Showing posts with label silent film. Show all posts
Showing posts with label silent film. Show all posts

26 January 2014

Blu-ray Review - Wings (1927)

No comments: Links to this post

Drama, War, Romance
BD/DVD Release Date:
27th January 2014 (UK)
Eureka! Distribution
William A. Wellman
Clara Bow, Charles 'Buddy' Rogers, Richard Arlen
Buy:WINGS (Masters of Cinema) (Dual Format Blu-ray & DVD)

William A. Wellman’s silent epic will forever be remembered as the winner of the first ever Academy Award for Best Picture. But this, in itself, can be seen as a bit of a misnomer. For 1927 had two Best Picture categories at the Academy Awards, one for Best Picture, Production, and the other for Best Picture, Unique and Artistic Production. Wings won for Production while the far superior Sunrise, a Song of Two Humans by F.W. Murnau won the award for Unique and Artistic Production, an award that to my ears, but not to those of the Oscar historians, sounds like the better award of the two.

But, to put the Academy Award nit-picking to one side, Wings winning of the Best Picture, Production award could not be more apt as the no expenses spared special effects and superb art direction are the films only saving grace. I say this because the story itself is over-simplistic, overly sentimental, and just the most tiresome type of straightforward, melodramatic Hollywood weepie type storytelling you could possibly imagine. To illustrate how straightforward the storyline is, I am now going to give away the films plot in full.

Mary lives next door to Jack, the boy she loves; she jovially helps him fix up his automobile. She paints a shooting star on the side and says, “D’you know what you can do when you see a shooting star? Well… you can kiss the girl you love.” “Maybe I will,” Jack responds. She purses her lips in anticipation. Jack, however, unaware of this, drives off in search of Sylvia, the gorgeous girl visiting from the big city. She is the one he loves. Unbeknownst to Jack, Sylvia loves another, the town’s rich boy, David. David loves her too. Then war breaks out. Both boys sign up for the air force. Jack visits Sylvia to say his goodbyes and mistakenly takes a keepsake locket meant for David. Then off they go to war.

Jack and David are both stationed at the same barracks. They don’t get along. Eventually a fight breaks out and by the end of it they are the best of friends. Jack still believes that Sylvia loves him. David, however, knows this not to be true but keeps it from his new best friend. Then off to France. They both see combat. Lots of combat. Then Mary makes an appearance in France. She finds Jack, drunk and in Paris on leave. He doesn’t recognise her. She is sent back home. Then comes the “Big Push” and the war nears its end. Jack and David have a fall out over Sylvia’s keepsake and head off into battle. Jack returns. David doesn’t. A distraught Jack rushes heedlessly into the next battle. He shoots down an enemy plane. Flying it was David, who had survived against all odds and escaped from behind enemy lines. He dies. Jack returns home.

Upon returning home Jack catches up with Mary. They sit together on the hood of the car they jovially fixed at the beginning of the film. A shooting star flies across the night’s sky. Jack turns to Mary and says, “Do you know what you can do when you see a shooting star?” Yes, she nods, “You can kiss the girl you love.” They kiss. The film ends.

Now, as classical melodrama goes, the story is nice enough but the film spends two and a half hours to tell it. But what is it all for? The only themes I can discern are that of luck and unrequited love which pop up throughout the film and then there is that overwhelming sense of patriotism that is constantly thrown at the audience. And this is the films biggest problem; it does not know what it wants to be. If Wellman wanted a big patriotic war epic then fine that is what he should have made. And if he wanted to make a beautiful melodramatic weepie about unrequited love then that would have been fine too. But as it stands the film is an epic mess.


Shane James

22 January 2014

Eureka! Entertainment Re-releasing Lubitsch In Berlin Masters Of Cinema Release This February

No comments: Links to this post

Eureka! Entertainment have announced that they will be re-releasing their LUBITSCH IN BERLIN (Fairy-Tales, Melodramas, and Sex Comedies) Box Set in new slim line packaging on 10 February 2014.

Before he arrived in Hollywood to leave his indelible (and inimitable) mark on timeless comedies like Trouble in Paradise and The Shop Around the Corner, Ernst Lubitsch created an expansive body of work in Germany that proved to be as varied in its tone as it was sophisticated in its measure of man and woman. This set collects six recently restored works from the silent phase of Lubitsch's career, and casts new light on the director both as a fully-formed comic master, and as a virtuoso of cinematographic technique.

Featuring some of the biggest stars of the silent cinema including Emil Jannings, Pola Negri, Ossi Oswalda, Paul Wegener, and Harry Liedtke

One of the first collaborations between Lubitsch and the exuberant Ossi Oswalda, Ich möchte kein Mann sein [I Wouldn't Like to Be a Man] is a concise sketch of society life in three acts. When Ossi's uncle goes away on a business trip, a new guardian steps in to tame the distractable niece. But Ossi finds a way out of the house and into a grand ball... by way of a brazen cross-dressing scheme -- and triggers what is perhaps Lubitsch's most twisted finale.

DIE PUPPE (1919)
"Four amusing acts from a toy-chest" — so reads the opening title of the comic masterpiece Die Puppe. [The Doll.] adapted by Lubitsch and co-scenarist Hanns Kräly from a libretto by A. M. Wilner (based in turn on a tale from E. T. A. Hoffmann). Ossi Oswalda stars in a double-role as both the mischievous daughter, and automatonic creation, of a wildly coiffed "dollmaker". When a wealthy baron decides the time has come for his prudish nephew to take a wife, an uproariously ribald plot unwinds into what is perhaps the world's first-ever sex-doll comedy.

As Die Austernprinzessin. [The Oyster Princess.], Ossi Oswalda makes another turn as a plutocrat's rambunctious daughter — now the heiress of a global oyster empire, devoting her wiles once again to the service of man-ipulation. A comic high-point in the master's oeuvre, Die Austernprinzessin. showcases the trademarks of the "Lubitsch Touch" and its ten-fingered dexterity, resulting in a film that is simultaneously clever, concise, and risqué.

SUMURUN (1920)
By turns melodramatic and grotesquely comic, Sumurun brings together performances by star-players Paul Wegener (Der Golem.), Pola Negri, Harry Liedtke, and Ernst Lubitsch himself (in the role of an ultra-pathetic hunchbacked minstrel) for this ensemble tale pulled from the milieu of The Arabian Nights. Featuring hundreds of extras milling through open-air set-pieces and dusky harem-chambers alike, Sumurun demonstrates Lubitsch's ability to transfigure rote romance into vibrant pageant.

Emil Jannings plays King Henry VIII in the story of Anne Boleyn's movement from the outskirts of the court, to the royal boudoir, and off to the chopping-block. Suffused with an atmosphere of entrapment that would not be out of place in later films by Fritz Lang, and prefiguring the stately contretemps in John Ford's Mary of Scotland, Anna Boleyn proceeds with a deathward momentum unique in Lubitsch's oeuvre.

Set in one of Lubitsch's hallmark mythical kingdoms, Die Bergkatze [The Mountain-Lion / The Wildcat] finds Lubitsch in exuberantly expressionistic mode, employing a host of optical masks to create perhaps the most visually audacious comic spectacle of his career. Pola Negri plays the daughter of a band of thieves; seduction of army commander (and audience) ensues. Lubitsch's personal favourite work of all his German films, Die Bergkatze represents a peak in both Lubitsch's silent oeuvre and the silent cinema as a whole.


• Six features across five discs
• A sixth disc containing Robert Fischer's 2006 feature-length documentary Ernst Lubitsch in Berlin: From Schönhauser Allee to Hollywood
• Exclusive concertina score for Die Puppe.
• Liner notes for all six features by film-writers David Cairns, Anna Thorngate, and Ignatiy Vishnevetsky

We will be review this extraordinary release and you can pre-orderLUBITSCH IN BERLIN Six films by Ernst Lubitsch, 1918-1921 [Masters Of Cinema] (DVD) [Amazon], Available from 10th February.

27 October 2013

Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler (1922) Masters Of Cinema Blu-ray Review

No comments: Links to this post

BD Release Date:
28th October 2013 (UK)
Eureka! Video
Fritz Lang
Rudolf Klein-Rogge, Aud Egede-Nissen, Gertrude Welcker
Buy Dr.Mabuse The Gambler: [Blu-ray] / (Limited Edition Steelbook) [Blu-Ray]

Dr. Mabuse: der spieler is a two-part film from Fritz Lang. The films it total run over 4 hours in length. It’s one of Fritz Lang’s first great films and Lang would continue the story of the criminal masterpiece Dr. Mabuse in The Testament of Dr. Mabuse and The 1000 eyes of Dr. Mabuse, the last film Lang directed. The character of Dr. Mabuse comes from the novel of the same name by Norbert Jacques.

Dr. Mabuse (Rudolf Klein-Rogge) is a criminal masterpiece, doctor of psychology and master of disguise. He also has powers of hypnosis and mind control. The good doctor the overseer of counterfeiting and gambling of the Berlin underworld. The first film starts with orchestrating a cunning plan of a theft of an important contract that creates a temporary panic n the stock market that he exploits to his financial advantage.

Dr. Mabuse is also a expert gambler due to his hypnotising his opponents. He hypnotises Edgar Hull but after other people confront him about his lost he can’t remember loosing. He goes to State Prosecutor Norbert von Wenk and he believes it’s the same man who is responsible for all of these huge looses in illegal card games. He vows to find the man responsible and bring him to justice. Dr. Mabuse will do anything in his power to stay elusive even if it means murder.

The film was preceded by Fritz Lang’s Destiny, which I’ve still never seen but from all accounts was the film, which his style became apparent from. Lang along with Eisenstein and Griffith are hands down the people responsible for all the techniques in modern film language. Lang invented what would become the modern thriller and science fiction film in films like Mabuse, M, Spione and of course Metropolis. He was one of the first directors to use special effects extensively and many modern techniques from him then for example Méliès.

The film is sprawling complicated mystery of intrigue, magic, hypnosis and cocaine. It’s runs for an epic 4 hours and 30 minutes or so and it would be a lie if it didn’t drag at moments but silent films of this ilk were very much the original mini-series. It predates film noir by roughly 20 years and Lang and German expressionism in wider sense were the biggest inspired for the film noir of the 1940s and 1950s. The influence was so much so that Lang himself is also a noted director noir with films like The Big Heat and Beyond a Reasonable Doubt.

It’s a one of Lang’s most important film even though it probably could have lost a good hour of footage but if you take it as a proto mini-series you will be fine. The sequel The Testament of Dr. Mabuse is a tighter film and better for it but it all started here and it’s mighty fine piece of work. The great Soviet filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein actually edited it down for a Soviet audience and that would be an interesting find but I doubt it will ever surface sadly.


Ian Schultz

19 October 2013

Nosferatu (1922) Masters Of Cinema Review

No comments: Links to this post

Release Date:
25th October 2013 (UK Cinema)
Eureka! Video, BFI
F.W. Murnau
Max Schreck, Greta Schröder, Ruth Landshoff

It's easy to call yourself a film fan or even a cinephile but when you dig a little deeper to find out why they call themselves fans its then you truly find out how much of a fan you really are. Film is one of the most culturally diverse art forms ever created, true cinephiles will appreciate it in all it's forms including Silent Film. With Halloween creeping up on us what better time to (re-)release of the most iconic horror  films in cinematic history getting a rare appearance on the big screen, F.W Murnau's Nosferatu (1922).

Whilst Bela Lugosi then Hammer Films romanticized that many of us perceive Dracula to be, the reclusive black cloaked fanged count  who has women falling at his feet ,under his hypnotic spell, Murnau's masterpiece is film's earliest adaptation of Bram Stoker's novel seen on the big screen.

Set in post world war one Germany, Nosferatu sees Knock (Alexander Grauach) a estate agent and his assistant Hutter (Gustav Von Nagenheim) go on assignment deep into the mysterious Carpathian Hills in heart of Transylvania. They arrive at Count Orlock's castle (Max Schreck)to broker the sale of Orlock home back in Germany but as the days fly past Hutter starts to notice unusual things start to happen he reverts back to the book he is reading Orlock might actually be a vampire. As the horror of realization sinks into Hutter he discover Orlock has escaped his castle back to Germany amongst a shipment of coffins leaving a trail of death in his wake forcing Hutter to Hunt the parasitic killer before a veil of death destroys his hometown.

To be screened part of BFI's Gothic The Dark Heart Of Film,Nosferatu deserves its rightful place next to modern horror, frankly because of its superior quality. The film might be 9 years short of been 100 years old some may call it outdated, cliched but in reality this film's craftmanship, technical ability are second to none. This film is essential viewing for any wanna be horror filmmaker though scare factor maybe non-existent but the visual power and atmosphere stands up against any modern horror film making one of the best with the genre (possibly best within Vampire sub genre). The shadowy silhouettes, male leads exact doubles of each other, broody Gothic horror in its prime but most of all make up the symbolic German Expressionism.

If there's any case for the importance of music within a feature film, the silent film era will act as your best case to support your argument. Nowdays it seem many bands fight to get a hip points however like when you talk about football matches the crowd been the '12th Man' the score is that '12th Man' providing the heartbeat of the audience delivering an extra dimension of fear, tension. Even with a modern score Nosferatu never loses it's power still delivers the platform for Max Schreck to deliver the ultimate legendary performance as Count Orlock.

Schreck's portrayal of Orlock was delivered with such conviction, terrifying passion by an actor who actually believed he was a  vampire. There is no comparisons from any other  actor coming close to matching Schreck,but the closest comparsions could possibly be seen in two  more recent films, the highly underrated Shadow Of The Vampire (2000) and Werner Herzog's Nosferatu The Vampyre (1979) with Klaus Kinski.

So why has Stoker's legendary creature of the night always been romantized rather been a predatory monester, one a argument comes from film historians with the possibe connections with Nazism. Whilst the film was created well before the rise of the Nazis Nosferatu is believed by some to be an account based around the Weimar Republic. A state within Post World War One Germany born out off corruption, anti antisemitism delivering the National Socialist Party  but it's the visual attributes of Orlock that could be seen as the most terrifying. The Nazis looked to have hijacked Murnau's vision for how they symbolized the Jewish people as rat like creatures for their propaganda films. If anything the main argument could all be down to Bram Stoer's widow taking the German auteur to court for breach of copyright despite the change to the novel

Whatever your think about Nosferatu, it may not feel part of modern romantic vision of the vampire but it has it's rightful place in horror folklore. When you look back at the story of how Murnau's masterpiece was created it makes you wonder did  he know something we didn't know when he kept that single copy despite the court order to destroy all copies. Though sometimes if he had a time machine he may have thought twice about destroying the remaining if he knew that Twilight Saga lay ahead?! Whatever you think or how many versions of the film you may have on DVD or Blu-Ray  F.W Murnau's Nosferatu was made for one thing, that's the big screen, don't miss a piece of cinematic gold getting a rare run on the big screen.


Paul Devine

24 July 2013

The Birth Of A Nation (Masters Of Cinema) Blu-Ray Review

No comments: Links to this post

BD Release Date (UK):
29th July 2013
D.W. Griffith
Lillian Gish, Mae Marsh, Henry B. Walthall
Buy: (BLU-RAY)

The Birth of a Nation is one of the most notorious films in film history and rightfully so. The film is probably the most important film of the silent only possibly topped by Battleship Potemkin. The film is directed by one of the very first true masters of cinema D.W. Griffith and is rightfully included in Eureka’s Masters of Cinema range. The film over the almost 100 years since it’s release has been indicted for being just racist trash. It’s no questionably incredibly racist but it’s a film with full of such amazing cinematic craftsmanship. The racism is so over the top are times it’s laughable especially the infamous 2nd half.

The film is a nutshell is about 2 families; one is Northern Stonemans and the Southern Camerons. They are friendly and one of the Stoneman boys falls in love with one of the Cameron girls. However the American Civil War happens. Sons of both families die during the war. After the war John Wilkes Booth (played by later noted director Raoul Walsh) assassinates President Abraham Lincoln.

The radical congressmen are determined to punish the South and by doing so they alienating white Southerners. Ben Cameron forms the Ku Klux Klan to fight back against the radical congressmen giving blacks “more rights than their white counterparts.” The film becomes increasingly becomes more and more absurd especially with the fried chicken eating mostly black legislature scene and the portrayal of African Americans as basically anarchic savages. To add insult to injury most of the black characters in that lovely old technique of blackface and the “Negro speak” intertitles are absurd.

The film boosts truly stunning cinematography and composition. The battle scenes are truly stunning and the end scenes with the KKK on horseback racing down to save the white people of the town are spellbinding. D.W Griffith are invented most of the editing techniques that are still used today. The film basically started feature length films as a realistic option, they’re about a dozens attempts previously… mostly lost sadly. It started the rise of Hollywood as a dominating force in the world for better or worse.

The Birth of a Nation a is film that is very much of it’s time and that has to be taken into account when your watch it. The film is clearly racist and pro-KKK even though D.W Griffith’s own beliefs has been much debating in the almost 100 years since it’s release. However as everyone knows the time it was made was a very racist time decades before the civil rights movement. His next film Intolerance was his response to the film’s criticism over its portrayal of the KKK and African Americans. Intolerance was all about how we should all come together and be tolerant of each other.

The film is an important piece of history that shouldn’t be dismissed outright. The film still deserves to be studied by students of film. The great Charles Chaplin once said “D.W Griffith was the teacher of us all” and he had a point. Masters of Cinema as always has released the film with loads of bonus features including a documentary and many of D.W Griffith’s civil war short films on both blu-ray and dvd.


Ian Schutz

17 May 2013

Anthony Asquith's Underground To Get BFI Release This June

No comments: Links to this post
Anthony Asquith's Underground (1928), a subterranean tale of love, jealousy, treachery and murder, evokes the daily life of the average Londoner better than any other film in Britain's silent canon. Restored by the BFI National Archive and following an acclaimed theatrical release in January, the BFI now brings the film to DVD and Blu-ray for the first time on 17 June 2013 in a Dual Format Edition. It is presented with a new orchestral score composed by Neil Brand and performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra; along with five short complementary films and an alternative score by musician/sound recordist Chris Watson

In the late 1920s Asquith, along with Hitchcock, was one of the most audacious young talents in British film and Underground was his own original screenplay. With its scenes of the bustling tube (passenger behaviour is strikingly familiar) and the capital’s parks, double-decker buses, pubs and shabby bedsits, Asquith masterfully balances the light and dark sides of city life, aided by a superb cast of Brian Aherne and Elissa Landi as the nice young lovers and Norah Baring and Cyril McLaglen as their unhappy counterparts

At just 26, Asquith's direction is assured, efficient and spare with some remarkably cinematic flourishes, clearly inspired by contemporary German and Russian filmmaking. It climaxes with a thrilling chase scene across the rooftops of the Lots Road Power Station.

For many years the restoration of Underground presented insurmountable difficulties, but developments in digital technology have enabled the BFI to make a significant improvement to the surviving film elements.

Special features
• Feature presented in both High Definition and Standard Definition
• Newly commissioned score by Neil Brand presented in 5.1 and 2.0
• Alternative score by Chris Watson
• The Premier and His Little Son (1909-12, 1 min): previously unseen footage of Anthony Asquith as a child
• A Trip on the Metropolitan Railway (1910, 13 mins, DVD only)
• Scenes at Piccadilly Circus and Hyde Park Corner (1930-32, 6 mins, DVD only)
• Seven More Stations (1948, 12 mins, DVD only): a film about the expansion of the Central Line beyond Stratford
• Under Night Streets (1958, 20 mins): a documentary about the tube's nightshift workers
• Illustrated booklet featuring film notes and new essays by Christian Wolmar and Neil Brand.

Pre-order/buy: Underground (DVD + Blu-ray)

15 May 2013

Silent Film Great F.W. Murnau's TABU The Latest Edition To Masters Of Cinema

No comments: Links to this post

Tabu: A Story of The South Seas , considered one of the greatest films of the silent era, will be released as part of Eureka Entertainment’s MASTERS OF CINEMA series on Blu-ray and DVD on 17 June 2013.

Eureka Entertainment have announced that they will be releasing Tabu: A Story of The South Seas, the final film by one of the greatest of all filmmakers, F. W. Murnau (Nosferatu, Sunrise). In an updated edition of one of the great classics in the Masters of Cinema series, the film will be appearing for the first time ever in its proper 1.19:1 original aspect ratio on both the Blu-ray and DVD, and in an HD 1080p transfer on the Blu-ray. Featuring copious special features including a 15-minute making-of documentary, a full-length audio commentary track on the feature, newly presented outtakes from the original shoot of the film, and a 56-page booklet with original writing by the principals, essays, rare imagery, and more. Tabu: A Story of The South Seas will be released on DVD & Blu-ray as part of the Masters of Cinema series on 17 June 2013.

“a touching and poetic story of ill-starred love” – The Guardian

In 1929, F. W. Murnau (Nosferatu, Faust, Sunrise), one of the greatest of all film directors, invited leading documentarist Robert Flaherty (Nanook of the North, Man of Aran) to collaborate on a film to be be shot on location in Tahiti, a Polynesian idyll in which Murnau imagined a cast of island actors would provide a new form of authentic drama and offer rare insight into their “primitive” culture. The result of their collaboration was Tabu, a film that depicts the details of indigenous island life to tell a mythical tale that is rich in the universal themes of desire and loss.

Subtitled "A Story of the South Seas", Tabu concerns a Tahitian fisherman (played by an islander, Matahi) and his love for a young woman (played by fellow islander Reri, who went on to star on Broadway) whose body has been consecrated to the gods, rendering her tabu as far as mortal men are concerned. The lovers flee their island and its restrictive traditions, but will their love prevail in the "civilised" world?

This Oscar-winning film (the Academy Award went to cinematographer Floyd Crosby) is both poetic and simple in tone. The Masters of Cinema Series is proud to present – completely unc­ensored and fully restored – this landmark film of rare exoticism and magical beauty, described by critic Lotte Eisner in 1931 as "the apogee of the art of the silent film", for the first time ever on Blu-ray in its original aspect ratio.


• New 1080p HD transfer on the Blu-ray of the Murnau-Stiftung / Luciano Berriatúa 75th anniversary restoration of the pre-Paramount, longer Murnau-approved version of the film, with uncensored scenes and titlecards, appearing in its original 1.19:1 aspect ratio for the first time

• Full-length commentary track by R. Dixon Smith and Brad Stevens.

• 15-minute German documentary about Tabu by Luciano Berriatúa.

• Newly presented outtakes from the original shoot of the film

• Treibjagd in der Südsee (1940) - an archival short film

• 56-PAGE BOOKLET with articles by Scott Eyman, Richard Griffiths, and David Flaherty; an interview with the film’s cinematographer Floyd Crosby; and the original story treatments written by Murnau and Flaherty for Tabu and its aborted predecessor Turia.

Pre-order/Buy Tabu-A Story of The South Seas:DVD

24 December 2012

Ho Ho Ho Merry Christmas! Watch 100 Year Old Santa Claus Films

No comments: Links to this post

Well I hope all the boy and girls in film fanland tonight will brush their teeth, hang up their stockings and get some shut eye as our favourite overweight man with a big white beard and a iconic red and white suite will be delivering his presents as we sleep. Ole Santa Clause is the icon for this time of the year outside the religion importance of this time of the year and is subject to many Christmas based films every year. Lets step back in time to over 100 years ago and thanks to BFI (via Filmschoolrejects) we have 5 films all short films which show Old Saint Nick or the spirit of Christmas.

George Albert Smith‘s 1898 short Santa Claus (aka The Visit From Santa Claus), which is one of the first on screen adaptations of Santa showing the big man deliver gifts to a house but compare it to The Night Before Christmas not the Tim Burton  film but Edwin S Porter's version. produced by none other than Thomas Edison which expands on the delivering with going into Santa's workshop as well as a wonderful sleigh ride. A Little Girl Who Did Not Believe in Santa Claus based on Virginia O’Hanlon story Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus which expands more on the characters magic and a myth of a boy who lasso's Santa taking him back to Virginia and to homes of poor kids which apparently he doesn't do! In the 1914 docunmentary come fantasy Making Christmas Crackers, we see a set of women create the crackers we like to pull at our dinners with the final part we see Santa appear when some kids pull a giant cracker. Finally we have   Wladyslaw Starewicz's  The Insects’ Christmas a creepy but intriguing Polish short which sees a Santa ornament celebrate Christmas in the company of insects.

We all take Christmas for granted and expect certain things, traditions so it's always fascinating to go back to a period before high tech films, computers, technology in general dominated our lives, when life was more innocent and the true message of Christmas wasn't about commercialization.

The Insects' Christmas from David Cairns on Vimeo.