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

November 9, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

diaryofalostgirl

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

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


TITLE: Diary of a Lost Girl

FILM RELEASE: 1929

DURATION: 112 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Kino Classics/Kino Lorber

RATED: N/A

Release Date: October 20, 2015


Based on the Novel by Margarete Bohme

Directed by George Wilhelm Pabst

Written by Rudolf Leonhardt

Produced by Georg Wilhelm Pabst

Music by Otto Stenzeel

Cinematography by Sepp Allgeier, Fritz Arno Wagner

Art Direction by Emil Hasler, Erno Metzner


Starring:

Louise Brooks as Thymian

Andre Roanne as Count Nicolas Osdorff

Josef Rovensky as Robert Henning

Fritz Rasp as Meinert

Vera Pawlowa as Aunt Frieda

Franziska Kinz as Meta

Arnold Korff as Elder Count Osdorff

Andrews Englemann as The Director of the Estate

Valeska Gert as The Director’s Wife

Edith Meinhard as Erika

Sybille Schmitz as Elisabeth


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


VIDEO:

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

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

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

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

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

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

April 12, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

silentozu42-a

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

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


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

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

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

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

COMPANY: The Criterion Collection

RELEASED DATE: April 21, 2015

 


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


dragnetgirl

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

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

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

“Walk Cheerfully” (1930)

“That Night’s Wife” (1930)

“Dragnet Girl” (1933)


walkcheerfully

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But can this former criminal escape from his past?

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

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

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

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

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

thatnightswife

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

April 12, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

silentozu42-a

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

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


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

YEAR OF FILM: 1933

DURATION: 100 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Black and White, Silent with optional 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 James Maki (pen name for Yasujiro Ozu)

Cinematography by Hideo Shigehara

Edited by Kazuo Ishikawa, Minoru Kuribayashi

Art Direction by Yonekazu Wakita

Set Decoration by Takeshi Hoshino

Costume design by Kurenai Saitou


Starring:

Kinuyo Tanaka as Tokiko

Joji Oka as Jyoji

Sumiko Mizukubo as Kazuko

Koji Mitsui as Hiroshi

Yumeko Aizome as Misako

Yoshio Takayama as Senko

Koji Kaga as Misawa

Yasuo Nanjo as Okazaki


This formally accomplished and psychologically complex gangster tale pivots on the growing attraction between Joji, a hardened career criminal, and Kazuko, the sweet-natured older sister of a newly initiated young hoodlum—a relationship that provokes the jealousy of Joji’s otherwise patient moll, Tokiko. With effortlessly cool performances and visual inventiveness, Dragnet Girl is a bravura work from Yasujiro Ozu.


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).

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

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

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

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


VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Dragnet Girl” 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 82-years-old is still watchable and very enjoyable.  And of the three films, is in the best of shape.

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.


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

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

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

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

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

The film features a wonderful, early performance by actress Kinuyo Tanaka (“Sansho the Bailiff”, “Ugetsu”, “The Life of Oharu”, “The Ballad of Narayama”) as the character of Tokiko.  Tanaka gives viewers a glimpse of her ability to take on the face of a woman spurned, a woman committing crimes but also a woman that will do anything for the man she loves.

While the film is about Joji Oka’s character, Jyoji, it is Kinuyo Tanaka’s portrayal of Tokiko that is wonderfully performed!

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

 

That Night’s Wife (from the Eclipse Series #42 – Silent Ozu: Three Crime Dramas) (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

April 12, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

silentozu42-a

This film is another wonderful addition to the “Eclipse Series #42 – Silent Ozu: Three Crime Dramas”. It’s shorter and much darker than the other two films, but still, entertaining and keeps you on your feet as how you think the film may end, may keep changing, because of the way the final 10 minutes is structured. Still, “That Night’s Wife” is a short, entertaining silent film from Yasujiro Ozu with a wonderful performance by Tokihiko Okada, Emiko Yagumo and Togo Yamamoto.

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


TITLE: That Night’s Wife (from the Eclipse Series #42 – Silent Ozu: Three Crime Dramas)

YEAR OF FILM: 1930

DURATION: 65 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

Written by Kogo Noda

Novel by Oscar Shisgall

Cinematography by Hideo Shigehara

Costume Design by Ko Saito

Set Decoration by Ryonosuke Akita, Kojiro Kawasaki and Yoneichi Wakita


Starring:

Tokihiko Okada as Shuji Hashizume, Husband

Emiko Yagumo as Mayumi, Wife

Mitsuko Ichimura as Michiko, Daughter

Chishu Ryu as Policeman

Tatsuo Saito as Suda, Doctor

Togo Yamamoto as Detective Kagawa


In noirish darkness, a man commits a shocking robbery. But, as we soon learn, this seeming criminal mastermind is actually a sensitive everyman driven to desperation by the need to provide for his family. Unfolding over the course of one night, Yasujiro Ozu’s That Night’s Wife combines suspense with the emotional domestic drama one associates with the filmmaker’s later masterpieces, and employs beautifully evocative camera work.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


VIDEO & AUDIO:

“That Night’s Wife” 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.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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 

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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 

thefreshman-a

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.

thefreshman-b

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!

 

 

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