Distributing Silent Film Serials: Local Practices, Changing Forms, Cultural Transformation, 1st Edition (e-Book) book cover

Distributing Silent Film Serials

Local Practices, Changing Forms, Cultural Transformation, 1st Edition

By Rudmer Canjels


262 pages

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Tracing the international consumption, distribution, and cultural importance of silent film serials in the 1910s and 1920s, Canjels provides an exciting new understanding of the cultural dimension and the cultural transformation and circulation of media forms. Specifically, he demonstrates that the serial film form goes far beyond the well-known American two-reel serial—the cliffhanger.

Throughout the book, Canjels focuses on the biggest producers of serials, America, France, and Germany, while imported serials, such as those in the Netherlands, are also examined. This research offers new views on the serial work of well known directors as D.W. Griffith, Abel Gance, Erich von Stroheim, and Fritz Lang, while foregrounding the importance of lesser known directors such as Louis Feuillade or Joe May.

In the early twentieth-century, serial productions were constantly undergoing change and were not merely distributed in their original form upon import. As adjusted serials were present in large quantities or confronted different social spaces, nationalistic feelings and views stimulated by the unrest of World War I and the expanding American film industry could be incorporated and attached to the serial form. Serial productions were not only adaptable to local discourses, they could actively stimulate and interact as well, influencing reception and further film production. By examining the distribution, reception, and cultural contexts of American and European serials in various countries, this cross-cultural research makes both local and global observations. Canjels thus offers a highly relevant case study of transnational, transcultural and transmedia relations.


Distributing Silent Film Serials makes a "substantial contribution to new cinema histories," it is filled with "potent points of comparison between different national traditions," giving "fascinating insights," and leading "to a rethinking of the significance of seriality in the broader context of film history."-Joe Kemper, Early Popular Visual Culture

"This book provides new insights ino the serial productions of both well-known [such as Abel Gance, Erich von Stroheim or Fritz Lang] and more obscure directors. […] Distributing Silent Film Serials is supplemented by thorough notes, a well-chosen bibliography, and a useful appendix, listing serial films, chronologically arranged under importing country and by earliest known premier date. The text is complemented by many interesting photographs, posters and advertisements […]. It is packed […] with interesting anecdotes and solid information, and serves as a welcome addition to the burgeoning body of important literature elucidating the history of silent cinema."- Jeffrey Mifflin, Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television

"Distributing Silent Film Serials is part of the "important studies of exhibition [that] have recently emerged from what has been called the ‘new cinema history.’ "- Jessica L. Whitehead, Early Popular Visual Culture

Table of Contents

I. Film Seriality and Its Serial Uses: Transition and Beyond 1. Seriality Unbound 2. Monopolizing Episodic Adventuress II. Localizing Serials: Translating Spectacle and Daily Life Beyond 3. American Mysteries in France 4. German Spectacle from Within 5. Adjusting Seriality in the Netherlands III. Confronting Seriality in Europe and America 6. Consuming New World Views: American Serials in Germany 7. Minds that Cannont Condense: European Serials in America 8. Overshooting inAmerica IV. Another Time 9. Adjusting Forms and Diminishing Uses

About the Author

Rudmer Canjels is a film scholar and lecturer interested in silent film, fan culture, transmedia storytelling, and documentary film. He has published on the international distribution and cultural transformations of silent film serials (Distributing Silent Film Serials, Routledge, 2011) and industry sponsored films (A History of Royal Dutch Shell and Films that Work). Currently he is researching the use of industrial film in Nigeria as it became an independent country in 1960.

About the Series

Routledge Advances in Film Studies

This series is our home for innovative research in the field of film studies. It includes monographs and targeted edited collections that provide new insights into this important and evolving subject area.


To submit a proposal for this series, please contact:
Suzanne Richardson, Commissioning Editor for Media, Cultural and Communication Studies
[email protected]

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PERFORMING ARTS / Film & Video / History & Criticism
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Media Studies