Not only are they in black and white, they don’t talk. Hey, that’s what they call special effects. And hopefully “The Artist” will lead folks who haven’t experienced the silent movies of Hollywood’s Golden Era to discover them.
When it comes to silents, I feel like a cheerleader. The A-Team, as in, “Yay, team!” is Kino Lorber. Their unabashed passion for the art form comes through loud and clear in the new 7-DVD box set, “The Best of Kino’s Silent Classics Vol. 1: The Artists.” There are few better ways to get started than this, and even those who need no introduction may find a few goodies they haven’t seen. Cheers are definitely in order.
Somehow I’ve never managed to see the 1924 version of “The Thief of Bagdad” starring Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and renowned for W.C. Menzies’ production design. Not only has Kino’s release been digitally mastered from a 35mm archive neg, it includes 19 minutes of seldom–seen outtakes and special EFX footage.
Bester Keaton’s “The General” comes color-tinted, with three scores and a tour of filming locations. D.W. Griffith’s masterful “Broken Blossoms”(1919) is also color-tinted, and features a filmed intro with star Lillian Gish. “Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde” (1920) offers not only John Barrymore’s glorious performance, but the bonus of Stan Laurel’s wacky parody, made prior to his teaming with Oliver Hardy.
Laurel’s delicious take-off on Rudolph Valentino’s “Blood and Sand” is sadly missing from the DVD of that feature, but Will Rogers’ parody is included. Clara Bow’s “It” is here, along with a documentary on the jazz age flapper. The only feature that seems a little out of place is Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis,” because Brigitte Helm is virtually unknown outside of her iconic role here; the slot might have been better devoted to a Greta Garbo or a Mary Pickford title.
Kino’s Blu-ray release of D.W. Griffith’s “Way Down East” (1920), mastered in HD from the Museum of Modern Art’s 35mm restoration, is another reason to cheer. The maestro’s penchant for Victorian melodrama probably reached its height of expression inthis classic again starring Lillian Gish. The film is best known for its climactic chase across an ice floe, as equally exciting as the chariot race in “Ben-Hur.” Griffith’s controversial “Birth of a Nation” also makes its Blu-ray debut this month.
Speaking of silents, let me give a shout-out to Sunrise Silents, a little indie whose DVDs are carefully produced and look very nice indeed. Sunrise’s releases fill in the gaps in film history left by Kino and others. A case in point is Clara Bow’s forgotten 1926 gem “Mantrap,” in which she stars as a sexy young manicurist married to a backwoodsman in small town Canada.
More from Jordan:
Restored ‘Potemkin’ on Blu-ray, more Gaumont treasures on DVD
Keaton’s ‘West,’ ‘Butler’ on Blu-ray, Silent Film Necrology in paperback
Celebrating Laurel & Hardy, and a forgotten Jewish comedian
Myrna Loy, Adah Menken bios recall superstars of another era
Stravinsky’s ‘Soldier’ in Berkeley, ‘Annapurna’ in San Francisco
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