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Silent Movie Reverie

  • Aug 18, 2009
Here's my list (albeit incomplete because not all of the films have existing topics... yet) of my favorite silent films that I have on DVD.
Please not that I have attempted to include links to the various websites where these DVDs can be purchased at the most reasonable price, however, as time goes by prices and availability will vary, so if you aren't able to purchase the DVDs through the links let me know so that I can add a notice to the particular topic to avoid confusion. Thanks and enjoy!
Nosferatu - Eine Symphonie des Grauens (Kino International's 2-disc The Ultimate DVD Edition)
Okay, so here's the very best DVD available of F.W. Murnau's classic 1922 silent horror film, Nosferatu - Eine Symphonie des Grauens. The film, as you may know by now, was based on Bram Stoker's Dracula, but Murnau failed to get the rights to adapt the book and Stoker's widow sued. All prints of the film were legally ordered to be destroyed and yet through various distributions during that period the film survived.
This 2-disc DVD features the most amazing restoration of the film that I've ever seen and the original score, which has never been heard since the film's 1922 premiere in Germany, and a nice documentary on Murnau's early years as a film maker and the making of this film.
See the full review, ""Nosferatu; Does This Word Not Sound Like the Deathbird Calling Your Name at Midnight?"".
Pandora's Box
G.W. Pabst's terrific melodrama is a must-see film if for no other reason than Louise Brooks' performance in her definitive role as the naive and sexually insatiable Lulu. The film was based on two stage plays, which were in turn based upon novels, and is considered a true classic of the early German cinema.
The Criterion Collection's 2-disc Special Edition of Pandora's Box features a wonderful restoration of the film, four separate scores, an audio commentary, a documentary, featurettes, interviews, and a book of essays that analyze the film's impact on cinema.
See the full review, "Die Bücshe der Pandora".
The F.W. Murnau Collection
The first of two marvelous Kino DVD box sets devoted to F.W. Murnau...
While The F.W. Murnau Collection contains the earlier restorations of Murnau's silent films (Nosferatu, The Last Laugh, Tartuffe, Faust, and Tabu on five discs) and may seem in retrospect to be not as definitive as the 2009 box set, this is a wonderful collection and despite being out of print is worth looking for if you're a collector of silent films. What makes this DVD box set one of the jewels in my silent film collection is the fact that it includes the Image Entertainment release of Tabu which isn't included in the newer set. Also, the artwork and packaging here is rather attractive compared to the newer set too.
DVD front
Although this is the first of two Kino releases for Murnau's Faust and the other is a more elaborate 2-disc set with special features and a new restoration, I'm still willing to recommend the original DVD simply because Faust may very well be one of the most visionary films of the silent German cinema. With a grandiose vision that rivals Fritz Lang's Metropolis, Robert Wiene's The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, and even Murnau's own Nosferatu. The DVD doesn't feature any fancy extras, but it does include a nice photo gallery and a beautiful transfer of the film. Beside, when a film is this beautiful the extras are just that: extra.
DVD front
The first high-quality DVD edition of Murnau's Nosferatu was released by Image Entertainment and features the full Americanized title and a very different restoration. Not only does it include two very unique scores (The Silent Orchestra's score is very eerie and evocative) and different title cards and color tinting, but also an audio commentary by Lokke Heiss, who expounds upon his Freudian interpretation of the film's symbolism. Though the print being used is a little scratched up, it still manages to create a great atmosphere.
DVD Cover
F.W. Murnau's sensuous melodrama shot in Tahiti and Bora Bora about Mahati and Reri, two star-crossed lovers who struggle to remain together when Reri is declared tabu (forbidden) to all men. The film is a stunning example of latter day silent films and the kind of liberated camerawork Murnau and other pioneers were striving for. It's beautifully photographed and the visual symbolism is pure poetry.
Image Entertainment's release of this film features the best available print that I've seen and an interesting audio commentary.
DVD front
Released through Warner Bros. and Turner Classic Movies, TCM Archives: Lon Chaney Collection is a must-have for Chaney and silent film fans alike. While this collection may not feature his best-known perfomances, it does feature some of his more nuanced and versatile roles. Lon Chaney Sr. comes back to life in these three classic silent films and in the wonderful feature-length documentary. Along with audio commentaries, photo galleries, and new scores, this terrific DVD set also features a photographic reconstruction of the lost silent film London After Midnight and gives viewers an idea of what that film might have been like.
See the full review, "The Man of a Thousand Faces".
Sunrise - A Song of Two Humans (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment's Limited Edition DVD)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment hasn't been as well known for their efforts on film restoration and they typically focus on films from the '60s onward, however, their Studio Classics line has been surprisingly and consistently brilliant with its DVDs of films released from the 1920s through the 1960s. Their Limited Edition of F.W. Murnau's 1927 romantic melodrama Sunrise is perhaps the one DVD in the collection that I have sought after more than any other. Originally this DVD was only available through a mail-order offer if you had purchased other DVDs in the series, but in 2003 it was included in the Studio Classics - The "Best Picture" Collection along with three other films. The irony being of course that Sunrise didn't win the best picture category, but really, who cares?! Whether you buy the whole box set, of which this is the only silent film, or you manage to find the DVD by itself, I highly recommend you give this film a view.
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Kino On Video's Restored Authorized Edition DVD)
Kino's release of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is truly spectacular. I wasn't sure what to expect here because I had read some less than flattering reviews regarding this particular restoration (most which sited the inter-title translation as being poor and the music tracks as too modern), however, I did not think that this was necessarily a negative criticism. Yes, the inter-titles are very flashy and some of the translation is questionable, but the story still comes across in its eerie carnival-esque brilliance. As for the two scores on this DVD, I actually liked both of them for different reasons and had no qualms with either. Perhaps this DVD isn't the end-all ultimate restoration of this 1919 silent thriller, but by no means is it a letdown.
German Horror Classics
Kino on Video's 4-disc German Horror Classics DVD collection is a terrific starter-set for anyone looking to get into the world of silent German films. This set includes The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, The Golem, Nosferatu, and Waxworks (probably the weakest film of the four). Each film is a must-have for silent film fans and horror buffs. The original Kino Nosferatu disc isn't the best DVD of the 1922 vampire film (I still think that Image's first DVD and Kino's Ultimate DVD are superior), but this is a very minor setback. Really, the whole set is stellar, though there are other versions of these films available elsewhere at a lower cost, because Kino has put time and a great deal of love into their releases and this one is in a word "superb".
The Phantom of the Opera Ultimate Edition (front)
Containing two different versions of the classic 1925 Lon Chaney extravaganza this Ultimate DVD Edition produced by Image Entertainment is a must-have essential for fans of classic horror of the Universal Studios variety. The Phantom of the Opera, which was based on Gaston Leroux's book is a classic despite having been a directed by a barely competent director and having had numerous conflicts between cast members.
The DVD features an image gallery, an audio commentary, an alternate dubbed version from 1929, two versions of the film (one restored and the other not), plus some other great features.
See the full review, ""Feast Your Eyes, Glut Your Soul on My Accursed Ugliness!"".
The Golem (Kino on Video's Restored Authorized Edition DVD)
Of the many silent films I own, The Golem is one of the most engaging and entertaining, regardless of which version you have, but I have to say that the Kino edition does leave something to be desired. Now, to explain myself, there's nothing really wrong with their Restored Authorized Edition of The Golem, but there are other DVDs that contain different versions of the film. Some of these versions run considerably longer and contain extended/deleted scenes not available here, others have slightly sharper picture, but this one does have its strengths too. First off, I love the music track on this DVD and the special features (including a few Easter Eggs hidden throughout the menus) are above and beyond what any other DVD offers. Really, the only criticism I can give here is the running time being shorter than others and the exaggerated colors used in the tinting, which obscure the quality of the print.
DVD cover
The third DVD of Nosferatu in my collection, and the first one to be released by Kino On Video (now Kino International) may seem a little redundant after the release of the superior Ultimate DVD Edition, which earned my #1 spot above, but with a uniquely designed DVD cover, two scores found nowhere else, and some Easter Eggs that redirect to trailers of early vampire films, it's a worthy purchase. The film itself looks quite scratchy and the color tinting seems a bit extreme, but as someone who has seen just about every version of Nosferatu out there on DVD, it's not that bad and will please the casual viewer and the completist collector at the same time.
See the full review, ""From Belial's Seed There Sprang the Vampyre Nosferatu, Who Liveth and Feedeth on Human Bloode"".

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March 12, 2010
Silent Films! A great addition.
March 12, 2010
Some of my favorite films from Europe are silent films.
September 27, 2009
nnniicccee list! liked the way you added Pandora's Box on # 2!
September 28, 2009
What can I say? I like Louise Brooks. : )
August 18, 2009
Great list, but I know there are more...
August 18, 2009
Oh yeah, I've also got Murnau's "The Last Laugh", "Tartuffe", and "Tabu", as well as a crappy DVD version of "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" and "The Golem", which came together as a set. I really need to buy some of the Criterion Collection's silent films like "Haxan", and I ought to get more Image Entertainment and Kino International releases like the higher-quality DVDs of "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari", "The Golem", "The Hunchback of Notre Dame", "Metropolis", "It", "Intolerance", "Battleship Potemkin" and about five dozen others. No, as far as silent cinema goes, my DVD collection is a little lacking... but then again so are the pre-existing data points for silent and foreign films.
August 18, 2009
The nice thing about the data points is that if you just put in some basic info someone (I think it's Devora) comes along and adds the illos!
August 27, 2009
Thanks if you've put up any for me!
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