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Beggars of Life (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

September 20, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

With the popularity of Louise Brooks, there is no denying that “Beggars of Life” is a must-buy, must-own title.  And for silent film fans, the film is entertaining, suspenseful and action-packed. May you be a Louise Brooks, Wallace Beery or Richard Arlen fan, I can faithfully say that this silent film on Blu-ray is highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 1928 Paramount Pictures. 2017 KINO LORBER. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Beggars of Life

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1928

DURATION: 81 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p (1:33:1 Aspect Ratio), B&W, 2.0 Stereo, English Intertitles

COMPANY: Kino Lorber

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASE DATE: August 22, 2017


Based on the Book by Jim Tully

Directed by William A. Wellman

Adapatation by Benjamin Glazer

Produced by Allan Dwan

Executive Producer: Adolph Zukor

Music Performed by Jeff Rapsis

Cinematography by Harold Rosson


Starring:

Wallace Beery as Oklahoma Red

Louise Brooks as Nancy – The Girl

Richard Arlen as Jim – The Boy

Blue Washington as Black Mose

Kewpie Morgan as Skinny

Andy Clark as Skelly

Mike Donlin as Bill

Roscoe Karns as Lame Hoppy

Bob Perry as The Arkansaw Snake


An American silent film classic, Beggars of Life (1928) stars Louise Brooks as a train-hopping hobo who dresses like a boy to survive. After escaping her violent stepfather, Nancy (Brooks) befriends kindly drifter Jim (Richard Arlen). They ride the rails together until a fateful encounter with the blustery Oklahoma Red (Wallace Beery) and his rambunctious band of hoboes, leading to daring, desperate conflict on top of a moving train. Based on the memoir of real-life hobo Jim Tully, and directed with adventuresome verve by William Wellman (The Ox-Bow Incident), Beggars of Life is an essential American original.


From legendary filmmaker William A. Wellman (“A Star is Born”, “The Ox-Bow Incident”, “The Public Enemy”) comes his romantic comedy silent film “Beggars of Life”.

A film that was released in 1928 as a silent film but it was considered lost until an incomplete copy was found in Czechoslovakia.

And now the film will be released as a silent film with English intertitles and a musical score compiled and performed by the Mont Alto Motion Pictures Orchestra, who employed selections from the original 1928 Paramount cue-sheet.

“Beggars of Life”  is based on an autobiography by Jim Tully and would star Wallace Beery (“Grand hotel”, “The Champ”, “The Lost World”), Louise Brooks (“Pandora’s Box”, “Diary of a Lost Girl”, “Miss Europe”), Richard Arlen (“Wings”, “Island of Lost Souls”, “Alice in Wonderland”) and Blue Washington (“Haunted Gold”, “The Butler”).

The film is known as being Louise Brooks best American film and also a film that would feature a Black actor, Blue Washington and one of the first films that would feature a man of color in the opening credits which was not common during that era.

And now the 1928 film will be available on Blu-ray courtesy of Kino Lorber.

The film begins with a hungry homeless man named Jim (Richard Arlen) wondering into someone’s property, begging for the owner to please give him food and he would work hard for it.

When Jim sees someone sitting but not answering, he walks inside to find the man shot in the head and dead.  Seeing the deceased man startles him and he hears a young woman named Nancy (portrayed by Louise Brooks) scurrying around.

When Jim asks if she killed the man, she admits to it.  She explains that she was an orphan and taken in by the family but as she got older, the man would sexually assault her and having had enough of being raped, she took his firearm and shot him with it.

The two decide to escape and Nancy disguises herself as a young boy.  Meanwhile, Jim feels he just wants to help her get on the train, so she can get to Canada.  Unfortunately, getting on a train is not so easy for Nancy and she sprains her ankle.  Jim ends up taking care of Nancy and the next day, as they swipe some pastries from a bakery car, he sees a wanted photo of Nancy for murder.

As the two walk, they end up walking into a homeless camp, they meet the blunt and fearsome homeless man that goes by Oklahoma Red (portrayed by Wallace Beery) and they meet gang leader, The Arkansaw Snake (portrayed by Bob Perry).  When the Snake observes Jim and Nancy, he realizes that Nancy is a woman and not a man and wants to have his time with her.  But as Jim tries to come to her rescue, he is overtaken by the other homeless men and is held back.

But Jim ends up showing everyone to Nancy’s wanted poster and everyone steps back, worried about being around a murderer and not wanting to draw authorities to them, so they prefer to distance themselves away from her.

But when the police arrive, they see Nancy and as they are to stop her, all the homeless step in and Oklahoma Red handcuffs them all together, so they are unable to escape.

Oklahoma Red helps Nancy and Jim  but Red also wants to be with Nancy.

Will Nancy be able to escape to Canada with the authorities chasing after her?  Can Jim protect her?


VIDEO:

“Beggars of Life” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:33:1 aspect ratio) and is presented in black and white. The quality of the film on Blu-ray is very good in terms of clarity and sharpness.  Considering the film’s age, I didn’t notice any major film warping and while there are scratches that can be seen on various frames, the fact that this film has been lost and was recently discovered, is a major plus and I’m sure glad that what was found is still a good print that was restored from 35 mm film elements preserved by the George Eastman Museum.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Beggars of Life” is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 and the music presented for this release is a wonderful score compiled and performed by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra, employing selections from the original 1928 Paramount cue-sheet.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Beggars of Life” comes with the following special feature:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by William Wellman, Jr.
  • Audio Commentary #2 – Featuring audio commentary by Thomas Gladysz, founding director of the Louise Brooks Society.

EXTRAS:

“Beggars of Life” comes with a booklet essay by film critic Nick Pinkerton.


When it comes to Louise Brooks, many are familiar with her European films directed by George Wilhelm Pabst and of course, her reputation.

Considered an actress that was ahead of her time, she took on roles that were portrayed sexuality that was not common for the era.  She was an intellectual, some considered her a snob, rumors were spread all over Hollywood that she slept with all her actors and facing so much in the U.S., she no doubt developed a tough skin.

For the most part, going to Europe did wonders for her career, especially post-posthumously such as “Pandora’s Box” or “Diary of a Lost Girl” are well-revered today.  But back then, while great films, her loathing of Hollywood and being denied by Paramount for a promised raise was enough for her to leave America which would lead her to become blacklisted.

Prior to moving away from America though, while starring in several silent light comedies and flapper films, it was “Beggars of Life” that would be considered her best American film.

Surprisingly, considering that she never thought about the film positively and not being faithful to Jim Tully’s book, which the film was an adaptation of Tully’s autobiography of the same name.

Nor did Louise Brooks get along with her co-star Richard Arlen and also director William A. Wellman, it’s a sign of a good actress that she was able to take on the role and give a solid performance as murderer on the run, Nancy.

But the tone of the film is set as Nancy was an orphan who was repeatedly raped by the man who took her in and tired of being assaulted, she shot and killed him.  And now she just wants to be free.  Free and happy and Jim, wants to help her escape to Canada but he needs to disguise her as a boy as he knows authorities will be after her.

The film broke new ground, no surprise as William A. Wellman was in an experimentation mode.  You have a woman dressed and disguised like a young man which no doubt, went against Hollywood norm and upset a number of people.  You also have Blue Washington, a Black actor in a major role and also being featured in the opening credits.  While Washington is not featured during the first half of the film, he becomes more prominent towards the second half of the film as a homeless man trying to take care of another sick homeless man.

But along with Louise Brooks, you also have to talk about the two prominent male actors.  Richard Arlen is the main protagonist that is paired with Louise Brooks as the homeless man named Jim who tries to help Nancy escape to Canada.  At first, he just wants to help her get to Canada on train but when he sees that she is not experienced to do much, let alone jumping on trains, he ends up helping her and protecting her from the homeless men who want to take advantage of her.

And of course, the actor who gets top billing, Wallace Beery as Oklahoma Red.  A homeless man who seems like he would be the antagonist, the alpha male among many homeless men, a man with a reputation that some fear him and a homeless man who also carries a heavy wooden barrel wherever he goes.  And he has his eyes on Nancy and wanting her to be his.  But he wants to naturally help her escape as well, just with him and not Jim.

Beery had appeared in many major films and while at that time, it makes sense for him to get top billing and be known as the star of the film.  Since the release of the film and the escalation of Louise Brooks as an actress and has received recognition as an early cinema sex symbol, she has also received respect for her independence as a woman.  Defying Hollywood, defying the norm and some may even make comparisons to modern day stars such as Madonna.

And part of the mystique that surrounds Louise Brooks is that there is much written about her, but yet many of her films are lost.  Fortunately, her key silent films filmed in Europe such as “Pandora’s Box” and “Diary of a Lost Girl” have survived.  And of course, her American film “Beggars of Life” that was discovered in 2016, has finally been released and giving many fans a chance to enjoy an early American film starring Louise Brooks.

And earlier this year, 23 minutes of a long missing 1927 Brooks film, “Now We’re in the Air” was found in the Czech Republic and is another significant film in Brooks’ oeuvre as four of the films she had made in 1927 were considered lost.  And this World War One comedy also features Wallace Beery, and Brooks in two supporting roles.

Going back to “Beggars of Life”, it’s important to note that while this film was released as an early sound film, the original sound recordings have not been found and thus was released as a silent film.  And while it is sad that we don’t have the original audio, considering that this was an earlier film that experimented with sound, the film works much more effectively as a silent and the score by Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra was fantastic.

Picture quality on this Blu-ray release was digitally restored from 35mm film elements preserved by the George Eastman Museum and they did a magnificent job.  Scratches are not so evident and there is no major damage or film warping at all.  And you get two audio commentaries and a essay booklet included as well.

With the popularity of Louise Brooks, there is no denying that “Beggars of Life” is a must-buy, must-own title.  And for silent film fans, the film is entertaining, suspenseful and action-packed. May you be a Louise Brooks, Wallace Beery or Richard Arlen fan, I can faithfully say that this silent film on Blu-ray is highly recommended!

 

 

Zaza (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 2, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

If you are a silent film fan, definitely consider Allan Dwan’s “Zaza” and discover one of many films featuring legendary actress, Gloria Swanson.  Recommended!

Images courtesy of © 1923 Paramount Pictures. 2017 KINO LORBER. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Zaza

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1923

DURATION: 84 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p (1:33:1 Aspect Ratio), B&W,

COMPANY: Kino Lorber

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASE DATE: June 6, 2017


Based on the Play by Pierre Berton and Charles Simon

Directed by Allan Dwan

Written by Albert S. Le Vino

Produced by Allan Dwan

Executive Producer: Adolph Zukor

Music Performed by Jeff Rapsis

Cinematography by  Harold Rosson


Starring:

Gloria Swanson as Zaza

H. B. Warner as Bernard Dufresne

Ferdinand Gottschalk as Duke de Brissac

Lucille La Verne as Aunt Rosa

Mary Thurman as Florianne

Yvonne Hughes as Nathalie, Zaza’s Maid

Riley Hatch as Rigault

L. Rogers Lytton as Stage Manager


Gloria Swanson is all flounce and swagger as Zaza, a street gamine turned music hall star, strutting her stuff, tossing off quips and taunts with her irrepressible backside, which is sometimes adorned with a pert bow for emphasis. Over the course of the film, directed by Allan Dwan (Robin Hood), she engages in two knock-down drag-out cat fights, frisks through playful love scenes, writhes in a hospital bed, nurses a broken heart, and evolves into a soberly dignified woman. Her physicality dominates the film, which does not suffer from being essentially a well-crafted frame for her performance. Swanson s ebullience in Zaza was unfeigned; she called it the fastest, easiest, most enjoyable picture I ever made. Imogen Sara Smith


Back in 1899, the French play “Zaza” had entertained audiences.  So, popular that the play was produced on Broadway and the first film adaptation was released by Paramount in 1915.

While there were a few more adaptations of “Zaza” created, in 1923, a silent romantic drama directed and produced by Allan Dwan (“Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm”, “Sands of Iwo Jima”, “Robin Hood”) and executive produced by Adolph Zukor was released.

Starring Gloria Swanson (“Sunset Boulevard”, “Queen Kelly”, “The Trespasser”, “Indiscreet”), H.B. Warner (“It’s a Wonderful Life”, “Sunset Boulevard”, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”, “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town”), Ferdinand Gottschalk (“Grand Hotel”, “Les Miserables”, “Tonight or Never”), Lucille La Verne, Mary Thurman, Yvonne Hughes, Riley Hatch and L. Rogers Lytton.

And a print of the film is housed at the George Eastman House and the Library of Congress.

During this time, Gloria Swanson was the most sought-after actress in Hollywood and a box office draw for Paramount.  In fact, what she wore on screen influenced fashion  all over the world.

And now the silent classic will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Kino Lorber.

“Zaza” is set in France and begins with showing us how Zaza (portrayed by Gloria Swanson) is a popular performer with a temperament.  Often taking things out on her maid Nathalie (portrayed by Mary Thurman) when she loses things and is frustrated, when she is kind, she can be a major giver of fine jewelry to her maid.

Meanwhile, many men desire Zaza including Duke de Brissac (portrayed by Ferdinand Gottschalk) but the only man Zaza is interested in is Bernard Dufresne (portrayed by H.B. Warner) of the diplomatic corps.  Who often comes to visit the stage as he also fancies Zaza.

While Florianne (portrayed by Mary Thurman), Zaza’s stage rival, was once popular in the Odeon, she also fancies Dufresne.

At the show, it was said whoever catches Zaza’s shoe can be with her and when one man comes to claim his “prize”, he manhandles Zaza, in which Bernard Dufresne comes to her rescue.

But as both Zaza and Florianne vie for Dufresne’s attention, which woman will win?

Meanwhile, what secrets is Bernard hiding from Zaza?  And will the fact that Bernard lives far from Zaza affect any chance of a relationship?


VIDEO:

“Zaza” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:331 aspect ratio) and is presented in black and white. The quality of the film on Blu-ray is very good in terms of clarity and sharpness. The film is does have scratches but for the most part, the film looks very good on Blu-ray considering its over 90-years old.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Zaza” is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 and the music presented for this release is a wonderful piano score by Jeff Rapsis.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Zaza” comes with the following special feature:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Frederic Lombardi (author of Allan Dwan and the Rise and Decline of the Hollywood Studios)

A silent romantic drama about love discovered, distance that hinders romance but secrets that can tear people apart.

This is the story of “Zaza”, among one of the well-known silent films starring the legendary actress Gloria Swanson and actor H.B. Warner and also one of the last films to star Mary Thurman (who could come down with pneumonia working on a film a year later and would die from complications from the illness the following year), who was also engaged to the film’s director, Allan Dwan.

In some ways, since the film is based on a play, the film can also get a little bit of exhausting wondering if these two individuals, Swanson’s Zaza and Warner’s Dufresne would be together.

While Zaza comes off as impetuous and bombastic early in the film, we see her character transform.  Transformed by love, by jealousy, by anger and by sadness.  Gloria Swanson had to no doubt show various sides of Zaza and for the most part, it was a very well-done performance.  From emotional to even action as she and Thurman’s Florianne engage in a few tussles onscreen.

H.B. Warner plays a stoic Bernard Dufresne.  A man who is captivated by Zaza but there is something preventing him from going to far in his relationship wtih Zaza, which we find out the truth later in the film.

The film on Blu-ray features wonderful detail for the film over 90-years old and for its lossless audio, you get a piano score composed and performed by Jeff Rapsis, adapted from the original 1923 cue sheet.  And also included is a very informative audio commentary by Frederic Lombardi.

Overall, I really welcome Allan Dwan’s “Zaza” on Blu-ray.  One of the things that I hope to see is more silent actresses films on Blu-ray.  There have been so much focus on Chaplin, Keaton, Harold Lloyd, on Blu-ray, which is understandable but it would be nice to see more Pickford, more Swanson, more Gish, Bow, Brooks, Talmadge, Normand, Davies, Bara, Thomas, to name a few on Blu-ray.  So, Gloria Swanson’s “Zaza” on Blu-ray is a major plus and hopefully this means more silent actress greats and their films will be featured on Blu-ray in the near future.

If you are a silent film fan, definitely consider Allan Dwan’s “Zaza” and discover one of many films featuring legendary actress, Gloria Swanson.  Recommended!

 

The Sheik (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 21, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“The Sheik” is a film that no doubt made Valentino popular despite the fact that in reality, he didn’t care for the film, nor being a Sheik. But it did cement him as Hollywood’s first sex symbol and those details may overshadow the actual film, “The Sheik” is still quite entertaining after all these years. And one should at least watch this film before watching “The Son of the Sheik”. Recommended!

Images courtesy of © 1921 BY AMOUS PLAYERS AND LASKY CORP. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Sheik

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1921

DURATION: 75 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p, Color tinted, DTS-Master Audio 2.0

COMPANY: Kino Lorber

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASE DATE: May 30, 2017


Based on the Novel by Edith Maude Hull

Directed by George Melford

Adaptation by Monte M. Katterjohn

Music Composed and Performed by Ben Model

Cinematography by William Marshall


Starring:

Rudolph Valentino as The Sheik, Ahmed Ben Hassan

Agnes Ayres as Lady Diana Mayo

Ruth Miller as Zilah

George Waggner as Yousaef, Tribal Chieftain

Frank Butler as Sir Aubrey Mayo

Charles Brinley as Mustapha Ali, Diana’s Guide

Lucien Littlefield as Gaston

Adolphe Menjou as Dr. Raoul de St. Hubert

Walter Long as Omair, the Bandit


Hollywood’s first male sex symbol, Rudolph Valentino, appears in his most iconic roles in The Sheik (1921). Agnes Ayres stars as Lady Diana Mayo, a headstrong Western woman who infiltrates the private party of the handsome Sheik Ahmed Ben Hassan (Valentino). When the Sheik later encounters Diana in the desert, he abducts her and takes her to his sumptuous lair. Unable to resist the Sheik’s cruel magnetism, Diana’s defiant nature crumbles and she begins to develop affectionate feelings for her captor. The Sheik plays upon a long tradition of Orientalism in Western art, which romanticized the sands of Northern Africa as a hotbed or seduction and captivity. Theatrical organ score by Ben Model.


“The Sheik”, it was the film that launched Hollywood’s first male sex symbol, Rudolph Valentino.

A man who made women swoon and angered many men due to being different from the typical male actors of his time, as Valentino was seen as a man who was very much into high fashion, slicking back his hair and was considered by the American male populace as being effeminate.

Needless to say, while Valentino was very much a different looking man in Hollywood courtesy of his Italian father and French mother and raised with a European influence.

And with the success of the 1921 film, “The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse”, earning $1,000,000 at the box office and Valentino’s looks, it would ear lead to Valentino working with Famous Players-Lasky (which would become Paramount Pictures) and Jessy Lasky wanting to capitalize on Valentino’s looks, cast him for “The Sheik” as the film’s protagonist Sheik Ahmed Ben Hassan.

The film is based on the bestselling romance novel by Edith Maude Hull and the adaptation was directed by George Melford and the adaptation written by Monte M. Katterjohn.

“The Sheik” starred Valentino along with Agnes Ayres (“Forbidden Fruit”, “Eve’s Love Letters”), Ruth Miller (“The King of Kings”, “The Affairs of Anatol”), George Waggner (who would later become a director of films such as “The Wolf Man”, “77 Sunset Strip”, “Operation Pacific”), Frank Butler (who would go on to write films such as “Going My Way”, “Road to Morocco”, “Road to Bali”, Babes in Toyland”), Charles Brinley (“Moran of the Lady Letty”, “In the Days of Daniel Boone”), Lucien Littlefield (“Sons of the Desert”, “The Little Foxes”), Adolphe Menjou (“Paths of Glory”, “A Star is Born”, “A Farewell to Arms”) and Walter Long (“The Birth of a Nation”, “Intolerance”).

And now the film will be released on Blu-ray  Kino Lorber in May 2017.

The film begins with an introduction to Sheik Ahmed Ben Hassan as the Arabs are having a wife lottery.

Meanwhile, in the North African town of Biskra, we are introduced to the independent Lady Diana Mayo (portrayed by Agnes Ayres).  Many of the women are gossiping about Lady Diana because she plans to go to the desert alone and take on a month-long trip escorted only by natives.

While her brother tries to convince her to not go, Lady Diana is dead set in going.  And her friend proposes to her but she tells him that she doesn’t want to be married because it would make her a captive and she would rather live a life of freedom.

As she goes to a local casino, the people tell her she can not enter because an important Sheik, Sheik Ahmed Ben Hassan is there for the evening and because she is not Arab, she is not permitted to go inside.  But when the Sheik arrives, he is captivated by Lady Diana’s beauty.

And Lady Diana decides to sneak into the casino by swapping clothes with a dancer and disguising herself as one of the women.  And what Lady Diana sees is women being given away for her marriage, which she can’t fathom.  And when Lady Diana is selected as one of the women to be put up in the lottery, the Sheik sees the woman’s reluctance and realizes its the woman he saw outside of the casino.  And for her protection, he escorts her out of the casino.  And he is told by Lady Diana’s guide that he will be escorting her for her trip.

As Lady Diana goes to ride with her guide for her month-long trip through the desert, the Sheik and his men arrive with their horses and while Lady Dianna tries to flee, the Sheik captures Lady Diana and takes her to his home.

As Diana is distraught and wants to leave, the Sheik tells her that she will learn to love him.

And as her captive, will she learn to love him or will she escape from him?


VIDEO:

“The Sheik” is presented in 1080p High Definition and is color-tinted.  It’s important to note that the last version I have of this DVD is the 2002 Image Entertainment DVD.  And I can say that the quality of the film on Blu-ray is much better in terms of clarity and sharpness.  The film is color-tinted and while there are scratches and some frames look blurrier, the entire film actually looks very good considering the film is nearly a hundred years old.  The picture quality is definitely an improvement over the 2002 DVD.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Sheik” is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 and the music presented for this release is music composed and performed by Ben Model.  And once again, another splendid musical composition by Ben but I’m sure there are people who may be wondering if a second musical score is included, there is only one and the Gaylord Carter composition is not included.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Sheik” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by historian Gaylyn Studlar.
  • Archival Footage  – (3:02) Archived footage taken at Rudolph Valentino’s funeral.
  • “Blood and Sand” (1922) Theatrical Trailer – (2:02) The original theatrical trailer.

Considered as one of the biggest box office silent films and also socially influential films of all time, “The Sheik” is also known for propelling the career of Rudolph Valentino, making him Hollywood’s first sex symbol.

In someway, the film was an unknown risk.  As Edith Maude Hull’s best selling novel “The Sheik” was controversial for racial miscegenation and rape, the film left out certain aspects from the film.

The other risk was by Jesse Lasky of Famous Players-Lasky (which would eventually become Paramount Pictures) casting the not too established actor, Rudolph Valentino.  But wanting to capitalize on Valentino’s “Latin Lover” reputation, the risk paid off as many women turned out to the film to watch Valentino on the big screen.

For me, watching the film again over a decade later, I appreciate the film much more today.  For one, the film features Lady Diana Mayo, an independent woman, who speaks against herself getting married, as she sees marriage as being in captivity and the end of independence.  And the character, keeps her strong demeanor throughout the film, despite being distraught of being captured and possibly being forced to do things against her will.

In the original novel, the character of Lady Diana was raped by the Sheik but in the film, while the Sheik wants to take advantage of her, he sees her crying and distraught, that he decides to leave her alone.  Many critics wrote that they wish there was no deviation from the original novel, but perhaps rape would be strong for a major film and it works to the favor of Rudolph Valentino as he is shown as a man with sensitivity and not going primal and making his captive, his sexual plaything.

I also am in awe of how far the director and film crew had gone to ensure a desert setting involving many extras, especially many who are on horseback.  And while there is no clear answer of where the film was shot, set design to costume design is really well-done for this 1921 classic silent film.

My enjoyment of watching this film on HD is seeing the clarity of the film on Blu-ray versus how things looked on DVD 15-years ago.  While not pristine, the film still looks much better than it ever has.  And for the accompany musical score by Ben Model, he did a wonderful job scoring the film from beginning to end.  And you also get a small featurette featuring Valentino’s funeral and the original theatrical trailer for “Blood & Sand”.

While “The Sheik” will be remembered for being a successful film that propelled both Rudolph Valentino and Agnes Ayres, a film so beloved by women that it made women in the audience faint and “The Sheik” would also become part of teenage lingo and even created a fashion trend for Arabian clothing.  And the moniker “Valentino” has been used to describe certain type of guys still goes on today, despite many of those saying it, probably don’t know much about Rudolph Valentino at all.

“The Sheik” is a film that no doubt made Valentino popular despite the fact that in reality, he didn’t care for the film, nor being a Sheik.  But it did cement him as Hollywood’s first sex symbol and those details may overshadow the actual film, “The Sheik” is still quite entertaining after all these years. And one should at least watch this film before watching “The Son of the Sheik”.

Recommended!

 

Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

October 4, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Fritz Lang’s “Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler” is no doubt a wonderful, impressive, bold and also an artistic film that showcases German expressionism with efficacy. This new restoration is definitely a definitive presentation of “”Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler” and another Kino Lorber Fritz Lang Blu-ray release that I highly recommend!

Images courtesy of © 2013 Friedrich-Wilheim-Murnau-Stiftung, Wiesbaden. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1922

DURATION: 270 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:33:1 aspect ratio), Stereo 2.0

COMPANY: Kino Classics/Kino Lorber Inc.

RATED: NOT RATED

RELEASE DATE: September 13, 2016


Based on the novel by Norbert Jacques

Directed by Fritz Lang

Screenplay by Fritz Lang and Thea von Harbou

Produced by Erich Pommer

Music by Konrad Elfers, Robert Israel, Aljoscha Zimmermann

Cinematography by Carl Hoffman

Art Direction by Otto Hunte, Erich Kettelhut, Karl Stahl-Urach, Karl Vollbrecht

Costume Design by Vally Reinecke


Starring:

Rudolf Klein-Rogge as Dr. Mabuse

Aud Egede-Nissen as Cara Carozza, the dancer

Gertrude Welcker as Countess Dusy Told

Afred Abel as Count Told/Richard Fleury

Bernhard Goetzke as Prosecutor von Wenk

Paul Richter as Edgar Hull

Robert Forster-Larrinaga as Spoerri

Hans Adalbert Schlettow as Georg, the Chauffeur

Georg John as Pesch

Karoly Huszar as Hawasch


A truly legendary silent film, Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler had a major impact on the development of the crime thriller, building upon the work of the pioneering French film serialist Louis Feuillade (Les Vampires) and firmly establishing it as a significant film genre. This epic two-part tale was originally released as two separate films, respectively subtitled The Great Gambler and Inferno, and that format is reproduced here. The plot revolves around the pursuit of arch fiend Dr. Mabuse, a gambler, hypnotist, master of disguises and all-around criminal mastermind. Mabuse was the prototype for the sort of evil genius super-villains that would later become common in movies, whether it be in the James Bond pictures or in comic book adaptations like Superman and Batman. The film is dominated by the presence of Rudolf Klein-Rogge as Mabuse. A top German actor of the silent era, he is best known today for his performance as the mad scientist Rotwang in Lang’s Metropolis. Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler contains many of the elements that were expected from the crime genre at the time, including characters who slip in and out of disguise, mind control, gambling clubs, exotic women, brutal henchmen and unexpected plot twists. Lang’s directorial ability to handle such pulp material in a masterful fashion, while also using it as a way to examine the decadence of Germany in the 1920s, reaffirms his status as one of the true greats of the silent era.


Back in 1921, Luxembourgeois novelist Norbert Jacques created the character of Dr. Mabuse, a master of disguise and telepathic hypnosis and a notorious gambler.

Jacques 1921 novel “Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler” featured the debut of Dr. Mabuse and the novel became a best-seller.  And not long after its release, filmmaker Fritz Lang and his wife, writer Thea von Harbou would work on a screenplay adaptation.

The original version of the film was four and a half hours long and would be broken down into two sections:  “Part 1 – The Great Gambler: A Picture of the Time” and “Part II – Inferno: A Game for the People of Our Age”.  And with the success of the film, two sound sequels would be created: “The Testament of Dr. Mabuse” (1933) and “The Thousand Eyes of Dr. Mabuse” (1960).

While there were various versions of “Dr Mabuse: The Gambler”, the Murnau Foundation restored the 270 minute version of the film.  There is a final, restored version which lasts 297 minutes, a shortened USA video version and a shorter Russian re-cut version.

The version featured in the Kino Classics 2016 “Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler” Blu-ray release is the 270 minute version.  And the Blu-ray release version is now currently available.

The first part of “Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler” introduces viewers to the criminal mastermind and master of disguise, Dr. Mabuse.  Using his powers of hypnosis and mind control, he is able to control people and oversee counterfeiting and gambling rackets all over Berlin.

With each visits to the gambling dens, he is often seen with different disguises.  And using his power, he often wins in gambling and uses the money to finance his plans.

Joining Dr. Mabuse are his henchmen: Spoerri (servant), Georg (chauffer), Pesch, Hawasch (employer of blind men involved in the counterfeiting operation), Fine (lookout) and dancer Cara Carozza, who is madly in love with Dr. Mabuse.

The film shows how much of a great criminal mastermind Dr. Mabuse is.  From stealing a commercial contract to something much more diabolical when he sets his eyes on millionaire industrialist, Edgar Hull.  Whom Mabuse hypnotizes and makes Hull look reckless.

Meanwhile, a state prosecutor named Norbert von Wenk sees Hull and believing his is a victim being tricked by someone.  So, this leads Von Wenk to pursue this mysterious person responsible.

When Cara is captured by authorities for a tragedy that Mabuse and his henchmen are responsible for, von Wenk enlists a willing Countess Told (who is bored of her life and husband) to get information from Cara in jail.

Meanwhile, Dr. Mabuse becomes interested in the countess and wanting her to himself, he begins to hypnotize Count Told and finds a way to disgrace him.

In the second part of “Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler”, having succeeded in discrediting Count Told, the Count is now suffering from depression and for help, he goes to Dr. Mabuse to help treat it.

As von Wenk tries to get answers from Cara, Dr. Mabuse’s henchmen begin targeting von Wenk and wanting him silenced.  Meanwhile, Mabuse tries to threaten the Countess to be with him, when she refuses, Dr. Mabuse vows to kill Count Told.

Will state prosecutor Norbert von Wenk be able to catch Dr. Mabuse and rescue the Countess or will the great criminal find a way to outwit his von Wenk?


VIDEO:

“Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler” is presented in 1:33:1 and black and white. It’s important to note that the 2K digital restoration is from the 35mm restoration performed by the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung, in cooperation with the Bundesarchiv-Filmarchiv of Berlin, the Filmmuseum Munich and L’Immagine Ritrovata of Bologna.

As for picture quality, as one can expect from a film that is nearly 95-years-old, you are going to see some scratches but in the context of silent films, “Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler” looks quite magnificent as there was great love (and a lot of hardwork) that was put into this restoration. The film on blu-ray does not exhibit any major nitrate damage, warping, blurring or blackening on the film print.

This is another Kino Lorber Fritz Lang film that looks absolutely magnificent on Blu-ray!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler” is presented in lossless stereo with German intertitles with optional English subtitles. The music featured on this Blu-ray releases is by by Aljoscha Zimmerman.  The lossless soundtrack is crystal clear and I absolutely loved the score.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler” comes with the following special features:

  • The Story Behind Dr. Mabuse – (52:34) Featuring the  Music of Mabuse with Composer Aljoscha Zimmermann discusses the music of Mabuse, Dr. Mabuse creator/writer Norbert Jacques who plays Dr. Mabuse and a look at Mabuse’s motives.

“The film is a document of our time, an excellent portrait of high society with its gambling passion and dancing madness, its hysteria and decadence, its expressionism and occultisms” – Fritz Lang, Die Welt am Montag, May 1, 1922

When one watches Fritz Lang’s “Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler”, one can’t help but notice how much of society is showcased in one film.

From gambling, drug use, kidnapping, murder, corruption in the stock exchange, hypnotism, a homosexual mask maker, counterfeiting, violence and more.  Each encapsulated in a film full of German expressionism and Lang’s artistic perspective to showcase true evil by one man who not only entices people through gambling but also gambles with people’s lives including his own.

Each character representing a drudge of society, while set design and costume design showcase decadence of the era and surprising to many, this is earlier in Fritz Lang’s career as a filmmaker.  The way each segment is shot, the use of characters, their movements, their actions, each effective for the making of this film.

No doubt the experience would lend to Fritz Lang continuing to set the bar higher with each film, as “Die Nibelungen” would be crated two years later, “Metropolis”, “Spies”, “Woman in the Moon” to follow not long after.

And then for the sound era, with “M” and two more Dr. Mabuse films, “Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler” is an amazing film for its time and it’s truly an artistic, yet action thriller that captivated audiences as the evil Dr. Mabuse appears unstoppable and his control over people is incredible, but yet we wonder throughout the film if the inspector, Norbert von Wenk, will be able to stop him.

I can see how reviewers of the time saw this film as epic but also a statement of society at the time.  And Fritz Lang said it well, “the film is a document of our time”.  What he created in 1922 is incredible but while I enjoy “Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler”, in the many films of Fritz Lang’s oeuvre, many will have their silent film favorites of Fritz Lang and for me, I feel that I’m much too biased to his 1927 film “Metropolis”.  But make no doubt about it, “Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler” is an enjoyable, yet long silent thriller.

As for the restoration of this wonderful Fritz Lang film, the 2K digital restoration supervised is fantastic. The film looks very good considering it’s nearly a century old and while scratches and few frames of damage do appear, there is no significant major nitrate damage or major film warping that interrupts your viewing of the film.

The lossless soundtrack features a wonderful music performance by Aljoscha Zimmerman and the music is presented in crystal clear lossless stereo.  In addition, there is also a three-part documentary included titled “The Story Behind Dr. Mabuse”.

Overall, Fritz Lang’s “Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler” is no doubt a wonderful, impressive, bold and also an artistic film that showcases German expressionism with efficacy. This new restoration is definitely a definitive presentation of “”Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler” and another Kino Lorber Fritz Lang Blu-ray release that I highly recommend!

 

Destiny (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

September 7, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

“Destiny” is no doubt a wonderful, technical achievement by Fritz Lang for its time and one can see how this film would inspire filmmakers during that era for its use of storytelling and special effects.  This new restoration is the authorized and definitive presentation of “Destiny” and another Kino Lorber Fritz Lang Blu-ray release that I strongly recommend!

Images courtesy of © 2016 Friedrich-Wilheim-Murnau-Stiftung, Wiesbaden. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Destiny

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1921

DURATION: 98 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: Color Tinted, 1:33:1, Intertitles, 20 Stereo

COMPANY: Kino Classics/Kino Lorber Inc.

RATED: NOT RATED

RELEASE DATE: August 23, 2016


Directed by Fritz Lang

Screenplay by Fritz Lang and Thea von Harbou

Produced by Erich Pommer

Music by Cornelius Schwehr as commissioned by ZDF/ARTE performed by the 70-member Berlin Rundfunk Symphony Orchestra under the director of conductor Frank Strobel

Photographed by Erich Nitzschmann, Hermann Saalfrank, Fritz Acno Wagner

Art Direction by Robert Herlth, Walter Rohrig, Hermann Warm with Bernhard Goetzke, Lil Dagover, Walter Janssen, Hans Sternberg, Wilhelm Diegelmann, Rudolf Klein-Rogge


Starring:

Lil Dagover as Young Woman, Das junge Madchen, Zobeide, Monna Fliametta, Tiao Tsien

Walter Janssen as Young Man, Der junge Mann, Franke, Giovan Francesco, Liang

Bernhard Goetzke as Death, der Tod, El Mot, Bogner, Archer

Hans Sternberg as Mayor, Burgermeister

Karl Ruckert as Reverend

Max Adalbert as Notary, Notar, Schatzmeister, Chancellor

Wilhelm Diegelmann as Doctor, Arzt

Erich Pabst as Teacher, Lehrer

Karl Platen as Pharmacist, Apotheker

Hermann Picha as Taylor, Schneider

Paul Rehkopf as Grave-Digger, Kuster


A dizzying blend of German Romanticism, Orientalism, and Expressionism, Fritz Lang s DESTINY (Der made Tod) marked a bold step for Lang, away from the conventional melodrama and into the kind of high-concept filmmaking that would culminate in such über-stylized works as Die Nibelungen and Metropolis. DESTINY is a visually ambitious, cinematic allegory in which a young woman (Lil Dagover) confronts the personification of Death (Bernhard Goetzke), in an effort to save the life of her fiancé (Walter Janssen). She is transported to a Gothic cathedral, where lives are represented as burning candles of varying length. Death weaves three romantic tragedies, and offers to unite the girl with her lover, if she can prevent the death of the lovers in at least one of the episodes. Thus begin three exotic scenarios of ill-fated love, in which the woman must somehow reverse the course of destiny: Persia, Quattrocento Venice, and a fancifully-rendered ancient China. Restored by Anke Wilkening on behalf of the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung, this definitive presentation of Destiny preserves the original German intertitles and simulates the historic color tinting and toning of its initial release. Accompanying the film is a newly-composed score by Cornelius Schwehr as a commissioned composition by ZDF / ARTE performed by the 70-member Berlin Rundfunk Symphony Orchestra under the direction of conductor Frank Strobel.


Before filmmaker Fritz Lang created films such as “Metropolis”, “M”, “Woman in the Moon”, “Spies” and his “Dr. Mabuse” films, he created the film, “Destiny” (Der müde Tod).  A film which he also co-written with Thea von Harbou.

Originally released in the US with the title “Behind the Wall”, the silent film is known for its special effects, which was innovative for its time and a film that incorporates three Expressionistic stories.

“Destiny” was also an influential film in the careers of filmmakers, Alfred Hitchcock and Luis Bunuel.

And now “Destiny” will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Kino Lorber.

“Destiny” begins with Death (portrayed by Bernhard Goetzke) appearing near an area where lovers, a young woman (portrayed by Lil Dagover) and  man (portrayed by Walter Janssen) are sharing an intimate time together.

Death goes into the carriage and rides alongside the couple and when they get into town, Death who is known as “The Stranger” purchases a local cemetery and immediately erects a tall wall around the area with no entrance gates which mystifies the townspeople.

As the couple are enjoying a meal together, the Stranger immediately sits next to them and as the couple are playing with a periscope, they see something that scares both of them that they stop.

As the young woman goes upstairs and finds a dog with a few kittens to play with them, the young man stays with the Stranger at the table.  When the young woman returns, the young man is gone and the townspeople tells her that he left with the stranger.

When she goes to look for him, she can’t find him.

When she looks around, she ends up near the cemetery area and she sees ghosts approaching her and going through the wall to the cemetery and then sees her lover, coming towards her as a ghost and then entering the cemetery.

She faints after seeing the love of her life, now dead.  But somehow the young woman has found a way to enter Death’s domain.

When she confronts Death and she anguishes over the death of her beloved, Death grants her three chances to bring back her love if she can prove that love can overcome death.

But can she defeat destiny?


VIDEO:

“Destiny” is presented in 1:33:1 and is color-tinted. It’s important to note that the 2K digital restoration supervised by Anke Wilkening on behalf of Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung is magnificent.

As for picture quality, as one can expect from a film that is a 100-years-old, you are going to see some scratches but in the context of silent films, “Destiny” looks quite magnificent as there was great love (and a lot of hardwork) that was put into this restoration.  The film on blu-ray does not exhibit any major nitrate damage, warping, blurring or blackening on the film print.

I also liked the changes that were made to this film in order to get the color tinting right to match with the storyline and its toning of its initial release.

This is another Kino Lorber Fritz Lang film that looks absolutely magnificent on Blu-ray!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Destiny” is presented in lossless stereo with German intertitles with optional English subtitles. The music featured on this Blu-ray releases is by Cornelius Schwehr as commissioned by ZDF/ARTE performed by the 70-member Berlin Rundfunk Symphony Orchestra under the director of conductor Frank Strobel.

The lossless soundtrack is crystal clear and I absolutely loved the score.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Destiny” comes with the following special features:

  • Restoration Demonstration Footage – (15:22) A comparison between the original film and the restored version of the film.
  • 2016 Re-release Trailer

“I think the main characteristic of all my pictures is this fight against destiny, against fate.  I once wrote in an introduction to a book that is the fight which is important, not the result to it…” – Fritz Lang

Before Fritz Lang would create his plethora of silent film masterpieces within his extensive oeuvre, one of his most influential and technological marvels was his 1921 silent film, “Destiny”.

Using the technology of superimposition to show the dead going through the wall, all done with filming via camera before the days of editing in a laboratory shows and what great length the filmmaker went in order to create this supernatural tragic love story.

A film of surrealism showcasing death on his mission of what is destiny, confronting a woman in anguish over the death of her love one, who dares to prove to him that love overcomes death and she can go against what is destiny.

Is love stronger than death?  Can it overcome death?  Can she prove it?

This stoic death may look threatening but this version does not have the horrors of a skeletal being cloaked in a robe or anything too macabre.  In fact, Bernhard Goetzke’s version of “Death” must perform his mission but yet he does have compassion enough to give the young woman three chances that love is stronger than death.

And so, there are three different stories in which the young woman (portrayed by Lil Dagover) must save her lover (portrayed by Walter Janssen).

The first chance/story is set in the Middle East during Ramadan, and a man, who is a Franke wants to rescue Zobeide (sister of the Caliph of Baghdad) from the palace.  But when it is revealed that the man has desecrated the holy site, he is targeted for death by everyone.  But can Zobeide rescue him?

The second chance/story is set in Quattrocento, Venice.  The story revolves around a planned sword fight between Monna Fiametta’s lover Giovan Francesco and the best swordsman, Girolamo.  Girolamo expects Monna to marry him after he kills Giovan.  But can Monna rescue her lover?

The third chance/story is set in China and the Chinese emperor wants the magician’s daughter, Tiao Tsien to be with him.  But she likes Liang instead.

Of the three stories, the third is rather fascinating for its use of special effects and its multiple uses of superimposition.

But there is a fourth chance but I would rather not spoil it with a summary as it is used as part of the final conclusion to the film.

But the film manages to exhibit surrealism, expressionism and romanticism combined with various stories to show tragedy in various aspects but how a woman feels her destiny is to be with the man she loves.

As for the restoration of this wonderful Fritz Lang film, the 2K digital restoration supervised by Anke Wilkening was fantastic.  The film looks very good considering it’s a century old and while scratches and few frames of damage do appear, there is no significant major nitrate damage or major film warping that interrupts your viewing of the film.

The lossless soundtrack features a wonderful score by Cornelius Schwehr as commissioned by ZDF/ARTE performed by the 70-member Berlin Rundfunk Symphony Orchestra under the director of conductor Frank Strobel.  The music really brings emotion to the characters and was quite pleased with the soundtrack.

In addition, there is also a restoration featurette and a trailer included.

Overall, “Destiny” is no doubt a wonderful, technical achievement by Fritz Lang for its time and one can see how this film would inspire filmmakers during that era for its use of storytelling and special effects.  This new restoration is the authorized and definitive presentation of “Destiny” and another Kino Lorber Fritz Lang Blu-ray release that I strongly recommend!

 

The Spiders (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

August 21, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

“The Spiders” is a Blu-ray release worth watching.   You often don’t come upon a silent film release in which its main protagonist has that James Bond suave look, characters traveling to exotic locations and action sequences in different parts of the world.  If you are a cineaste who is passionate about Fritz Lang’s oeuvre especially his very early works, this Blu-ray release featuring both episodes of Fritz Lang “The Spiders” films is a fine addition to add in your silent cinema collection!

Images courtesy of © 2016 Friedrich-Wilheim-Murnau-Stiftung. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Spiders (Die Spinnen)

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: (1919)  The Spiders – Episode 1: The Golden Sea (Die Spinnen, 1. Teil – Der Goldene See), (1920) The Spiders – Episode 2: The Diamond Ship (Die Spinnen, 2. Teil – Das Brillantenschiff)

DURATION: (1919)  The Spiders – Episode 1: The Golden Sea (Die Spinnen, 1. Teil – Der Goldene See – 69 Minutes), (1920) The Spiders – Episode 2: The Diamond Ship (Die Spinnen, 2. Teil – Das Brillantenschiff – 104 Minutes)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: Color Tinted, 1:33:1, Intertitles

COMPANY: Kino Classics/Kino Lorber Inc.

RATED: NOT RATED

RELEASE DATE: August 23, 2016


Episode One: The Golden Sea

Directed by Fritz Lang

Written by Fritz Lang

Produced by Erich Pommer

Music by Max Josef Bojakowski

Cinematography by Karl Freund, Emil Schunemann

Production Design by Otto Hunte, Carl Ludwig Kirmse, Heinrich Umlauff, Hermann Warm

Costume Design by Otto Hunte, Carl Ludwig Kirmse, Heinrcih Umlauff, Hermann Warm

Episode Two: The Diamond Ship

Directed by Fritz Lang

Written by Fritz Lang

Produced by Erich Pommer

Cinematography by Karl Freund

Art Direction by Otto Hunte, Carl Ludwig Kirmse, Heinrich Umlauff, Hermann Warm

Costume Design by Otto Hunte, Carl Ludwig Kirmse, Heinrich Umlauff, Hermann Warm

 


Starring:

Carl de Vogt as Kay Hoog

Ressel Orla as Lio Sha

Georg John as Dr. Telphas

Lil Dagover as Sonnenpriesterin Naela

Rudolf Lettinger as Terry Landon

Friedrich Kuhne as All-Hab-Mah

Meinhart Maur as Chinese/Bucherwurm

Paul Morgan as Jude/Diamantenexperte

Edgar Pauly as Vierfinger-John

Reiner Steiner as Kapitan des Diamantenschiffs

Thea Zander as Ellen Terry


With this exotic adventure film, director Fritz Lang established himself as a master of epic storytelling, a talent that would reach its pinnacle in such monumental films as Metropolis and Die Nibelungen. Influenced by the French serials of Louis Feuillade (Fantômas) and infused with Lang s own fascination with Asian culture, THE SPIDERS follows international adventurer Kay Hoog (Carl de Vogt) in his quest for Incan gold and the precious Buddha s head diamond. Along the way, he must contend with an organization of criminal spies known as The Spiders, who will employ any form of treachery, including murder, to snatch the artifacts from his possession.


Many decades before Steven Spielberg and George Lucas would create the “Indiana Jones” films, back in the 1919, Austrian filmmaker Fritz Lang would write and direct his adventure epic “The Spiders (Die Spinnen)”.

It all began not long after Lang was discharged from the Austrian Army, having been wounded in combat, Lang would use his time during his recovery to write ideas he had for films.  As an actor for the Viennese theater circuit, he was hired at Decla, which was a Berlin-based production studio led by producer Erich Pommer.

During the early stages of his career, Fritz Lang would create art films but his popular thriller “The Spiders” was known for combining German Expressionist techniques and popular mainstream cinema and in essence, it was considered as art house cinema.

And for many decades, this film had been considered lost until it was discovered in the 1970’s.  While a restoration was done in 1978 and released on DVD in 1999.  A new restoration was commissioned from a tinted 35mm print and footage that was not included in the 1999 DVD release was added to the 2012 DVD release courtesy of Kino Lorber Inc.  And now in 2016, the film receives a remastered HD version as “The Spiders” will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Kino Lorber.

“The Spiders” is considered to be the beginning of the golden age of silent cinema.  Originally, there was a planned trilogy but only two films were created.

The first episode “The Golden Sea” begins with a man escaping from the Inca’s who are planning to use him as a sacrifice. The man, a Harvard professor who has been missing since his travel to Peru,  writes a note, which he puts into a bottle and throws it off to the ocean before being speared.

We are then introduced to Kay Hoog (played by Carl de Vogt), a sportsman who is attending a high society party for those involved in a major yacht race from San Francisco to Japan.  But Kay is not planning to take part in the competition as he found a bottle in sea from the missing Harvard professor that said there is treasure located inside a temple of a lost Incan civilization.  Coordinates were included and now Kay hopes to travel to that area and find some treasure.

But also attending the party is Lio Sha, the head of a secret criminal organization known as the Spiders now wants that information that Hoog possesses.  And immediately, they break into Hoog’s home and steals the treasure map.

It’s a race against time as Hoog begins his expedition to find the treasure at the lost Incan civilization and hopefully get it before the Spider’s can.  But in return for them stealing his map, Hoog ends up stealing an even more important map from the Spiders on the location of The Diamond Ship.

As Kay is wanted by the Spiders and everyone trying to find the lost treasure, Kay encounters the beautiful Priestess of the Sun named Naela.  But with the Incan’s aware that there are outsiders in their area, who will live and who will die?

In episode two, “The Diamond Ship”, after facing a major tragedy caused by the hands of the Spiders, they have now made things personal for Kay.

With the Spiders now seeking a diamond on the “Diamond Ship”, the Spiders hope with the possession of the Buddha head diamond will release Asia from tyranny.  And Lio Sha believes that the diamond may be in the possession of a millionaire named Terry Landon (played by Rudolph Lettinger).  But when the Spiders do not find it, they kidnap his daughter Ellen (played by Thea Zander) and will not release her until they get the diamond.

But since Kay has the information about the Diamond Ship which he stole from the Spiders, perhaps he can find it and help bring Ellen back home.


VIDEO:

“The Spiders” is presented in 1:33:1 and is color-tinted from sepia to red.  It’s important to note that the color-tinting is not the same as the 1999 Image Entertainment DVD release.  With the new restoration that was done by the Blazena Urgosikova and Ingrid Tetkova, the main goal was to introduce some of the missing footage but also to fix the speed of the film.

With the original 1999 DVD release, there were silent film fans who were critical that “The Spiders” was a bit too fast.  I personally have not seen the 1999 DVD release but have read that the new restoration does fix that problem.  Personally, movements seemed natural to me and not overly sped up or too slow.

As for picture quality, as one can expect from a film that is 90-years-old, you are going to see some scratches but in the context of silent films, “The Spiders” looks very good and doesn’t have any major nitrate damage, warping, blurring or blackening on the film print.

While it’s not my preference to see a lot of red color tinting in the film (as I’m so used to seeing sepia, orange, blue and green), I am not too sure of the differences of the color tinting from the previous Dave Shepard restoration.

As for those who owned the Kino Lorber 2012 DVD release, you will be pleased to know that the 2016 Blu-ray releases looks even better in HD as details are much more evident.  Black levels are much sharper, gray and white scenes are well-contrast and the film just looks a bit better.  Sure, the film has not been restored, scratches still remain but this is the best I have seen of “The Spiders” yet!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Spiders” is presented in lossless stereo with English intertitles.  The music featured on this Blu-ray releases is the same Ben Model score that was featured in the 2012 Kino Lorber DVD release.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Spiders” does not come with any special features.


The release of “The Spiders” on Blu-ray is fantastic!

Compared to the older 1999 DVD release of “The Spiders”, this 2016 version is superior not only in picture quality because it’s presented in HD  because it includes lost footage and is also presented in a corrected speed.

The original Image Entertainment DVD ran for 137 minutes, this new version is 170 minutes long (which is possibly the newer footage and the slowing down of speed).  According to the credits, this version was licensed by Transit Film on behalf of the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung and archival sources were from the Cinematheque Royale de Belgique and Filmovych laboratorich Barrandov Praha.

“The Spiders” was an intriguing and surprising adventure epic.

Sure, “The Spiders” was shot many decades before the Indiana Jones films and sure, the technology involved in production has evolved a lot since 1919 and 1920 but considering what was accomplished on this film, there was a decent amount of production in recreating the Incan civilization with its appearance of Incan carved rocks in the first film and a lot of focus on makeup and costume design for both films.

The first film “Episode One: The Golden Sea” was enjoyable as you get the suave adventurer/sportsman Kay Hoog.  With the tuxedo and the slicked back hair and look that seemed more like a prototype to a James Bond film, “The Spiders” had style but it also had an intriguing story with Kay trying to get to the treasure before his adversaries, the criminal organization the Spiders and their leader Lio Sha gets to it.

And for 1919, the overall storyline was adventurous and intriguing but it’s that extra touch at the end which you don’t expect, that made the first film so much more enjoyable and exciting and making you want to see the sequel.

But one you do watch the sequel, “Episode Two: The Diamond Ship”, I felt that the second film was rushed as Fritz Lang tried to incorporate too much and focus more on the adventures and action than the storyline itself.

While it was intriguing to see Kay Hoog going underground in China Town to find Lio Sha and the Spiders, everything afterward seemed as if it was not well-planned.  As much as I enjoyed the fact that Lang wanted to take the viewer from one location to another, unfortunately, it’s not executed all that well.  There were far too many characters and unlike the first film which tried to narrow things down between Kay Hoog and Lio Sha, the storyline was all over the place.

But bare in mind, this was Fritz Lang’s earlier work, done way before “Metropolis”, “Spies”, “M” and his “Dr. Mabuse” films, but there is no doubt that with Lang working on these two films, he would improve significantly a few years later to take on films such as “Destiny” (1921), “Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler” (1922) and “Siegfried” (1924).

For any Fritz Lang cinema enthusiasts, “The Spiders” is essential viewing if you want to see Lang’s earlier work but how he tries to integrate German expressionism and arthouse with a action/adventure theme.  Whether or not it’s good, it is all subjective but I enjoyed “The Spiders”, the first episode a lot more than the second.  But for any cineaste, one can see how much Fritz Lang evolved in filmmaking during the 1920’s and eventually for hardcore fans, how much his work has changed when he left to work in America.

Overall, “The Spiders” is a Blu-ray release worth watching. You often don’t come upon a silent film release in which its main protagonist has that James Bond suave look, characters traveling to exotic locations and action sequences in different parts of the world. If you are a cineaste who is passionate about Fritz Lang’s oeuvre especially his very early works, this Blu-ray release featuring both episodes of Fritz Lang “The Spiders” films is a fine addition to add in your silent cinema collection!

 

The Kid – The Criterion Collection #799 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

February 5, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

thekid-a

“The Kid” is a Charles Chaplin masterpiece which any cineaste or silent film fan should have in their collection.  Highly recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2015 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Kid – The Criterion Collection #799

YEAR OF FILM: 1921/1922

DURATION: 53 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, black and white/color-tinted, 1:33:1 aspect ratio, Monaural

COMPANY: Janus Films/THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: February 16, 2016


Directed by Charles Chaplin

Written by Charles Chaplin

Produced by Charles Chaplin

Music by Charles Chaplin


Starring:

Carl Miller as The Man

Edna Purviance as The Woman

Jackie Coogan as The Child

Charles Chaplin as A Tramp


Charlie Chaplin was already an international star when he decided to break out of the short-film format and make his first full-length feature. The Kid doesn’t merely show Chaplin at a turning point, when he proved that he was a serious film director—it remains an expressive masterwork of silent cinema. In it, he stars as his lovable Tramp character, this time raising an orphan (a remarkable young Jackie Coogan) he has rescued from the streets. Chaplin and Coogan make a miraculous pair in this nimble marriage of sentiment and slapstick, a film that is, as its opening title card states, “a picture with a smile—and perhaps, a tear.”


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In 1921, Charles Chaplin released his first full-length film as a director titled “The Kid”.

The film is produced, written, directed and music composed by Charles Chaplin, the film would feature the America’s first child star Jackie Coogan  (who would become popular three decades later as Uncle Fester in the hit TV series “The Addams Family” from 1964).  The film would also star Edna Purviance, an actress who would play the leading lady in many of Charlie Chaplin’s early films.

In 2011, “The Kid” was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and is considered one of the greatest films of the silent era.

And now “The Kid” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of the Criterion Collection.

“The Kid” begins with an unwed woman (portrayed by Edna Purviance) leaving a charity hospital with her newborn son.  Meanwhile, the father is shown looking at her photo and the photo falling into the fireplace and would burn up.

Struggling with a decision to abandon her child, the woman leaves her baby in the back seat of an expensive automobile and she leaves behind a note with him about caring and providing love for the baby.

As the woman leaves, two thieves steal the car, unaware a baby is in the back seat.  Meanwhile, the woman has second thoughts and when she returns back to get her baby, she sees the car no longer there.    When she goes to the wealthy home where the car was parked, she finds out from the chauffeur that the car was stolen and the woman faints.

As the two thieves drive to an area of town, they hear the baby cry and put the baby near a trash can.

The baby is found by the tramp (portrayed by Charles Chaplin).  While the tramp tries to rid of the child onto other people, with police walking nearby, he is unable to and decides to raise the baby after seeing the note that came with him.

Five years later, the child (portrayed by Jackie Coogan) has been raised with street smarts, thanks to the tramp.  The tramp has taught the boy to be his partner in crime, making money by the boy breaking windows and the tramp being paid to fix them.

Meanwhile, the child’s real mother has become a successful and wealthy star.  But despite her financial success, she contributes her time doing charity work with the poor as a way to make amends for abandoning her child.

But one day, she ends up going to the neighborhood where the Tramp and child are living.


VIDEO:

“The Kid – The Criterion Collection #799” is presented in 1:33:1 black and white and in 1080p High Definition. The film looks absolutely beautiful on Blu-ray!

White and grays are well-contrast, black levels are nice and deep and the detail and sharpness is fantastic. I did not notice any issues with the picture quality with blurriness or any scratches or dust during my viewing of the film.

The film is a new 4K digital restoration of Charlie Chaplin’s 1972 re-release version of the film.

According to the Criterion Collection, “this new high-definition digital transfer was created from a 35 mm first-generation 1921 element preserved by the Cineteca di Bologna.  The element was scanned on an ARRISCAN film scanner and edited to match Charlie Chaplin’s 1972 rerelease; for a severely decayed 370-foot portion for the film, a first-generation 1921 fine-grain from the collection of Roy Export was used instead.”

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the lossless audio, “The Kid – The Criterion Collection #799” is presented in LPCM 1.0 and features Charles Chaplin’s original score. The soundtrack is fantastic and Chaplin’s score as conducted by composer Timothy Brock is just great to listen to in HD without any buzzing or crackle.

According to the Criterion Collection, “the original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from 35 mm magnetic tracks. Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD and Izotope RX 4.

Features English intertitles.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Kid – The Criterion Collection #799” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Chaplin historian Charles Maland.
  • Interviews – Featuring interviews with Jackie Coogan (11:04), Lita Grey Chaplin (10:00), cinematographer Rollie Totheroh (7:48 – audio only) and distributor Mo Rothman (9:42 – audio only).
  • Jackie Coogan: The First Child Star – (19:09) A video essay by Charles Chaplin scholar Lisa Haven about the first child star Jackie Coogan and the legacy he left behind to other child actors.
  • A Study in Undercranking – (25:09) Featuring silent film specialist Ben Model discussing how films were made and how cameras were cranked by hand.
  • Charlie Chaplin Conducts the Kid – (2:04) Brief footage shows Charlie Chaplin conducting his newly composed score for “The Kid” in 1971.
  • From the 1921 Version – (7:22) The deleted scenes Chaplin made when revisiting the film in 1971, removing three scenes featuring “The Woman” Edna Purviance.  Also, including the original First Nationa opening titles, various intertitles and closing card.
  • “Charlie” On the Ocean – (4:00) A newsreel which documents Charlie Chaplin’s first trip back to Europe after relocating to the US from England in 1914 to become a movie actor.
  • Nice and Friendly – (10:53) Filmed at Pickfair, the home of Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford in 1922, as a wedding present for Lord and Lady Mountbattten, this short features Charlie Chaplin, Jackie Coogan and the newlyweds.  Featuring a new score by composer Timothy Brock.
  • Trailers – Theatrical trailers for “The Kid”.

EXTRAS:

“The Kid – The Criterion Collection #799” comes with a six-page foldout with the essay “The Grail of Laughter and the Fallen Angel” by Tom Gunning.


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“The Kid” is a silent film that I have adored for many years but watching it on Blu-ray and seeing the detail and the beauty of the film in HD, I have fallen in love with this film once again.

It’s no doubt a masterpiece from Charles Chaplin, who wrote, starred, directed, produced and even composed the music for the film.  Going through strains of a marital breakdown and literally so much personal drama, he was able to craft a film showing how much of a cinema genius at the time.  And even now, not far from a century since this film was released in theaters we can only marvel of how well-crafted “The Kid” really is.

In fact, there were high expectations for this film, so much that Ralph Kettering, representative of Jones, Linick & Schaefer Co. stated, “The First National exhibitions’ circuit paid over to Mr. Chaplin $800,000 in gold for the purchase of this picture and we have paid an enormous sum to secure the first screening anywhere on earth here in Chicago”.

But the high expectations for Chaplin was because gossip of his divorce and his life had captivated America who hasn’t seen much of the actor.  But when his six-reeler was released, film critics were positive of his film.

The legendary silent film critic Carl Sandburg of the Chicago Daily News wrote, “‘The Kid’ is a masterpiece and should satisfy either those who want knock down and dragout or something the whole family will enjoy.”

But one must have to admit that what made this film work was finding the right child actor.  Watching many silent film with child actors, not many have that skillset as the young Jackie Coogan.  I’ve read of how mature this child was at such a young age, so much that Chaplin and other well-known silent film talents included the child in a personal film together made for a friend, but it’s the fact that this film features a wide-range of emotion and Chaplin was able to bring that out with the young Jackie Coogan.

Also, what makes this film so relevant today is the fact that the situations featured in “The Kid” still resonate strongly today.  Single parent unable to afford their child, struggles to give their baby up.  Edna Purviance as the mother who lives with her decision and is able to change her life and give back to charity in order to make amends, is something that viewers can sympathize with.

Similar to Coogan, Purviance has had a long career with Chaplin and like the short films, he is able to showcase her talent and emotions with efficacy.

But it’s that fatherly role which Chaplin provides to the kid that makes us feel laughter, sadness and just knowing that for the tramp, despite being poor and not living in the best conditions, he does what he can to parent the child and raise him.

As for the Blu-ray release from the Criterion Collection, this is a fantastic release with a good number of special features and in depth look into the film thanks to audio commentary by Chaplin historian Charles Maland, a wonderful featurette about Jackie Coogan courtesy of Chaplin historian Lisa Haven and more.

The Blu-ray is the best I have seen of “The Kid” by far.  The details and sharpness are magnificent in HD, the new score by composer Timothy Brock is fantastic!

But I have to mention that this Blu-ray release features the 1972 re-release version of the film.  An older Chaplin wanted to make some revisions for the re-release, so if you want the full version of the film, a complete version was released on LaserDisc long ago.  But the good news is that “The Kid” features the deleted scenes in the special features.

For those who owned the 2004 Warner Bros. DVD, you still want to hang on to that DVD for the Chaplin and Coogan shorts.  But it’s definitely worth upgrading to the Criterion Collection Blu-ray as this release is magnificent.

Overall, “The Kid” is a Charles Chaplin masterpiece which any cineaste or silent film fan should have in their collection.  Highly recommended!

 

The Epic of Everest (A J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 11, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

evpiceverest

“The Epic of Everest” is a fascinating documentary.  It gives us an early peek into the lives of those in Tibet during the 1920’s and also what transpired when filmmaker J.B.L. Noel and the mountaineers of the 1924 Everest Expedition began their ascent.  A silent documentary that manages to capture beauty and tragedy.  Recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2015 Kino Lorber Inc. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Epic of Everest

FILM RELEASE: 1924

DURATION: 87 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:33:1 Original Aspect Ratio, B&W with color tinting, 5.1 DTS-HD MA with with a newly commissioned score by Simon Fisher Turner.

COMPANY: Kino Classics/Kino Lorber

RATED: N/A

Release Date: September 8, 2015


Directed by J.B.L. Noel

Music by Simon Fisher-Turner


Starring:

Andrew Irvine

George Mallory


The 1924 Everest expedition culminated in the deaths of two of the finest climbers of their generation, George Mallory and Andrew Irvine, and sparked an ongoing debate over whether or not they did indeed reach the summit. THE EPIC OF EVEREST (1924) is an awe-inspiring travelogue of their perilous journey.

Filming in brutally harsh conditions with a specially adapted camera, Captain John Noel captured images of breathtaking beauty and considerable historic significance. The film is also among the earliest filmed records of life in Tibet and features sequences at Phari Dzong (Pagri), Shekar Dzong (Xegar) and Rongbuk monastery. But what resonates so deeply is Noel s ability to frame the vulnerability, isolation and courage of people persevering in one of the world’s harshest landscapes.

The restoration by the BFI National Archive has transformed the quality of the surviving elements of the film and reintroduced the original colored tints and tones. Revealed by the restoration, few images in cinema are as epic or moving as the final shots of a blood-red sunset over the Himalayas.


In 1924, filmmaker and mountaineer, J.B.L. Noel would film a documentary about English mountaineers Andrew Irvine and George Mallory on an expedition to Mount Everest.

The pair set a goal to make the first ascent of the world’s highest mountain and when the two mountaineers tried to achieve their goal on the third attempt, the two never came back down and  were declared as deceased.  Whether or not the two have successfully climbed the summit, no one would know.

But what is for certain, J.B.L. Noel documented the expedition in which the two men and others would perish during the 1924 British Mount Everest Expedition and would be featured in the documentary “The Epic of Everest”.

The film would receive digital restoration in 2013 and was re-released in UK cinemas.  And now the digitally restored version was released on Blu-ray courtesy of Kino Lorber.

The documentary “The Epic of Everest” follows Captain John Noel filming in brutally harsh and cold conditions, so harsh that two men involved in the expedition would die of frostbite and hypothermia.

The film would feature the expedition group meeting with the Sherpa and also capturing the beauty of Tibet and the Phari Dzong, Shekar Dzong and Rongbuk monastery and the documentary is also essentially one of the first to films to show life in Tibet.

But the focus is on the brave souls who took part in the expedition but to also further the debate of whether or not both George Mallory and Andrew Irvine ever climbed to the top of the summit.


VIDEO:

“The Epic of Everest” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:33:1 aspect ratio) and is color tinted.  The Blu-ray release features a new digital restoration that brings out the clarity of the film.   The film has a little wear considering it’s age, there is no major warping or nitrate damage, so for a silent film/documentary, picture quality is very good.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Epic of Everest is presented in 5,1 DTS-HD MA featuring a newly commissioned score by Simon Fisher-Turner with instruments that utilize the surround channels.  I was quite impressed by the use of the surround channels for this documentary.

The film is presented with English intertitles.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Epic of Everest” comes with the following special features:

  • Introducing the Epic of Everest – (9:02) Featuring interviews with a BFI curator, Bryony Dixon and Sandra Noel (daughter of Captain John Noel) who filmed “The Epic of Everest” and more.
  • Scoring the Epic of Everest – (8:16) A featurette about the new music score by Simon Fisher Turner.
  • Restoring the Epic of Everest – (6:19) A featurette about why and how the film was restored.
  • Trailer – (1:31) Theatrical trailer for “The Epic of Everest” for its 2013 theatrical re-release.

“The Epic of Everest” is considered a national treasure as it is an official record of what took place during the 1924 Mount Everest Expedition and what happened to the individuals who took part in the expedition.

But as the story about Andrew Irvine and George Mallory is important, I would like to first focus on Noel’s film outside of the two men.

JBL Noel had mountaineering in his blood.  Having spent time near the Himalayas in 1913, taking part in the 1922 Everest expedition as the official photographer and filmmaker and even making a short film titled “Climbing Mount Everest” in 1922.

So, there is no doubt that Noel was passionate about being a filmmaker and capturing other fellow mountaineers on camera and what best for him to film the 1924 Everest expedition with Andrew Irvine and George Mallory.

Enamored with the Tibetans and having worked with them to get to Everest, “The Epic of Everest” is a historical film in the sense of capturing the culture in the early 1920’s.  From observances of their culture, their clothing, how they raise their families, etc.

But once the expedition begins as the crew make their way and begin their climb on Everest, you are then captivated by the sheer beauty of the images of Everest that Noel was able to capture.  And also to see the brave crew push themselves to the limits.

But with each successful ascent, things become more grave as the freezing temperatures and mother nature become a force that even the best mountaineers may not be ready for.

But while J.B.L. Noel, an experienced mountaineer even knew his own personal limits, there is no doubt that he understood the magnitude of his film that would be documenting the final moments of a few of the men he met during the expedition.

So, for a beautiful documentary that showcased the gorgeous Everglades, unfortunately the film clearly demonstrates the risks that mountaineers must be prepared for, in order to scale the summit.

It’s probably one of the first documentaries that exposed people to nature in such a truthful, honest way and showing that even the most beautiful locations are challenging to film, challenging to climb and even with skilled mountaineers, even the best may not make it alive.

And while the footage was probably shocking for its time, for those of us today, we marvel at the risks taken by J.B.L. Noel as a filmmaker, because he like others in the expedition, they sacrificed their lives to strive for their goal.

And for Andrew Irvine and George Mallory, the film shows how courageous these men are, but what happened when these two skilled individuals never came back.

And while the 1999 discovery of one of the bodies gave us additional clues to what may have happened to the men, the debate of whether or not they accomplished their goal and reached the summit is not yet known.

But “The Epic of Everest” is more or less a documentation of their perseverance and moments leading to their tragic end.

As for the Blu-ray release, “The Epic of Everest” looks great in HD.  The digital restoration and remastering features more clarity and its newly commissioned soundtrack is crystal clear.  And most impressively, the use of the soundtrack and its output through the surround channels.

The additional special features were also good to see as the BFI curator discusses the importance of the film, while we get to know more about the men who gave their lives in the 1924 Everest expedition.

Overall, “The Epic of Everest” is a fascinating documentary.  It gives us an early peek into the lives of those in Tibet during the 1920’s and also what transpired when filmmaker J.B.L. Noel and the mountaineers of the 1924 Everest Expedition began their ascent.  A silent documentary that manages to capture beauty and tragedy.  Recommended!

 

Diary of a Lost Girl (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 9, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

diaryofalostgirl

“Diary of a Lost Girl” is a must-see, must-own film for silent film fans but also Louise Brooks fans.  It’s more than a classic, I tend to look at the film as one of G.W. Pabst’s top films in his lengthy oeuvre.  Louise Brooks is absolutely captivating!  Recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2015 Kino Lorber Inc. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Diary of a Lost Girl

FILM RELEASE: 1929

DURATION: 112 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:33:1 Original Aspect Ratio, B&W, German 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio with German Intertitles with Optional English Subtitles

COMPANY: Kino Classics/Kino Lorber

RATED: N/A

Release Date: October 20, 2015


Based on the Novel by Margarete Bohme

Directed by George Wilhelm Pabst

Written by Rudolf Leonhardt

Produced by Georg Wilhelm Pabst

Music by Otto Stenzeel

Cinematography by Sepp Allgeier, Fritz Arno Wagner

Art Direction by Emil Hasler, Erno Metzner


Starring:

Louise Brooks as Thymian

Andre Roanne as Count Nicolas Osdorff

Josef Rovensky as Robert Henning

Fritz Rasp as Meinert

Vera Pawlowa as Aunt Frieda

Franziska Kinz as Meta

Arnold Korff as Elder Count Osdorff

Andrews Englemann as The Director of the Estate

Valeska Gert as The Director’s Wife

Edith Meinhard as Erika

Sybille Schmitz as Elisabeth


The second and final collaboration of actress Louise Brooks and director G.W. Pabst (Pandora’s Box), DIARY OF A LOST GIRL is a provocative adaptation of Margarethe Böhme’s notorious novel, in which the naive daughter of a middle class pharmacist is seduced by her father’s assistant, only to be disowned and sent to a repressive home for wayward girls. She escapes, searches for her child, and ends up in a high-class brothel, only to turn the tables on the society which had abused her. It’s another tour-de-force performance by Brooks, whom silent film historian Kevin Brownlow calls an actress of brilliance, a luminescent personality and a beauty unparalleled in screen history.


The greatest director of German cinema, Georg Wilhelm Pabst, is known for wonderful films such as “The 3 Penny Opera”, “Westfront 1918” and two films which starred American silent film star, Louise Brooks.

In 1929, Pabst shot two films with the Brooks, “Pandora’s Box” and “Diary of a Lost Girl” and both are considered masterpiece films in his oeuvre and one of the wonderful films to come out of Weimar Germany.

An adaptation of Margarete Bohme’s “Tagebuch einer Verlorenen” (1905), a controversial but also a bestselling novel for its subject matter about a young woman forced into a life of prostitution.  The subject matter for its time was considered sensational, notorious but yet commercially successful, selling over a million copies by the end of the 1920’s.

While the film received an adaptation in 1918 by director Richard Oswald, starring Erna Morena, the film is considered lost.  While the second film adaptation by Pabst, has entertained silent film fans for generations had been heavily censored.  In 1997, a reconstruction and photochemical restoration of the originally intended version was put together by the Fondazione Cineteca di Bologna and the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung, Wiesbaden.  The film is based on a dupe-negative from the Danish Film Institute, Copenhagen and most of the missing scenes were added from a contemporary print from the Archivo Nacional de la Imagen-Sodre, Montevideo.

And now the remastered in 2K and restored print (based off the master negative) was released on Blu-ray courtesy of Kino Lorber.

The film revolves around the innocent and naive Thymian Henning (portrayed by Louise Brooks).

Thymian is the daughter of pharmacist Robert Henning (portrayed by Josef Rovensky) and the housekeeper, Elisabeth (portrayed by Sybille Schmitz) is released on the day of Thymian’s confirmation.  As Elisabeth tries to do all she can to plead to her wealthy employer to stay, because she is unmarried and pregnant, the prudish pharmacist let’s her go.

As Thymian does all she can to Elisabeth stay, she is unaware that her father’s assistant Meiner (portrayed by Fritz Rasp) knows the real truth of why Elisabeth was let go.  Because he is responsible for Elisabeth’s pregnancy.  But Meiner is a person who only cares about himself and a man who finds himself enamored by Thymian and wants her to himself.

As the day proceeds, Thymian father hires a new housekeeper named Meta (portrayed by Franziska Kinz) and unfortunately, on the day of Thymian’s confirmation, Elisabeth’s body is found, having died from an apparent suicide by drowning.

Distraught by Elisabeth’s death, she tries to find clues of why Elisabeth had died.  She goes to Meinert to learn the truth but ends up collapsing in Meinert’s arm.  Meinert uses the opportunity to take advantage of Thymian.

Many months later, it is revealed that Thymian has given birth to an illegitimate child.  The entire family wants to know who the father is but Thymian refuses to name the father.  But the housekeeper Meta tells the family that if they want to know, they must go through Thymian’s personal diary.  And it is revealed that Meinert is the father and they want Thymian to marry him immediately.

But Thymian refuses because she is not in love with him, so the family sends the baby to a midwife and wanting to punish Thymian, they send her to a very strict reformatory for wayward girls which is ran by the strict and mean manager (portrayed by Valeska Gert) and her tall assistant (portrayed by Andrews Engelmann).

Meanwhile, her friend Count Osdorff (portrayed by Andre Roanne) is disinherited by his wealthy uncle, who is not proud of his nephews lifestyle (and failing in school and trade) and strips him from any ties to the family wealth.

Thymian communicates with Count Osdorff to know of the bad conditions at the reformatory and how badly she and others are treated.  But because her father had married the new housekeeper and does not want Thymian butting into their relationship, she makes sure that Thymian’s message is never received by her father.

But the life of Thymian will never be the same as her tough life of having to survive alone, no skills to have a job and not wanting to return to the reformatory, leads poor Thymian to a life of prostitution.


VIDEO:

“Diary of a Lost Girl” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:33:1 aspect ratio) and in black and white.  Compared to the original Kino Lorber DVD, “Diary of a Lost Girl” on Blu-ray features much better clarity.  The film looks so much better in HD without the smeariness and slight blurriness of the older DVD release, it looks very good in HD!

According to Kino Lorber, “In 1997, a reconstruction and photochemical restoration of the originally intended version was put together by the Fondazione Cineteca di Bologna and the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung, Wiesbaden.  The film is based on a dupe-negative from the Danish Film Institute, Copenhagen and most of the missing scenes were added from a contemporary print from the Archivo Nacional de la Imagen-Sodre, Montevideo.”

The remastered in 2K and restored print (based off the master negative) is what people will be watching on this Blu-ray release.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Diary of a Lost Girl” is presented in 2.0 LPCM featuring a wonderful piano score by Javier Perez de Azpeitia.  The music is crystal clear through the front channels.

The film is presented with German intertitles and optional English subtitles.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Diary of a Lost Girl” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Thomas Gladysz, director of the “Louise Brooks Society”.
  • Windy Riley Goes Hollywood – (20:02) An early talkie from Educational Pictures (1931) featuring Jack Shutta and Louise Brooks.
  • Promotional Trailer – The promotional trailer for “Diary of a Lost Girl”.

There is no doubt a mystique that surrounds Louise Brooks in a G.W. Pabst film.

May it be the hairstyle, the eyes that showcase human emotion with efficacy, the delicate naivety of her character, we are instantly captivated by her beauty and also sympathize with her sorrow.

While “Pandora’s Box” is considered a Pabst masterpiece and Louise Brooks as Lulu to be one of her defining films in her career, 1929 was a year of cinematic achievements by Pabst, with progressive content way ahead of its time.

As Lulu in “Pandora’s Box” and the content within the story and its story elements of men who desire the woman and also even women being drawn to her, “Diary of a Lost Girl” deals with a different type of woman.  A woman who came from a great family, had a great heart but was victimized by those who surrounded her family and was  forced to live under difficult situations and in order to survive, with no skills in life, she has no choice but to become a prostitute.

But both of G.W. Pabst films are captivating to the viewer for its story elements and its cinematography.  People who look directly to the camera, people who move to a rhythm, characters that are flawed was a symbol of Weimar cinema but also the bold steps that Pabst would go into making a film.  Hiring an American actress over a German actress was risky for the filmmaker for “Pandora’s Box” but I have no doubt in my mind that Louise Brooks captivated viewers and became the screen vixen that many women wanted to look like and men wanted to be with.

A combination of cinematic  genius and visual beauty, “Diary of a Lost Girl” stays with you and becomes a film that you will most likely not even forget because it’s well-crafted and well-performed.

Seeing how Pabst was so well in-tuned in what he wanted from his talent, treating them differently, having them do things that may have made them feel uncomfortable but was needed to obtain the performance he imagined.  From Pabst’s working in tandem with his cinematographer in capturing the scene the way he wanted, being their early in the morning and late at night to make sure they planned the details of what shots they wanted.  It’s amazing to see all that is captured in this film.

This is a film that utilizes facial expressions and action to tell an emotional story and Pabst does a wonderful job in crafting this masterpiece.  Louise Brooks is absolutely wonderful in this film and you have no doubt in your mind why she was one of the most wanted silent actresses of her time but with that being said, she was a rebellious actress who went against Hollywood tradition, and unfortunately blacklisted (while in Germany, she was asked to refilm her 1929 film “Canary Murder Case” as a talkie, but she refused to go back to America which led to her to never get a role in Hollywood from a major company ever again).  She lived her life, made her own decisions even though it may have been a detriment to her career.

Nevertheless, her role on both Pabst films have earned her praise from critics all over the world and made her an icon of silent film.

As for the Blu-ray release, having owned the previous Kino Lorber DVD release of “Diary of a Lost Girl”, there is no doubt that this film looks so much better than the DVD release.  Better clarity and the print looks much sharper, while the piano playing (presented in 2.0 LPCM) by Javier Perez de Azpeitia is absolutely wonderful and goes with the film remarkably well.

The Blu-ray release comes with an audio commentary, a 1931 Louise Brooks talkie and a promotional trailer.

Overall, “Diary of a Lost Girl” is a must-see, must-own film for silent film fans but also Louise Brooks fans.  It’s more than a classic, I tend to look at the film as one of G.W. Pabst’s top films in his lengthy oeuvre.  Louise Brooks is absolutely captivating!  Recommended!

 

Eclipse Series #42 – Silent Ozu: Three Crime Dramas (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

April 12, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

silentozu42-a

“Eclipse Series #42 – Silent Ozu: Thee Crime Dramas” is a fantastic DVD release. The Criterion Collection has been a solid supporter of Ozu’s work and to see these three crime dramas finally be released in the U.S., has been a long time in waiting for fans of his films. If you are a big fan of Yasujiro Ozu and his films, then this Eclipse Series set is a no-brainer, “Eclipse Series #42 – Silent Ozu: Thee Crime Dramas” is highly recommended!

Image courtesy of © 1933 Shochiku Co., Ltd. 2015 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Eclipse Series #42 – Silent Ozu: Three Crime Dramas

YEAR OF FILM: Walk Cheerfully (1930), That Night’s Wife (1930), Dragnet Girl (1933)

DURATION: Walk Cheerfully (96 Minutes), That Night’s Wife (65 Minutes), Dragnet Girl (100 Minutes)

DVD INFORMATION: Black and White, Piano Score, Optional English Subtitles, 1:33:1 Aspect Ratio

COMPANY: The Criterion Collection

RELEASED DATE: April 21, 2015

 


The great Japanese filmmaker Yasujiro Ozu is best known for the stately, meditative domestic dramas he made after World War II. But during his first decade at Shochiku studios, where he dabbled in many genres, he put out a trio of precisely rendered, magnificently shot and edited silent crime films about the hopes, dreams, and loves of small-time crooks. Heavily influenced in narrative and visual style by the American films that Ozu adored, these movies are revelatory early examples of his cinematic genius, accompanied here by new piano scores by Neil Brand.


dragnetgirl

Yasujiro Ozu is one of the world’s beloved directors. Having made many films since the 1920’s, the director is best known today by cineaste for his films about the Japanese family and often its dissolution.

And while the Criterion Collection has released Ozu’s silent films via the Eclipse Series which depicted the Japanese family, during his time working for Shochiku, he also took on the gangster genre which were inspired by Hollywood cinema during the ’30s.

To showcase the films of this era, the Criterion Collection will be releasing “Eclipse Series #42: Silent Ozu: Three Crime Dramas” featuring the films (please click on the link to read the review):

“Walk Cheerfully” (1930)

“That Night’s Wife” (1930)

“Dragnet Girl” (1933)


walkcheerfully

Yasujiro Ozu’s 14th film “Hogaraka ni ayume” (Walk Cheerfuly) revolves around Kenji Koyama (portrayed by Minoru Takada), also known as “Ken the Knife”, who runs a group of thieves.

While accompanying his right hand man Senko (portrayed by Hisao Yoshitani), he is captivated by Yasue (portrayed by Hiroko Kawasaki), a woman he sees walking to a jewelry store and assumes that she is wealthy.

In truth, Yasue is poor and works hard to pay the bills to take care of her mother and her younger sister.  She hates working for her boss, because each time she is alone in his office, he sexually harasses her, often blocking the exit way, so she can leave the office.

As Ken tries to pretend he is wealthy and tries to learn how to play golf, during a drive with one of his thieves, they nearly run over a young girl.  The girl turns out to be Yasue’s younger sister and Kenji comes to their rescue.

This is the beginning of Ken and Yasue’s relationship as he learns that she is not wealthy but he loves spending every moment with her.

But when Chieko (portrayed by Satoko Date), one of the female thieves becomes jealous of Kenji going after Yasue, she tries to tell her the truth that Kenji is a gangster and that he is using her.

She finds out that Chieko is telling the truth and for Ken, the thought of not being with Yasue hurts him.  Enough for him to want to change his lifestyle and be a man that plays by the rules.

But can this former criminal escape from his past?

It was very interesting to watch an Ozu silent that revolves around a group of criminals but the film is not so far removed from the Japanese family struggles that he tended to depict in his earlier films.

“Walk Cheerfully” is no doubt a story about a man who wants to change his life, get away from crime and do all he can in order to make the girl he loves, respect him.

We see the transformation that the character Ken goes through as being a cold thief to a man with integrity.

A mix of comedy, romance and drama, “Walk Cheerfully” is an easy film to watch because of its characters but you can’t help but root for Ken and his willingness to change for Yasue.  You also want to see Yasue happy because you realized that she came from a poor family and has done all she can to take care of the family and help make ends meet.

Actor Minoru Takada does a great job at playing Ken, but he also becomes a male actor that you eventually see more and more in an Ozu film.  Actress Hiroko Kawasaki also shines as the character Yasue, a character that has to play a wide range of emotions but you also can’t help wanting to see more of her, because she brings vibrancy and innocence to the film.

thatnightswife

“That Night’s Wife” begins with a man committing a robbery at a nearby office.  He beats and ties up everyone in the office and leaves with bags of cash.

As the police are on the lookout for this criminal, when he gets home, we realize that at home, he is hardly a thug.

The criminal is Shuji Hashizume (portrayed by Tokihiko Okada), a married man and loving husband to Mayumi (portrayed by Emiko Yagamo) and has a child named Michiko (portrayed by Mitsuko Ichimura) who is very ill.

The reason why Shuji has been stealing money is primarily for his daughter as he doesn’t have any money to pay for medicine or a doctor.  And she is so ill, that she may not survive the night.

He doesn’t like the fact that he has to steal to pay for his daughters doctor bills but he has no choice.

But when the police detective Kagawa (portrayed by Togo Yamamoto) pays a visit to their home in order to capture him, the detective realizes the criminal’s true intention, but does that pardon him from the crimes that he has done?

And for those who like a little comedy, romance and drama, will surely find Ozu’s “Walk Cheerfully” to be an entertaining silent film!

The second film featured, “Sono yo no tsuma” (That Night’s Wife) is the shortest of this crime dramas and is a film adaptation of a novel by Oscar Shisgall.  It also has a more darker storyline compared to the other two crime dramas.

Watching “That Night’s Wife”, it does have a banal theme of a man driven by bad luck of his daughter’s ill health and now must steal to pay for her doctor’s bills.

While the storyline has been done and redone over again, “That Night’s Wife” is much different in the fact that you get this back-and-forth between characters, not knowing how this film is gong to end.

There is no doubt a message in the film of how crime doesn’t pay but this is a film that tries to have the viewer put themselves in the shoes of the criminal.  How far would you go for your sick child who may die any minute?

In this case, Shuji and also his wife, will do all they can to protect their family.

But as mentioned, it’s rather interesting to see how the three actors, Tokihiko Okada, Emiko Yagumo and Togo Yamamoto interact with each other through the back-and-forth scenes of who will outbest who.

Also, the film shot primarily in the family’s home and so, it’s very interesting to see how Ozu was able to capture the plight of each individual in such cramped quarters.

Once again, this film is another wonderful addition to the “Eclipse Series #42 – Silent Ozu: Three Crime Dramas”.  It’s shorter and much darker than the other two films, but still, entertaining and keeps you on your feet as how you think the film may end, may keep changing, because of the way the final 10 minutes is structured.

Still, “That Night’s Wife” is a short, entertaining silent film from Yasujiro Ozu with a wonderful performance by Tokihiko Okada, Emiko Yagumo and Togo Yamamoto.

With his inspiration coming from Hollywood films, as there were films that combined gangster activity, pool playing and even boxing, all those elements can be seen in Ozu’s “Dragnet Girl” which was shot in 1933.

The film revolves around former boxer Jyoji (portrayed by Joji Oka).  Often at the boxing club to spot the latest talent, including rookie featherweight Hiroshi (portrayed by Hideo Matsui), he is often working with his secretary Tokiko (portrayed by Kinuyo Tanaka).

Often seen as the stylish right-hand gal for Jyoji, she quickly becomes jealous when she hears that Jyoji is spending a good amount of time with Kazuko, the nice and gentle sister of Hiroshi.  And her good nature makes Jyoji think about his own life.

Jealous…how far will Tokiko go to keep Jyoji and stop him from messing around with other women.

With the third film featured in the “Eclipse Series #42 – Silent Ozu: Three Crime Dramas”, “Dragnet Girl” has a lot in common with the other two films but also the Hollywood gangster films that Ozu was enamored with.

The recurring theme of criminals wanting to get out of the profession is common. The recurring theme of a criminal changed by another woman outside of their world is common, but where Hollywood would take risks of showing a woman going so far to kill due to their jealousy (and we have seen this happen with many men), “Dragnet Girl” is fascinating in the fact that the jealous woman finds herself taking a liking to the good-natured woman as well.

Similar to “Walk Cheerfully” as the protagonist, a criminal wanting to make a change in their life for the better good, Ozu no doubt makes the viewer (especially during that era) feel that a life of crime doesn’t pay and there is always an escape.

But the obstacle in the film is that the main character, Jyoji, is being tied to that criminal world by the woman that loves him, but it’s the woman he really loves that makes him want to quit and that is the conundrum.

But leave it to Ozu to show that there is always a glimmer of hope, even for those who have committed crimes.

“Dragnet Girl” is a wonderful inclusion to the “Eclipse Series #42 – Silent Ozu: Thee Crime Dramas”. It’s no doubt a film that is inspired by Ozu’s love for Hollywood film noir.

And with these three films featured in the “Eclipse Series #42 – Silent Ozu: Three Crime Dramas”, this release gives the Ozu cineaste a chance to see more silent films created during the silent era but also another side of Ozu’s oeuvre that we would not be able to see in his other, later feature films.

Sure, they are gangster films with message of hope but you can see a glimmer of the Ozu style that he would exhibit in his later films.  From the way he shoots his characters, the way he is able to utilize small sets but also location shots.

Overall, “Eclipse Series #42 – Silent Ozu: Thee Crime Dramas” is a fantastic DVD release.  The Criterion Collection has been a solid supporter of Ozu’s work and to see these three crime dramas finally be released in the U.S., has been a long time in waiting for fans of his films.

If you are a big fan of Yasujiro Ozu and his films, then this Eclipse Series set is a no-brainer, “Eclipse Series #42 – Silent Ozu: Thee Crime Dramas” is highly recommended!

 

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