City Girl – The Masters of Cinema Series #8 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
March 14, 2010 by Dennis Amith
“City Girl” looks gorgeous on Blu! Eureka! strikes gold again with the latest in their Masters of Cinema Series.
© 1930 FOX Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved.
TITLE: City Girl – The Masters of Cinema Series #8
DURATION: 90 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (24 pfs AVC Feature Encode/1:19:1 Original Aspect Ratio), DD2.0, 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audo Soundtrack
COMPANY: 20th Century Fox/Eureka!/The Masters of Cinema Series
RATED: UNRATED (Contains Very Mild Violence and Innuendo)
Directed by F.W. Murnau
Written by arion Orth, Berthold Viertel
Titles by H.H. Caldwell, Katherine Hilliker
Dialogue based on the play “The Mud Turtle” by Elliott Lester
Music by Christopher Caliendo
Cinematographer by Ernest Palmer
Edited by H.H. Caldwell, Katherine Hilliker
Production Design by Edgar G. Ulmer
Art Direction by Harry Oliver
Costume Design by Sophie Wachner
Charles Farrell as Lem Tustine
Mary Duncan as Kate
David Torrence as Lem’s father
Edith Yorke as Lem’s mother
Anne Shirley as Marie Tustine
Tom McGuire as Matey
Richard Alexander as Mac
Patrick Rooney s Butch
After the visual fireworks of Sunrise and the now-lost splendour of 4 Devils, F.W. Murnau turned his attention to this vivid, painterly study of an impulsive and fragile marriage among the wheatfields of Minnesota.
During a brief stay in Chicago, innocent farmer’s son Lem falls for and weds Kate, a hard-bitten but lonely waitress. Upon bringing her home at the start of harvest time, the honeymoon soon turns into a claustrophobic struggle as they contend with the bitter scorn of his father and the invasive, leering jealousy of the farm’s laboring community.
With the success of F.W. Murnau’s “Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans” back in 1927 and following up with two more Hollywood productions with “4 Devils” and “Tabu”, the filmmaker wanted to work on his next film titled “Our Daily Bread”.
The film was made in 1930 and was renamed “City Girl” and two versions were made. One that is a silent and one with sound. Unfortunately, for 40-years, no one one knew what happened to the film until the silent version was found in 1970 but the version with sound has never been found to this day.
But the film received restoration and now Eureka! is releasing a HD version of “City Girl” on Blu-ray as part of the company’s “The Masters of Cinema Series”.
“City Girl” is often compared to “Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans”. With the latter being known as one of the greatest silent films ever made, “City Girl” is not as deep and was not as appreciated back then as it is now.
Where “Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans” featured a vamp from the city tries to cajole a farmer to kill his wife and move to the big city with her. In “City Girl”, it’s the opposite.
The film revolves around a young man named Lem Tustine (played by Charles Farrell) who’s father is worried about the family wheat business and noticing the price of wheat plummeting.
The father (played by David Torrence) sends Lem from a small town in Minnesota to the big city of Chicago to sell the wheat for a good price. Upon arriving to the city, and when Lem grabs a bite at a restaurant and this is where he meets a beautiful waitress named Kate (played by Mary Duncan) and both literally fall for each other.
Meanwhile, as Lem tries to sell the wheat, unfortunately prices continue to plummet and he sells it nearly $800 less than what his father wanted. Lem knows his father is going to be unhappy and he’s absolutely unhappy that he has to go back home after he has fallen for Kate.
When he asks Kate about the big city, she’s not so thrilled about living in it and when Lem tells her that he wants to marry her and bring her back to the country, she agrees.
As the newlyweds go back to the country, unfortunately things are not going as smooth as the couple would want. Lem’s father is beyond angry that he sold the wheat for a low price and thinks that Kate is a vamp who is trying to get a piece of the family business (which she is not) and during an argument, Lem’s father slaps her across the face.
Kate explains to Lem…and upset as he is, he knows that he is unable to do anything about it which shocks Kate.
Meanwhile, the hired hands who work on the wheat hear that Lem has brought his beautiful young wife to the country and that the father is trying to split them up. Immediately, the men start to find a way to get closer to Kate, especially Mac (played by Richard Alexander) who falls for Kate and will do what he can to steal her away from Lem.
Will Lem and Kate stay as a couple? And can the city girl survive in the country?
“City Girl” receives its first major 1080p High Definition treatment (24fps AVC). Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1:19:1 , “City Girl” looks absolutely awesome on Blu-ray for a film that is 80-years-old.
A fine layer of grain is included on the picture and a few dust particles can be seen with a few lines going down. But Eureka! has done a fantastic job in showcasing the FOX restored version of the film. Blacks are nice and deep while whits and grays look very good on Blu-ray.
According to Eureka!, for the 2010 Masters of Cinema Series Blu-ray edition, the company decided against HD-DVNR, MTI or other forms of digital resotration or grain removal as test revealed noticeable disruption in tonal quality. Similar to their release of Murnau’s “Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans” and Carl Theodor Dreyer’s “Vampyr: The Strange Adventure of Allan Gray”, the decision was to keep the level of damage still present to what one would see if the same 35mm restored film was projected theatrically.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
Eureka! via “The Masters of Cinema” has released “City Girl” in Dolby Digital 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. This silent film features a new 2008 score composed and arranged by Christopher Caliendo.
The soundtrack by Caliendo works well with this film but I do wish that Eureka! added several more choices for audio score.
There are no subtitles but English Intertitles are included.
“City Girl – The Masters of Cinema Series #8” comes with the following special features:.
- Audio Commentary – Full-length audio commentary by film scholar David Kalat.
A 28-page booklet with “Reaching Beyond the Frame – Murnau’s City Girl” by Adrian Danks (head of Cinema Studies at RMIT University) which is a reprinting of an article published on “Senses of Cinema” back in 2003 and also featured in the booklet are images from the film.
“City Girl” is an enjoyable film and of course, compared to Murnau’s masterpiece “Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans”, comparisons of these two films are like apples and oranges. Both are Murnau films, both can be enjoyed but one you may like more than the other.
Where “Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans” was like an adventure full of gags and an elaborate set design showcasing Murnau’s creative style of filmmaking, “City Girl” is more dramatic and focuses on the love between a man and a woman, a husband and wife and the challenges that they face.
I felt that actress Mary Duncan shined for the role of “Kate” and performances by both Duncan and Charles Farrell (Lem) and David Torrence (Lem’s father) was well-done.
But when you start to look back in the past of when “City Girl” was released, it was years when people were becoming excited with the introduction talkies (audio on film). With the success of “The Jazz Singer” in 1927, films were somewhat in a limbo because people either loved or started to lose love for silent films and then the emergence of the talkies were typically bad and many theaters couldn’t support Vitaphone or Movietone.
And unfortunately, like many films during this era, they were lost and not seen for decades. Despite the 1937 fire that destroyed 80-90% of Fox’s silent films, fortunately the discovery of Murnau’s underrated film “City Girl” can be seen via this restored version for the masses.
The Blu-ray release of “City Girl” looks absolutely divine and sure, there is going to be scratches and dust that can be seen on print but for the most part, the detail and clarity of the film is absolutely beautiful. Eureka! has done a fantastic job once again for this Blu-ray release.
Overall, if you are a Murnau or a silent film fan, this is a highly recommended film. And the fact that it’s not region-coded means you can play this on any Blu-ray player. In the end, “City Girl” may not be as deep as “Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans” but it’s definitely an entertaining, romantic film worth watching.
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