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filmlover

Silent films

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Please review silent film DVDs here, thanks. When reviewing, good things to keep in mind that people want to know: how good was the film quality, was the film itself any good, what were the extras and how good were they, was there a good commentary, etc. You know, stuff you would like to know if you were thinking about buying a particular DVD.

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This thread needs a DVD review. Here's one...

 

Faust (1926).

 

I watched a rental of the KINO DVD of F.W. Murnau's "Faust" last night...

 

Astonishing.

 

The best description of the movie and the DVD presentation of the movie is astonishing.

 

First, everyone knows the story of Faust. I don't need to write a synopsis of the story. The movie "Faust" grabbed my attention one minute after the start of the movie...I was tinkering with something in front of the television while my wife watched the DVD. "Faust" grabbed my attention and I was transfixed by the movie until the last scene (almost two hours). By the way, my wife had fallen asleep by the end of the movie. She says she will "pick up" the last ten minutes of the film today.

 

Second, the special effects of Murnau's Faust are...well, incredible. Even by today's standards.

 

Third, the acting is superb. Emil Jannings' performance as Mephisto is...uh, once more...astonishing.

 

Fourth, Murnau's job as director of "Faust" is masterful. I thought it was interesting, during a recent John Ford documentary, Mr. Ford mentions the difficulty of directing silent (versus talkie) films. I guess he means the many camera set-ups required to present an idea to the audience. The presentation of an idea simplified considerably if the soundtrack has dialogue. Well, Murnau makes no missteps directing "Faust". Here is a small example of Murnau's mastery of the silent film. One scene has Mephisto and Faust placing a pretty bit of jewelry (the temptation) in the dresser drawer of Faust's love interest. The dresser is in her bedroom. Mephisto and Faust exits the bedroom. The love interest enters her bedroom and she...shudders slightly. No words. She merely trembles for a second...just enough to tell us (the audience) she feels the lingering presence of evil. Wonderful.

 

Fifth, KINO's DVD beautifully presents the black and white cinematography. This movie has a lot of effects--fog and smoke, fade outs, fade ins, double exposures...what have you. These effects are central to the story. These effects would be "lost" without top notch video luminance and contrast. The KINO DVD does not take anything away from the film. In fact, the DVD artfully enhances Murnau's vision. Really, the video of this DVD is wonderful. Watch this DVD on the largest screen possible (I watched the thing on a good 35 inch CRT television).

 

Sixth, KINO's DVD soundtrack also enhances the experience of watching "Faust". This DVD has an orchestral soundtrack and the music follows the action nicely.

 

The extras on the DVD are spare. The only extra is a series of stills from the making of "Faust". The still pictures display for a few seconds before moving to the next picture. Some pictures display a zoom image, before moving to the next picture.

 

I have watched more than fifty silent films. My opinion? "Faust" is the perfect introduction to silent films. Considering the effects, the story, the DVD...only one other silent film competes with "Faust" as the perfect "first silent film"--"The Phantom Of The Opera" .

 

"Faust" is one of...maybe, six films I have rented and immediately looked the movie up on the internet to purchase. And that means "Faust" is a pretty darned good movie.

 

Recommended.

 

Rusty

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I seen a snip of "Faust" in the "Phantom of the Opera" I want to see the entire movie. I just bought my copy of "Beyond the Rocks" it was good but not what I was hoping it would be. I am waiting for them to find and restore "zaZa" with Glorious Gloria Swanson.

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I have the Kino Faust and agree with Rusty's review. It's a magnificent DVD. "The Last Laugh" is also great. I keep meaning to get the Kino "Nosferatu" but since I already have the Image version it's not at the top of my list.

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I just finished watching the Kino DVD of "The Man Who Laughs" and I highly recommend it. I have to admit that I was under the impression all these years that it was a horror film, based on the image of Conrad Veidt's picture with that horrible grin (the inspiration for the Joker in Batman), but it was not that at all. It is a story of people. And Conrad Veidt is truly remarkable in the title role. His is a very heartbreaking performance, shown mainly though his eyes and gestures as the man afflicted with the permanent full smile because of a horrible operation done to him when he was a child.

 

The print is excellent, with a great film score. There are lots of photos and press material in the special features section, as well as film of the home lives of Veidt and other foreign stars in Hollywood.

 

 

Well worth getting.

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*The Last Laugh*

 

This Kino release is one of various accomplishments and downfalls. First off, the film is one of Emil Jannings? most famous, the story a grand hotel doorman who is removed from his beloved post, where he is respected by everybody, and reduced to the level of the washroom attendant due to management thinking his age is a detriment to the doorman post. When he loses the doorman position, he loses every bit of life, and everybody in his life. It is interesting to watch Jannings and he really does hit the low points well, that is the good point, except for an unbelievable ending tacked on (admitted within the film as being improbable)?but the video is sometimes a chore to get through.

 

The print has a dark line running across the top of the screen for the full film, and other times the movie looks like it was a TV-copied print due to TV-image lines being legible. As to the image itself, it is always clear enough to see, but it has soft images.

 

It is interesting that this film has absolutely no dialogue cards, all is conveyed through acting. A very surprising thing but it proves that even dialogue in the form of onscreen cards isn?t necessary.

 

The film has little in the way of extras. There is a sequence in the film that they have by itself showing German titles as opposed to showing it through a newspaper?s story as the final film does. There is also a small selection of photos. The one thing this is missing, and really could use, is an audio commentary. There is a lot of history of Murnau, Jannings and the film that could be talked about.

 

This is definitely NOT one of Kinos shining moments, but it is worth a rent just to see this movie.

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*Sunrise (Blu-ray) (UK import)*

 

First off, this Blu-ray release of the silent 1927 classic is region-free and so will play here in the U.S.

 

Sunrise is a story that begins with the tale of a farmer who grimly looks to drown his wife for the lust of another woman, but in the act of it finds he cannot do it and the rest of the film is spent in getting back to the love of his wife. The story may not be the strongest ever told, but the subtitle of the film, ?A Song of Two Humans,? explains that. It is just about a man and a woman, not necessarily different than any other man and woman on the planet. But what is different about this film is director F.W. Murnau?s vision for it. It is told in so spectacular a way that it won an Oscar for ?Most Unique and Artistic Production? at the very first Academy Awards ceremony, plus Best Actress for Janet Gaynor, and for Best Cinematography. Performances by leads George O?Brien and Gaynor are a little on the hysterical side (as in insanity, not funny), but they also hold the film together on their sad, but then joyous, trip into the city and their rebuilding of their love.

 

Murnau has accomplished so much visually (with music accompaniment a major part of it). From the outset, shots of vacationers mixed with arriving steamships, jazz musicians playing madly while others dance, all of these accomplished - according to the audio commentary by John Bailey - through the use of doubly exposing the negative right in the camera, meaning each of the disperse elements would have to be carefully planned at different filmings to get the overall effect Murnau wanted. And it is a wild, spectacular ride that takes you along with the couple and leaves you astounded at the sheer mastery of it all.

 

Two versions of the film are on this Blu-ray release from Eureka, as part of their Masters of Cinema series, just as there was on the Murnau/Borzage at Fox DVD mammoth set from awhile back. The American Movietone release is the longer of the two, clocking in at about 15 minutes longer (mostly extended sequences and occasionally slightly different camera angles), while the recently discovered Czech print of the film is much clearer visually. It is this latter version that really stands out on Blu-ray. The Movietone version is good, but only slightly better than the DVD version. But what a pleasure it is to view the Czech print. Certainly, there are a lot of rough spots, showing the age of the film, but it has been restored as well as I am certain they can get it.

 

It must also be noted that there are different film ratios for the two versions. The U.S. version is 1:20:1, while the Czech print is 1:37:1.

 

As far as extras are concerned, the Movietone version has a running commentary by Bailey, a cinematographer, and thus focuses a lot on the camerawork. The Movietone version also has an alternate music score. Both versions can be played with the original music score.

 

Other extras include a 20-page booklet (with more written text features available online), outtakes, , a trailer, and a look at the film 4 Devils, which is a lost film by Murnau. It should be noted that all of the extras, including the scores and the commentary are available with even more items on the Fox released special edition of Sunrise from several years ago.

 

What makes this Eureka release so special is experiencing the Czech print in the best picture quality available. I can recommend it.

 

Edited by: filmlover on Oct 5, 2009 4:07 PM because I also meant to mention: go to this link and go down the left side until you see the area that says "Download our SUNRISE supplements by clicking here" ("here" is the word you will click on). That will take you a zip file containing things that were meant to be in the 100+ page book that was originally to be with this release (but cut down to 20). There are a number of fascinating things including the photoplay to Sunrise, plus a similar one with notes, the "4 Devils" screenplay, and a 38-page article by Dudley Andrew on "Sunrise".

http://eurekavideo.co.uk/moc/catalogue/sunrise/#

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*The General (Blu-ray)*

 

I have to admit I was a little nervous about ordering this on Blu-ray. So many prints have come and gone before that I seriously doubted that from what I had already seen on DVD that anyone could make a high definition image from the title. Plus the fact that it was not coing from a major studio like Warner Bros. or Fox, but rather independent distributor Kino International. Well, I am here to say this is a first-rate, gorgeous-looking high-definition print and I am very happy with it.

 

The image is so well done in places that one could think it was shot today, but through a deliberate sepia tone to make it look old. The image for this 1927 Buster Keaton classic is beyonfd belief in its clarity. Previous versions pale in comparison. It's true there are still white spreckles, etc., on the print, but it is doubtful you will ever find any print better. As it mentions on the Blu case, it was "mastered in HD from a 35mm archive print struck from the original camera negative."

 

For an excellent comparison of the Blu to previous versions, dvdbeaver.com has a number of photos you can look at: http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film/DVDCompare5/thegeneral.htm

 

Like the Kino release from 2008, this Blu comes with the following extras:

SPECIAL FEATURES:

- Three musical scores to choose from:

(1) Music composed and conducted by Carl Davis, performed by The Thames Silents Orchestra (in 5.1 Stereo Surround or 2.0 Stereo)

(2) Music arranged and directed by Robert Israel

(3) Theatre organ score by Lee Erwin

- A video tour of the authentic General, presented in association with The Southern Museum

- A tour of the filming locations, presented by John Bengtson, author of Silent Echoes

- Behind-the-scenes home movie footage

- Filmed introduction by Gloria Swanson

- Filmed introduction by Orson Welles

- The Buster Express, a brisk montage of train gags from throughout Keaton's career

 

My favorite of the three scores is the one by Carl Davis. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound fills the room. Beutifully composed and a perfect accompanient for this classic comedy. (The score is also available in uncompressed 2.0. The scores by Robert Israel and the one by Lee Irwin call more upon the period of the film. While that may be more true to the era, the latter two scores lose a lot of the wonder of the film in their antiquity.

 

The extras mentioned above are all short (one is only a minute long), but they are enjoyable, particularly the various clips of Keaton and trains from several shorts/movies.

 

Highly recommended.

 

filmlover

 

Edited by: filmlover on Nov 23, 2009 3:14 AM

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I just got the John Barrymore Collection released by Kino International earlier this year. Since it seemed there was little information available about it, I thought I would present as much as I could in my review (shamelessly copy-and-pasted from amazon), if anybody's interested.

 

The thrill of the initial announcement for this is slightly dimineshed by the contents of the set. The big news of the press release was that the long-lost Sherlock Holmes is finally coming to home video. Some of us were wondering if it would considering the restored reconstuction was almost 10 years ago in 2001. I can only speculate that the long delay must have been financial or legal, since this was a bare-bones release. That's a shame too, since there are volumes of extras that could have been easily created about this particular film, the character Sherlock Holmes, or the actors. In addition to John Barrymore, the film also contains the debuts of William Powell and Roland Young; a simple featurette could have pointed them out to the unfamiliar. I think the most glaring omission is about the history of the film. For being a lost film for years, the reconstruction was a challenge not because of limited available materials, but instead because the elements surviving included EVERY take jumbled out of order. Theoretically, there is a lot of material out there that didn't make it onto the DVD, it would have been nice to see some of that here. Lastly, this film, and the other releases new to Kino inthis set, present a new trend in minimal menus that I'm not very fond of, with about 6 chapter selections listed right on the main menu. Granted, there aren't many extras in the set that they could have branched to, but even when there are, those are still just on the main menu. This trend is reminiscent of the early days of DVD, when not every DVD had menus or chapter selections. Even on past releases with no extra features, Kino displayed a main menu and more sophisticated chapter selections.

 

As for the other films, Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde is the most available of all four, and the DVD with the most extra features in this set. While the extras make it superior to all competitors, they do not feature John Barrymore, but rather the history of the Jekly and Hide productions. Also, this DVD has been previously available from Kino and is found in another box set. While I love Kino, that does irritate me a little, since that practice only seems convenient for people who don't buy many of their products. In other words, it already seems like it's not a product made for people like me.

 

The Beloved Rogue and Tempest were both already available from Image Entertainment. The Kino edition of the Beloved Rogue has an improved image quality and adds an extra feature, an introduction by Orson Welles from the 70's; the piano score is also apparently still the same used in home video since the 70's. The Kino edition of Tempest, however, has no special features unlike the Image edition, which included home movies of John Barrymore on his yacht, "Vagabonding on the Pacific".

 

I really wanted to be able to rate this set higher, but i feel it has some shortcomings as a product. For Barrymore fans, Sherlock Holmes is probably the main appeal, but if you're a long-time Barrymore fan then you've probably already purchased some of the existing DVDs on the market. If so, then you probably don't need to double dip here, just buy the Sherlock Holmes single DVD. I can't quite understand Kino's decision not to add anything else to films that are already available on home video--in some cases apparently recycling existing musical scores! Perhaps it's just me, and maybe I've been spoiled by stellar DVD releases of silent films, but I don't see why any film from the silent era wouldn't deserve extra features to add appeal and also put them in context. I don't want to judge the product too harshly on content I feel is absent, but on the other hand, it's difficult to recommend this set on the content that is included. Still, Kino is reknowned for quality silent DVD releases, and the transfers here would only disappoint the strictest critics. As long as you're aware that this product is almost limited to just quality film transfers and aren't expecting fully loaded DVDs, then this set won't disappoint.

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Hi. It seemed to be a good time to ressurect the individual threads that were set up when I helped get this Forum created. We are getting so many threads being started for so many things that could all be in one place that it makes it hard to find anything.

 

Keeping within a theme thread makes the Classic Film DVD Reviews Forum a much neater place and better organized.. Thanks.

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This is cool! Classicflix' David Greenstreet has posted a couple titles already available from a new silent film label:

 

There's a new silent film label that is receiving rave reviews from the blogosphere all the way to the New York Times' Dave Kehr -- it's Ben Model's Undercrank Productions.

 

The silent film accompanist's new label has already produced two sterling releases so far this year: Accidentally Preserved - Rare and Lost Silent Films from Vintage 16mm Prints Vol. 1 and The Crackerjack....

 

More are on the way from Undercrank too as at least two more DVDs are in the works.

 

Accidentally Preserved is a collection of nine silent shorts that have survived only on 16 mm safety prints from the 30s and 40s including one with Paul Parrot, Charley's brother.

 

The Crackerjack (1925) is a feature film

starring Johnny Hines and directed by Charles Hines.

 

Visit http://www.accidentallypreserved.com/ for more info

 

 

Edited by: how do you spell it? same way ya pronounce it on Aug 2, 2013 12:07 AM

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Three titles from Grapevine Video on sale for 50% off this weekend thru 8/5.

 

Most significantly, The Perfect Clown (1925) Larry Semon - $7.50 reduced from $15

includes bonus short Move Along (1925) w/Lloyd Hamilton

 

The Love Trap (1929) with Laura La Plante reduced to $6.50

Kino has this movie as a bonus feature on the Directed By William Wyler DVD. Grapevine always has excellent quality but not the resources Kino does - so I doubt it would be an upgrade from my Kino edition.

(This is a mostly silent film with some talking sequences).

Bonus feature is a Koko The Clown short as is one of the nine shorts from

Accidentally Preserved, btw.

 

Third title is a soundie w/Tom Tyler in Rip Roarin' Buckaroo (1936)

 

Edited by: how do you spell it? same way ya pronounce it on Aug 2, 2013 8:50 PM

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Yeah, went ahead and ordered The Perfect Clown at the sale price, they shipped it promptly the next day though I haven't rec'd yet. Oliver Hardy's in it too, btw.

 

Edited by: farnsbarns on Aug 8, 2013 3:47 AM

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A documentary from Milestone - Baby Peggy: The Elephant in the Room (2012) due out November 5th. Also included is her most popular feature film, Captain January (1924) with Hobart Bosworth, Baby Peggy, Irene Rich, and three of the 1920s superstar's shorts:

Carmen, Jr. (1923), Peg O? the Mounted (1924) and Such is Life (1924)

 

Read more about it and her at Milestone's site where it's already available:

http://www.milestonefilms.com/products/baby-peggy-the-elephant-in-the-room

The page includes an audio interview with her from 2012 prior to a MOMA screening of The Elephant in the Room.

 

Edited by: farnsbarns on Sep 20, 2013 3:01 AM

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Some additional info on D. W. Griffith's Intolerance (1916) from Cohen Media on DVD and Blu - November 5th:

 

"Digitally restored and featuring the lush orchestral score by acclaimed composer Carl Davis."

(Also available on DVD editions from Kino and Image but neither boasts a Carl Davis score).

 

Edited by: farns on Sep 24, 2013 7:46 PM

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NY Post's Lou Lumenick provided some further details today on The Big Parade, among other releases:

 

?The Big Parade? is the first silent film (not including the part-talking ?The Jazz Singer?) that Warners has released on Blu-ray, and the first silent to receive a pricey digital restoration taken from a 4K scan of the (rediscovered) original camera negatives.This is the most beautiful looking silent that I?ve seen on video, a quantum leap over the photochemical restoration (from inferior elements) overseen by Kevin Brownlow that?s shown on TV for decades (not to mention the Blu-ray of ?The Jazz Singer?). Most of ?The Big Parade? in fact, now looks like it was shot yesterday. Of course, it?s in black-and-white and has an especially lovely sheen of grain.

 

Carl Davis?s excellent score, which has been adjusted to fit a slightly longer running time, has been carried over from the Brownlow edition. And Brownlow himself has endorsed the new restoration by contributing copious notes that are accompanied by rare archival images (and the film?s original souvenir program), all included in the DigiBook album packaging, also used for the corresponding DVD release.

 

Superbly directed by King Vidor from a trenchant script by Lawrence Stallings (?What Price Glory?), ?The Big Parade? was, by some accounts, the top grossing of all silent films, running for more than a year in New York City. John Gilbert gave his best-remembered performance as a wealthy playboy who experiences the horrors of World War I in France. Even people who have never seen it will recognize iconic scenes that have turned up in film-history documentaries (and MGM promotional films) for decades.

 

The release also includes a commentary track by film historian Mark Viera that includes lengthy excerpts from an oral history recorded by director Vidor. Hopefully, this will sell well enough that Warners will be encouraged to give the same treatment to Vidor?s other big silent classic, ?The Crowd,? which like ?The Big Parade,? has never appeared on DVD.

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Here are a whole bunch of reviews of THE BIG PARADE Blu-ray release. I disagree with one reviewer who says that it is not as good as WINGS. To me THE BIG PARADE is far superior to WINGS in almost every fashion. Certainly the love story is much stronger.

 

 

 

http://www.blu-ray.com/movies/The-Big-Parade-Blu-ray/74454/

 

http://www.dvdfile.com/reviews/blurayreviews/175191-the-big-parade-bd-review

 

http://bluray.highdefdigest.com/9378/big_parade_digibook.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3Ahighdefdigestbluraynews%28HighDefDigest%3ABlu-rayDisc+News%29

 

http://www.dvdtalk.com/reviews/61800/big-parade-the/

 

http://www.hometheaterforum.com/topic/327029-the-big-parade-blu-ray-review/

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/13/movies/homevideo/king-vidors-1925-silent-big-parade-comes-to-blu-ray.html?_r=0

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Thanks for sharing the links. (I actually haven't checked them out since I've not seen the film yet and am trying to avoid any potential spoilers. I know, sounds funny since I posted Lou Lumenick's review of the movie but I did only skim the part concerning the plot).

 

There are some new silent film collections recently released by Alpha Video on 10/29.

Collegiate Comedies is obviously the gem of the bunch.

 

Collegiate Comedies includes two comedies directed by Harry Edwards and starring Carole Lombard, Daphne Pollard, Sally Eilers, Johnny Burke & Matty Kemp: Matchmaking Mama (1929) supposedly has Technicolor scenes with the Sennett Bathing Beauties and Campus Vamp (1928). Also included is Relay (1926).

 

Forgotten Funnymen: Jack Duffy - a six short set

 

Lost Silent Aviation Classics: Flying Fool (1925) and The Cloud Patrol (1929)

 

Mack Sennett Classics, Volume 2: One Night Stand / Cursed By His Beauty / Fatty's Tintype Tangle / Plumber / Star Boarder - these shorts are all from 1914 and 1915

 

Edited by: farnsbarns on Nov 23, 2013 3:19 AM

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*The General (Blu-ray)*

 

I have to admit I was a little nervous about ordering this on Blu-ray. So many prints have come and gone before that I seriously doubted that from what I had already seen on DVD that anyone could make a high definition image from the title. Plus the fact that it was not coing from a major studio like Warner Bros. or Fox, but rather independent distributor Kino International. Well, I am here to say this is a first-rate, gorgeous-looking high-definition print and I am very happy with it.

 

The image is so well done in places that one could think it was shot today, but through a deliberate sepia tone to make it look old. The image for this 1927 Buster Keaton classic is beyonfd belief in its clarity. Previous versions pale in comparison. It's true there are still white spreckles, etc., on the print, but it is doubtful you will ever find any print better. As it mentions on the Blu case, it was "mastered in HD from a 35mm archive print struck from the original camera negative."

 

For an excellent comparison of the Blu to previous versions, dvdbeaver.com has a number of photos you can look at: http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film/DVDCompare5/thegeneral.htm

 

Like the Kino release from 2008, this Blu comes with the following extras:

SPECIAL FEATURES:

- Three musical scores to choose from:

(1) Music composed and conducted by Carl Davis, performed by The Thames Silents Orchestra (in 5.1 Stereo Surround or 2.0 Stereo)

(2) Music arranged and directed by Robert Israel

(3) Theatre organ score by Lee Erwin

- A video tour of the authentic General, presented in association with The Southern Museum

- A tour of the filming locations, presented by John Bengtson, author of Silent Echoes

- Behind-the-scenes home movie footage

- Filmed introduction by Gloria Swanson

- Filmed introduction by Orson Welles

- The Buster Express, a brisk montage of train gags from throughout Keaton's career

 

My favorite of the three scores is the one by Carl Davis. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound fills the room. Beutifully composed and a perfect accompanient for this classic comedy. (The score is also available in uncompressed 2.0. The scores by Robert Israel and the one by Lee Irwin call more upon the period of the film. While that may be more true to the era, the latter two scores lose a lot of the wonder of the film in their antiquity.

 

The extras mentioned above are all short (one is only a minute long), but they are enjoyable, particularly the various clips of Keaton and trains from several shorts/movies.

 

Highly recommended.

 

filmlover

 

Edited by: filmlover on Nov 23, 2009 3:14 AM

 

It is a great blu ray, the film has never looked better. Undoubtedly they know what they are doing.

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