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not all great DVDs are in 5.1

Silent DVD Archive


The Lost World (1925), Leni's The Cat and the Canary, and True Heart Susie
A column on the world of early cinema by DVDTalk reviewer John Sinnott

After a rather quiet beginning of the year, there are some great silent films that are going to be released in the last quarter of 2007.  I'm really excited about some of them.  As I mentioned in last month's column, the Lon Chaney classic Hunchback of Notre Dame "Ultimate Edition" is coming out on October 9th, and a week later The Jazz Singer, the film that started the sound age, is being released.  Also being released on October 16th is the third Treasures from American Film Archive boxed set.  This four disc set will focus on films with a social message and span the years 1900 to 1934.  Check out last month's column for more details on these releases.

The date I'm looking forward to is October 25th when a landmark film will be released:  Sergei Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin.  This two disc set will be released by Kino and feature a new restoration by Deutsche Kinematek in association with Goskinofilm of Russia, the British Film Institute, Bundesfilm Archive Berlin, and the Munich Film Museum.  A 55-piece orchestra performs Edmund Meisel's 1926 score and it will be rendered in full 5.1 surround sound.

On September 11th Flicker Alley released The Valentino Collection, a two disc set which includes The Young Rajah, Stolen Moments, A Society Sensation, and Moran of the Lady Letty.  On the 25th (which is still a few days away as I write this) they have scheduled another two disc set:  Discovering Cinema.  That set will contain early experiments in sound and color film.  I should have both sets in hand soon, and will have reviews up in the next Silent DVD.

In the "Speak of the Devil" category, just last month I was talking about the great proto-noir film A Cottage on Dartmoor which was screened at the SFSFF.  Just after the column hit cyberspace I learned that the film is going to be released, on October 2nd by Kino.  It will be accompanied by a full length documentary, Silent Britain, which looks at the UK's film industry at the beginning of the last century.  Now word on who will provide the musical accompanyment yet.  It should be a great disc.

This time around I'll be reviewing a trio of new releases:  True Heart Susie with Hoodoo Ann, the Paul Leni classic The Cat and the Canary, and the 1925 version of The Lost World.  The first title, a pair of films that D. W. Griffith was involved with, are good solid silent era light dramas.  The Leni film has been released previously, and while it looks good, isn't much of an improvement over what was already available.  The new release of the Lost World comes as a bonus feature on the 1960 Irwin Allen version of the film (a much inferior take on the story I might add.)  The interesting news about this film is that it looks like it is the often discussed but little scene Eastman House restoration.  If that's what it ultimately turns out to be, it will be exciting news.



The Cat and the Canary

Between the two world wars German produced some of the greatest films in the history of the medium, and nurtured several incredibly talented directors.  Hollywood just couldn't compete artistically with the German studios.  Subscribing to the old adage "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em" Hollywood imported the cream of German directors.  Fritz Lang worked for MGM starting in 1934, F.W. Murnau went to Fox in 1926, and Ernst Lubitsch was hired by Mary Pickford in 1922.  One other notable director was also brought to America at this time; Paul Leni.  He was hired by Universal in 1926, and though his movies are just as strong as the other prestigious German directors, today he is largely forgotten.  Much of this has to do with his limited output.  He only made for films in America, and tragically died of blood poisoning in 1929.

The Cat and the Canary was Leni's first American movie, and this expressionist influenced film shows Leni at his height as an artist, creating striking visuals and creating a spooky atmosphere, while also putting in some comedy that actually works quite well.  The film was released on DVD by Image in 2005.  That disc featured a restoration by David Shepard and Film Preservation Associates that looked excellent.  Now Kino has released this classic film with an image restored by England's Photoplay Productions.  This new disc looks just as good as the first with a clear, detailed image and a new orchestral soundtrack.

Twenty years after Cyrus West's death, his relatives gather late at night in his old mansion to hear the reading of his will.  Cyrus' lawyer reveals that Annabelle West (Laura La Plante) inherits the fortune, but only if she can pass a psychological examination that night to prove that she is sane.  If not, another of the jealous group is to get the estate.

Strange things start happening almost immediately.  The lawyer disappears while talking to Annabelle and a guard from the local asylum announces that he's tracked an escaped lunatic to the West house's grounds.  With a madman on the loose, can Annabelle survive the night, much less stay sane?

With bodies falling out of closets, secret passages, and disappearing corpses this movie contains all the elements of haunted house movies that will eventually become clichés.  They don't seem trite in this movie however; they are used to great effect.  Leni was a master at creating atmosphere, he started out as a set designer, and he works his magic with this film.  The images of curtains billowing the length of a deserted hall or the shadow of a maniac's hand passing over the face of a young girl all serve to give the film a chilling aspect.

The movie is not all eerie stalkings though; it would be hard to keep the tension up for the whole length of a feature.  To break up the suspenseful elements, Leni incorporates a fair amount of humor in the movie.  The scene where a man is hiding under a bed, only to discover that it belongs to a woman and her daughter who then proceed to bar the doors against entry, is light yet fits in well with the plot.  The humorous aspects of the film don't detract from the serious parts.  Something that is very hard to accomplish.

Leni's Expressionist background serves him well in this film.  There are a lot of images that have that German touch.  Near the beginning of the film, a silhouette of Cyrus West's mansion dissolves into a series of medicine bottles: illustrating what the old man's world had become.  Leni also uses a hand held camera to illustrate what the intruder who is loose in the building sees, a very modern looking set of shots.   The director also pays tribute to his German roots with an inside joke: The doctor who comes to examine Annabelle looks very much like Dr. Caligari.

This influential film which set the tone for haunted mansion stories for decades to come (not to mention at least half of all the episodes of Scooby Doo) holds up to the test of time very well.  The acting is solid without being overdone and the story, though not as surprising as it must have been in 1927, is still interesting.  A very well made film from an excellent director.

The DVD:


Audio:

This disc comes with an orchestral score composed by Neil Brand and performed by the City of Prague Philharmonic.  I always enjoy full orchestrations and this one is very good.  The only real complaint I have is that the Theremin (an early electronic instrument) was overused in parts.  It's a small complaint however.  Being a recent recording there are no audio defects.

This is one of the relatively few silent movies that had a score composed for it, and I was disappointed to find that the original music, penned by James Bradford for the 1927 release, wasn't present.

Video:

This movie has been restored by Photoplay Productions from original nitrate prints.  I have yet to be disappointed in one of their projects and this is no exception.  The movie looks great.  The sepia tones image has a wonderful amount of detail and great contrast.  The picture is sharp and the blacks are solid.  There is some print damage present, a few scratches and some dirt, but these weren't a distraction.  That's the good news.  The bad news it that this appears to be a PAL to NTSC transfer, and there is some slight ghosting in a few scenes and the film runs 4% faster because of it.  It's a shame because it mars an otherwise beautiful restoration.

Extras:

The only extra included on this disc is a photo gallery of production stills and advertising for the film.  There are 16 images altogether.

Which is better; this Kino edition or the previous Image release?:

The two releases of this movie both look very good.  They represent two different restorations and they are just about equal in quality.  The Image version features a restoration by David Shepard and Film Preservation Associates and it has a bit more grain in the picture than this Kino version, and is slightly darker in places.  The Shepard restoration is tinted however, and the image is just a tad sharper than the Photoplay release.  The Image release also has more information at the top of the picture.  If it wasn't for the PAL to NTSC conversion on this Kino disc and the flaws related to that, I'd say that the two discs were of similar quality.
 
 

This Kino release (top) and the Image disc (bottom) have similar picture quality.

As far as the scores go, I have to give the advantage to the Image release.  It includes the original score as well as a modern composition by Frank Stover and performed by the Mont Alto Orchestra.  Both are very good and enjoyed the Stover score a bit more than Neil Brand's on this disc.

In the extra category the Image disc also comes out ahead.  While the few behind the scenes production shots included with the Kino disc are nice, the Image disc comes with the Harold Lloyd two-reeler, Haunted Spooks.

Though it has no bearing on which disc has the better presentation, one interesting thing to note is the back cover copy on this new Kino disc.  To be polite, I'll say that it borrows heavily from the liner notes written by Richard Peterson for Image's 2005 release.  Some excerpts:

Image (2005):  The Cat And The Canary is so clever and stylish that it would appear to be the wellspring of all "old dark house" mysteries. But when it was filmed by Universal in 1927, John Willard's play was already a theatrical warhorse, along with other popular melodramas such as The Bat, The Monster and The Gorilla.

Kino (2007):  So clever and stylish that it would appear to be the wellspring of all "old dark house" mysteries, THE CAT AND THE CANARY was in 1927 already a theatrical chestnut among similar popular melodramas.

Image:  Even so, The Cat And the Canary was a milestone of the American horror film, thanks to the ingenuity of its German director, Paul Leni. One of the first of several film artists imported from Germany by Hollywood, Leni invigorated this stage-bound genre with expressionist flair, transforming conventional material into a visual feast.

Kino:  Even so, THE CAT is a milestone of the American horror film, thanks to the ingenuity of its director, Paul Leni. One of the first film artists imported from Germany by Hollywood, Leni invigorated this stage-bound genre with expressionist flair, transforming conventional material into a visual feast.

Another rather strange thing about the cover copy is the legal warning on the back.  It reads in part:  "The program in this videocassette is licensed only for private home use."  Kino's actually been using that wording on most (all?) of their DVD releases since they started putting out video discs.  Isn't it about time to update the warning?

Final Thoughts:

This film is a great example of Leni's work, a director who is all but forgotten today.  He created a creepy film that was so effective and impressive that aspects of it have been copied countless times.  While this disc does not surpass the version that Image released a couple of years ago, that doesn't make it any less impressive.  Recommended.


True Heart Susue/ Hoodoo Ann:

David Shepard has produced another disc of silent movie classics, and like his other efforts, this one is worth checking out.  This time around we are treated to a pair of films that were made in association with film pioneer D. W. Griffith and that both feature actor Robert Hardon in supporting roles.

The first is 1919's True Heart Susie, one of Griffith's "short story series".  Griffith had stopped making the grand epic pictures that he is remembered for by this time and was concentrating on more intimate and personal movies.  This film shows that he was just as capable in directing smaller pictures as he was with big budget extravaganzas.

The second feature is Hoodoo Ann (1916), a Mea Marsh vehicle that was directed by Lloyd Ingraham from a Griffith Script.  This movie actually feels more like a Griffith production that True Heart Susie.  It has a spectacular fire scene as well as several unique innovative touches that help the movie overcome the rather awkward script.

True Heart Susie:

Susie (Lillian Gish) is a plain and unimpressive girl who has fallen in love with a classmate, William (Robert Hardon).  William desperately wants to go to college but he doesn't have the money, so Susie comes up with a plan:  She sells the cow and other livestock that she inherited from her mother and sends the money anonymously to the man she loves.  William assumes that it's from a rich man he met in town one day and happily goes off to the local university.

He comes back a few years later, educated and worldly.  Susie is elated to see him once again, but William has grown past her.  He ends up falling for a more modern girl from Chicago who does herself up with "paint and powder," Bettina Hopkins (Clarine Seymour), and eventually marries her.  Susie is heartbroken but even so she does not reveal her secret, preferring to suffer in silence rather than ruin William's happiness.

Bettina doesn't love William however.  She's just looking for a sap to support her while she goes on flirting with all the other men in town.  Susie realizes that Bettina is being unfaithful, but her pure nature can't allow her to tell William about it.  With her love married to a cheating hussy, how will poor Susie ever find happiness?

This was a well done character driven romance, and the major actors did a very good job with their parts, but I had a hard time really getting into it.  William comes across as a pretty shallow individual and not too bright either.  Though I could understand Susie having a schoolgirl crush on him, I thought that she'd be better off with someone else.

Some of that feeling is due to the fact that the America of today is very different from that of 1919.  The movie's a bit dated in that respect and feels a bit odd in parts.  In the introduction to the movie, a card stated that "Woman is supposed to be allowed her choice - any yet, not one in ten ever has a chance to marry any but one man."

While the plot is fairly simple, it's not very tight and the story is a bit contrived in places.  There are some plot points that come out from nowhere and feel very awkward.  The rich man driving through town in his car is a good example.  As everyone gathers around to marvel at his automobile the man picks William out from the crowd, asks his name and address and promises him that he'll "aid" the young man in some unspecified way.  Of course he's never heard from again.  Where did this come from and why does he go around raising the hopes of young men only to dash them?  The conclusion came about in a similar way.  The writers needed some way to get Bettina out of William's life, so they manufactured something, even if it wasn't too realistic.

This is a character driven film though, and the solid performances is the movie's selling point.  Lillian Gish does a fairly good job though I don't think this is her best work.  She is a bit stiff in her close-ups and medium shots.  She's trying to look 'plain' and does this by tilting her head to the right and putting her hair in pigtails, and having a vacant look on her face most of the time.  She has such a beautiful face though it's hard to think of her as being unattractive.  When the script calls for her to act she does a fantastic job.  When she finds out that William is going to marry Bettina, after thinking otherwise, you can see her heart break just by the look on her face.  A simple twitch of the mouth and a slightly raised eyebrow is all it takes.

Clarine Seymour nearly steals the picture as the vamp.  Yes, she overplays the role and hams it up at times, but she does it with such enthusiasm that it's impossible not to enjoy her performance.  Every time she's on the screen the movie becomes much more interesting.  She would have surely become a bigger star had she not died due to complications while having an operation the following year.

Griffith crafted a solid movie.  He used a varitey of shots, close, medium, and long, to tell the story which had become standard practice by this point in time.  There weren't as many interesting shots as I thought there would be.  Most Griffith films have at least one or two sequences that really stand out, but nothing really jumps out of this movie.  The one thing that is hard not to notice is how often he shot through an iris.  It seems like every other shot is presented in a circle.  While this was a common technique at the time, Griffith tends to overuse it in this picture.

Hoodoo Ann:

Poor Ann (Mea Marsh).  She was dropped off at an orphanage as an infant, and has had bad luck ever since.  For reasons that are never explained, no one at the orphanage likes her.  The matrons who run the house work her like a slave while the other boys and girls play outside.  Even at night when the girls are being tucked in, everyone gets a goodnight kiss except Ann.  Her only friend is the Negro cook, Black Cindy (Madame Sul-Te-Wan) who reads the girl's palm one evening and states that "You'll be hoodooed all your life-till your married."

The plot abruptly changes about half way through the film.  The orphanage burns down and the various children are farmed out to different families until a more permanent home can be found for them.  The family that Ann is staying with likes her so much that they decide to adopt her.  Time passes and Ann grows to be a fine young woman.  She has her heart set on the boy next door, Jimmie (Robert Hardon), and he likes her, but her Hoodoo curse kicks in again.

After seeing a movie with Jimmie where a woman saves her man by shooting it out with the bad guys, Ann decides she wants to be a movie star.  She dresses up like the actor and acts out scenes from the movie but has the bad judgment of using a real gun.  It goes off and shoots into a neighbor's house.  Ann looks in and sees a man lying on the floor and is sure she's killed him. How can she ever marry Jimmie when she's guilty of murder?

This movie is a big mess and hard to defend.  The plot is disjointed with many aspects that are never explained (what happened to the doll that Ann stole?), there isn't much attention to detail (all of the boys in the orphanage are about 10 years old while all of the girls look 18), and Hardon is barely in the film.  Even with all of this however, I really enjoyed this movie.

The film consists of several interesting scenes that are stitched together.  I wouldn't be surprised to learn that this was the way it was written, with the individual scenes coming first and the overall plot second.  Though he only produced and scripted the film, it isn't hard to see D. W. Griffith's influence on this movie.  The fire was big and spectacular something that Griffith would enjoy doing, and the section where Ann and Jimmie go to the movies and watch a film was interesting and a lot of fun too.

The one scene that really stands out however is Jimmie and Ann's first kiss.  After a date the pair are holding hands on Ann's porch.  Jimmie pulls the girl to the right until he's off the screen.  She pulls him back to the centre and then disappears off to the left side herself.  He leans towards her until you can't see his head, and then runs off a moment later.  Ann slowly walks to the center of the screen with a pleasant look on her face.  This scene is a wonderful bit of film making.

The DVD:


Audio:

The score for the feature film was performed by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra from a score compiled by the group's pianist, Rodney Sauer.  They do their usual excellent job, both musically and having the music fit the tone of the movie.  Hoodoo Ann is presented with a piano score that Mr. Sauer compiled and plays.  This too was very good and the solo piano fit the simple feeling of the movie.  Mr. Sauer also realizes that less can be more and in some scenes has very minimal music.  The section where Ann breaks a doll that she's 'borrowed' is like that, and the lack of energetic playing accented the scene well.  Since these are recent recordings there are no audio defects.  The sound is strong and clear.

Video:

This disc was put together by David Shepard of Film Preservation Associates/Blackhawk Films, and he's created another excellent looking package.  True Heart Susie was restored by the British Film Institute (BFI) from a 35mm negative of the film, and the tinting scheme was taken from an original print, also at BFI.  The sepia toned and tinted 1.33:1 image (slightly window boxed to make up for overscan) looks excellent.  The restored print did have some damage present, scratches and some dirt, and there were a couple of instances of missing frames too.  The quality of the image made up for these defects however.  The contrast was excellent and the detail was very good, especially for a film that's over 85 years old.  The wood grain on the picket fence in front of Susie's house is easy to make out, and even the patterns on the rugs and carpets are clear.  A few of the highlights are washed out, but this isn't a major defect at all.  There are some digital flaws, some aliasing and a few instances where a pin-stripped suit jitters, but overall this is an impressive effort.

The second feature, Hoodoo Ann, looked just as good.  It was also restored by the BFI from a fine-grain positive which was struck from the camera negative.  Though this film wasn't tinted or sepia toned, the black and white 1.33:1 image was also very pleasing to the eye.  There were a wide range of gray tones, very nice contrast, and an excellent level of detail.   The blacks were a little light, but there wasn't any blooming in the scenes filled with white.  There are a couple of rough patches where the print was heavily scratched, but these pass quickly.

Extras:

There's a really neat bonus item for people who are interested in the score used for the main feature.  Rodney Sauer, who complied the score, has written a short piece on the music that he used.  In addition he also included a list of songs, with their composers and publication dates, which were used in creating the score.  I don't recall seeing this before and think it's a great idea.

Final Thoughts:

Both of these films are fun and enjoyable.  I actually had a better time watching Hoodoo Ann, though I'll be the first to admit that the movie has a lot of flaws.  Most viewers will probably prefer True Heart Susie which features a very good performance by Lillian Gish.  This is also a rare opportunity to see Clarine Seymour on film.  She nearly stole the show with her perky and over-the-top performance.  It's a shame that she died soon after making this film.

Both movies look marvelous too.  The restored prints, courtesy of BFI, have a lot of detail and a wonderful level of contrast.  The scores by the Mont Alto Orchestra and Rodney Sauer are also very enjoyable and add a lot to the package.  This is a nice pair of films that get a strong recommendation.


The Lost World (1925)

Note:  This is review only discusses the 1925 version of the movie.  To read about the Irwin Allen 1960 production, check out my full reivew here.

The original version of The Lost World has gone through a lot and has a rather interesting history.  When it was released in 1925 it ran about 10 reels, making the run time about 105 minutes (depending on the projection speed.)  In 1929 sound films were all the rage.  First National pulled the film from release and destroyed all the prints (film stock was very flammable back then and a safety hazard) saving only one negative.  The mythical 'last negative' was never heard from again.  That same year they licensed the rights to Kodascope Libraries and allowed them to make a 5 reel 16mm abridgement of the film.  This ran 55 minutes and was shown at churches, schools, and the like.  This version, along with a trailer, was the only film footage that was passed down over the years.  The George Eastman House (GEH) cobbled together a print of the film with existing stills and text used to fill in the missing bits but that edit and the Kodascope release were the only versions to survive.  The rest of this classic was lost.

Or so everyone thought.  In 1991 a small stock footage company located in New York discovered some stop-motion dinosaur footage in their collection.  This turned out to be alternate unused takes to The Lost World, about 8 minutes worth.  The following year a near complete copy was discovered in the Filmovy Archiv in the Czech Republic.

In 1996, GEH started on restoring this film using the new Czech material as well as other bits and pieces from several other film archives.  This new edition was screened a couple of times, but oddly enough no commercial release was forth coming.  David Shepard of Film Preservation Associates tried to license this restoration for home video release, but GEH wasn't interested.  So he, along with Serge Bromberg of Lobster Films in France undertook their own restoration.  This was completed in 1998.

So, which version is included on this set?  Could this be the all but unseen Eastman House restoration?  It looks like it at first glance.  The opening titles state that the film is from the George Eastman House which is clear enough, right?  Well yes and no.  The Eastman House screen startled me when it first appeared since the essay inserted with the DVD discusses how David Shepard restored the film.  It says in part "Shepard was able to use the print [found in the Czech Republic]...to piece together a new cut of The Lost World for DVD."  So I was expecting to find the Shepard/Bromberg restoration (which runs 93 minutes) on the disc.  Okay, someone messed up with the insert.  It happens.  The run time bothers me though.  The version on this DVD clocks in at 76 minutes, far short of the 100 minutes that the Eastman version is said to run.  In 1991 and again in 1997 Lumivision released the early GEH restoration on laserdisc and DVD respectively.  These versions ran only 64 minutes however, much shorter than the film included on this disc.  Oddly enough there is no copyright listed on this restoration, aside from the original 1925 title, that might help pin down when this was pieced together.

One of the main critiques of the GEH restoration was that available scenes weren't included when they first screened it in 1997.  In answer to this Ed Stratmann, who was in charge of the restoration, said that it was a work print that had been screened, and that the restoration was still a work in progress.  If that is so, I find it odd that they cut nearly 25 additional minutes.

It is obvious that this bonus disc is not a copy of an already released version of the film.  The extras and musical accompaniment don't match up with any other discs, and the run times are off.  By process of elimination this looks like it is the GEH restoration.  I do find it odd however that GEH would license their version to Fox for what basically amounts to an extra.  With all of the people clamoring over the years to see this edit, I'm surprised that they didn't sell the rights to Image or Kino.  I've contacted Fox to see if I can get a definitive answer from them.

Update:  While I haven't heard from either Fox or GEH, I did receive an e-mail from Art Pierce of the Capitol Theatre in Rome, New York where the musical accompaniment for this edtion was recorded.  He related that the film was run at 24 fps, per GEH's instructions, while Philip Carli performed on the theater's organ. I'm a little embarased to admit that I assumed that if this was the GEH restoration it would be run at 18 fps as it was originaly screened.   At this faster speed, the 100 minute film would be over in just 75 minutes.  At almost the same time as I heard from Mr. Pierce, Ben Simon from Animated News & Views wrote hypothesising the same thing.  He's also written up a good review of the disc which you can check out here.  It appears that there is little doubt that this is the much sought after Eastman restoration.

As for the film itself, it is very good.  I have always enjoyed this version better than the 1960 Irwin Allen production, and this edit is no exception.

The movie starts with Professor Challenger (Wallace Beery) giving a talk in London about his recent trip to the Amazon.  He claims that while there he saw living dinosaurs.  To quell the laughs of the unbelievers he arranges another expedition to the deep interior of unexplored South America to both prove his claims and to rescue a fellow explorer Maple White.

Agreeing to go with Challenger are big-game hunter Lord John Roxton (Lewis Stone), a skeptical scientist Summerly (Arthur Hoyt), a newspaper reporter Edward Malone (Lloyd Hughes) who is trying to impress the woman he loves, and Paula White (Bessie Love), daughter of the missing scientist.  They set out for the Amazon and eventually reach and scale a tall plateau.  On its top they discover that Challenger was right:  dinosaurs do still walk the earth.  Of course seeing them and living to tell about it are two different things.

This adaptation follows the book pretty closely at the beginning, it's only when we're well past the half-way point when liberties are taken.  Still, it's an exciting and fun-filled movie with an all-star cast who really do a great job.

Of course the main attraction is the special effects by Willis H. O'Brien.  O'Brien would go on to bring King Kong to life but he honed his stop motion skills with this film.  While the motion is a bit jerky, the dinosaurs look and move realistically.  The special effects really steal the show away from the human actors and are the most memorable, and impressive part of the film.

This edit of the movie, unfortunately, feels like there's something missing.  While there aren't any glaring plot holes or inconsistencies, there are a lot of shots that end too early and abrupt cuts.  Some of the scenes feel a little odd too.  The climax of the film has more shots of the crowd's reaction than of the dinosaur itself and that reminds viewers that they are seeing a reconstruction.  Granted this is a quality effort, and better than the 63 minute version which was the only thing available for years, but it still isn't as good as the Shepard/Bromberg restoration.

The DVD:


Audio:

This film is accompanied by an organ score which was composed and performed by Philip Carli.  The score sounds very good and Carli is a proficient organist, but the music didn't movie me like the best silent film compositions do.  The audio is clean and clear and there are no defects worth noting.

Video:

76 minutes This film was reconstructed from several sources so the image quality does vary a bit over the course of the film, though overall it looks excellent.  There are some fine hair-line scratches, a bit of dirt and other print defects, but these are relatively few and many of the more egregious flaws have been digitally removed.  There are some missing frames here and there and due to the patchwork nature of the restoration some of the shots are too short.  (The scene where the brontosaurus pokes his head through a window at the end is an example of this.  Viewers barely see the dinosaur head before it cuts to the reactions of the men inside the room.  The first part of this scene was longer in the original cut, but alas the footage no longer exists.

The first thing that strikes viewers is the excellent level of detail.  The texture of the dinosaur's skin can easily be discerned and the backgrounds are not unduly soft.  The picture has a sharp contrast and neither blacks nor whites are too intense.  Grain and other film related artifacts aren't a problem and digital defects are very minimal.  The movie has been tinted using the edited Kodascope version as a guide, and it looks just wonderful.

Extras:

The second disc of this two disc set contains the 1925 version of The Lost World as well as a trailer for the film, and seven minutes of outtakes.  The unused footage is all stop motion animation of the dinosaurs.  It's great that they included this along with the feature.

Final Thoughts:

This is a great and fun film.  The cast is wonderful, but that stop motion dinosaurs really steal the film.  This reconstruction is pretty good, and the movie is more enjoyable here than in the 63-minute Lumivision disc.  (There are many cheap public domain copies available, and to the best of my knowledge they are all poor quality 16mm versions of the Kodascope edit.)  The Shepard/Bromberg restoration is longer and better than this version, but you really can't go wrong with this disc.  Not only do you get the 1925 version of the film, but the 1960 production as well.  Recommended.



Comments?  Suggestions? Feel free to send me an e-mail.
 

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