAW and the award winning PBS series DIFFERENT DRUMMER SERIES, worked years on this three-part documentary about the controversial Swami Bhaktipasda and the kingdom he created at New Vrindaban, a Hare Krishna community near Moundsville, WV. A cloud of legal troubles descended on the Swami and the Krishna community, including allegations of murder and racketeering.

  

Program 9 Psychotronic West Virginia – Whispers from Space and Communication from Weber.

 

WHISPERS FROM SPACE

105 M.  1996  FACETS

This "engagingly deadpan" (Dennis Harvey, Variety) documentary looks at UFO lore and one rather disreputable "researcher" in particular: Gray Parker, a self-stylized "expert" on strange phenomena, who not only didn't believe in Unidentified Flying Objects, but may have perpetrated a UFO-related hoax or two himself. Stills, home movies, location shooting and interviewees, ranging from Parker's surviving relatives to a former male lover, business associates, amateur sleuths and a local folklorist, offer their insight into the man from rural West Virginia who specialized in the flying saucer trade.

 

COMMUNICATION FROM WEBER

15 M.  1988  OMNI  PRODUCTIONS

Albert Michael Weber came to WV with his Gauley Bridge bride who returned to California. Ultimately, he died from a brain tumor. But during his few years discovering the realities of life here – and his own fantastic internal world, Weber created an amazing body of  “art.” WV filmmaker, Robert Gates, and WV artist, Lyn Wyatt, made a film about this amazing “Reichian” thinker.

 

Program 10 – New Films – The Griffin and the Minor Canon and Ashes to Glory.

 

THE GRIFFIN AND THE MINOR CANON

41 M.  2001  WVPBS

Lucille DuBerry and Brad Stalnaker animated Frank Stockton’s classic children’s tale. They chose this story because Stockton lived his last years in West Virginia. Using different types of animation – rotoscoping, line-drawings, and computer animation – they tell the tale of the last mythological griffin who is looking for a last meal. He meets a “minor canon” (like a deacon) in a church with a stone griffin on its roof. The town’s people are terrified that the griffin will eat them. Eventually the griffin discovers that the minor canon is a very good man, and lets him live. Using the voices of WV actors David Selby, Chris Sarandon, John Corbett, Kathy Mattea, Ann Magnuson, Don Knotts, and Soupy Sales. Winner of best animation at the WV Filmmakers Film Festival  and “Best of the Best” as best locally produced PBS program in the US 2002.

 

ASHES TO GLORY

60 M.   2000  WVPBS

This hour-long Emmy Award-winning documentary is an intimate look at the greatest tragedy and the greatest triumph in American sports—the Marshall University plane crash of 1970 and the miraculous comeback of the team just one year later and eventual national championships.

 

 

NOTE: These are just a few of the hundreds of films and videos that have been produced by and about West Virginia. Appalshop, the official media arts center for Appalachia, has produced many other award winning films about West Virginia and its people. The many independent filmmakers in the state have produced even more. WVPBS based filmmakers have made many more films including the international award winning series, A DIFFERENT DRUMMER – of which DANCING OUTLAW is just one. Russ Barbour, a WVPBS filmmaker working in Charleston and Huntington, has produced a feature documentary on West Virginians at War and many other films. Witek & Novak, the people who produced ASHES TO GLORY, have also produced two films about Blenko Glass. Hopefully your local public library or other community center will be able to show these films and encourage people to learn more about the many cinematic treasurers to be found at WVLC, Pocahontas County Free Libraries, and other media collections.




Additional AppLit Resources: 
Complete List of AppLit Pages on Film

Steve Fesenmaier's Annotated Bibliographies of West Virginia and Appalachian Films

 

See Also:

Appalachian Film and Television Topics

Dr. Stephen D. Mooney, Instructor, Department of English and Appalachian Studies Program, has compiled a list of film and television shows for his Appalachian Studies Classes at Virginia Tech, VA.   

 

Appalshop For a complete catalog, contact the Appalshop Marketing and Sales Office at 1-800-545-7467 or appalshopsales@appalshop.org.

 

Davenport Films and From the Brothers Grimm  
American versions of classic folk and fairy tales, many Appalachian.  Davenport has also made many other Appalachian films.

Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition
, Huntington, WV

Press release from September 9, 2002, entitled “World premier screenings at Flooded Out Film Festival." All proceeds from Oct. 10 event go to flood victims.”

West Virginia Film Makers Film Festival

Winning Festival Films, background information on the first festival, local history, links to sponsors, links to information on film such as The Griffin and the Minor Canon, The Night of the Hunter, Invasion of the Space Preachers, etc.


West Virginia Filmmakers Guild 

The West Virginia Filmmakers Guild was created in 1985 to provide networking and communication between West Virginia film and video makers and those interested in these crafts in West Virginia. Central to its mission is educating the public and promoting West Virginia filmmakers and their films to the public.

 

 



Created:  11/15/2003
Last Update:  11/28/2003 07:49:20 AM   
Links Checked:  11/15/2003


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