(October, 1917)

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Details At A Glance

Category Drama Theatrical Trailer(s) None
Rating Other Trailer(s) None
Year Released 1927 Commentary Tracks None
Running Time 102:20 minutes Other Extras Menu Audio and Animation
RSDL/Flipper No/No
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 2,4 Director Sergei Eisenstein

Force Video
Starring Vasili Nikandrov
Nikolai Popov
Boris Livanov
Eduard Tisse 
Case Transparent Amaray
RRP $34.95 Music Dmitri Shostakovich

Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None Dolby Digital 2.0
16x9 Enhancement No Soundtrack Languages English (Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, 224 Kb/s)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 1.37:1
Macrovision ? Smoking Yes
Subtitles None Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or
After Credits

Plot Synopsis

    Thanks to Force Video, our voyage of discovery through Russian film, or more correctly the films of Sergei Eisenstein, continues! This time we find ourselves with the rather propaganda-prone Oktyabr, noted if for nothing else than the fact that just about the entire population of Leningrad seems to turn up in it! No one could ever accuse Sergei Eisenstein of taking a minimalist approach to film making, and a cast of thousands this certainly does have. Some of the cast were indeed actual participants in the revolution, including one Nikolai Podvolsky, who was a prominent leader during the revolution and later the Chairman of the October Revolution Jubilee Committee, which commissioned the film. Like the previously reviewed Bronenosets Potyomkin, this is a film that is quite highly rated and in view of the relative technical success of the earlier DVD, expectations were quite high going in to the review.

    It should be pointed out that this is not the original released version of the film. This is a slightly later version which includes sound effects added by Sergei Eisenstein's assistant director Grigori Alexandrov and a new score composed by the great Soviet composer of the Twentieth Century, Dmitri Shostakovich. The film also includes new English opening credits and new title boards, leaving none of the original credits or title boards intact.

    It really is very important to understand that this is essentially a propaganda film, commissioned by the government to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the revolution. Their involvement extended as far as demanding the film be re-edited to remove all sequences involving the discredited Trotsky, meaning that the film did not actually get released until 1928. The film provides something of an idealized look at the events during the period leading up to and including the October Revolution, the result of which was the popular overthrow of the existing provisional government.

    Unlike the earlier Bronenosets Potyomkin which remains a powerful film, this is not such a classic and is hampered by what is at times a rather helter-skelter approach to editing. Indeed, at times the film images jump around so much that you almost feel like you are watching anything but a coherent film with purpose. It also is heavily weighted with imagery that may have meant an awful lot to the Soviet people in the late 1920s but to others far removed from that time and location, they mean very little indeed. This is definitely a product of its time and this also diminishes the impact of the film.

    Whilst some will argue that this too is a classic of Russian film, unfortunately I am not going to join them. Overall, I found this to be a tedious view and this was not aided by it being a bastardized version with sound effects. Perhaps it would have been more powerful without these later additions.

Transfer Quality


    We are again talking over seventy years old here, so you have to remember that whatever problems there are with the DVD are the result of the inherent problems in the source material, and there are certainly plenty of problems here to contend with.

    The transfer is presented in a full frame format and is not 16x9 enhanced.

    Obviously we are talking about another early black and white effort here, and we do get the rather expected diffuse, murky images in various shades of grey at times. This contrasts with some very occasional periods of quite sharp images, but overall this has to be considered at best a rather inconsistent transfer. Detail at times is quite poor and never really ascends above average, but this is better than the shadow detail which at times is almost non-existent. Obviously, we have the usual array of bad edits in the transfer, and to be blunt these partly contribute to the tiresome viewing as, when combined with the rather rapid switches of image at times, the eyes simply give up trying to keep track of what's going on, especially earlier on in the film. Mercifully, the latter parts of the transfer appear to form a more flowing image. There does not appear to be any low level noise problems with the transfer.

    The black and white transfer does at times descend into that wishy washy, murky grey look that is quite common in films of the vintage. As a result, this is a far less pleasing image than that found on Bronenosets Potyomkin, which given the fact that this is a slightly later film is quite disappointing. Overall, I was only reasonably satisfied with the quality of the "colour" on offer here, and similarly a little disappointed by the relative inconsistency in the "colour" from time to time. Still, for seventy odd years old, I suppose that we could hardly expect too much better than what we have been given. Had this been reviewed before Bronenosets Potyomkin perhaps I would have been a little more satisfied with what we have been blessed with.

    There did not appear to be any significant MPEG artefacts in the transfer. There did not appear to be any significant film-to-video artefacts in the transfer. However, there are enough film artefacts here to sink a revolution: dirt, scratches, blotches and so on are here in abundance. Whilst there is nothing hideous here and it is certainly no worse than I would expect for a seventy odd year old film, they certainly do detract from the film at times. Obviously the opening and closing credits, and the title boards, are recent efforts and they are much cleaner than the feature.

    The fact that we do have new English credits and title boards is also a little disappointing and adds to the bastardized feel of the film.

    You should also note that whilst English subtitles are noted in the technical specifications for the disc, these are not selectable - they are burned into the picture. However, don't panic as they are quite infrequent and used to provide English translations of signs and so on in the film.


    Thankfully, we have been spared the incongruity of a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack for what is supposed to be a silent film in this instance.

    There is just the one audio track on this DVD, an English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtrack, so obviously I listened to it!

    The accompanying music score however probably deserves something a little better than this soundtrack. Whilst I would not deny that this is not the best piece of work from Dmitri Shostakovich, it is nonetheless a very nicely supportive effort that does deserve a better sound than what we have here.

    The problem with the soundtrack is that it has those damn sound effects! Musical accompaniment I expect from a silent film, as this is what happened in the theatre, but I do not recall having heard about theatres having a foley artist to provide sound effects to the film. Obviously a mono soundtrack does not require much in the way of surround or effects channels, so you can toss them away for this film. What you have left is a rather subdued sounding musical score that is free from any distortion and which otherwise is quite unremarkable.


    Rather limited indeed here, but then again there is not too much that could be expected, other than an introduction from an expert on Russian film to discuss the importance of this film.


    At least Force Video are being a little consistent with the audio and animation enhancement of their menus, which is more than some of the "big boys" are.


    These consist of a brief history of the Russian revolution that to some extent also repeats some of the cover blurb. If your knowledge of Russian history is poor, then this sets up an acceptable resume of the period, but really needs to be far more extensive than it is. It does however present the text in a scrolling fashion, which Force Video have done before, but this time the scrolling speed is a little better.

R4 vs R1

    It would appear that the Region 4 release is pretty much identical to the Region 1 version, at least as far as the package is concerned. Whether the transfer is the same, I would not be able to advise, but assuming a similar transfer then Region 4 is the region of choice.


    The continuation of the Force Video voyage through Russian cinema, or more precisely the work of Sergei Eisenstein, which started so well with Bronenosets Potyomkin stalls a little here. Whilst we can only presume that the source material simply was worse, and therefore the transfer reflects about as good as we can expect to get (short of a very extensive restoration), this is simply not in the same class.

    A poorish video transfer, even for a film of this vintage.

    An adequate audio transfer.

    An uninspiring extras package.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ian Morris (have a laugh, check out the bio)
8th May 2000

Review Equipment
DVD Pioneer DV-515; S-video output
Display Sony Trinitron Wega 84cm. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Built in
Amplification Yamaha RXV-795. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Speakers Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL