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Master Hands, October 19

The Mechanical Age

Thursday, October 19, 2006
7:00 p.m. Spinning Up, Slowing Down: Industry Celebrates the Machine

Introduced by Rick Prelinger

Six short films document American industry's fascination (and ours) with the machine and its off/on contributions to our prosperity. Precisely So (Jam Handy Organization for Chevrolet, 1937, 2 mins, closing segment, Beta SP) is a stop-motion paean to precision. Mechanical puppets offer a lesson in free enterprise in Round and Round (Jam Handy for GM Public Relations Staff, 1939, 6 mins, Beta SP). Though Pennsylvania steel mills shut down in Valley Town (Willard Van Dyke for Educational Film Institute of NYU and Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, 1940, 24 mins, Beta SP), leaving behind a bleak post-industrial landscape filled with human detritus, Conquer by the Clock (Slavko Vorkapich for RKO-Pathé, 1943, 11 mins, 16mm) shows World War II production in full swing just three years later, with workers and fighters rhythmically coordinated minute-by-minute in a prefiguration of today's Internet-synchronized world. We end with Jam Handy's industrial symphony and tour de force Master Hands (for Chevrolet, 1936, 33 mins, 35mm), a newly preserved Wagnerian epic showing the making of Chevrolets from foundry to final assembly.

—Rick Prelinger

• (Total running time: 76 mins, B&W, From Prelinger Archives.) Thanks to Alan Stark (Film Technology Co.) and Tom Regal (Universal/BluWave Audio) for their generosity in restoring Master Hands.