Public Domain Theater: Faust (& “Buried Treasure”)

Happy New Year, everyone! And welcome to Public Domain Theater, your home for the wonderful world of films that have (in the United States, at least) fallen into the public domain, and are free for everyone to see!

With the dawning of a new year comes a new wave of films whose copyrights have expired. As of today, everything released in 1926 is now in the public domain. To celebrate the occasion, we have for you two films from that bygone year.

For our feature presentation, we’re proud to present the religious fantasy film Faust, based on the folktale of a man who sold his soul to the devil (with a dash of the Book of Job thrown in). It was directed by German filmmaker F.W. Murnau, previously featured here for his fright flick Nosferatu. And if you thought that film had some grand expressionist imagery, wait till you get a load of this picture.

Faust is a visual delight, with richly imaginative sets, costumes, and effects used to bring both dark magic and crumbling sanity to vivid life. This is accompanied by performances that, while every bit as heightened as you’d expect in a silent film, are nevertheless powerful, and can tug on the heartstrings with a single look.

But if all that’s a bit heavy for you, no worries! To go with this feature, we also have a short comedic film from the Our Gang series (better known these days as The Little Rascals). In “Buried Treasure”, our gang of kids have all just read Treasure Island and are gung-ho to do some treasure hunting of their own … which gets complicated when they wander onto the shooting location for an island adventure film, and encounter a grossly irresponsible film crew. Hijinks, naturally, ensue.

(Be warned, there’s some treatment of race in this short that is definitely problematic, though surprisingly for the time period, doesn’t go so far as being blatantly derogatory.)

It’s a brand new year folks, and should old acquaintance be forgot, at least we’ll still have these films to ring in 2022, here on Public Domain Theater!

Opening Short:

Feature Presentation: