The Battleship Potemkin (Bronenosets Potyomkin) (Bounty) (1925) (NTSC)
Audio Commentary-Australian film critic John Noonan
Short Film-Glumovís Diary (1923) (4:43)
MoreÖ-Strike (1925) (88:21): Eisenstein's 1st feature film
|Year Of Production||1925|
|RSDL / Flipper||Dual Layered||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||1,2,3,4,5,6||Directed By||Sergei Eisenstein|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Full Frame||English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (384Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||None|
|Video Format||480i (NTSC)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.37:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
†††† 1905: revolution is in the air in Tsarist Russia. The sailors of the Potemkin lead by Vakulinchuk (Aleksandr Antonov) refuse to eat the rancid, maggoty meat they are served. Their commander calls a muster on deck and threatens to hang the sailors unless they comply. Some agree, others do not, so the commander calls out the guard with fixed bayonets and orders them to shoot. Vakulinchuk calls on the guard not to shoot, and they lower their weapons and instead the guards and sailors attack their officers. In the skirmish, officers are killed or thrown overboard and the mutineers capture the Potemkin, but not before Vakulinchuk is shot and killed by Chief Officer Giliarovsky (Grigoriy Aleksandrov).
†††† The Potemkin arrives in the port of Odessa where the body of Vakulinchuk is taken ashore and lain in a tent by the waterfront. His body becomes a rallying and pilgrimage site for the citizens of Odessa; they see him as a martyr and come to see his body in their thousands. The citizens also start to take supplies of food to the sailors in the Potemkin. But the Tsarist authorities cannot allow such a show of defiance and they send soldiers and Cossacks against the townspeople gathered on the Odessa steps, leading to a massacre. The rest of the Tsarist fleet also heads to Odessa and the Potemkin sails out to meet them, one against many.
†††† Battleship Potemkin is a Soviet Russian silent film from 1925 directed by Sergei Eisenstein, only his second feature film after Strike which was released the same year (Strike is included as an extra on this DVD). First and foremost (not to mention second, third, fourth and fifth) Battleship Potemkin is a propaganda film, a polemical film lauding the common peopleís struggle against oppression in the form of Tsarist officers and soldiers. Characters are not really of interest except as ciphers or as a mass; only Vakulinchuk is in any way highlighted, everyone else is just a face in the crowd. There are indeed some fantastic faces on display, and Eisenstein dwells on them, juxtaposing the images of faces with massive crowd scenes. Eisenstein does not experiment with light and shadow like the German Expressionists of this period, but instead he is considered the father of the cinematic montage, heavily edited sequences switching the focus of the scene, of which the famous sequence of the massacre on the Odessa steps is only the most obvious example in Battleship Potemkin.
†††† Battleship Potemkin was voted the greatest film of all time in a poll in Brussels in 1958 although it was soon overtaken by Citizen Kane. Nevertheless the film has had an incredible legacy: the IMDb lists 121 films / TV episodes it has influenced in some way, many referencing the iconic baby carriage rolling down the steps scenes including Brian De Palmaís The Untouchables (1987). Battleship Potemkin is not a film to watch for its characters, but it remains to this day a powerful filmic experience.
†††† Battleship Potemkin (or Bronenosets Potemkin) has been released plenty of times around the world in different versions, including a previous release in Australia which was reviewed on this site here. For a comparison of some of the other releases see the DVDBeaver site here. Most film fans may well already have a copy of the film. So what is the source of this new release from Bounty and does it have anything new to offer?
†††† The first question is difficult to answer as the DVD box cover and the distributors provide no information. However, what we get is a film with a running time of 71 minutes with English credits and intertitles, including the original opening quote from Trotsky that was removed by Soviet Censors in 1934 and reinstated many years later, a NTSC print that looks pretty good and a Dolby Digital 2.0 mono track and the score by Edmund Meisel.
†††† What is unique to this Bounty release is the extras. First is a commentary by Australian film critic John Noonan recorded specifically for this DVD. The other extras are Eisensteinís first film, the short Glumovís Diary from 1923, and his first feature Strike from 1925, a treasure for film buffs.
†††† Battleship Potemkin is presented in a ratio of 1.33:1, in the NTSC format. My computer reads the film as 16x9; however it does display in the proper 4x3 ratio on my widescreen TV.
†††† The print looked very good indeed for a film now over 90 years old! Of course there were occasional dirt marks, small and not so small, vertical scratches, at two places, 39:46 and 55:55, the frame broke up and there were some soft looking sequences but generally blacks were solid, shadow detail good and detail firm. Greys were varied and the film also featured a startling red flag in a couple of sequences, a colour juxtaposition Spielberg pinched in Schindlerís List (1993).
†††† The English intertitles were clear and easy to read.
†††† The layer change at 13:13 resulted in a slight pause.
†††† The scores for the video have been adjusted as one cannot judge a film of this age against modern films.
†††† Audio is Dolby Digital 2.0 mono at 384 Kbps plus the audio commentary, Dolby Digital 2.0 mono at 192 Kbps.
†††† As a silent film, there was no dialogue or effects to comment on! The score was nicely rendered and I did not notice hiss or hum.
†††† Obviously there are no lip synchronization issues.
|Surround Channel Use|
†††† The commentary was recorded for this Bounty release in 2017 by Australian film critic John Noonan and Leslie Morris. I have listened to a couple of their commentaries on other Bounty releases which I think where better than this one as here they tend to be a bit silly and get side-tracked and talk about things unrelated to the film. However, they do provide information about the film as propaganda, the background history, the accuracy (and inaccuracy) of the events portrayed, Eisensteinís techniques, ideas about montage, his history and subsequent career, the influence of Battleship Potemkin, the violence in the film.
†††† Eisensteinís first feature film from 1925 is a marvellous achievement. A group of factory workers in 1903 go on strike because of poor wages, excessive working hours and conditions and exploitation by the owners. At first the strike is almost a picnic-like experience but as the workers are infiltrated by spies and provocateurs, their leaders arrested and beaten by the police, the food runs out and families starve. Then the authorities manufacture an incident where a liquor store is looted and set on fire and use this excuse to call in the military and to massacre the workers, thus ending the strike.
†††† Although Strike lacks a sequence as iconic as the Odessa steps massacre in Battleship Potemkin, if anything this film is more consistently inventive than Battleship Potemkin, a catalogue of early filmmaking techniques. There are shadows on a wall, scenes shot through windows and doors which frame the shot, scenes reversed so that people walk backwards, a sequence shot into a mirror so that a person seems upside down, still pictures which morph into the individuals and scenes where police spies named after animals, such as the fox or the owl, dissolve into these animals. There is the beginnings of Eisensteinís montage skills, such as intercutting fat owners smoking fat cigars with striking workers in the open demanding some redress and, at the end, the intercutting of butchers slaughtering a cow with the slaughter of the workers by the military, a sequence that Francis Ford Coppola pinched for the end of Apocalypse Now. Strike also adds comedic touches that were not present in Battleship Potemkin while part of the climax, shot in a multi-floored workers apartment building, is stunning in its scope and intensity.
†††† Strike is sourced from a print presented by La Cinematheque de Toulouse. While there is softness, variations in contrast and brightness and some damage in the print, blacks and shadow detail are very good and generally detail is strong. It is 1.33:1, NTSC; the Dolby Digital 2.0 mono at 384 Kbps is crackle free.
†††† Also sourced from La Cinematheque de Toulouse, Glumovís Diary from 1923 is Eisensteinís first film, a short film that features clowns and clownish antics that is absurd and quite funny! The video is soft and somewhat damaged and the Dolby Digital 2.0 mono audio crackles.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
†††† There are some decent releases of Battleship Potemkin in various regions with extras relevant to the film (see some of the comparisons above). This Bounty release does however include extras not available elsewhere.
†††† Over 90 years since it was released Battleship Potemkin remains a cult classic. It is a powerful film still, with unsettling images and techniques that have influenced filmmakers for generations. The video is very good, the audio fine.
†††† Other releases of Battleship Potemkin over the years have decent extras that are relevant to the film. Film buffs and fans will most likely already have a copy so your appreciation of this Bounty release will be based on your interest in Eisensteinís short film Glumovís Diary and his first feature Strike, as well as the local commentary. On the other hand if you do have an interest in film and donít have a copy of Battleship Potemkin this is your chance.
|DVD||Sony BDP-S580, using HDMI output|
|Display||LG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.|
|Audio Decoder||NAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.|
|Speakers||Studio Acoustics 5.1|