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Old 09-05-2002, 15:24   #1
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Four major Silents/Early Talkies released on R2 DVD

I was recently looking at the upcoming titles section of a UK online supplier when I chanced upon an unheralded Region 2 DVD edition of John Ford’s first great Western, THE IRON HORSE (1924), to be released by the BFI (British Film Institute) on 24/6.

Although there was yet no mention of whether the disc will have supplementary features or not, the running time is given as 134 minutes and it is safe to assume that it will be transferred from a beautifully-tinted and restored print. I had always thought that the film ran for 119 minutes (as stated in the indispensable Halliwell’s Film Guide and Leonard Maltin’s TV Movies and Video Guide), so the “additional” 15 minutes (supported by the film’s entry in the IMDB) are very welcome.

The film has impressive production values: it stars George O’Brien (SUNRISE), Madge Bellamy (WHITE ZOMBIE) and George Waggner (director of MAN MADE MONSTER, THE WOLF MAN and THE CLIMAX and producer of FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN and the Claude Rains version of PHANTOM OF THE OPERA), while Burnett Guffey (the Oscar-winning cinematographer of FROM HERE TO ETERNITY and BONNIE AND CLYDE, to name just two) served as assistant cameraman!

I have managed to locate two reviews of the film which should give anybody interested in purchasing this film a fine idea of what to expect:

http://www.mdle.com/ClassicFilms/Fe...eo/video150.htm
http://us.imdb.com/Reviews/317/31743

By the way, does anybody know if there are any plans for this important early western to be released on Region 1 DVD? I think that Fox owns the rights for the US market. And while they’re at it, they should also prepare a DVD edition of John Ford’s other great Silent Western, THREE BAD MEN (1926), also with George O’Brien.

If we’re lucky enough, the BFI version of THE IRON HORSE may prompt Paramount to follow suit and release their own discs of James Cruze’s THE COVERED WAGON (1923) (and OLD IRONSIDES [1926, with Boris Karloff in a bit-part]) - an inverse situation to the real-life events when THE IRON HORSE was actually Fox’s answer to Paramount’s THE COVERED WAGON!!

And let’s not forget that another celebrated Silent Western epic followed hard on the heels of THE IRON HORSE: King Baggott’s TUMBLEWEEDS (1925) which will premiere on DVD on 25/6 (accompanied by “a rare and moving tribute to the West by its star William S. Hart” filmed for the film’s 1939 reissue) through Image Entertainment!

The following is an extract taken from an announcement reported by DVD Times a couple of weeks ago:

“To celebrate American Independence Day, Eureka Video is releasing an R2 DVD box set of five newly restored early classics from director D.W. Griffith under the title of ‘D.W. GRIFFITH MONUMENTAL EPICS DVD BOX SET’. Set to appear on 1st July 2002 with a retail price of £49.95 the set will include the following titles: THE BIRTH OF A NATION (1915), INTOLERANCE (1916), BROKEN BLOSSOMS (1919), WAY DOWN EAST (1920) and ABRAHAM LINCOLN (1930). Eureka Video will also release ABRAHAM LINCOLN separately with a retail price of £19.99.”

The first four titles are easily available separately on both Region 1 (from Image Entertainment) and 2 (from Eureka Video), and Kino On Video are also preparing their own Region 1 DVD editions of THE BIRTH OF A NATION and INTOLERANCE possibly to be released before the end of the year.

Therefore, I will concentrate on the latter specifically because it is an exclusive Region 2 DVD release. As yet, there are no known plans for a DVD release for it in the U.S., but it should be noted that the Eureka Video DVD of D.W. Griffith’s ABRAHAM LINCOLN is the only one in their Box Set to include a full-length Audio Commentary.

I have watched this early Talkie many years ago in a battered, heavily edited print on Italian TV which brought its 97 minutes running time to barely over an hour! It was to be Griffith’s penultimate film and features a stirring leading performance by Walter Huston mouthing the dialogue written by Stephen Vincent Benet (who also wrote the script for ALL THAT MONEY CAN BUY and the story which inspired SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS)!

On 27/5, the BFI will also release their Special Edition DVD of Frank Hurley’s feature-length Documentary on Ernest Shackleton’s legendary Antarctic expedition of 1914 entitled SOUTH (1919). Although this is already available on Region 1 DVD from The Milestone Collection (through Image Entertainment), the upcoming Region 2 disc will apparently include all the extras on the Image disc plus many more, as can be deduced from the list below:

· Audio Commentary by Luke McKernan of the British Film Institute's National Film & Television Archive
· Recently discovered footage of the ill-fated Ross Sea Party, with commentary by Polar historian Kelly Tyler
· Additional footage from Shackleton's last expedition Southward on the Quest with Commentary by Shackleton on His Nimrod Expedition of 1907
· Shackleton's funeral
· Extensive stills gallery
· Map of the Expedition with narrative by Kelly Tyler
· Leaflet with notes, stills, chapter points, details of the extras and credits

For anybody interested in knowing more about this remarkable document, I have supplied the following links:

http://www.bfi.org.uk/bookvid/videos/dvd/south.html
http://www.bfi.org.uk/collections/r...outh/index.html

Talking of Silent Documentary films released on Region 2 DVD, Eureka Video has just launched their version of Esfir Shub’s chronicle of the 1917 Russian Revolution, THE FALL OF THE ROMANOV DYNASTY (1927), which is presently only available in the US on VHS from Kino On Video. Here is an extract from the official press release (as reported in the DVD Times website):

“Set for retail DVD release by Eureka Video on 6th May 2002, THE FALL OF THE ROMANOV DYNASTY is a truly unique documentary film, made all the more extraordinary by its mythical representation of revolutionary events. Lauded as one of the most influential films of its time, THE FALL OF THE ROMANOV DYNASTY is an essential addition to any discerning film collection.

Created entirely from actual documentary footage and fully restored and digitally re-mastered, this Eureka Video release also includes the DVD special features of interactive motion menus, full-length commentary, extensive 'Royal' photo essay, scene selection and documentary essay. In addition, the documentary will be available to buy as a stand alone title or as part of the four volume video or DVD box set entitled RUSSIA IN REVOLT that also features Sergei Eisenstein's landmark films STRIKE, THE BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN and OCTOBER 1917.”

Last edited by Mario Gauci; 09-05-2002 at 15:25.
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Old 09-05-2002, 15:35   #2
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Re: Four major Silents/Early Talkies released on R2 DVD

Quote:
Originally posted by Mario Gauci
I was recently looking at the upcoming titles section of a UK online supplier when I chanced upon an unheralded Region 2 DVD edition of John Ford’s first great Western, THE IRON HORSE (1924), to be released by the BFI (British Film Institute) on 24/6.

Although there was yet no mention of whether the disc will have supplementary features or not, the running time is given as 134 minutes and it is safe to assume that it will be transferred from a beautifully-tinted and restored print. I had always thought that the film ran for 119 minutes (as stated in the indispensable Halliwell’s Film Guide and Leonard Maltin’s TV Movies and Video Guide), so the “additional” 15 minutes (supported by the film’s entry in the IMDB) are very welcome.


Bear in mind that this "additional" length may well be a side-effect of transferring the film at a slower speed, and there's no guarantee that there'll be any more actual footage.

Quote:
On 27/5, the BFI will also release their Special Edition DVD of Frank Hurley’s feature-length Documentary on Ernest Shackleton’s legendary Antarctic expedition of 1914 entitled SOUTH (1919).
Although technically not released until the end of the month, you can actually buy this over the counter at the BFI in Stephen Street, London W1 - I've had a copy for a week, though I haven't had a chance to watch it yet.

Quote:
Talking of Silent Documentary films released on Region 2 DVD, Eureka Video has just launched their version of Esfir Shub’s chronicle of the 1917 Russian Revolution, THE FALL OF THE ROMANOV DYNASTY (1927), which is presently only available in the US on VHS from Kino On Video.
I'm currently reviewing this for DVD Times, and hopefully it should be up before the weekend. I think it may well be the same Kino print, though the commentary is a very welcome addition.
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Old 09-05-2002, 22:32   #3
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OK, I've now had a look at the BFI's South, and can very happily recommend it.

Given not only the extreme age of the film but also the conditions under which it was shot, the picture quality is astonishingly good. Obviously, you'd be mad to expect a pristine picture, but it's easy to overlook the print damage and blotches when the image is this sharp and clear. It's also been tinted, and looks terrific - definitely towards the upper end of the scale when it comes to silent film DVDs in general. The music is piano only, but does the job well enough.

I haven't listened to the commentary in full yet, but what I've heard sounds like just what one would expect - a good, solid historical overview underscoring the images. A particularly nice touch is that the commentary can be subtitled - indeed, you could watch the film with the piano soundtrack and just read the commentary if you're that way inclined.

The rest of the extras are similarly impressive - additional footage including out-takes from South and contemporary documentary newsreels covering such events as Shackleton's funeral, plus a rare sound recording of Shackleton himself, a well-presented stills gallery with twenty images (plus captions) selectable via thumbnails, an animated map plus commentary illustrates the route that Shackleton took.

All in all, a very definite thumbs up, especially if you've got a large 4:3 TV! I won't be writing a full DVD Times review because of conflict-of-interest issues (I work for the BFI!), but I don't regret buying this for a second.
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Old 09-05-2002, 23:29   #4
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The BFI is annoyingly up-and-down in quality.

I recently recieved their discs of Stray Dog and The Hidden Fortress. I'd actually recommend the BFI version over the Criterion of Fortress, because the subtitles don't include phrases like "****worm" or "you suck!" (though I'm unsure "stinker of stink" is that much better).

On the downside, they are surrounded by a translucent grey box, are fairly large and are completely non-optional. However, the transfer is the same as the Criterion, taken from the same hi-def master (yes, it's the BFI's only anamorphic disc).

Stray Dog occasionally looks like someone mistook the print for toilet paper - the subtitles are a bit too high-up on the screen for my liking, and it's a decidely bleary and indistinct transfer of the black-and-white print.

However, their Archive Television range is wonderful - I'm definitely collecting the entire series. Razor sharp quality from the original masters of some of the absolute best in classic British drama, much of it unseen since its original broadcast, with terrific extras on each release.

I can't wait for The War Game, Elgar, and, fingers crossed, Scum and more Alan Clarke.
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Old 10-05-2002, 07:31   #5
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Quote:
Originally posted by Narshty
However, their Archive Television range is wonderful - I'm definitely collecting the entire series. Razor sharp quality from the original masters of some of the absolute best in classic British drama, much of it unseen since its original broadcast, with terrific extras on each release.
Seconded. I have Song of Summer (Ken Russells film about Delius), which has a Russell commentary. I had seen this before (it was repeated by BBC2 about ten years ago), but you're right - UK Gold/UK Drama don't seem to want to show black and white material, so DVD might well be your best bet to see stuff like this, which after all has a place in British popular-cultural history.

I can't wait for The War Game, Elgar, and, fingers crossed, Scum and more Alan Clarke.

I would certainly like to see Culloden, Talking to a Stranger and much of early Dennis Potter and David Mercer. Judging by the clips shown on Sex on TV the other night, Nigel Kneale's The Year of the Sex Olympics looked fascinating!
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Old 10-05-2002, 09:52   #6
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Originally posted by Gary Couzens
Judging by the clips shown on Sex on TV the other night, Nigel Kneale's The Year of the Sex Olympics looked fascinating!
It was groundbreaking stuff, evident by the fact that the memory of this is (practically!) as vivid as the day I first saw it. And Nigel Kneale was, as ever, spot on; The Year of the Sex Olympics is here...

Don't you really miss the great BBC single plays?

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So many films, so little time...
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