Since 2005, German DVD purveyor Edition Filmmuseum has been picking up on smaller, lesser known vintage films that might perhaps get passed on by Criterion for their Eclipse series. Their library contains not only silents, documentaries and short film collections, but sets devoted to contemporary filmmakers as well. Like Criterion, their offerings are as nicely presented as possible with clean prints, good scores, multiple subtitle options and booklets containing informative essays on each film.
For Edition Filmmuseum's 83rd release, they revisit the works of silent-era German director Gerhard Lamprecht (1897-1974). This 2-disc set is a continuation from their previous Lamprecht two-fer, The Final Stand & Children of No Importance, which I also enjoyed. While the previous set delved into Lamprecht's knack for gritty social commentary, with plots dealing sympathetically with the plight of ex-convicts and orphaned children, the two films on this particular set show the director moving into more ambitious territory - incorporating melodrama, more complex characterization and plotting, and better production values. 1926's Menschen Untereinander (a.k.a. The Folks Upstairs) and 1928's Unter der Laterne (a.k.a. Under the Lantern) display Lamprecht as something of a German counterpart to what King Vidor accomplished with The Crowd in Hollywood - effortlessly using cinema's best techniques to tell intimate stories of human struggle.
Menschen Untereinander (1926; 119 minutes)
Unter der Laterne (1928; 131 minutes)
For silent film fans, this Lamprecht set is a terrific find. Taken with the writer-director's other two films included on The Final Stand & Children of No Importance, the two Edition Filmmuseum packages supply a varied, fascinating look at flourishing between-the-wars German cinema from one of its most individualistic artists.
Edition Filmmuseum's Menschen untereinander & Unter der Laterne comes as a Region 0 PAL release, which may not play on many Sony-made American home video players (like mine, unfortunately). They are playable on personal computers equipped with a DVD-ROM drive, however. The discs are housed in a standard-width transparent hinged DVD case which comes with a nice 16-page booklet containing vintage stills and promotional materials, and a comprehensive essay on Lamprecht (written by historians Jörg Becker, Rolf Aurich and Wolfgang Jacobsen) printed in German, English and French.
Menschen untereinander & Unter der Laterne utilizes weathered yet complete prints taken from Germany's Deutsche Kinematek. Menschen untereinander is mastered from a surviving 16mm copy made in 1935, the only copy known to exist. The lower-grade film is apparent, although it looks clean and pleasant. Unter der Laterne was mastered from a fantastic looking 35mm negative with English-language intertitles, although they edited in the original German intertitles from a 16mm copy. For the digital restorations on both films, the image was stabilized and artifacts were cleaned up while retaining the films' original texture and light-dark balances.
Both films in this set have three audio options, selectable from the main menu: complete silence; pleasant, authentic sounding synthesizer-based scores from composer Donald Sosin; and avant garde, multi-instrumental scores from experimental rock band Ensemble Mosaik (on Menschen untereinander) and jazz combo Shortfilmlivemusic (on Unter der Laterne). I preferred the moody, thoughtfully done Sosin tracks over the randomly composed modern ones, although it's nice to have the two options (and they're all pleasantly mixed in Dolby Digital 2.0). The films' original German title cards are supplemented with optional subtitles in English and French.
No extras on the discs themselves, but the booklet is an informative plus.
Nice! Edition Filmmuseum's worthwhile exploration of German silent director-screenwriter Gerhard Lamprecht continues with the fun two-disc set Menschen untereinander (1925) and Unter der Laterne (1928). Not as poignant as the earlier films included on The Final Stand & Children of No Importance, yet both efforts are hard-hitting, evocative, sympathetically told stories which often delve into pure melodrama. Recommended.