Monday, July 30, 2012

Phil sees SUTRO'S: THE PALACE AT LAND'S END at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum-July 22, 2012

Hello again everybody and welcome back to the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum in scenic Downtown Niles! Last night was the museum's Comedy Shorts Night show, which had a sold out crowd! This afternoon, the museum had another sold out crowd, but this show wasn't a silent film screening. No, it was for the encore screening of the documentary SUTRO'S: THE PALACE AT LAND'S END detailing the legendary Sutro Baths that was a San Francisco landmark till it burned down in 1966.

Before the screening, the museum had the film's director Tom Wyrsch signing DVD copies of his films, including SUTRO'S and his previous documentary REMEMBERING PLAYLAND. The distributors of his films November Fire Recordings were also on hand selling Wyrsch's DVDs as well as other cool collectibles, such as buttons, patches, stickers, and posters! They were also selling copies of NFR founder and filmmaker Strephon Taylor's 2010 documentary THE ROCK: ED WOOD OF THE 21ST CENTURY, which he gave me a free copy to review! So keep your eyes peeled here for that one coming soon! Also in attendance was local filmmaker Ernie Fosselius, who's famous for making what many consider to be the first STAR WARS parody called HARDWARE WARS! Fosselius also appeared in tonight's film.

DVD Cover (2011)
The program began with a couple of trailers, a Loony Tunes cartoon, and an old travelogue for Sutro Baths. One of the trailers was THE LINEUP, which was filmed on location in San Francisco as well at Sutro's. A classic film noir film! Both Wyrsch and Fosselius introduced the film to the sold out crowd.

The documentary told the history of the great Sutro Baths and Museum, which was erected in the late 19th century. It was the world's largest swimming pool establishment, and soon it gained an extravagant museum that made people flock to the "palace at land's end." Sutro contained an astounding seven swimming pools, an ice skating rink, an Egyptian Mummy and Torture Museum, a Tom Thumb exhibit, Sutro Railway, Merry Way, Sutro's Cliff House, and other novelties and exhibits that had people coming back again and again until a fire in 1963 and 1966 destroyed the building, leaving only some of the foundations, which are now referred to as the Sutro Ruins. These ruins are still visible to this very day.

Wyrsch does a great job of showcasing historic pictures and archival footage of the famed amusement park. Plus we get great information from those who were actually there. Fosselius was one of those interviewed but we also get to hear some fantastic by Wayne Hess, Joe Mirante, and the film was narrated by Ray Taliaferro. I have never had the pleasure or experience of visiting Sutro, by because of  the film, I can get an idea of what an amazing spectacle it was. To see such great things like the train, the museums, and to go swimming in the pools would have been wonderful to see. And thanks to Wyrsch, I can visit it over and over again, thanks to his in-depth and intriguing documentary. After the screening, Wyrsch and Fosselius came back on stage and participated in a fun Q&A session with the audience. After the show was over, Wyrsch was kind enough to sign my DVD of both his documentaries!

This was such a fantastic and fun-filled Sunday program! Now for all you folks out there who missed out on this screening, don't fret! Both SUTRO's and PLAYLAND will be screened on Sunday, September 16th at 12pm at the Camera 3 in Downtown San Jose. And once again Wyrsch will be attendance! To purchase tickets for this show, please visit the Camera Cinemas website at To learn more about the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum and their film schedule, visit their website at To purchase these great local documentaries on DVD, visit the November Fire Recordings website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

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