From the archives: Twin Peaks Tunnel film now online (2012)

July 16, 2012

Twin Peaks Tunnel, the 1917 film showing the construction of the San Francisco transportation landmark and development of the adjoining Westwood Park district, is now on-line. The short, documentary-style film – which was recently restored – can be viewed

28mm frames from the surviving print of Twin Peaks Tunnel

28mm frames from the surviving print of Twin Peaks Tunnel

Under the terms of a 2009 grant from the National Film Preservation Foundation, Bay Area film preservationists David Kiehn and Robert Byrne created a digitized copy of the historic 19-minute film and posted it to the Internet Archive, the San Francisco-based website and digital library of moving images, texts, audio, software and archived web pages.

All of the material on the Internet Archive is freely available over the world wide web. There, Twin Peaks Tunnel can be viewed on-line or even downloaded. The original 28mm copy of Twin Peaks Tunnel remains in the collection of the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum in Fremont. The museum also holds the 35mm preservation negative and two 35mm positive prints.

The NFPF preservation grant awarded the two preservationists provided support to create the preservation master and the two access copies. Films saved through NFPF programs are also made accessible for on-site research and are seen more widely through screenings, exhibits, television broadcasts, and release on DVD.

The restored Twin Peaks Tunnel made it’s big screen debut at the Fremont museum on January 21. According to Kiehn, the film was greeted by “a large, enthusiastic audience.”

It’s next public screening takes place February 25, during the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum11th anniversary eventTwin Peaks Tunnel will be shown along with four short Georges Méliès films and a feature, Scaramouche (1923, Metro), a classic story of adventure and romance set during the period of the French Revolution. Based on the novel by Rafael Sabatini, Scaramouchewas directed by Rex Ingram and stars Ramon Novarro and Alice Terry.

A view of the Castro, circa 1915

A view of the Castro, circa 1915

If anything, early films depict a gone world. And in a way, they may be the closest we will ever come to time travel. I wonder, for instance, how many of the bearded, suited, cigar-smoking City officials shown in Twin Peaks Tunnel were born as long ago as the American Civil War? And here they are, alive in the Twentieth Century, captured on film.

One brief passage in Twin Peaks Tunnel illustrates this point. In one scene, an individual named Frank W. Gibbs is shown. He was placed in charge of thinning the forest in Westwood Park. On an inter-title card, Gibbs is described as the pioneer of the West Peaks District who – as it turns out – helped plant that very same forest forty years earlier. That, by my calculations, was around the same time that the first motion picture cameras were developed.


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