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Showing Soon - Silents Are Golden… September 28, 2007

Posted by John Hodson in : DVD News & Info, Showing Soon , trackback

Showing Soon in R1

There’s some good stuff coming up in the U.S.A. for silent film fans; well, when I say good, I mean - potentially - real treasures.

Kino International is to offer what they call a ‘definitive’ restoration of Sergei Eisenstein’s hugely influential silent epic Battleship Potemkin late October. The blurb:

Kino International is proud to release on DVD a definitive and unprecedented restoration of one of the most important films of all time: Sergei Eisenstein’s BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN (1925). Widely considered one the most influential silent film ever made, this undisputed masterpiece is now available in a cut as close as possible to Eisenstein’s original vision, which premiered in Moscow in December of 1925.Battleship Potemkin

With a gamut of exclusive special features, Kino’s BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN DVD offers a 42-minute documentary (”Tracing Battleship Potemkin”) on the making and restoration of the film, a photo gallery, and another presentation of the film with original Russian intertitles and optional English subtitles.

THE RESTORATION

The result of a twenty-year restoration project led by the Deutches Kinemathek in Germany and supported by Bundesarchiv (Berlin), Gosfilmofond (Moscow) and the British Film Institute (London), this definitive version of BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN restores all 1,374 of Eisenstein’s original shots. Setting this apart from previous re-issues of this Russian classic is the inclusion of never-before-seen segments cut from the original negative at the insistence of German censors in 1926 and 1928.

After Sergei Eisenstein supervised the cutting of the film’s original negative (prior to the Russian premiere in 1925), this material was sold to a German distribution company that became responsible for the foreign sales of Potemkin. Still in the throes of a crippling economic depression and concerned with Bolshevik agitation within its own borders, German officials ordered distributor Prometheus to cut the most incendiary shots from the original negative, forcing them to further re-edit the film in order to cover up those cuts. Even the famed Odessa steps scene was altered.

Kino’s BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN not only brings back all of the film’s original shots, rescued from early prints made from the untouched original negative, but also presents the film as close as possible to its original edit, when it premiered in Russia on December 21, 1925. Moreover, all of Eisenstein’s original titles have been put back in their original order, re-inserted into the film and retranslated into English. For instance, Kino’s version brings back a quote, originally placed at the beginning of the film, by the Ukrainian-born Bolshevik revolutionary and Marxist theorist by Leon Trotsky. Even though Trotsky wrote extensively on the 1905 revolution, Russian censors decided to replace this quote with a less ambiguous excerpt written by Lenin.

And while the 1925 Russian premiere of POTEMKIN was presented without an exclusive score, Eisenstein personally supervised Edmund Meisel’s composition in Germany before his film’s premiere in Berlin in 1926. As such, Kino’s DVD brings back to life the only official music track for Eisenstein’s masterpiece, now rendered by the 55-piece Deutches Filmorchestra in 5.1 Stereo Surround.

After 80 years since its world premiere, dozens of missing shots have been replaced, all 146 mistranslated and reordered titles have been restored to Eisenstein’s specifications and Potemkin’s iconic imagery has been re-mastered in High Definition.

BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN returns Eisenstein’s magnificent and revolutionary film to a form as close to its creator’s bold vision as we are ever likely to see.

Sounds terrific; the only potential fly in the ointment is Kino’s predilection for using PAL/NTSC converted transfers, which can lead to ghosting on some displays, as evidenced in their release of Lang’s Metropolis and in the new, otherwise excellent, DVD of the 1927 The Cat And The Canary. Still with Kino, and Silent DVD reveals that the Stateside outfit are also going to release Anthony Asquith’s A Cottage On Dartmoor, shown recently on BBC2 as part of their Summer of British Film, next month. One of the extras will be Silent Britain, an excellent 90 minute documentary commissioned by and shown on the increasingly impressive BBC4 last year - which should justify a purchase on it’s own. Kino is also prepping their own ‘definitive’ (again) release of Murnau’s Nosferatu for November, which looks like it should more or less replicate the mouth-watering R2 release by Eureka I mentioned recently:

A cornerstone of the horror film, F.W. Murnau s NOSFERATU is triumphantly reborn in this breathtaking new restoration by the F.W. Murnau Foundation. Backed by an orchestral performance of Hans Erdmann s 1922 score (recorded in 5.1 stereo surround), this Kino International edition presents Murnau s masterpiece with unprecedented clarity and faithfulness to the original release version. This double-disc collection presents the film with the original German intertitles as well as with newly-translated English intertitles. Accompanying the film is a 52-minute documentary by Luciano Berriatúa which provides a detailed account of the production and explores the filmmakers involvement in the occult.

Meanwhile, over at Image, October also sees the release of Wallace Worsley’s 1923 verison of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, with it’s bravura, unforgettable performance by Lon Chaney. The press release says:

Lon Chaney stars as the gentle outcast Quasimodo in the first film version of Victor Hugo’s classic novel, The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Paris of 1482 was meticulously recreated on the back lot of Universal Studios for this powerful drama that turned Chaney into a screen legend - now presented in the ultimate special edition of this timeless classic. The Hunchback of Notre Dame

  • Mastered in high definition from an original multi-tinted print.
  • New symphonic score compiled by Donald Hunsberger, adapted and conducted by Robert Israel. Recorded in Europe in digital stereo.
  • Insert essay and optional audio essay through the film, both by Michael F. Blake, author of two books on Lon Chaney.
  • Facsimile reproduction of original souvenir program.
  • Gallery of Original 3-D stills (3-D viewing glasses are included with this DVD).
  • Extensive gallery of 2-D stills including production shots, scenes and advertising materials.
  • Behind-the-scenes footage of Lon Chaney out of makeup on the set.

Yum. Finally in this section, the relatively new independent outfit Flicker Alley have had some good reviews for their 2-disc Valentino Collection, which I’m very pleased about. Flicker Alley, named after London’s Cecil Court, the heart of Britain’s silent film industry, is obviously run by enthusiasts who put together their offerings with a deal of care and affection. More power to them; their discs aren’t available at every etailer, but as you’ll see on their website they are making some good offers if you buy direct, and, I’m told they only charge $5 shipping to the U.K. For their efforts both to preserve and decently present these films, they deserve much support and success.

Showing Soon in the U.K.

A couple of U.K. snippets. Network seems to be sneaking them out these days; coming October, three horror titles:

The Shout (1978)

It’s a gorgeous Summer’s day and two teams play a cricket game with a difference. It’s the annual match between the local mental asylum and the villagers and, in the scoring hut, patients Crossley and Graves sit side-by-side recording every run, over and fallen wicket. To keep themselves entertained, Crossley recounts a terrifying story of how he came to possess supernatural powers that enable him to kill with a shout. It was, he claims, an ancient magic he learnt from spending many years with the Australian Aborigines. Although Graves dismisses the tale as an insane fantasy, as the match continues the proceedings take on an emphatically sinister turn…

Starring Oscar® nominated actor Alan Bates (Gosford Park) as the deranged Crossley, The Shout features strong performances from both Susannah York (We’ll Meet Again) and John Hurt (The Naked Civil Servant). The narrative style employed by Palm d’Or nominated director Jerzy Skolimowski (Deep End), lends depth and dimension to a film that is deeply engaging as well as terrifying. This film has been justly compared to Nicolas Roeg’s 70s classic Don’t Look Now. With an enigmatic opening sequence, fragments and flashbacks, this release will appeal not only to fans of the horror genre, but audiences who enjoy intelligent, unusual mysteries.

Special Features:

Audio commentary with horror experts Kim Newman and Stephen Jones
Introductory booklet from Kim Newman
Theatrical trailer
Image gallery
Information folder and original press material (PDF)

The Monster (AKA I Don’t Want to Be Born) (1975)

There’s something wrong with Lucy and Gino’s little boy - born with what seems to be an innate hatred of people it is not long before his strength has increased to almost super-human proportions. As he continues to inflict injury, doctors are baffled as to the cause but a nun is convinced that the baby is possessed. Initially dismissed by the medical establishment, the events take such a murderous turn that few can afford to ignore the nun’s warnings…

Starring Joan Collins (Footballer’s Wives) as the stripper cursed by a dwarf to give birth to a demonic child and Ralph Bates (Doctor Jekyll and Sister Hyde) as her husband, The Monster also features the always watchable Donald Pleasence (Hallowe’en) and cult favourite Caroline Munro (Captain Kronos - Vampire Hunter) as a stripper. Peter Sasdy’s (Hands of the Ripper) direction ensures that this is one horror movie you don’t want to miss.

Special Features:

Original Theatrical Trailer
Image Gallery
Script PDF

The Possession of Joel Delaney (1972)

Academy award winning actress Shirley MacLaine stars in this gripping tale of witchcraft, possession, weird rites and gruesome murder.

Wealthy socialite Norah Benson (MacLaine) was forced to take sole charge of her brother Joel Delaney (Perry King - The Day After Tomorrow) in her early teens. She is shocked when, in adulthood, he begins acting out of character and, when his former girlfriend is found decapitated media speculation soon links the death to a series of unsolved killings. Joel becomes the obvious suspect and, when Norah sets out to prove his innocence, she stumbles across a strong link to Santeria - an occult religion. She begins to suspect that evil spirits are at play and attempts to exorcise the demons herself, only to become engulfed in a wave of spine-chilling terror.

An excellent example of the horror genre and one that predates The Exorcist by over a year, The Possession of Joel Delaney is a scary and compelling film. Ably directed by Golden Berlin Bear nominated director Waris Hussein, starring the ever reliable Shirley MacLaine and with a young Perry King turning in a powerhouse performance as Joel, this film will undoubtedly appeal not only to horror fans, but also fans of suspenseful, atmospheric thrillers.

Special Features:

Commentary and booklet by horror experts Kim Newman and Stephen Jones
Introductory booklet by Stephen Jones
Theatrical trailer
Image gallery

Fingers crossed for decent transfers. Meanwhile, as I mentioned a while back, Sony is trotting out some older titles, boxed as ‘In The Frame’ editions, and I now have details.

James Stewart: In The Frame features: You Can’t Take It With You, Mr Smith Goes To Washington, The Man From Laramie, Anatomy Of A Murder, Two Rode Together, and Bell, Book And Candle.

Humphrey Bogart: In The Frame features Sahara, Dead Reckoning, The Caine Mutiny, The Harder They Fall, Sirocco and In A Lonely Place.

Alec Guinness: In The Frame features The Bridge On The River Kwai, Our Man In Havana, The Prisoner, HMS Defiant, Cromwell and the comedy Murder By Death.

Anthony Hopkins: In The Frame contains 84 Charing Cross Road, Bram Stoker’s Dracula (coming soon as a Special Edition), The Looking Glass War, The Legend Of Zorro, Remains Of The Day and Legends Of The Fall.

Dustin Hoffman: In The Frame has Kramer Vs Kramer, Stranger Than Fiction, Papillon, Tootsie, Joan Of Arc and Accidental Hero.In The Frame

The Jack Nicholson: In The Frame set is the one that interests me most as I’ve held off most of the titles in the (vain) hope of some special editions. I’m not holding my breath so I may bag  As Good As It Gets, Easy RiderFive Easy Pieces, The Last Detail, A Few Good Men and, my favourite, The King Of Marvin Gardens.

Julia Roberts: In The Frame has Steel Magnolias, Erin Brokovich, My Best Friend’s Wedding, America’s Sweethearts, Mary Reilly and Stepmom.

Lastly, the In The Frame for Sidney Poitier boasts Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner (coming to R1 and R2 shortly as a Special Edition and in a R1 ’Stanley Kramer’ box set) To Sir With Love, Raisin In The Sun, Buck And The Preacher, Little Nikita and The Bedford Incident.

The best bit, I suppose, seeing as there are no new to DVD titles here, is the price; each set can be found relatively cheaply at etailers - right now they are £14.99 each at HMV, so if you haven’t got these titles already, at just over £2 for each film, that’s a great bargain.

Finally, the R2 version of The Jazz Singer has been announced by Warners and as feared it’s lacking features found on the R1 equivalent - in fact a whole disc of features. Unlike the U.S. release the U.K. set is only two discs and not three; full story over at DVD Times. Shame.

Comments»

1. Livius - September 28, 2007

All things considered though, the number of new releases announced in the last month or so has been disappointingly low.

2. Derek McL - November 22, 2007

One silent set you didn’t mention which I think is very exciting is the Harry Langdon : Lost and Found collection which is coming on Boxing Day. It includes all that survives of Langdon’s work for Mack Sennett and many rareties. Might be worth a mention in a future blog post John.

By the way I’m really impressed by the detail in your blog. I think you would be a great asset to my messageboard which covers all of cinema with a bias to the classics. Its at goldenageofhollywood.com, we’ve got over 600 members and have been going for just over 3 years. Give us a look some time.

Regards,

Derek

3. John Hodson - November 23, 2007

Thank you Derek; enjoyed your site and can I wish you every success with it. As you can see, I’ve now given that lip-smacking Langdon set a very big mention!


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