Amy is unprepared for the drastic lifestyle change, but she soon takes to it, falling for a neighbor photographer and learning some street smarts along the way. Melodramatic twists include a mysterious upstairs neighbor in disguise and a break-in scheme hatched by the photographer to clear his good name. While the photography is fairly successful at creating convincing environments out of set work, it’s mostly Pickford’s wide-eyed, compassionate turn that makes The Hoodlum worthwhile.
Much different is 1926’s William Beaudine-directed Sparrows, a riveting and often sublimely gorgeous tale of survival in which Pickford plays Molly, the de facto caretaker and maternal figure for a group of orphans. Residents of a purported orphanage run by a cruel, murderous master named Grimes, Molly and her gaggle of adorable moppets are confident they’ll be rescued some day. But when a kidnapping goes bad and Grimes begins threatening to dispose of children in the surrounding quicksand-filled swamp, Molly decides it’s time to take action.
Featuring stunning set design and inventive photography, Sparrows offers up a number of truly harrowing moments as the group struggles through a swampy nightmare. The film’s questions about divine intervention and personal agency are mature and thought-provoking, making Sparrows a sophisticated leap forward from the engaging but episodic other films in the set.
The Blu-ray Discs
Milestone gives each film in the set its own Blu-ray disc, presenting each with a 1080i transfer in original 1.33:1 aspect ratios. These are overall very fine transfers, offering healthy levels of fine detail and solid clarity. All three films are naturally riddled with marks and scratches, and Sparrows shows some slight nitrate degradation. None of the damage is overwhelming though, and the image beneath it often shines. The Hoodlum does feature an odd quirk, wherein the intertitle frame freezes for about a second every time, in what is probably an attempt to adjust for a non-standard frame rate. It’s a little distracting, but not a dealbreaker.