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Behind the Door

Flicker Alley // Unrated // April 4, 2017
List Price: $32.43 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Neil Lumbard | posted May 2, 2017 | E-mail the Author


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Behind the Door Blu-ray Review


Behind the Door is a 1919
silent-film feature. The film is from director Irvin Willat (style="font-style: italic;">The False Faces
). The film is
produced by Thomas H. Ince (The Coward,
Civilization).



The film opens with Oscar Krug (Hobart Bosworth), who is an American of
German ancestry. The story is set during war and Krug is subjected to
criticism and outrage from his fellow Americans for having German
ancestry. Krug nonetheless works with the navy and sets out to be a
patriotic American.



Alice Morse (Jane Novak), Oscar's wife, becomes kidnapped by Lieutenant
Brandt (Wallace Beery), who is a German officer and commander. Oscar
decides to seek out revenge against Brandt during the course of the
story. The film leads to a shocking conclusion out on the sea.



The cinematography by Frank M. Blount (The
Grim Game
) and J.O. Taylor (King
Kong
) is technically impressive for the time. Though many
viewers who are unfamiliar with silent films seem to think of early
motion-pictures as solely being presented in black and white that was
not universally the case.



The color grading and tinting on Behind
the Door
is quite impressive. It is one of the most technically
innovative aspects of Behind the Door.
Filmmaking evolved because of early experiments with color such as the
work that was done by Blount and Taylor as demonstrated with this
production. From blue tinted oceans to orange-hued sky, style="font-style: italic;">Behind the Door demonstrates color
quite well.



The music was composed by Stephen Horne (style="font-style: italic;">Escape from Dartmoor). Horne is
known for being a composer of accompanying music for many silent film
efforts. Classic films are not complete without some accompanying music
and Horne helps restore the film with his own approach to the film. The
dark piano music thematically matches the underlining storyline.



The story by Gouverneur Morris (The
Penalty
) is quite shocking for a silent era film. This was pre
code Hollywood, so the concluding scene were more shocking than they
would have been had been this produced years after 1919. The horror of
the ending scenes are played for shocks by director Irvin Willat (style="font-style: italic;">The Grim Game).



This restoration effort was a huge undertaking by the SFSFF. The
continuity script written by Luther Reed (style="font-style: italic;">A Favor to a Friend) was used in
the process to reconstruct scenes. Intertitles became created for
missing cuts in the footage.



Though Behind the Door is
highly regarded by many silent film enthusiasts, I cannot personally
attest to having much enthusiasm for the production myself. The pacing
during the first half of the film is lacking in excitement or good
storytelling. Willat mistakenly seems to feel shock value is all that
he needs to make the film compelling. The characterizations and
storytelling devices aren't as distinctive or memorable as they could
have been.



Behind the Door is certainly a
technically innovative film for the time-period though. That much is
certain: especially given numerous scenes at sea that are unlike many
other sequences in film productions of the time period. Much of the
success of this is owed to cinematographers Frank M. Blount and J.O.
Taylor.



The Blu-ray:


Video:



Flicker Alley has done a tremendous job presenting style="font-style: italic;">Behind the Door on Blu-ray. The
restoration effort done by San Francisco Silent Film Festival and the
Library of Congress is exceptional. The film is presented in its
original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.33:1 full frame with an
impressive1080p MPEG-4 AVC high definition encode. It is close to being
a full reconstruction effort.



No complete print of the film exists. At almost 100 years old, style="font-style: italic;">Behind the Door had to be restored
based on existing incomplete prints primarily taken from 35 mm sources.
Some footage was also taken from the Russian version. New intertitles
with text taken directly from the continuity script were used when
needed.



Though most of the footage was successfully reconstructed, the film
still had some missing reels. These reels have been replaced with
production photographs and stills which are of the missing moments in
the film. These moments fill in the gaps so the story and film can
still be viewable as a finished film.



Considering the tremendous effort done by the restoration team, the
clarity and detail that is visible on this presentation is both
surprising and astonishing. This is a great high-definition release
with good detail. The use of color in the film is also astonishing.
Though some minor damage is still noticeable throughout, it's clear
that tremendous effort was put into this major restorative effort. No
silent film fans will be disappointed by the effort here. It's a
painstaking restoration.



Audio:



The film has received a lossless 2.0 mono DTS-HD Master Audio sound
presentation with 24 bit depth. As a silent film, there is no spoken
dialogue. The film also lacks sound effects. Yet the music score
composed by Stephen Horne is well reproduced and is a strong effort
that helps enhance the film presentation successfully.


Extras:




Please
Note:
This is a Blu-ray + DVD Combo Pack release.




This release includes a booklet featuring essays on the film and
production/cast information. On disc supplements include:



Kevin Brownlow Remembering Irvin
Willat
(HD, 31 min.) is a lengthy interview about the director
of Behind the Door.



Restoring Behind the Door (HD,
11 min.) is a behind-the-scenes look at the reconstruction effort with
interviews with those involved with the project.



Original Production Outtakes
(HD, 11 min.) showcases footage which was cut from the film.



Original 'Export' Russian version of Behind
the Door
(HD, 47 min.) is a considerably different cut from the
standard U.S. version with a shorter run-time and alternate takes.
Presented with Russian intertitles.



Photo Gallery featuring lobby
cards, production stills, and movie posters.



Final Thoughts:



Behind the Door is well
regarded by many silent film fans but it's lacking in great character
development or storytelling. The film is technically impressive for the
time-period though. In that regard, it's shocking that the film is
almost 100 years old.



Flicker Alley has delivered an exceptional quality Blu-ray release
which a great restoration effort. Though I don't recommend the film,
fans of Behind the Door won't
be disappointed.

  

Rent It.

Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema. He aspires to make movies and has written two screenplays on spec. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.

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