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

April 12, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

   silentozu42-a

“Walk Cheerfully” is a wonderful inclusion to the “Eclipse Series #42 – Silent Ozu: Thee Crime Dramas”.  And for those who like a little comedy, romance and drama, will surely find Ozu’s “Walk Cheerfully” to be an entertaining silent film!

Image courtesy of © 1930 Shochiku Co., Ltd. 2015 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Walk Cheerfully (from the Eclipse Series #42 – Silent Ozu: Three Crime Dramas)

YEAR OF FILM: 1930

DURATION: 96 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Black and White, Silent with piano score, Optional English Subtitles, 1:33:1 Aspect Ratio

COMPANY: The Criterion Collection

RELEASED DATE: April 21, 2015


Directed by Yasujiro Ozu

Screenplay by Tadao Ikeda

Story by Hiroshi Shimizu

Cinematography by Hideo Shigehara

Edited by Hideo Shigehara

Set Decoration by Hiroshi Mizutani


Starring:

Minoru Takada as Kenji Koyama

Satoko Date as Chieko

Hiroko Kawasaki as Yasue Sugimoto

Nobuko Matsuzono as Yasue’s Sister

Teruo Mori as Gunpei

Takeshi Sakamoto as Ono, the Company President

Utako Suzuki as The Mother

Hisao Yoshitani as Senko


In Yasujiro Ozu’s Walk Cheerfully, which gracefully combines elements of the relationship drama and the gangster story, small-time hood Kenji, a.k.a. Ken the Knife, wants to go straight for good girl Yasue but finds that starting over isn’t as simple as it sounds. This was the Japanese master’s first true homage to American crime movies, and it is a fleetly told, expressively shot work of humor and emotional depth.


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 “Walk Cheerfully” (1930), “That Night’s Wife” (1930) and “Dragnet Girl” (1933).

His 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?


VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Walk Cheerfully” is featured in 1:33:1 aspect ratio. The film is black and white and Eclipse series are films that do not receive the CRITERION COLLECTION restoration and remastering. Thus, the scratches and slight warping of the original film are very visible. The good news is that the film, despite being 85-years-old is still watchable and very enjoyable.

As for audio, this is a silent film and you can listen to a piano-driven soundtrack.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

Eclipse Series DVD’s unfortunately do not come with any special features. But with each DVD, there is a single page information (on the interior DVD cover which can be read since the DVD slim cases are clear) on the film.


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.

Overall, “Walk Cheerfully” is a wonderful inclusion to the “Eclipse Series #42 – Silent Ozu: Thee Crime Dramas”.

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 Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 17, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

cabinet-caligari

“The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” would also be remembered for the magnificent, yet creepy performances by its main talent and their movement and expressions, introducing the “twist ending” to cinema and also for its gorgeous set design that would set the course for the German Expressionist cinema movement for many years to come. For silent film fans, especially those collecting silent film on Blu-ray, “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” is a fantastic release that is highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2014 Kino Lorber Inc. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

FILM RELEASE: 1920

DURATION: 77 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Kino Classics/Kino Lorber

RATED: N/A

Release Date: November 18, 2014


Directed by Robert Wiene

Story and Screenplay by Carl Mayer, Hans Janowitz

Produced by Rudolf Meinert, Erich Pommer

Music by the University of Music, Freiburg and Paul D. Miller aka DJ Spooky

Cinematography by Willy Hameister

Production Design by Walter Reimann, Walter Rohrig, Hermann Warm

Set Decoration by Hermann Warm

Costume Design by Walter Reimann


Starring:

Werner Krauss as Dr. Caligari

Conrad Veidt as Cesare

Friedrich Feher as Francis

Lil Dagover as Jane Olsen

Hans Heinrich von Twardowski as Alan

Rudolf Lettinger as Dr. Olsen


In 1920, one brilliant movie jolted the postwar masses and catapulted the movement known as German Expressionism into film history. That movie was The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, a plunge into the mind of insanity that severs all ties with the rational world. Director Robert Wiene and a visionary team of designers crafted a nightmare realm in which light, shadow and substance are abstracted, a world in which a demented doctor and a carnival sleepwalker perpetrate a series of ghastly murders in a small community. This authoritative edition of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is a 4K restoration scanned from the (mostly) preserved camera negative at the German Federal Film Archive.


With the many adaptations of “The Cabinet of Caligari” in the last 30-years, while many may have familiarity with the 1991 remake by Peter Sellars or the 2005 remake by David Lee Fisher or even perhaps the operatic or stage versions, there is one that still remains as a true classic for cineaste.

And that is the 1920 German silent horror film directed by the legendary director of German expressionist films, Robert Wiene, and an adaptation by Hans Janowitz and Carl Mayer.

Considered as one of the most important films in the German Expressionist movement, the film was known for its abstract set design, jerky character movements but most importantly, it was the film that introduced the “twist ending” in cinema.

“The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” is an important film of cinema and while the film received restoration in the mid-’90s, it would receive a 4K restoration scanned from the (mostly) preserved camera negative at the German Federal Film Archive and would be receive its digital restoration premiere at the 64th Berlin International Festival in 2014.

And now, “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” will be released on Blu-ray in November courtesy of Kino Lorber.

“The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” begins with a flashback told by protagonist, Francis (portrayed by Friedrich Feher) and he begins telling an elderly man a story about him and his fiance, Jane (portrayed by Lil Dagover).

France tells a story about how he and his friend Alan (portrayed by Hans Heinrich von Twardowki) who were competing for the affection of Jane.  One day, while visiting a carnival at the German mountain village of Holstenwall, they see Dr. Caligari (portrayed by Werner Krauss) and his somnambulist, (a term that means “sleepwalking”) named Cesare (portrayed by Conrad Veidt) who emerges from a coffin and is controlled hypnotically by Dr. Caligari.

Dr. Caligari tells the audience that because Cesare is constantly asleep, he can predict the future and knows every secret.

This captivates Alan who goes to as Cesare of how long will he live.  And Cesare responds, “that he will die at dawn”.  This freaks out both Francis and Alan but Francis tries to keep his friend in better spirits and they should focus on competing for Jane’s affections.

But that night, an ominous figure comes into Alan’s bedroom and kills him.

As Francis is bothered by Alan’s fate and now knows that Cesare’s prophecy comes true, he tells Jane of what happened and both do their own investigation.  But as Jane goes to the circus to investigate Doctor Caligari and Cesare, Caligari learns about the investigation and Cesare is sent to kill her.

But will the evil Dr. Caligari and Cesare succeed with their evil plans or will Francis and Jane find a way to stop them?

 

 


VIDEO:

“The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:33:1 aspect ratio). This is the best I have seen of “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” to date.  From the early ’90s VHS which was not complete and quality was not good at all, to the 1995 restoration that was available on DVD which improved the film greatly.  Looking at this version is simply amazing because there is a tremendous amount of clarity and significant cleanup.  I did not see any of the damage that plagued earlier copies or the flickering that was in the previous two versions.

The 4K restoration was created by the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung in Wiesbaden from the original camera negative held at the Bundesarchiv-Filmarchiv in Berlin.  The first reel of the camera negative is missing and was completed from different prints.  Jump cuts and missing frames in 67 shots were completed by different prints.

A German distribution print is not existing.  Basis for the colors were two nitrate print from Latin America, which represent the earliest surviving prints.  They are today at hte Filmmuseum Dusseldorf and the Cineteca di Bologna.

The color tinting was fixed and I am just amazed by the digital image restoration by L’Immagine Ritrovata – Film Conservation and Restoration in Bologna.  The intertitles used were resumed from the flashtitles in the camera negative and a 16 mm print from 1935 from the Deutsche Kinemathek – Museum fur Film und Fernsehen in Berlin.

This is the definitive version of “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” to date!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” is presented in German DTS-HD MA 2.0 with optional English subtitles.  You get two musical scores, one by the University of Music, Freiburg which I absolutely loved and the other by Paul D. Miller aka DJ Spooky, for those who want a more modern take to the music of the film.  And it was great to see Kino Lorber bring in DJ Spooky because I’m a fan of his musical work and I would never expect his music to show up as a musical score in a silent film, so it’s a very good alternative for those who want something more modern and digital.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” comes with the following special features:

  • Caligari: How Horror Came to the Cinema – (52:53) A fascinating German documentary about “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari”, German Expressionist cinema and its correlation from the Weimar to the Nazi era.
  • Image Gallery – View stills from “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari”.
  • Restoration Demonstration I – (1:18) Comparison of before and after the digital restoration.
  • Restoration Demonstration II – (2:42) Comparison of the 1984 and the 2014 digital restoration.
  • Trailer – (1:08) The theatrical trailer for “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari”.

EXTRAS:

“The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” comes with a four-page insert with an essay by Kristin Thompson, film historian at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

 


“The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” is an important film for any fan of silent film.  A film that captures the style of the German Expressionist genre with amazing efficacy with its wonderful and artistic set design, the character movement and expressions up to wonderful twist, which the film is best known for introducing to cinema.

But the release of “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” on Blu-ray is amazing not only for its 4K digital restoration but for longtime cinema fans, it’s the journey of getting to this point of a complete and gorgeous looking version of the film in HD.

Back in the ’90s, “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” was available by Kino on VHS and that version was not exactly the best version to watch of the film (it was missing a lot of footage) until David Shepard produced a new restoration of the film in 1995 and it was this version that people saw a more complete vision.

But seeing this 4K Digital Restoration with its magnificent picture quality, not only are the frames that were in bad shape not as evident but the constant flickering that plagued the older version appears to have disappeared in this Blu-ray release.

There was no doubt a labor of love and dedication in bringing this film out with much better clarity, especially with the closeups of the characters and you can actually see the backgrounds much better and just value the set design as they are oddly shaped and was no doubt a design that help bring German Expressionist film to the forefront.

But what makes this film so appealing is its performance by Werner Krauss as the creepy Dr. Caligari (who would go on to be a major actor in the Nazi regime over a decade later) and his somnambulist Cesare (portrayed by Conrad Veidt, unlike his counterpart, fled Nazi Germany with his Jewish wife to become a British citizen and eventually appear in the film “Casablanca”).

I can only imagine that those who watched this movie in the theaters being scared each time these two appeared on the big screen.  Both are creepy characters and both give a great performance of a deranged doctor and a brainwashed individual and both are evil antagonists.

But then watching the film and possibly finding resolve until they get to the final scenes that no doubt is a significant twist that you never see coming.

In the United States, film critic Carl Sandburg was impressed.  In his review (which you can find in the book, “Carl Sandburg’s Film Reviews and Essays: 1920-1928”) written on May 21, 1921, Sandburg writes, “I am glad I went because I have wanted to see a different movie and this is so different it’s a knockout”.

Sandburg also tries to dissect of who this movie is for, bringing up those who loved the film for its twist ending and those who appreciate the film for being artistic and believed this was for art rather than public consumption.

But it was great to know that him and other film critics felt that back in 1921, “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” was “the most powerful and original photoplay”.

But you can understand why it was a powerful film at the time, this was the scariest silent film that year.  German Expressionist films were looked upon as art but for any movie-goer, the effect of weird body movements of a character was out of the norm and so different from any film of that era.  But like any scary story told, it wouldn’t be a horror story if you don’t feel that unsettling feeling after watching the film and in this case, it was courtesy of its twist ending which was brilliant!

As for the Blu-ray release, as mentioned, the picture quality and clarity is magnificent.  As much as I loved the David Shepard restoration of the 90’s, the 4K digital restoration of this film brings out the clarity of the film, may it be the closeups of the character’s faces or the wonderful set design.  No more film warping or damage, white specks or anything.  This restoration is amazing!  And as for the audio, two musical scores are offered.  One that you would expect from a silent film and a DJ Spooky modern musical score which is a wonderful alternative.  And as for special features, you get the 52-minute German documentary “Caligari: How Horror Came to the Cinema” and more!

1921 would become a big year for German Expressionist cinema, from Robert Wiene’s “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” to  F.W. Murnau’s “The Haunted Castle” and Fritz Lang’s “Destiny”, the film would go on to inspire Hollywood horror films and also inspire many more adaptations for many more decades to come.

“The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” would also be remembered for the magnificent, yet creepy performances by its main talent and their movement and expressions, introducing the “twist ending” to cinema and also for its gorgeous set design that would set the course for the German Expressionist cinema movement for many years to come.

For silent film fans, especially those collecting silent film on Blu-ray, “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” is a fantastic release that is highly recommended!

 

Sidewalk Stories (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

October 26, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

sidewalkstories

“Sidewalk Stories” is a unique silent film that is inspired by Chaplin but with its setting in late ’80s New York City, the film provides social commentary on the plight of the homeless and giving them a voice.  Charming, humorous but also highly entertaining, “Sidewalk Stories” is a silent film that I highly recommend!

Images courtesy of © 2014 Carlotta Films. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Sidewalk Stories

FILM RELEASE: 1989

DURATION: 101 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:85:1 Original Aspect Ratio, Black and White, 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio

COMPANY: Carlotta Films/Kino Lorber

RATED: R

Release Date: October 7, 2014

Written and Directed by Charles Lane

Produced by Howard M. Brickner, Charles Lane

Executive Producer: Chris Blackwell, Vicki Lebenbaum

Associate Producer: Jeff Pullman

Music by Marc Marder

Cinematography by Bill Dill

Edited by Charles Lane

Production Design by Ina Mayhew

Costume Design by Jane Tabachnick

Starring:

Charles Lane as the Artist

Tom Alpern as the Bookseller

Nicole Alysia as the Child

Sandye Wilson as the Young Woman

Tanya Cunningham as Girlfriend

Toni Ann Johnson as Girlfriend

Ellia English as Bag Lady

Edie Falco as Woman in Carriage

Ed Kershen as Detective Brooks

A young artist living in New York, on the fringes of the financial district and its rushing crowds, tries to make a living sketching passersby on the street. He survives on his meager means and has found refuge in an abandoned building. One night, on the corner of a back alley, he finds a little girl whose father has just been murdered. While struggling to take care of her, he meets a young rich woman who immediately falls in love with this awkward couple.

Twenty years before THE ARTIST, SIDEWALK STORIES portrays the friendship of a tramp and a child, in a moving and funny homage to Chaplin’s THE KID. Both witty and tender, Charles Lane’s gorgeous black and white comedy pays tribute to the silent film era, with a score composed by Marc Marder. Charles Lane accurately captures the daily life of the homeless population of New York with a cinéma vérité approach that undoubtedly reminds of Lionel Rogosin’s ON THE BOWERY. His film is also an important work of the New African-American cinema of the 1980s, along with Spike Lee’s DO THE RIGHT THING and John Singleton’s BOYZ N THE HOOD, that conveyed a strong political message. Finally, with this gripping tale of the underprivileged and its beautiful portrayal of the city, SIDEWALK STORIES uniquely draws on social satire to deliver a timeless message of generosity and love.

With the success of the 2011 modern silent film “The Artist”, which helped rejuvenate interest in silent films, there was also a film back in 1989 that helped bring interest in the film genre.

In 1989, the American low-budget silent film titled “Sidewalk Stories” was created and directed by Charles Lane and received positive feedback as it paid homage to Charlie Chaplin’s 1921 film “The Kid”.  The fim would be donimated for “Best First Feature”, “Best Director” and “Best Male Lead” at the Independent Spirit Awards and would win the “Audience Award” at the Wurzburg International Filmweekend in 1990.

“Sidewalk Stories” was televised on PBS and on cable, while being released on VHS until it was out of print and never seen again.

Fastforward nearly 25-years later and the film would receive restoration by Carlotta Films with the support of the Centre National Du Cinema Et De L’Image Animee (CNC) from the original camera negative.  Restoration work was carried out by L’Immagine Ritrovata of Bologna in 2013.

And now the restored film will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Kino Lorber.

For director Charles Lane, the African-American actor and filmmaker would create a silent short back in 1989 titled “A Place in Time” based on the Kitty Genovese incident (Genovese was murdered in 1964 in Queens and despite over 30-people hearing the struggle and screams, barely anyone did anything to help or get help).    The film would win a student Academy Award and would build interest in his work and allow Lane to create two more films, “True Identity” and “Sidewalk Stories”.

With “Sidewalk Stories”, Charles Lane would showcase his admiration for slaptick and Chaplin’s “The Kid”.

“Sidewalk Stories” features Charles Lane as an artist trying to survive in New York city and competing with other artists on the street.  After trying to make a day’s worth of money, we learn that the artist lives in an abandoned building and just trying to survive with what little money he makes.

He tries to draw a picture of a woman but she ends up falling on top of him.  Embarrassed, she pays him and leave.

One day, a couple with a child are strolling near the area at night.  The couple are arguing and he wants to gamble on the streets, while his wife wants the artist to draw her child.  The man loses his money quickly and begs his wife to give him more, which she doesn’t want to.  He eventually slaps her and takes the money and the child with him.

While the artist is walking, he sees the gambling man in a squabble with a few thugs and one eventually stabs him and steals his money.  As the artist goes to check on him and realizes that he is dying.  The man dies and the artists finds a photo of his wife and child.

As the artist takes the child, knowing he doesn’t have money to take care of her, tries to leave her on the sidewalk.  But feeling bad for her, he ends up trying to take care of her.

He goes into a children’s boutique and tries to steal children’s clothing and the owner happens to be the woman that he tried to draw earlier.  She is aware that he was trying to steal clothing but she lets him leave and giving the little girl a stuffed animal of Big Bird and glasses.

And often, the woman goes to visit the artist and the child and try to help them out by giving him extra money, which he ends up putting back in her coat pocket.

While the artist tries to continue his work, he is having a difficult time making money.  When he goes to teach her how to paint, he realizes that more and more people start to show up as people are willing to give donations because of the little girl.  Meanwhile, two homeless men watch and see how this girl has made money for the artist and now, these men are planning to kidnap her.

Meanwhile, the mother of the child is desperate because she finds out that her husband has been murdered and her baby girl is missing.  And there are no leads of where her daughter may be.

And as the artist takes care of the child, in the short time that she has spent with him, he realizes how much this little girl has made an impact on his life, but he knows that he can’t take care of her forever.

VIDEO:

“Sidewalk Stories” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio). The film would receive restoration by Carlotta Films with the support of the Centre National Du Cinema Et De L’Image Animee (CNC) from the original camera negative.  Restoration work was carried out by L’Immagine Ritrovata of Bologna in 2013.

The film was scanned and restored at 2K resolution. After scanning, images were digitally stabilized and cleaned, and all wear marks were eliminated.

Picture quality is great as it retains the grain but the video is sharp and well-contrast.  There is no problems with exposure and white and grays look great, while black levels are nice and deep.  I didn’t notice any problems with any film warping, artifacts or any negative issues during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Sidewalk Stories” is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 and the musical soundtrack is crystal clear.  According to Carlotta films, for sound restoration, after digitization, the soundtrack was digitally cleaned and background noised reduction eliminated all wear marks.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Sidewalk Stories” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary  – Featuring audio commentary by Charles Lane and Marc Marder
  • Vibrations – (27:59) Interviews with director Charles Lane and composer Marc Marder.
  • “A Place in Time” – (34:17) The 1977 short by Charles Lane that initiated the project of “Sidewalk Stories”.
  • 2013 Trailer – (1:26) The 2013 theatrical trailer for “Sidewalk Stories”.

EXTRAS:

“Sidewalk Stories” comes with a slipcover.

“Sidewalk Stories” is a silent film that captivates you right from the beginning of the film.

A film that captures New York City and the struggle of homeless trying to get by as street vendors, a silent film that captures New York City  in the late ’80s but also a film that utilizes an African-American cast but almost in Chaplin fashion, showcasing a dramatic musical score to set the mood, but a film that rides on the chemistry between a struggling artist, an energetic child and caring woman.

An ode to Chaplin’s “The Kid”, viewers watching a Chaplin film are expecting physical comedy and the best facial expressions and movements of the Tramp.

With “Sidewalk Stories”, part of the unknown and lends to the efficacy of the film is we do not know director/actor Charles Lane.

Are we going to see physical comedy?  Is this film more or less an African-American take on Chaplin’s “The Kid”?

What we get is a film that captures the plight of the homeless in New York City, the film captures wonderful chemistry between actor Charles Lane and the young Nicole Alysia.  And while the musical score sets the mood, you can only hope the child actor can bring spontaneity and moments that will eventually win your heart.

Charles Lane accomplishes that with his film.  The casting of Nicole Alysia worked because she shows an energetic side but also showing us trust that her character, a young girl, has no one but the artist to trust.  The artist being poor, is willing to do all he can to take care of the girl, even if he doesn’t have the financial means to do so.

He is a man that struggles to survive but he also is a man of honor that he will give a paying client their extra change or at times, not take their money, even though he knows it would help him.

Without spoiling the ending, it’s a finale that is surprising but realistic and even 25-years-later since the film has been made, we know that nothing much has changed and it’s a story that remains relevant even today.

As for the Blu-ray release, the picture quality of the restored film is fantastic.  The film is well-contrast and detail is evident throughout the film.  There is a good amount of grain that can be seen and if anything, “Sidewalk Stories” looks great in HD!  The musical score is also crystal clear through the front channels with no signs of hiss, crackling or pops.  And you also get a good number of special features including an audio commentary with director/actor/producer Charles Lane and composer Marc Marder.  You also get an exclusive interview with both men plus Charles Lane’s short film “A Place in Time” which he created back in 1977.

Overall, “Sidewalk Stories” is a unique silent film that is inspired by Chaplin but with its setting in late ’80s New York City, the film provides social commentary on the plight of the homeless and giving them a voice.  Charming, humorous but also highly entertaining, “Sidewalk Stories” is a silent film that I highly recommend!

 

The Max Linder Collection (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

May 31, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

max-linder-cover

I’m quite thrilled that Kino Classics has brought “The Max Linder Collection” to North America and their dedication towards silent cinema in bringing films of well-known names of yesteryear for today’s silent film fans continues. “The Max Linder Collection” is highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2014 Kino Lorber.  All rights reserved.

DVD TITLE: The Max Linder Collection

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: The Three Must-Get-Theres (1922), Be My Wife (1921), Seven Years Bad Luck (1921), Max Wants a Divorce (1917)

DURATION: The Three Must-Get-Theres (57 Minutes), Be My Wife (57 Minutes), Seven Years Bad Luck (64 Minutes), Max Wants a Divorce (27 Minutes)

DVD INFORMATION: B&W and color tinted, English Intertitles, Music by Maud Nilessen, Eric Le Guen, Robert Israel and Donald Sosin

COMPANY: Kino Lorber, Lobster

RATED: NOT RATED

RELEASE DATE: May 27, 2014

Three Must-Get-Theres

Directed by Max Linder

Based on the novel “Les Trois Mousquetaures” by Alexandre Dumas Pere

Cinematographer by Max Dupont, Enrique Juan Vallejo

Be My Wife

Written and Directed by Max Linder

Produced by Max Linder

Cinematography by Charles Van Enger

Seven Years Bad Luck

Max Linder as Max

Alta Allen as Betty – His Valet

Betty K. Peterson as Mary – His Maid

F.B. Crayne as His False Friend

Chance Ward – The Railroad Conductor

Hugh Saxton as the Station Master

Thelma Percy as Station Master’s Daughter

C.E. Anderson as a Jail Bird

Max Wants a Divorce

Written and Directed by Max Linder

Assistant Director: Leo White

Starring:

Three Must-Get-Theres

Max Linder as Dart-in-Again

Bull Montana as Li’l Cardinal Richie-Loo

Frank Cooke as King Louis XIII

Caroline Rankin as Queen Anne

Jobyna Ralston as Constance Bonne-aux-Fieux

Be My Wife

Max Linder as Max, the Fiance

Alta Allen as Mary, the Girl

Caroline Rankin as Aunt Agatha

Lincoln Stedman as Archie

Rose Dione as Madame Coralie

Charles McHugh as Mr. Madame Coralie

Viora Daniel as Mrs. Du Pont

Arthur Clayton as Mr. Du Pont

Seven Years Bad Luck

Max Linder as Max, the Fiance

Max Wants a Divorce

Max Linder as Max

Martha Mansfield as Max’s Wife

Helen Ferguson

Francine Larrimore

Ernest Maupain

Kino Classics and Lobster Films celebrate the legacy of Max Linder , a pioneer of slapstick whom Charlie Chaplin referred to as “the great master.” With his trademark silk top hat and cane, the French-born Linder blended slapstick with sophistication, and invested his films with a layer of cleverness that elevated them above mere knockabout comedies, paving the way for such multi-dimensional screen comedians as Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Harold Lloyd.  The collection includes three films: THE THREE MUST-GET-THERES (1922), SEVEN YEARS BAD LUCK (1921), and BE MY WIFE (1921), plus a bonus short.

When it comes to silent comedy, typically people are familiar with names such as Charles Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, Fatty Arbuckle, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy.  But there are many names that are not as well-known to modern society such as Charley Chase, Harry Langston, Ben Turpin, Musty Suffer, to name a few.

But there was one man from France who captivated viewers during those silent years and his name was Max Linder.

Known for his suave and dapper style, often wearing a hat and a suit and always charming the women around him.

In fact, no matter where he traveled around the world, he was mobbed by his female fans and was literally the first International movie star.

He directed wrote and directed his own films, was one of the most financially successful comedians during the silent era (making 1 million Francs back in 1912), the man responsible for introducing future star Maurice Chevalier and is known for inspiring Charlie Chaplin.

Unfortunately, like other silent film stars who were not able to transcend from the silent era to the sound era, Max Linder’s career was hindered due to a German poison gas attack when he was called to serve during World War I.

Despite having opportunities to revive his career in America, because of his ill-health and his fading popularity, Linder was unable to jump start his career and unfortunately lived the remainder of his young life in severe depression.

In 1923, he and his wife made a suicide pact and both were successful in killing themselves in 1925.

For Charlie Chaplin, the death of Max Linder was a blow to him as Chaplin looked up to Linder as mentor.  Chaplin, hearing about Linder’s death, closed down his studio to honor him and in one of his movies, Chaplin wrote the following dedication, “For the unique Max, the great master – his disciple Charles Chaplin”.

Unfortunately, Max Linder has become an unknown to many people who are familiar with Chaplin or Keaton, but before there was the tramp, there was Max.

While Max Linder received a special DVD release back in 2003 courtesy of Image Entertainment titled “Laugh with Max Linder”, the DVD has since gone out of print.  But now, Kino Classics will release “The Max Linder Collection” as part of their “Slapstick Symposium” silent comedy DVD line.

Featured in this DVD set are the following films: “The Three Must-Get-Theres” (1922), “Be My Wife” (1921), “Seven Years Bad Luck” (1921) and “Max Wants a Divorce” (1917).

“The Three Must-Get-Theres” is based on the classic tale of “The Three Musketeers” but in this comedy, Max plays a clumsy man who leaves his rural home and tries to find a job as a musketeer in Paris.  Immediately arriving in town, Max is smitten by Constance Bonne-aux-Fieux (portrayed by Jobyna Ralston), saving her from a man.

Meanwhile, looking for a job as a musketeer, he finds out the local boss they are short of a body, thus missing the discount for burial.  So, wanting to become a big man, Max wants to prove himself as a musketeer and save the day.

In the second film “Be My Wife”, Max does all he can to win the affections of Mary (portrayed by Alta Allen), with the support of her Aunt Agatha (portrayed by Caroline Rankin). But when another man who is in love with Mary tries to convince her that Max is the wrong guy to marry.  But when a drunk Max ends up messing around with two women, Mary wants her revenge.

In the third film “Seven Years Bad Luck”, Max Linder plays the suave character named Max, a wealthy man who gets drunk one night.  Meanwhile, the following morning, while he is sleeping, his valet John (played by Ralph McCullough) and his maid Mary (played by Betty Peterson) are having fun with each other and in the process, accidentally break Max’s mirror.

As John and Mary call the mirror maker to prepare another mirror and have it delivered to Max’s home immediately, the two enlist the chef (played by Harry Mann) to imitate Max’s actions on the mirror and make him think that he is looking at his own reflection.

First Max questions the way he looks in the mirror but John tells him that after a hard night of drinking, their facial features change.  At first Max accepts this answer and as the chef is able to mimic nearly every move that Max is doing, when both bend over and turn around, Max bumps into the chef’s rear end and realizes the prank.

But before he is able to swat his chef on the head with his shoe, he receives a call from his fiance Betty (played by Alta Allen) for him to come over.  But while he is on the phone, the delivery people come by to replace the mirror just in time.

After Max is done with his phone call and gets back to the mirror, he throws his slipper at it expecting to hit the chef but instead, shatters the mirror into pieces.

Unfortunately, because Max is quite a superstitious man, he knows that breaking a mirror will give you seven years of bad luck.

Max is so bothered by this that he can’t ride his car (thinking he will die in an accident), afraid of other transportation as well, but when he meets a fortune teller, she tells him that a dog will interfere with his life.  Meanwhile, Max’s best friend and rival is trying to get close to his fiance Betty but she turns him down.

So, when Max eventually gets to Betty’s home, he notices that her little dog is there and while Betty is out, he tries to put the dog in a flower vase, so the dog doesn’t disturb his time with Betty.

Unfortunately, when Betty comes back and the two discuss their future together, she notices her dog is missing and when Max tries to hide it, the dog is all wet and immediately, Betty thinks that Max tried to harm her dog and breaks off their engagement.

Feeling that he has seven years of bad luck, Max decides that he needs to leave for awhile and when he goes to travel by train to an unknown destination, he is robbed of his money.  With no money, he does all he can to sneak on the train and by doing so, Max will undergo an exciting adventure as he tries to allude the authorities who are hot on his tail.

For the short, “Max Wants a Divorce”, Max and his wife (portrayed by Martha Mansfield) are happily married.  But not long after he is married, he is contacted that a relative has died and will be leaving him millions of dollars if he is not married and remains a bachelor.

Seeing the potential of being a rich man, he and his wife formulate a plan to get divorce by Max being caught with another woman, so he can get his inheritance.  But when Max eyes start moving towards another woman, his wife tries to disguise herself as a maid to see how far Max would go into “being caught with another woman”.  Will it affect his relationship with his wife?

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“The Max Linder Collection” received the digital remaster treatment courtesy of Lobster Films.  The four films show differences in picture quality, with the “Three Must-Get-There’s” and “Be My Wife” in the best shape, while “Seven Years Bad Luck” is OK and “Max Wants a Divorce” in not the best quality but considering that Max Linder films are hard to come by, the fact that it’s complete, very watchable, I was perfectly fine with it.

For music, “The Three Must-Get-There’s” features a composition and arrangement by Maud Nelissen, “Be My Wife” featuring music by Eric Le Guen, “Seven Years Bad Luck” featuring music compiled by Robert ISrael using authentic period arrangements of silent film music and “Max Wants a Divorce” featuring music by Donald Sosin.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Max Linder Collection”comes with no special features.

With the release of Kino’s “The Max Linder Collection”, finally silent film fans are getting a new DVD release featuring “Seven Years Bad Luck”, the complete “Be My Wife” (which was only offered as an excerpt in the 2003 DVD release “Laugh with Max Linder”) plus “The Three Must-Get-Theres” and “Max Wants a Divorce”.

It is truly a shame that many people have forgotten about Max Linder and his accomplishments in the silent era.

But he was possibly the equivalent to a Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise of the early 1900′s and early teens.  The highest paid actor possibly in the world at that time (1912) and women would literally fall whenever they saw him in public, as he traveled to various countries around the globe and he was the most noticeable star and considering that cinema was just blossoming at the time, he was a man who did it all.   He wrote, directed, produced his own films and he inspired many people including Chaplin.

It’s unfortunate that his career was cut short because of the first World War and from that injury, had to battle ill-health afterward and never really could get back to the limelight even when he was given the opportunity to make things happen in Hollywood.

But despite how tragic his career and life ended, like many other silent film stars, they were unable to cope with their lifestyle change from being a huge star during the silent film era and then losing the fame and money during the talkies.  For Max Linder, he was probably a man that could have transcended to the talkies if he had not battled these health problems but what is important now is that his name and his work be remembered.

While those who previously owned the 2003 DVD release of “Laugh with Max Linder” will enjoy the three additional films that are included on “The Max Linder Collection”, it’s important to note that the two DVD’s are not the same and are very different.  The only similarity is that “Seven Years Bad Luck” are featured on both DVD’s and that is it.  Personally, both are worth owning as the 2003 DVD offered Max’s early short sketches, while this 2014 DVD release featuyres the complete “Be My Wife” which I absolutely enjoyed, the Douglas Fairbanks spoof “The Three Must-Get-Theres” and the short “Max Wants a Divorce”.

So, when it comes to Max Linder releases, there aren’t many out there.  And the other one that is out there and available on Blu-ray is from France titled “Le Cinema de Max Linder” (2012) which features a few of his earlier shorts that fans have wished for a release in North America and the restoration work of his films plus the documentaries and overview by his only child, his daughter Maud Linder.

But as for “The Max Linder Collection”, this DVD alone will show you how talented a performer he was and all four were among the six films he made in the United States, I am not sure if the other two “Max Comes Across” or “Max in a Taxi” is lost but the fact that the four films featured on this DVD were lost and were discovered in Europe, remastered and finally released, shows how scarce his films are and how fortunate we are to finally have the opportunity to watch these Max Linder films today.

I’m quite thrilled that Kino Classics has brought “The Max Linder Collection” to North America and their dedication towards silent cinema in bringing films of well-known names of yesteryear for today’s silent film fans continues.

“The Max Linder Collection” is highly recommended!

 

 

 

 

The Freshman – The Criterion Collection #703 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

March 23, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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As a long time silent film fan, having collected and watch many films over the years, you come across magnificent releases that give silent film fans their money’s worth.  The Criterion Collection’s “The Freshman” is one of those elite titles in the collection that cineaste who appreciate silent cinema, will want to own in their collection. “The Freshman” is highly recommended!  5 stars!

Image are courtesy of © 2013 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: The Freshman – The Criterion Collection #703

YEAR OF FILM: 1925

DURATION: 76 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:33:1 aspect ratio, Black and White/Tinted, Silent

COMPANY: Harold Lloyd Entertainment, Inc./THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: March 25, 2014

Directed by Fred C. Newmeyer, Sam Taylor

Story by Sam Taylor, Ted Wilde, John Grey and Tim Whelan

Executive Producer: Suzanne Lloyd Hayes

Producer: Hal Roach

Cinematography by Walter Lundin

Music: Carl Davis

Edited by Allen McNeil

Art Directon by Liell K. Vedder

Starring:

Harold Lloyd as Harold Lamb a.k.a. Speedy

Jobyna Ralston as Peggy

Brooks Benedict as The College Cad

James Anderson as The College Hero

Hazel Keener as The College Belle

Joseph Harrington as The College Tailor

Pat Harmon as The Football Coach

Harold Lloyd’s biggest box-office hit was this silent comedy gem, featuring the befuddled everyman at his eager best as a new college student. Though he dreams of being a big man on campus, the freshman’s careful plans inevitably go hilariously awry, be it on the football field or at the Fall Frolic. But he gets a climactic chance to prove his mettle—and impress the sweet girl he loves—in one of the most famous sports sequences ever filmed. This crowd-pleaser is a gleeful showcase for Lloyd’s slapstick brilliance and incandescent charm, and it is accompanied here by a new orchestral score by Carl Davis.

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The year was 1925…it was a magnificent year for silent cinema.

Sergei Eisenstein had “Battleship Potemkin”, Buster Keaton with “Go West”, Charlie Chaplin with “The Gold Rush”, F.W. Murnau with “The Last Laugh”, Mary Pickford in “Little Annie Rooney”, to name a few.

But there was one man who had constant success in the box office in the United States.  Considered today as one of the silent kings of comedy, Harold Lloyd was one of the most reliable talents during the Roaring 20’s.

And with the sport of American football becoming popular in America, especially on college campuses as thousands would turn out to watch a college football game or listen to a game via a radio broadcast, Harold Lloyd was always up to date on trends and knowing the state of football in America, he knew that his film “The Freshman” would have to incorporate it and sure enough, he would have another hit to add to his oeuvre.

“The Freshman” was one of the final films that Harold Lloyd would have distributed through Pathe and it was also his biggest box office success.  “The Freshman” would jumpstart a number of college films in the late 1920’s and it’s no surprise.  The film was a big hit and life of going to a college or watching a sport on the big screen was inspiring to people all across the nation.

“The Freshman” is believed to be one of Harold Lloyd’s greatest films of all time.  And now the enduring classic, “The Freshman” will be released on Blu-ray+DVD combo courtesy of the Criterion Collection.

In “The Freshman”, Harold Lloyd plays the character role of Harold Lamb, a young man who has dreamed of going to college.

Inspired by a college film he watched, he has learned the moves and lingo and can’t wait to use it with his fellow students. Having worked hard to be a college student and wanting to be popular, Harold can’t wait to start at Tate University.

While en route to Tate University by train, he is seated next to Peggy (portrayed by Jobyna Ralston) and are as mistaken as lovers.

When he arrives to the area, immediately he is spotted by college seniors especially the college cad (portrayed by Brooks Benedict) who see him as a loser and want to have their fun with them by giving him misinformation of how to be popular.

After proclaiming himself with the name “Speedy” and students using him to spend a lot of his money on ice cream, his lack of funds lead him to stay in a low-cost room where Peggy works.

Seeing Peggy makes Harold happy and he becomes smitten with her.

But as Harold wants to become popular like the school hero/jock (portrayed by James Anderson), he is told that if he joins the football team, he will become a popular man on campus.

And now, Harold will do all he can to achieve popularity, not knowing that students are just having fun with him at his expense.

VIDEO:

“The Freshman is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:33:1 aspect ratio) in black and white and tinted. Because Harold Lloyd believed in protecting his films, he was among the first to have his films preserved. Not only were these films under lock and key in safes, he did whatever he can to make sure they were protected from fires or any damage. It’s important to note that nitrate film does catch fire and he did experience a fire despite trying to protect his films, but fortunately because of that, it led Harold Lloyd to preserve his films.

And so, a lot of his films look fantastic compared to other silent films of that year or era. At nearly 90-years-old, picture quality for “The Freshman”, looks incredible on Blu-ray. The film is color tinted with slight yellow and details for this silent film in HD is very good. To see this film in HD versus the original 2005 DVD release, you notice how clear the film looks. There are no signs of major damage, dark flickering or white specks. Because the film is in HD, closeups and background look so much clearer and well-detailed. I was impressed!

According to the Criterion Collection, “The film is presented in its original aspect ration of 1:33:1.  This new digital transfer was created in 4K resolution on a Northlight film scanner from the UCLA Film & Television Archive’s 1998 restoration negative.  The UCLA restoration, supervised by preservation officer Robert Gitt and funded by David and Lucille Packard Foundation, utilized footagefrom both the foreign release version, named “College Days”, and the domestic release version.  Footage from the original camera negative of the foreign version, which was shot by a second camera, from a slightly different angle, makes up about 60 percent of the UCLA restoration; it was used because it was the domestic version version, which survived only through duplicate elements of lesser quality.  Tinting was facilitated by following directions printed on leaders of the original nitrate materials.  Further restoration was performed for this release by the Criterion Collection in collaboration with L’Immagine Ritrovata in Bologna, Italy.  Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices and warps were manually restored using MTI’s DRS and Diamond, while Digital Vision’s Phoenix was used for small dirt, grain, noise management, jitter and flicker.”

AUDIO/INTERTITLES:

“The Freshman” is presented in LPCM 2.0.  The new musical score from Carl Davis is crystal clear, especially the sounds of the bell ringing during Harold’s gala scene.  While I love the clarity of the score, I do wish that Robert Israel’s score was included as one of the audio choices.

There are no subtitles because it is a silent film, but there are intertitles.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Freshman – The Criterion Collection #703” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio commentary – Featuring the original 2005 audio commentary which features film historian Richard Bann, director and film archivist Richard Correll and director and Harold Lloyd archivist Richard Correll.
  • Harold LLoyd’s Funny Side of Life – (29:37) A theatrical program presented with “The Freshman” for its re-release.
  • Short Films – Featuring three Harold Llyd shorts: “The Marathon” (1919 – Duration: 13:58), “An Eastern Westerner” (1920 – Duration: 27:37) and “High and Dizzy” (1920 – Duration: 27:15).
  • Kevin Brownlow and Richard Correll – (39:48) A 2013 featurette at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts and discuss Harold Lloyd’s career.
  • Harold Lloyd: Big Man on Campus – (16:27) A visual essay by John Bengston, revisiting locations featured in “The Freshman”.
  • Delta Kappa Alpha Tribute = (29:21) USC’s Delta Kappa Alpha honoring the pioneers of cinema and honoring Harold Lloyd in Jan. 6, 1963.
  • What’s My Line? – (6:31) Harold Lloyd appearng as a mystery guest on “What’s My Line?” in April 26, 1953 to promote a theatrical re-release of “The Freshman”.

EXTRAS:

“The Freshman – The Criterion Collection #703” comes with a 22-page booklet featuring the essays “Speed Saves the Day! A Harold Lamb Adventure” by Stephen Winer.

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While my forever favorite Harold Lloyd film will always be “Safety Last”, “The Freshman” is no doubt one of the better Harold Lloyd films that have been released on video and with this Criterion Collection version, silent film fans will no doubt love the clarity of this classic in HD!

I enjoyed “The Freshman” for a multitude of reasons.  For one, as much as I love Harold paired with Mildred Davis (who would later become his wife), I’ve also enjoyed his pairings with Bebe Daniels and Jobyna Ralston.  Jobyna appears as the love interest for Harold in “The Freshman” and she is absolutely captivating and the pairing with Lloyd/Ralston was great to watch again!

The second reason why I enjoy this film is for its historical place of being one of the surviving feature silent films featuring American football but also giving us a glimpse of early Los Angeles and various California stadiums during the popularity of football during the 1920’s.

Which leads to my third reason is its college atmosphere and sports.  Buster Keaton would attempt this a few years later with his film “College” but “The Freshman” is much more appealing, entertaining and a lot of fun!  So, much of “College” focused on Buster Keaton, which was not a bad thing but it focused too much on him.  While “The Freshman” tries to utilize characters such as Peggy, the college hero or even the cad with efficacy.  While the gala in regards to the clothing bit went a little too long for my taste, I did enjoy this film.  And the fact that what we are seeing is the full version, without the cuts that were made decades after the silent film debuted in theaters.

And last, it’s watching this film in HD that really made me see this film in a different light compared to watching the film via the “Harold Lloyd Comedy Collection” DVD box set.  For example, one thing that I noticed in HD watching this film once again but never noticing is how the HD really gives awesome clarity and detail for closeups.  Especially for Jobyna Ralston.  You can see the clarity when it comes to her eyes and her eyelashes, which I never really took notice on DVD.

Another plus for this HD restoration is the fact that a long time ago, “The Freshman” wasn’t even chosen by Photoplay Productions for restoration during the ’90s and back then, obtaining the Time Life video was hard to come by and the only way to watch this film was on VHS and television until 2005 with the DVD release.  So, those watching this film, probably do not know how difficult it was for Harold Lloyd fans to watch this film 20-years-ago.  And how fortunate they are to watch this film in HD in 2014.

As for the Blu-ray release, aside from awesome picture and audio quality, I was quite pleased with the Criterion Collection release because fans are getting their money’s worth.  Not only are there lengthy special features but fans are getting three classic silent film shorts. Included are the restored versions of “The Marathon”, “An Eastern Westerner” and “High and Dizzy”.

But in addition to these features and shorts is giving fans what they want and there are three names that made me smile prior to watching this Blu-ray release and that there are two featurettes, one with renown film historian Kevin Brownlow and Harold Lloyd’s longtime archivist, Richard Correll in a conversation with each other.  The other is John Bengston, best known for his books and visual essays showcasing silent film locations and how the locations are today.

Overall, as a long time silent film fan, having collected and watch many films over the years, you come across magnificent releases that give silent film fans their money’s worth.  The Criterion Collection’s “The Freshman” is one of those elite titles in the collection that cineaste who appreciate silent cinema, will want to own in their collection.

“The Freshman” is highly recommended!  5 stars!

 

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Deluxe Edition (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

January 18, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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If you are a cineaste who wants to watch one of the first American horror films ever created or just a person who wants to experience a silent horror film on Blu-ray, “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Deluxe Edition” is definitely recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2014 Kino Lorber Inc. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Deluxe Edition

FILM RELEASE: 1920

DURATION: 79 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:33:1,  English Intertitles

COMPANY: Kino Classics

RATED: Not Rated

Release Date: January 28, 2014

Directed by John S. Robertson

Written by Robert Louis Stevenson

Scenario by Clara Beranger

Produced by Adolph Zukor

Music compiled by Rodney Sauer, Performed by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra

Cinematography by Roy F. Overbaugh

Art Direction by Clark Robinson

Set Decoration by Charles O. Seessel

Starring:

John Barrymore as Dr. Henry Jekyll/Mr. Edward Hyde

Brandon Hurst as Sir George Carewe

Martha Mansfield as Millicent Carewe

Charles Lane as Dr. Lanyon

Cecil Clovelly as Edward Enfield

Nita Naldi as Miss Gina

Based on the Robert Louis Stevenson story: Doctor Henry Jekyll’s enthusiasm for science and his selfless acts of service have made him a much-admired man. But as he visits Sir George Carew one evening, his host criticizes him for his reluctance to experience the more sensual side of life. Sir George goads Jekyll into visiting a music hall, where he watches the alluring dancer Gina. Jekyll becomes fascinated with the two contrasting sides of human nature, and he becomes obsessed with the idea of separating them. After extensive work in his laboratory, he devises a formula that does indeed allow him to alternate between two completely different personalities, his own and that of a brutish, lascivious person whom he names Hyde. It is not long before the personality of Hyde begins to dominate Jekyll’s affairs.

Back in 1886, Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson created the novella “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”.

The novella was a major success in Europe and the United States and stage adaptations followed soon after.

And since the novella’s release, there have been over a hundred stage and film adaptations, all which are loosely based on Stevenson’s original story.

In cinema, there was a 1908 silent film created in the U.S. but no version of this film exists today, including a 1910 version created in Denmark.

While there have been various versions of the film created between 1910-1920, three films were released in 1920, one by director Charles Haydon, another by F.W. Murnau (which is lost) and the John S. Robertson film starring John Barrymore.  A version that follows the 1887 Thomas Russell Sullivan 1887 stage play and also includes elements of Oscar Wilde’s 1890 novel, “The Picture of Dorian Gray”.

Of the silent films that is publicly known is the John Barrymore version which has been released on DVD by Kino Lorber as part of the Johny Barrymore collection and in 2014, the film will be released on Blu-ray as “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Deluxe Edition”.

This 1920 film version has been mastered in HD from archival 35 mm elements and features a new musical score compiled by Rodney Sauer, performed by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra.

The deluxe edition also includes the 1912 Thanhouser Company version, based on Richard Mansfield’s stage performance and stars James Cruze and Florence Labadie.

Also, included is the 15-minute cut of the other 1920 American released of “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” directed by Charles Haydon and stars Sheldon Lewis, and was produced by Louis B. Mayer.

Plus the inclusion of the 1925 slapstick parody starring Stan Laurel titled “Dr. Pyckle and Mr. Pride” and a rare 1909 audio recording of “The Transformation Scene”.

The film revolves around Henry Jekyll (portrayed by John Barrymore), a well-respected physician but also an idealist and philanthropist.

He treats the poor at his free clinic and often experimenting in his laboratory.

Dr. Jekyll is also engaged to Millicent (portrayed by Martha Mansfield) but her father, Sir George Carew (portrayed by Brandon Hurst) doesn’t believe that a person that is good-hearted can exist.

So, one day, Sir George Carew and his friends which include Edward Enfield (portrayed by Cecil Clovelly), Dr. Lanyon (portrayed by Charles Lane) and Utterson (portrayed by J. Malcolm Dunn), bring Henry to dinner, but talk to him that by devoting his life for the greater good, he is also neglecting his own personal life.

Jekyll doesn’t think so.  Believing that by serving others, he can develop oneself.

But that is when Sir George Carew brings up the question, “Which self? Man has two – as he has two hands.  Because I use my right hand, should I never use my left?”

And so, Sir George brings him to a bar with a dancer and pays the handler of the dancer to seduce Henry Jekyll.

Afterward, Dr. Lanyon and Dr. Jekyll discuss Sir George Carew’s ways and how is a good father and protective of Millicent but at the same time, he can be another person.  But what if man can separate the good versus the bad from a person.    Which then leads Dr. Jekyll to be intrigued by the thought.  What if it was possible?

Dr. Lanyon tells Dr. Jekyll that it’s going against God and to not think of such a thing.  But Dr. Jekyll, so intrigued by it, begins experimenting on a potion on himself.

Dr. Jekyll suddenly becomes a grotesque man, which he names Edward Hyde.  While still retaining the mind of Dr. Jekyll, he begins planning another potion to bring him back as Dr. Jekyll, but also taking precautions with his wealth by giving all his belongings to Edward Hyde, in case, anything happens to him.

But having tasted a side that Dr. Jekyll has not experienced and now part of him wants to retain the good side, but also unleash the animal who has now been unleashed and can act upon any indiscretion that he wants.

So, Edward Hyde takes on another home in the bad part of London, he starts to frequent the area to meet with the dancer, Gina (portrayed by Nita Naldi), who talks to him about a ring that has a secret compartment for poison and where the ring originated.

But next thing you know, the more sadistic nature of Edward Hyde starts to take over and push any sign of good that Dr. Jekyll has out of him.

Edward Hyde, who’s features start to look more and more grotesque, begins to ravage women and also kill.

Meanwhile, Millicent becomes worried that she has not seen much of Dr. Jekyll.  Meanwhile, Sir George encounters Edward Hyde and starts to wonder what is the connection between this grotesque man and his soon-to-be son-in-law.

As for Dr. Jekyll, can he find a way to prevent the evil Edward Hyde from controlling his entire body?

VIDEO:

“Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Deluxe Edition” is presented in 1080p High Definition.  For those familiar with Kino Lorber Blu-rays, the company does not do any cleanup or restoration work, so the scratches, lines and any damage that was seen in the previous DVD remains in the Blu-ray release.

While not a pristine version of the film that has its share of white specks, dirt and minimal damage, one major difference between the Blu-ray and DVD is the clarity.  Faces and environments seem much clearer and more detailed.  Millicent’s eyes are much more detailed, Edward Hyde’s evil features look much more ominous and creepy and whites and grays are much better contrast, while black levels are nice and deep.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Deluxe Edition” is presented in DTS-HD MA 5.1, featuring a musical score by Rodney Sauer, performed by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Deluxe Edition” features the following special features:

  • Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde – (13:48) The 1912 Thanhouser version starring James Cruze (courtesy of Film Preservation Associates).
  • Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde – (14:44)  The 1920 15-minute excerpt of the rival 1920 version starring Sheldon Lewis and produced by Louis B. Mayer.  Music by Rodney Sauer.
  • Dr. Pyckle and Mr. Pride – (21:27) A 1925 Stan Laurel parody featuring piano by Rodney Sauer.
  • The Transformation Scene – (3:05) A 78 rpm audio recording features a sample of a theatrical interpretation of “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”.

“Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” has been considered one of the first great American horror films, the film features one of the biggest starts of the silent era, John Barrymore (brother of Lionel Barrymore and Ethel Barrymore and grandfather of Drew Barrymore) and “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” was among his greatest silent films that he has made in his oeuvre.

One must put themselves in the shoes of the audience member who had watched this film for its time.  A horror film in which a kind and caring man, after taking a potion, suddenly turns to a vile, vampiric like creature, attacking, perhaps raping and killing whoever.

I can imagine that audiences back in 1920, were freaked out about the transformation.  One newspaper called Edward Hyde “gruesome”, while others hailed the performance of stage actor, John Barrymore (at the time, many of his peers on stage, felt that he was squandering his talents in cinema, which was thought at the time to be a poor imitation of theatrical stage).

Film critic Carl Sandburg wrote in his review, “this photo play stands as something equal to -probably surpassing-the narrative delivered as a novel by Robert Louis Stevenson.  Not many screen actors can make comparison with the stage actor, John Barrymore, in depicting two characters struggling within one man”.

And this is the efficacy of this John Barrymore classic, his performance as the suave and kind Dr. Jekyll and seeing him turn into this monster was well-done.  Makeup design was very good for Edward Hyde and today’s modern viewers can no doubt appreciate this very early American horror film.

But as for the release of “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Deluxe Edition” on Blu-ray, it does feature the fantastic features that the original 2001 Kino DVD such as the Stan Laurel one reeler “Dr. Pyckle and Mr. Pride”, the rare audio recording of “The Transformation Scene”, excerpts from the rival 1920 version of “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” plus the 1912 Thanhouser version.

As for those who own the original DVD and wonder if they should upgrade, it depends if you want an HD version of the film and if you have the equipment to watch in HD.  Also, if you want the 1912 Thanhouser version plus a longer excerpt of the 1920 film, then it’s another incentive to own this film on Blu-ray.  But the original 2001 DVD was great for its time (and also has text based reviews of the film which not included in the Blu-ray release) but of course, if you want better picture and audio quality and extra special features, the Blu-ray release is the way to go.

Overall, this is one of John Barrymore’s classic silent films and one can only hope that Kino Lorber intends to bring his other well-known films to Blu-ray in the near future.

If you are a cineaste who wants to watch one of the first American horror films ever created or just a person who wants to experience a silent horror film on Blu-ray, “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Deluxe Edition” is definitely recommended!

 

 

City Lights – The Criterion Collection #680 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 17, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

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“City Lights” is a Chaplin masterpiece on Blu-ray courtesy of the Criterion Collection.  It is a must-own and definitely one of the must-see films that one should experience in their lifetime.  Highly recommended!

Image courtesy of © 1931 Roy Export S.A.A.  2013 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: City Lights – The Criterion Collection #680

RELEASE OF FILM: 1931

DURATION: 86 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Colors, 1:19:1 Aspect Ratio, Black and White, Monaural

COMPANY: Janus Films/mk2/The Criterion Collection

RELEASED: November 12, 2013

Directed by Charles Chaplin

Written by Charles Chaplin

Produced by Charles Chaplin

Music by Charles Chaplin

Cinematography by Gordon Pollock

Set Decoration by Charles D. Hall

Starring:

Charles Chaplin as A Tramp

Virginia Cherrill as A Blind Girl

Florence Lee as Her Grandmother

Harry Myers as An Eccentric Millionaire

Al Ernest Garcia as His Butler

Hank Mann as A Prizefighter

City Lights, the most cherished film by Charlie Chaplin, is also his ultimate Little Tramp chronicle. The writer-director-star achieved new levels of grace, in both physical comedy and dramatic poignancy, with this silent tale of a lovable vagrant falling for a young blind woman who sells flowers on the street (a magical Virginia Cherrill) and mistakes him for a millionaire. Though this Depression-era smash was made after the advent of sound, Chaplin remained steadfast in his love for the expressive beauty of the pre-talkie form. The result was the epitome of his art and the crowning achievement of silent comedy.

With a successful silent film career, Charles Chaplin, knew he was taking a risk when he began working on “City Lights”, a romantic comedy but also a silent film during a time when Hollywood was moving towards talkies.

But as one of the most successful and powerful men in Hollywood, it was a calculated risk that proved to be successful as “City Lights” would become a critical success but also a box office success earning over $5 million which was a lot during that time.  And it’s a film that Chaplin would consider his most favorite film that he made.

In 1992, the Library of Congress selected the film for preservation in the United States National Film Registry as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and various cinema publications have considered “City Lights” as one of the greatest American films, as well as Chaplin’s true masterpiece.

And now “City Lights” will be released by the Criterion Collection in Nov. 2013.

“City Lights” begins with the city unveiling their new statue with hundreds watching and awaiting for the unveiling.  But once the statue is unveiled, sleeping inside on top of the statue is The Tramp (portrayed by Charles Chaplin).

The homeless man is told to leave after a few unintentional situations causing the event organizers some grief and as the homeless Tramp wanders the city streets, he is made fun of by two newspaper boys.

The homeless tramp walks to a woman selling flowers (portrayed by Virginia Cherrill) and finds out that she is blind.   As he buys a flower, right when he is about to receive his change back from her, with the slam of a car door window featuring a wealthy man entering his car, she mistakes the man and thinks he has departed while in fact, the Tramp is standing right there.  But he silently leaves her.

Meanwhile, as he goes to the waterfront, he sees a drunken millionaire (portrayed by Harry Myers) trying to kill himself as he ties a rope around a heavy rock and another around his body. But the Tramp ends up convincing the millionaire to not kill himself and in the process of falling into the water, the millionaire invites the Tramp to his home.

Despite his butler (portrayed by Al Ernest Garcia) not wanting the Tramp to be inside the home, the millionaire is too drunk and continues to drink more along with the Tramp.  But we learn that the millionaire’s life has left him and that is why he is depressed.  Wanting to go out and have fun, the millionaire and the Tramp go out on the town to be among the rich and wealthy and have fun, despite causing trouble for everyone else around them.

When they arrive back to the millionaire’s home in the morning, as the Tramp is about to leave, he sees the beautiful flower girl and the millionaire gives him money to purchase some flowers and also letting the Tramp drive his Rolls-Royce, which he gives the flower girl a ride back home.

When the Tramp returns back to the millionaire’s home, the millionaire who has since sobered up, doesn’t remember the Tramp and kicks him out of the house.  Meanwhile, back at the home of the flower girl, she tells her grandmother (portrayed by Florence Lee) about the wealthy man she had met.

Meanwhile, the Tramp goes back to the flower girl’s apartment and overhears a conversation between her and her doctor, knowing she is not in a good financial place, he tries to take a job as a street sweeper to help earn money.  Meanwhile, her grandmother receives a letter of how they will be evicted if they can’t pay back their rent by the next day.

As he visits her during his lunch break, he finds a newspaper with information about a Viennese doctor who can cure blindness with an operation.   He then finds the eviction notice which he reads to her.  Knowing that she is in trouble financially, the Tramp tells her that he will pay for her rent, the flower girl thinking that he is a wealthy man is grateful.  But when the Tramp returns back to his job, he is fired for being late.

How will the Tramp raise enough money to help the flower girl?

VIDEO:

“City Lights – The Criterion Collection #680” is presented in 1:19:1 aspect ratio.  The film is well contrast as whites and grays look sharp, black levels look nice and deep and there appears to be no major damage to this 1931 film.  I didn’t see any white specks, no warping, no damage on the sides or flickering.  The biggest thing I also noticed aside from contrast and sharpness is greater clarity.  No blurring, just magnificent picture quality.

According to the Criterion Collection, “This new digital transfer was created in 4K resolution on an ARRISCAN film scanner from a 35 mm duplicate negative at L’Immagine Ritrovata in Bologna, Italy; the final reel was taken from a  35 mm duplicate negative held by the Academy Film Archive in Los Angeles.  Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices and warps were manually removed using MTI’s DRS, while Digital Vision’s Phoenix was used for small dirt, grain, noise management and flicker”.

AUDIO:

“City Lights – The Criterion Collection #680 is presented in English LPCM 1.0 with intertitles.  There is no pops or hiss that I heard during my viewing of the film.  Music and sound effects sound very good via the single channel.

According to the Criterion Collection, “The original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from a  sound negative.  Clicks, thumps, hiss and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD.  Crackle was attenuated using AudioCube’s integrated workstation”.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“City Lights – The Criterion Collection #680″ comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Charlie Chaplin biographer Jeffrey Vance.
  • Chaplin Today: “City Lights” – (26:47) A documentary from 2003 by Serge Bromberg which examines “City Lights” as a high point of Charlie Chaplin’s artistry and observations by film producer and Aardman Animations co-founder Peter Lord.
  • Chaplin Studios: Creative Freedom By Design – (16:13) Visual effects expert Craig Barron takes a look at the set designs created by Charlie Chaplin and his team of artists and technicians.
  • From the Set of City Lights  – Featuring a clip captured by Charlie Chaplin’s friend Ralph Barton from the set of “City Lights” with commentary by Chaplin historian Hooman Mehran titled “The Tramp Meets the Flower Girl” (8:34), featuring an outtake from the film – “Stick Stuck in the Grate” (7:25), a rehearsal of Chaplin practicing the window shopping scene – “Window-Shopping Rehearsal” (1:24) and a costume test featuring Charlie Chaplin as “The Duke” (1:14).
  • Chaplin the Boxer – Featuring an excerpt from “The Champion” (directed by Charlie Chaplin back in 1915 for the Essanay Film Manufacturing Company, duration: 9:21) and “Boxing Stars Visit the Studio” (4:39) which features footage captured at Chaplin Studios in 1918 featuring British Bantamweight Boxer Harry Mansell, Asst. Director Chuck Reisner and American Leightweight boxer Benny Leonard being introduced to Chaplin by his half brother Sydney.
  • Trailers – The theatrical trailers for “City Lights” from U.S., France and Germany.

EXTRAS:

“City Lights – The Criterion Collection #680″ comes with both a Blu-ray and DVD version of the film and a 42-page booklet featuring the essays “The Immortal Tramp” by Gary Giddins and an excerpt from the March 10, 1967 issue of “Life” Magazine – “Chaplin’s Anatomy of Comedy” by Richard Meryman.

A film that has been beloved by many Chaplin fans, “City Lights” has been a long awaited title that fans have hoped to see release by the Criterion Collection, even before Criterion had the rights to release Chaplin titles.

It was also a title that was difficult to obtain unless you wanted to pay a lot for the Warner Brothers DVD that was released back in 2004 or purchased the box set “The Chaplin Collection”.

But “City Lights” is a film that one can easily look as a true Chaplin masterpiece.  He was not dogged by any scandal or controversy, he was one of the most powerful men in America and he was a man that could call the shots, push for perfection and no longer how many takes it would take to shoot a certain scene, there was no pressure of how much film was used, this was Chaplin’s film with his own creative voice.

Which is very important because he was a man who was best known for his comedy playing the character the Tramp in many silent films and while many people were saying goodbye to silents, Charles Chaplin was not ready to say goodbye.  In fact, he would dare all naysayers that silent films were dead with the release of “City Lights”.

Focusing on the characters and a love story about a homeless, poor Tramp who has fallen for the beautiful, blind flower girl.  Hearing her woes and the fact that her blindness has not made her judge him, he wants to save her from whichever troubles that ail her.  Eviction from her apartment and to cure her blindness by paying for an operation.  But where can the poor Tramp obtain that much money and what lengths would he go to help her?  That is the journey that people will be captivated throughout one’s viewing of “City Lights”.

Viewers are one again captivated by the Tramp and Chaplin’s physical comedy and as always with a Chaplin film, one can easily fall for the leading actress, in this case, the beautiful Virginia Cherrill (who would one day marry and divorce actor Cary Grant).  While the chemistry looked great on film, the truth as the two had a strained relationship.  Chaplin the perfectionist (one scene with the Tramp and the flower girl took over 350 retakes) and Cherrill, who was fired for leaving the set for a hairdressing appointment, yet from the advice of actress Marion Davies, returned to the film by holding out for more money.

The other important chemistry in the film revolves around the drunk millionaire played by Harry Myers.  When drunk, the millionaire and the tramp are the best of friends.  When sober, he doesn’t remember his friendship with the tramp nor does he want someone poor anywhere near him.  But these two have to be well-synced in order for the comedy to work.

One scene shows the millionaire pouring more alcohol into the glass of the tramp but in reality, he is pouring it into the front of the tramp’s trousers.  These small jokes manage to hold up well after all these years.  But for silent film fans, you can’t help but praise Chaplin for casting the silent film star in “City Lights”.

Like many silent film stars who lost their career due to the talkies, the actor had struggled after the end of the silent film era, but before the final nail in the coffin, he was able to become part of this film before his death of pneumonia seven years later.

And as Chaplin was a perfectionist when it came to how everything came together on screen, Chaplin was also a perfectionist when it came to the music for the film.  Aside from the directorial, writing, producing, editing, acting (and sometimes acting out the various roles for the actors to get what he wanted on screen), he also wrote the music as well.  Once again, showing how diverse his talents was and how perfection came to play in all areas of the film that he was responsible for.

But alas, the film that cost over a million dollars to make would go on to make five million in the box office.  And it was once again vindication that a silent film could still be loved by viewers and that the Little Tramp has not lost favor to the talkies.  In fact, the film was so loved that Albert Einstein stood up  to applaud the film and was seen wiping his eyes during the final scene.

The Blu-ray release from the Criterion Collection look amazing on Blu-ray as picture quality is well-contrast, sharp and the clarity is fantastic.  The monaural soundtrack is clear with no sign of hiss or pops and special features featuring audio commentary, a documentary, archived footage and more!

Overall, “City Lights” is a Chaplin masterpiece on Blu-ray courtesy of the Criterion Collection.  It is a must-own and definitely one of the must-see films that one should experience in their lifetime.

Highly recommended!

 

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

November 14, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

nosferatu

This F.W. Murnau German Expressionist horror film is a classic and for any fans of silent film on Blu-ray, “Nosferatu” is a Blu-ray release worth owning!  Highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2013 Kino Lorber, Inc. 2007 Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stifftung, Wiesbaden. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Nosferatu

FILM RELEASE: 1922

DURATION: 95 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:33:1 Aspect Ratio, Color Tinted,  DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, 2.0 Stereo

COMPANY: Kino Classics/Kino Lorber Incorporated

RATED: Not Rated

Release Date: November 12, 2013

Directed by F.W. Murnau

Screenplay by Henrik Galeen

Produced by Enrico Dieckmann, Albin Grau

Music by Saarbrucken Radio Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Berndt Heller

Cinematography by Fritz Arno Wagner

Costume Design by Albin Grau

Art Department: Albin Grau

Starring:

Max Schreck as Graf Orlok/Nosferatu

Gustav von Wangenheim as Hutter

Greta Schroder as Ellen Hutter

Alexander Granach as Kock – ein Hausermakler

An unauthorized adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Nosferatu is the quintessential silent vampire film, crafted by legendary German director F. W. Murnau (Sunrise, Faust, The Last Laugh). Rather than depicting Dracula as a shape-shifting monster or debonair gentleman, Murnau’s Graf Orlok (as portrayed by Max Schreck) is a nightmarish, spidery creature of bulbous head and taloned claws — perhaps the most genuinely disturbing incarnation of vampirism yet envisioned. Nosferatu was an atypical expressionist film in that much of it was shot on location. While directors such as Lang and Lubitsch built vast forests and entire towns within the studio, Nosferatu’s landscapes, villages and castle were actual locations in the Carpathian Mountains. Murnau was thus able to infuse the story with the subtle tones of nature: both pure and fresh as well as twisted and sinister. Remastered in high definition for the first time and making its Blu-ray debut exclusively from Kino Classics.

Back in 1921, filmmaker F.W. Murnau, known for his German Expressionist films such as  the “The Haunted Castle”, “Desire” and “The Dark Road”, began work on an unauthorized adaptation of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” titled “Nosferatu” along with writer Henrik Galeen (“The Golem”, “The Man Who Cheated Life”).

Because the studio, Prana Film, was not able to obtain the rights to the novel, names were changed.  So, a reference to a vampire became a reference to “Nosferatu” and instead of Count Dracula, you have Count Orlock.  And production began for the studio’s first film that would be part of their lineup of supernatural or occult films.

The film was released in theaters but the heirs of Bram Stoker were not too thrilled that the studio made a film without obtaining the rights and the Stoker estate and the British Society of Authors sued for copyright violations.

The court sided with the Stoker heirs and before any damages could be received by Prana Film, the studio shut down and all prints of “Nosferatu” were to be destroyed.

Yet one print did manage to survive and that version is what we have today.  But thanks to the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung company, the HD release of the 35 mm restoration offers viewers the best visual clarity of the film to date.

And the Blu-ray was released in November 2013 courtesy of Kino Classics which features both versions with English and German intertitles and optional English subtitles with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and 2.0 stereo version of Hans Erdmann’s original 1922 score recorded and performed by the Saarbrucken Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Berndt Heller.

“Nosferatu” begins in a fictional town in Germany.  We are introduced to Hutter (portrayed by Gustav von Wangeheim) who is given the task by his employer named Knock (portrayed by Alexander Granch) to meet with a new client and convincing him to purchase of property to a Count Orlock (portrayed by Max Schreck) and to get him to buy the property across from Hutter’s home.

Seeing the advantage in business and to make money, Knock tells his loving wife Ellen (portrayed by Greta Schroder) that he will be leaving on business and that as he is gone, he entrust her to his friend Harding (portrayed by Georg H. Schnell) and his sister Annie (portrayed by Ruth Landshoff).

But as Hutter makes his way to Transylvania, he stops at an inn in the Carpathian Mountains and tells people he is off to see Count Orlock and others look at him with fear.  They warn him not to go because of a werewolf but Hutter looks as the situation as not fear but the townspeople joking with him.

While at the inn, he discovers a book about vampires but he barely reads it.  So, as he is taken to Transylvania, the coachmen accompanying him tell him that they will not go farther and thus, Hutter goes to Transylvania alone in which he meets Count Orlock who takes him into his castle.

While eating dinner, Hutter cuts his thumb with the knife and Count Orlock goes to suck on it, which Hutter is instantly repulsed by it.

He awakens to find punctures on his neck and thinks its the mosquitoes or spiders in the castle, but Hutter is able to get Count Orlock to sign the documents which state that the Count will be purchasing the house across his home.  But during the signing of the documents, a photo of Elena comes out of Hutter’s bag and immediately Count Orlock sees the photo and is captivated by Ellen’s neck.

But Hutter is already freaked out as he reads the book about vampires sucking on people’s blood during the night, but once he sees the true nature of Count Orlock and discovering that Count Orlock is sleeping a crypt and that he must be a vampire.

Meanwhile, something is happening to Ellen as she is waking up during the middle of the night and is seen wandering out of her home, walking on the patio pedestal causing Harding and Annie to worry about Ellen’s nature and that she needs medical help. But as Orlock is to attack Hutter, Ellen awakens by screaming his name as if she is in a trance.  And saving Hutter from becoming the Count’s latest victim.

While in Transylvania, Hutter sees Orlok preparing coffins on a coach (filled with plague carrying rats) and climbing into one before he departs.

Worrying about his wife and knowing Count Orlock, a vampire is moving across from his home, Hutter quickly tries to get back home before Orlock arrives to check on his wife Ellen.  But will he get to her in time?

VIDEO:

“Nosferatu” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:33:1) and is color tinted.  Having owned the previous Kino DVD release of “Nosferatu”, there are a few points that I was quite thrilled to see about this film.  One is the clarity of the film as some scenes, especially with actress Greta Schroder as Ellen, looks absolutely clear in HD.  You can see her eyes and face much more clearly, including the strands of hair on her head with much better detail.  The same can be said about Count Orlock and Hutter.

But the clarity of this 91- year-old film is fantastic!

According to Kino Lorber:

Nosferatu was restored by Luciano Berriatúa on behalf of Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung, Weisbaden in 2005/06. A tinted nitrate print with French intertitles from 1922 from the Cinémathèque Française, Paris, was used as a basis for the restoration.

Missing shots were completed by a safety print from 1939 from Bundesarchiv-Filmarchiv, Berlin/Koblenz, drawn from a Czech export print from the 1920s. Other shots were taken from a nitrate print of the 1930 version, distributed under the title Die Zwölfte Stunde (The Twelfth Hour), preserved at the Cinémathèque Française, Paris.

Most of the original intertitles and inserts are preserved in a safety print from 1962 from Bundesarchiv-Filmarchiv, Berlin/Koblenz, originating in a print from 1922. Missing intertitles and inserts were redesigned on the basis of the original typography by trickWilk, Berlin. They are marked with F.W.M.S.

The lab work was carried out by L’Immagine Ritrovata, Bologna.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Nosferatu” features Hanz Erdmann’s original 1922 score in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and Linear PCM 2.0.  The music is performed by the Saarbrucken Radio Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Berndt Heller.  And for any silent film HD fan, any inclusion of a musical soundtrack in lossless is greatly appreciated as instruments are crystal clear and utilize the surround channels for various instruments.  But the film does come alive when you hear this magnificent soundtrack in lossless.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Nosferatu” comes with the following special features:

  • The Language of Shadows – (52:46) A documentary about F.W. Murnau and his cinema work.
  • F.W. Murnau Film Excerpts – Featuring excerpts for F.W. Murnau’s “Journey Into the Night” (1920), “The Haunted Castle” (1921), “Phantom” (1922), “The Finances of the Grand Dukes” (1924), “The Last Laugh” (1924), “Tartuffe” (1925), “Faust” (1926) and “Tabu” (1931).
  • Promotional Trailer – Featuring a trailer for the remastered Blu-ray of “Nosferatu”.
  • Image Gallery – Featuring still sand promo images.

EXTRAS:

“Nosferatu” comes with a slipcase and comes with two Blu-ray discs (in one case) which features the film with English intertitles and the other with German intertitles (and optional English subtitles).

When it comes to “Nosferatu”, it’s interesting as people who watch it today are more fixated in the fact that the film is an adaptation of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” and see it as a silent horror film and earlier F.W. Murnau work.

But for those who are familiar with German Expressionist films, Murnau’s “Nosferatu” should be appreciated for its visual style and its eroticism for its time.

Having watched “Nosferatu” many times, I feel that at dinner discussions with friends, I tend to point out the characters that I find interesting.

Max Schreck as Nosferatu/Graf Orlok is rather fascinating for its portrayal of different type of Dracula, obviously to distance itself from anything Bram Stoker but to create a character that looks like a bat with its pointed ears and large claws.   Tall and creepy, a rather interesting observation is one to compare the character portrayal of Nosferatu in Herner Werzog’s version of the film.

The character of Hutter (portrayed by Gustav von Wangenheim) is a cheeky character who looks for success working for a creepy businessman named Knock who sends Hutter to Transylvania in order to visit Count Orlok in order to purchase a house right across from his.

Hutter’s character is seen as naive, chirpy, always smiling, not deterred by the warnings of those in a village not far from Transylvania, warning the man to not go.

Hutter leaves his wife Ellen with his friends, Harding and his sister Annie and we eventually see the distraught Ellen saddened by her husband’s departure, but both give a passionate kiss before he leaves to Transylvania.

But the ever-naive Hutter only starts to understand the nature that he’s in when he sees Count Orlock’s true nature and finds a crypt which Orlock is seen resting.  Hutter understands that Orlock is possibly a vampire and the film now becomes a race of time.

Hutter tries to go back home as quickly as he can by horse to check up on Ellen, while Count Orlock boards a ship that has taken various crypts and one by one, a shipmate is killed. The crypts have rats which prompts the surviving crewmates to think that a plague has spread among those on the ship.

If there is anything I have problems with the 1922 “Nosferatu” is certain pacing especially when it involves the character of Knock.  You just feel as perhaps there is something missing in the storyline when it comes to his character.  Not sure if it was cut or perhaps his character was underdeveloped because he’s not a primary character but there is quite a bit of jumping around when it comes to the character of “Knock”.

We know Knock is the equivalent to Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” character of R.M. Renfield and there is much more meaning in the novel and his relationship with Count Orlock.

But one thing that has always captivated me about this film is the use of symmetry and shadows.  The shadows on a wall or on a person to showcase the monstrosity of Count Orlock before he takes on the victim.

What is also interesting is the use of sexuality as it uses Ellen constantly resisting or a scene in which she grabs upon her breast when frightened. It’s one thing that certain cineaste have zeroed in on of the key differences sexually as her character responds to Hutter versus her response towards Count Orlock.

Observers of German Expressionist films also zero in on not just the heterosexual theme but a homosexual theme.  I personally did not pick up the homosexuality nature of the film towards Nosferatu and Knock.  I saw the character of Knock as more as an obedient servant, waiting for his master.  As opposed to the characters where one can possibly make the argument for a film such as “Faust” and its characters of Mephisto and Faust.

But for “Nosferatu”, the use of sexuality in the film, while not entirely explicit, is well-utilized and how it ties into the ending but also its relation to the character of Ellen was nicely done.  The interesting symbolization that not only has Hutter given him the opportunity to live across from them but because he allowed Count Orlock to see the picture of Elena, it is as if he gave Orlock the opportunity to possess Elena.

For those not familiar with silent film, it’s important to remember that when it comes to color tinting, blue colors tend to refer to night time and sepia for daytime.

And for those who own the previous Murnau set and are wondering if this Blu-ray is worth the purchase.  Content-wise, they are nearly the same but this contains both films with English and German intertitles (on two different Blu-ray discs), also the film is presented in HD and is much better in picture and audio quality.  While the 2009 Murnau “Nosferatu” DVD featured the German special feature “Nosferatu: An Historic Film Meets Digital Restoration” but because there were different mastering for this Blu-ray release, the digital restoration feature was not included.  Also, the 2009 Murnau “Nosferatu” DVD featured scene comparisons between Bram Stoker’s novel, Henrik Galeen’s Sreenplay and F.W. Murnau’s film in text format.

But as for the question if the upgrade of “Nosferatu” is worth it, the answer is “yes”.   I do recommend this Blu-ray for the better clarity in the HD version and if you have a good surround setup to take advantage of the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack (a 2.0 LPCM stereo track is included).  Otherwise, if you are using an older TV and have no way or listening to a lossless soundtrack, then you should be good with the 2009 Kino DVD.

Overall, I have watched “Nosferatu” several times but it’s the first time where I was captivated by the film thanks to the better clarity of the film on Blu-ray and how much livelier the film was thanks to the lossless soundtrack.  While the 2009 Kino DVD of “Nosferatu” was a wonderful release, this Blu-ray release looks and sounds so much better that it’s worth the upgrade.

This F.W. Murnau German Expressionist horror film is a classic and for any fans of silent film on Blu-ray, “Nosferatu” is a Blu-ray release worth owning!  Highly recommended!

 

Foolish Wives (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

August 3, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

foolishwives

“Foolish Wives” looks much better on Blu-ray and because of the film’s presentation, a lossless music track and many special features including a full-length audio commentary and 90-minute documentary and more!  If you are a silent film fan, an Erich Von Stroheim fan or a cineaste wanting to watch a groundbreaking silent film from 1922 on Blu-ray, then “Foolish Wives” is definitely recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2013 Kino Lorber, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Foolish Wives

FILM RELEASE: 1922

DURATION: 143 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:33:1 aspect ratio, B&W

COMPANY: Kino Classics/Kino Lorber

RATED: NR

Release Date: July 30, 2013

Directed by Erich von Stroheim

Story and Scenario by Erich von Stroheim

Titles by Marian Ainslee, Walter Anthony

Music by Sigmund Romberg

Cinematography by William H. Daniels, Ben F. Reynolds

Edited by Arthur Ripley

Starring:

Rudolph Christians as Andrew J. Hughes

Miss DuPont as Helen

Maude George as Her Highness, Princess Olga Petchnik

Mae Busch as PRincess Vera Petchnikoff

Erich von Stroheim as Count Wladislaw Sergius Karamzin

Dale Fuller as Maruschka

Al Edmundsen as Pavel Pavlich

Cesare Gravina as Cesare Ventuci

Malvina Polo as Marietta

C.J. Allen as Albert 1 – Prince of Monaco

As artistically brilliant as it is gleefully perverse, Foolish Wives is Erich von Stroheim’s epic-scale account of an American diplomat’s wife (Miss Dupont) who falls under the spell of a phony Russian Count (von Stroheim). With his trademark eye for visual metaphor and gritty detail, von Stroheim infuses the artistocratic splendor of Monte Carlo (rebuilt in all its majesty on the Universal backlot) with an air of moral depravity. The result is a Grimm’s fairy tale romance that is no less fascinating today than it was 80 years ago. First time ever on Blu-ray!

Before Austrian filmmaker and actor Erich von Stroheim would be known for his work on “The Grand Illusion”, “The Wedding March”, “Greed” and “Sunset Blvd.” and after he would work on D.W. Griffith silent films such as “Birth of a Nation”, there was “Foolish Wives”.

In 1922, Stroheim’s third film was dubbed by Universal as the “first million dollar” movie and it was one of the most expensive film created at the time as Stroheim wanted to use authentic Parisian gowns, tapestries, silverware, porcelain and food.  Despite execs from Universal wanting to fake “caviar” with jam, Stroheim was insistent that people can tell if things are faked and thus, everything featured in the film must be authentic and for the caviar, he had expensive Russian Beluga caviar used.  And while shot in California, a set of Monte Carlo was re-created for this film.

The film was planned to be a six to ten hour movie shown in two evenings.  Universal opposed the idea and so, the film was cut drastically before the release date.

So, the film continued to be cut by the studio against von Stroheim’s wishes after the final cut and the version that people would see in the next 40 years after the film was released in theaters was the short version until a restoration work was done to bring the film back close to its final cut and that version will now be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Kino Lorber.

In 2008, “Foolish Wives” was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

“Foolish Wives” revolves around Wladislaw Sergius Karamzin (as portrayed by Erich von Stroheim).  A man who poses as a Count and tries to seduce wealthy women and extort money from them.

With the help of his cousins faux-Princess Vera Petchnikoff (as portrayed by Mae Busch) and faux-Her Highness Olga Petchnikoff (as portrayed by Maude George), the three concoct a scheme to target Helen Hughes (portrayed by Miss Dupont),the wife of an American envoy.

But as Karamzin tries to enact his plan on Helen, he finds himself attracted to her, as she is attracted to him.

VIDEO:

“Foolish Wives” is presented in 1080p High Definition.  Having owned the previous DVD release, first it’s important to note that this print is the 1972 reconstruction and presented in black and white (not color tinted). The film was mastered in HD from an archival 35 mm print of the 1972 AFI Arthur Lennig restoration.

It’s very important to note that for this reconstruction, various sources were used to construct this restoration, so there are certain scenes that differ in quality.  But by no means is this a detriment.  Sure , there are scratches and flickering but the print is a major upgrade from the original Kino DVD and the original Image DVD.

While there are white specks and scratches, the biggest difference that I noticed on the Blu-ray is contrast.  Whites and grays are well-contrast, you can see the fabric used for some of the costumes and there is no blurring.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Foolish Wives” is presented in 2.0 LPCM featuring an original score by Sigmund Romberg, performed by Rodney Sauer.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Foolish Wives” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by von Stroheim biographer Richard Koszanrki.
  • The Man You Loved to Hate – (1:30:08) Patrick Montgomery’s feature-length documentary profile of Erich von Stroheim, written by Richard Koszarski and newly remastered in HD from the original negative.
  • Audio Interview Clips – Featuring audio interviews with Paul Kohner (5:06) and Valerie von Stroheim (4:58) recorded for “The Man You Loved to Hate”.
  • New York Censor Board Cuts – (3:45) A document of cuts made by the New York Censor Board.
  • Photo Gallery – Stills from “Foolish Wives”

EXTRAS:

“Foolish Wives” comes with a slipcase.

When a lot of us look at Erich Von Stroheim, the actor, we are in awe how this actor would transform his life, work under D.W. Griffith and find a way to break into the Hollywood studio and create one of the most expensive Hollywood films at the time but also to be one of the few filmmakers who’s greatest work was destroyed by the studios.

If there was one caveat to Von Stroheim, it was the fact that he had developed this reputation of the “Man You Loved to Hate”.  With his often menacing look with a scar that ran across his face, not only did he look intimidating but he was also one of the most demanding directors in Holllywood who wanted the best for his films, even though it cost a lot of money and production tend to go much longer that it would also lead to the filmmaker’s undoing as producer’s could not trust the filmmaker in staying within budget.

But one of those moments of “damn me once, not a second time”, unfortunately for Erich Von Stroheim, the heartache of seeing his third film “Foolish Wives” being repeatedly butchered by Universal, he would receive his greatest heartbreak from his 1925 film “Greed” which many regarded as his cinematic masterpiece. Unlike “Foolish Wives” which was able to be restored from various sources in order to bring it closer to its 1922 original state, for “Greed”, MGM not only cut his film from 24 reels down to 10, the studio burned the original film negative to extract 43 cents of silver from it.

In 2013, cineaste still wait for Erich Von Stroheim’s “Greed” to be released on DVD or Blu-ray, but why bring up his masterpiece?  It’s because the person who authorized for “Greed” destroyed was Irving Thalberg, the same person who produced “Foolish Wives”, and you would think as producer, Thalberg and Von Stroheim would have a good working relationship but it was because of “Foolish Wives”, that the two would have an icy relationship.

The fact was that Erich von Stroheim’s idea of perfection came to expense of the studio.  As producer, Thalberg was put off by Von Stroheim’s excessive spending for the film.  From having Parisian wardrobes, authenticity when it came to porcelain, tapestries to the food.  Erich Von Stroheim looked at himself as a filmmaker that many people did not understand.  His goal of having a two-part film in which people would have to go to the theater two days in a row was not what studio execs wanted to see with “Foolish Wives” and despite promoting “Foolish Wives” as the first “million dollar film” (the film’s final budget was around $735,000, so not necessarily a million dollar film), it was a groundbreaking film for Von Stroheim because of its production cost but it was also a Hollywood film that was nearly three and half hours long.

Back in 1922, the rumors surrounding the film were heavily discussed in media.

Reviewer Carl Sandburg wrote in 1921, “A grapevine from the Universal puts that cost at $1.2 million, saying further that under the direction of Erich Von Stroheim they have produced 300,000 feet of film which must be cut to 6,000 feet.”

But what was interesting about the article was the juxtaposition of Erich Von Stroheim’s expensive film and how it backfired for D.W.Griffith who went broke because of his excessive spending on “Intolerance”.  Of course, the main difference is that Griffith used a lot of his own money to fund his epic.  And it was an epic that did not make it’s money back.  For “Foolish Wives”, fortunately for Von Stroheim, the film made back its money and more in four months.

But for those interested in entertainment, the buzz for “Foolish Wives” was high because of how much it cost to make the film but also media reports that Von Stroheim shot 800 reels of film and only 10-25 would be selected in the final cut. And to be cut again and again.

It was a film that upset the censor boards because of the film’s depiction of sexuality and gambling and that was in 1922.  Six years later, the film would receive a re-release with more cuts but this time, it was no longer a silent.  Studios wanted to experiment with sound and “Foolish Wives” was Universal’s guinea pig.

Suffice to say, for over 40-years, people would see this version of the film that was butchered.  Until 1972, when the film received restoration, while not completely what people saw in 1922, using pieces from various sources, it’s the best release to come close to the original and now, this is the release we are watching on Blu-ray.

While watching this film, not only was Erich Von Stroheim ahead of his time as a filmmaker and getting certain shots that would make cinema fans proud of von Stroheim’s work, people knew what they were getting on film with von Stroheim and that is a man that works as a major antagonist that people “Loved to Hate” but unfortunately, people’s attitudes of what they saw in film, also extended in reality as people began detesting von Stroheim.

For “Foolish Wives”, the character of Wladislaw Sergius Karamzin is a crook.  A man who uses his charm on women and steal their money by extortion. He is a philanderer, who tells women lies.  Hurts women and treats them like they are nothing but his plaything.  And while to us viewers today, we see this as a movie character, at the time, people were even shocked that Von Stroheim’s character could be so vile and started to think the man and the character were one in the same.

But watching the film over 90-years later since it was released in theaters, I do believe that Von Stroheim’s insistence of accuracy worked to the film’s benefit.  The set to capture Monaco looked realistic, the sheer number of people involved for this type of film which was not as epic as D.W. Griffith’s “Intolerance” but its about how characters were able to win one over through its storyline of deceit, corruption and love.

One criminal, one naive American wife and both have some attraction towards each other.  While it is all part of Karamzin’s scheme, stealing her money is his priority but while he seems to target the character of Helen Hughes for extortion, he can’t help but have feelings for her.

The acting by Erich Von Stroheim was magnificent and how he was able to capture upper class society was well-done, but what makes this film work is emotion and capturing that emotion for this silent film.  The facial emotions by von Stroheim was wonderfully done and in combination with the performances of his other co-talents but also capturing the extravagance of this upperclass lifestyle, I’m just amazed with how much went into making this film work.  It was no doubt expensive for its time, but it’s what makes “Foolish Wives” so different from other films.

But make no doubt that Erich Von Stroheim’s Karamazin is a creepy character.  From one scene where he sees the young daughter of a man visiting the princess, the sight of him licking his lips and imagining the girl was rather surprising to see in the film.  But it’s the face of evil, as we see in various moments of the film that made “Foolish Wives” so interesting, fascinating and entertaining.

As for the Blu-ray release of “Foolish Wives”, having owned the previous two DVD’s, “Foolish Wives” benefits from being in HD and having better contrast and picture quality.  The film was mastered in HD from an archival 35 mm print of the 1972 AFI Arthur Lenning restoration.

No blurring, you see details of the film much clearly in black and white and not with color tinting.  While there are white specks and scratches, the film still looks good for its time and there were no moments of nitrate degradation on the sides or any film warping.  Yes, the film features sources from various films with different quality, but I’m grateful that these long lost scenes have been put back into the film for its restoration.  The music by Rodney Sauer of the 1922 Sigmund Romberg score was well-done.

The film also includes an audio commentary by Von Stroheim biographer Richard Koszarski, also included with the Blu-ray release is the 90 minute “The Man You Loved to Hate” documentary about Erich Von Stroheim plus audio interviews with Valerie Von Stroheim and Paul Kohner.

And for those wondering about the cuts made by the censor board, featured is a short featurette showing the written concerns by the censor boards and showing what scene was cut.  And also, a photo gallery is included.

Overall, “Foolish Wives” looks much better on Blu-ray and because of the film’s presentation, a lossless music track and many special features including a full-length audio commentary and 90-minute documentary and more!  If you are a silent film fan, an Erich Von Stroheim fan or a cineaste wanting to watch a groundbreaking silent film from 1922 on Blu-ray, then “Foolish Wives” is definitely recommended!

 

Safety Last! – The Criterion Collection #662 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

June 6, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Safety Last!” is a magnificent film and is a Harold Lloyd masterpiece that will continue to entertain silent comedy fans for many generations to come.  Not only are you getting one classic film but also three newly restored Harold Lloyd shorts plus the long, sought after Harold Lloyd documentary “Harold Lloyd: The Third Genius”.   This release is deserving of five stars!  Highly recommended!

Image are courtesy of © 2013 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Safety Last! – The Criterion Collection #662

YEAR OF FILM: 1923

DURATION: 103 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:37:1 aspect ratio, Black and White, Silent

COMPANY: Harold Lloyd Entertainment, Inc./THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: June 18, 2013

Directed by Fred C. Newmeyer, Sam Taylor

Story by Hal Roach, Sam Taylor, Tim Whelan

Titles by H.M. Walker

Executive Producer: Suzanne Lloyd Hayes

Producer: Hal Roach

Cinematography by Walter Lundin

Music: Carl Davis

Edited by Thomas J. Crizer

Starring:

Harold Lloyd as The Boy

Mildred Davis as The Girl

Bill Strother as The Pal

Noah Young as The Law

The comic genius of silent star Harold Lloyd is eternal. Chaplin was the sweet innocent, Keaton the stoic outsider, but Lloyd—the modern guy striving for success—is us. And with its torrent of perfectly executed gags and astonishing stunts, Safety Last! is the perfect introduction to him. Lloyd plays a small-town bumpkin trying to make it in the big city, who finds employment as a lowly department-store clerk. He comes up with a wild publicity stunt to draw attention to the store, resulting in an incredible feat of derring-do on his part that gets him started on the climb to success. Laugh-out-loud funny and jaw-dropping in equal measure, Safety Last! is a movie experience par excellence, anchored by a genuine legend.

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Many silent comedy fans consider Harold Lloyd as one of the three silent film comedy kings of the silent era alongside notable names such as Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton.  Lloyd’s comedies were enjoyable and similar to Keaton, Lloyd had the flair of doing his own stuntwork and when one is to watch his films today, there were a few that literally makes people gasp.

But the difference between these three men is that Harold Lloyd is not as well-known because unlike the other two, he wanted complete ownership of his films and if they were to be re-released or shown on television, he set the price high because he did not want TV commercials interrupting his film.  While, some appreciate Lloyd’s business-sense at the time to have complete ownership but also to be one of the first who looked into preserving his films, the unfortunate aspect is that unlike Chaplin or Keaton, his name would not be as well-known to the general public.

Of course, times have changed as more and more people are becoming fans of silent cinema, especially comedies, because they quickly learn that there are three men who earned a lot of money through the box office and were successful.  And for Harold Lloyd, one can only be thrilled that this wonderful filmmaker has been acknowledged by the Criterion Collection and his most popular film, “Safety Last!”, would be released by the Criterion Collection, in HD on Blu-ray!

One such film was “Safety Last!”, a silent film from 1923 and one of the many films included in the Harold Lloyd Comedy Collection box set.   An impressive box set featuring over 25 classic comedies including well-known Lloyd films such as “Safety Last!”, “The Freshman”, “Speedy!” and many more.

If one was to see the film today, one would be impressed and stunned as their was no CGI, there was no green/blue screen.  This was Harold Lloyd showing us the most extreme when it comes to filmmaking by climbing a skyscraper to the onlookers below Los Angeles.  Needless to say, audiences were shocked about how far Lloyd had went with this film and although there were mini-stages built, this was one risky film that was adored back then and now being discovered by many today.

“Safety Last!” is about The Boy (played by Harold Lloyd) who moves to the big city in 1922 in order to make more income.  He leaves his beloved girlfriend (played by Mildred Davis) back at home and promises that he will marry her once he does well in the city.

Since moving to the city, he has sent his girlfriend letters everyday but the boy makes his life seem like life is going extremely well and that he is a manager at a major department store.

This is far from the truth as he lives with his pal (played by Bill Strother) who are late on their rent and have to hide from the landlord. The boy barely makes any money as he works at the De Vore department store in the fabric department and is an employee who often gets into trouble.

One day after finishing his shift, he runs into a police officer who happens to be an old friend of Harold.  The two joke around and when the boy meets up with his roommate, he jokes that he has influence with the police and persuades his friend to knock the policeman over.

What the boy doesn’t know is that when they are talking, his friend the police officer has left and another police officer has come in his place.  Needless to say, the boy’s friend pushes the cop and the boy learns that the police officer is not his friend.

The police officer then chases his friend around but the friend manages to escape by climbing a building.

Meanwhile, the boy decides what he should do with his pay.  He can get something to eat or buy his girlfriend a broach without a chain.  He forgoes the food and buys the broach but hopes to buy the chain when he makes more money.  He sends the gift to his girlfriend.

Upon receiving it, his girlfriend is so happy about the gift and the boy’s mother convinces his girlfriend to go to the city and see how he is doing.

So, one day during a wild day at work, the boy’s girlfriend appears and immediately, the boy must pretend that he is the manager of the department store.

Through a good stretch of gags and hijinks featuring the boy trying to fake his girlfriend, he overhears his boss talking about how they can bring people to the store and whoever can come up with an idea will get $1,000.  The boy thinks about his friend climbing the building and suggests the idea and his boss decides to give the boy’s idea a chance.

During the big day at De Vore Department store which has been promoted on the front page of a major local newspaper, many have come to see a man climb the building.

The boy’s friend is ready to scale the building but things don’t go as planned since the policeman who was chasing the boy’s friend is now trying to pursue him again.  With everyone all around the department store building expecting a man to climb, with his friend trying to avoid the police, the boy has no choice but to scale the building on his own.

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VIDEO:

“Safety Last is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:36:1 aspect ratio) and because Harold Lloyd believed in protecting his films, he was among the first to have his films preserved.  Not only were these films under lock and key in safes, he did whatever he can to make sure they were protected from fires or any damage.  It’s important to note that nitrate film does catch fire and he did experience a fire despite trying to protect his films, but fortunately because of that, it led Harold Lloyd to preserve his films.

And so, a lot of his films look fantastic compared to other silent films of that year or era.  At 90-years-old, picture quality for “Safety Last!”, looks incredible on Blu-ray.  White and grays are well-contrast, to see this film in HD versus the original 2005 DVD release, you notice how clear the film looks.  There are no signs of major damage, dark flickering or white specks.  Because the film is in HD, closeups and background look so much clearer and well-detailed.  I was impressed!

According to the Criterion Collection, “The film is presented at a variable frame rate of approximately 22 frames per second to conform to film historian and restorer Kevin Brownlow’s presentation and the Carl Davis score that accompanies it.  The new digital transfer was created in 2K resolution on a DTF Scanity film scanner from a 35 mm nitrate print from Harold Lloyd’s personal collection, made from the original negative.  Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, and warps were manually removed using MTI’s DTRS and Pixel Farm’s PFClean., while Image Systems’ Phoenix was used for small dirt, jitter, flicker, and grain movement.

AUDIO/INTERTITLES:

“Safety Last!” comes with two musical soundtracks.  The Musical score by composer Carl Davis from 1989, synchronized and restored under his supervision and presented in uncompressed stereo (LPCM 2.0).  While also included is an alternate score by organist Gaylord Carter from the late 1960s, presented in uncompressed monaural (LPCM 1.0).

There are no subtitles because it is a silent film, but there are intertitles.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Safety Last! – The Criterion Collection #662” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio commentary – Featuring the original 2005 audio commentary which features film critic Leonard Maltin and director and Harold Lloyd archivist Richard Correll.
  • Introduction by Suzanne Lloyd – (17:21) Featuring an introduction by Harold Lloyd’s granddaughter and president of Harold Lloyd Entertainment
  • Harold Lloyd: The Third Genius – (1:48:00) A classic 104-minute documentary from 1989 written by David Gill and Kevin Brownlow.
  • Three newly restored Lloyd shorts: Take a Chance (1918), Young Mr. Jazz (1919), and His Royal Slyness (1920), with commentary by Richard Correll and writer John Bengtson
  • Locations and Effects – (20:37) A new documentary featuring John Bengtson and special effects expert Craig Barron about the location of where “Safety Last!” was shot.
  • Carl Davis: Scoring for Harold – (24:08) A 2013 interview with Carl Davis who discusses working with Harold Lloyd.

EXTRAS:

“Safety Last! – The Criterion Collection #662” comes with a 24-page booklet featuring the essays “High-Flying Harold” by Ed Park.

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Harold Lloyd is such a wonderful performer.  “Safety Last!” is a film that anyone can watch and just be surprised about his risky performance and just seeing a man dangling from a clock tower or a piece of wood with the city of Los Angeles right behind him.

Granted, Lloyd and crew prepared the actor with a small stage built to give the illusion that the building was being climbed, but still…he was climbing many feet up and also climbing with a missing thumb and forefinger (a few years earlier, Lloyd lost his thumb and forefinger during a photoshoot when he had to hold a bomb which was suppose to be a prop ended up being a live bomb and putting the actor in the hospital).

“Safety Last!” is everything you come to expect from a comedy!  A great story, great acting and a plenty of gags to keep the viewer entertained from beginning to end.  This is a true classic in every way and I can only hope that many people would give this wonderful film a chance and watch it with a smile and also with awe with what Harold Lloyd has accomplished.

I know many people today may ask, who is Harold Lloyd?  We heard of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton but who is Harry Lloyd?  Part of the reason why people have not heard much of Lloyd is because he had major control over his films.  Where as Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton had an awesome career during the silent era, for those who study about the careers of the two men will learn that Hollywood was not to kind to them after the silent film era.  Also, Harold Lloyd’s asking price for a film for licensing was more than most companies wanted to pay for at the time.

So, there are over 300 films of Harold Lloyd that many of us have not seen and not sure if we will ever have the chance.

While Warner Bros. did release the “Harold Lloyd Comedy Collection” on DVD back in 2005, by the time a second set was rumored to be released, Warner Bros. began focusing on their direct-to-DVD library for their classics.  While those of us who were aware of the picture quality of Lloyd’s films would someday be picked up by another company like the Criterion Collection, but at the time, those were just dreams.

But the fact that the Criterion Collection has released “Safety Last!” on Blu-ray, as a fan of Harold Lloyd’s work, I am absolutely thrilled that the Criterion Collection has decided to release the film on Blu-ray.  Not only is the picture quality magnificent, you get two scores and many more special features that were not included on the original Warner Bros. DVD.

As Criterion has done for their Chaplin releases, they have done a spectacular job with “Safety Last!”.  The new “Introduction with Suzanne Lloyd” was wonderful to watch, as with the “Location and Effects” featuring Bengston and special effects expert Craig Barron was a wonderful addition but how awesome to have Carl Davis discussing his working relationship with Lloyd in 2013.

But the most notable special features that made me excited was to see “Harold Lloyd: The Third Genius”, the American Masterworks documentary by David Gill and Kevin Brownlow. With Chaplin’s “Unknown Chaplin” and Keaton’s “Buster Keaton: A Hard Act to Follow” available to the masses, “Harold Lloyd: The Third Genius” has not been released since 1991. It’s only available on VHS and as a Harold Lloyd fan and collector of Lloyd memorabilia and videos, I have not been able to get my hands on a copy of this documentary and here it is, included with the Criterion Collection’s “Safety Last!” release.

And while Chaplin and Keaton’s shorts have been made available on DVD for quite some time, Harold Lloyd’s shorts have not.  And with the “Safety Last!” release, you get three newly restored Lloyd shorts with “Take a Chance”, “Young Mr. Jazz” and “His Royal Shyness”, plus each of these shorts has optional commentary by Rich Correll and writer John Bengston.

One can only hope that more titles will be released by the Criterion Collection as Lloyd has created a number of wonderful films in his oeuvre, but the fact that Criterion Collection really goes out and gives you so much more.  As a Harold Lloyd fan, I’m really impressed by this release and very grateful for the Criterion Collection for making this release perfect!

Overall, “Safety Last!” is a magnificent film and is a Harold Lloyd masterpiece that will continue to entertain silent comedy fans for many generations to come.  Not only are you getting one classic film but also three newly restored Harold Lloyd shorts plus the long, sought after Harold Lloyd documentary “Harold Lloyd: The Third Genius”.

This release is deserving of five stars!  Highly recommended!

 

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