Napoleon (Abel Gance's) (1927)

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Released 14-Apr-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category War Main Menu Audio
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1927
Running Time 222:43 (Case: 226)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (112:53) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Abel Gance

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Albert Dieudonnť
Vladimir Roudenko
Edmond Van DaŽle
Alexandre Koubitzky
Antonin Artaud
Abel Gance
Case ?
RPI $29.95 Music Carmine Coppola

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

††† Napoleon by Abel Gance is considered one of the masterpieces of the silent movie era. Produced in 1927, this movie has many unique film features that have made it a legend. In this age of black and white, Gance uses colour shadowing in selected scenes to add to the atmosphere. Towards the end of the movie, he uses three screens joined together to simultaneously show three separate scenes, and to provide a widescreen effect.

††† I had not seen this movie before writing this review, but knowing a small amount of history made the story a little easier to follow.

††† This movie is long. Very long. For a silent black and white feature, Napoleon, at 223 minutes, was just too long to hold my interest. However, for fans of the silent era this movie will be riveting from beginning to end.

††† Napoleon is presented by Francis Ford Coppola. This transfer is taken from the 1981 restored version, which is 95 minutes shorter in length than the newer 2000 restored version. The restoration has been performed extremely well and at no time would you guess this movie was almost 80 years old.

††† This feature, as the title suggests, is about the French General Napoleon Bonaparte who would one day crown himself Emperor. The story starts from the earlier period of Napoleon's life. It depicts his school days, showing that even at a very young age he had the brain of a strategist. The events of the French revolution are then covered, followed by Napoleon's rise through the army and eventually concluding with climatic scenes of his invasion of Italy.

††† I was a little disappointed to find that the movie didn't span Napoleon's entire life, ending relatively early in his military career. I have since learned that this was because this feature was to be the first in a series depicting Napoleon's life, but Gance was unable to raise the money for the sequels.

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Transfer Quality


††† The picture quality is far better than I expected, particularly for its age.

††† The video transfer is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 full frame.

††† The transfer was surprisingly clear and sharp with only minor grain occasionally present. The shadow detail was also surprisingly good with all necessary details clearly visible. There was no noticeable low level noise present.

††† The movie is presented in black and white. Most of the time the blacks were very good but every now and again they did waver and look a little grey. As I said before, the feature is presented in black and white, however this does not mean there is no colour. On occasion throughout the feature, red, yellow, blue and orange shadings were used to emphasise the on-screen action. The colour shadings were not over used and tended to break the monotony of the black and white.

††† There were no noticeable MPEG artefacts. Film-to-video artefacts were also well controlled with the most noticeable artefact, telecine wobble, occurring at 11:05. However, there were film artefacts aplenty. The main instances were at 22:55, 58:14, 98:10 and 151:35.

††† This is an RSDL disc with the layer change occurring at 112:53. It is well placed and not overly distracting.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


††† The audio transfer is very good, but after 4 hours did tend to get a little monotonous.

††† There is only one audio track option available, and this is Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded (224Kb/s).

††† As this is a silent movie, there was no dialogue and thus audio sync was not an issue with this transfer.

††† The musical score was composed and conducted by Carmine Coppola. The entire musical score was performed by the American Symphony Orchestra and is magnificent. It suits the on-screen action well and adds considerably to the overall atmosphere and viewing pleasure. However, after approximately 4 hours the music did tend to get a little repetitive and boring.

††† Surround activity was moderate. As the only sound present was from the orchestral accompaniment, this left little opportunity to make full use of the speakers.

††† The subwoofer remained silent throughout.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Main Menu Audio

††† A static main menu is accompanied by a portion of music from the feature.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

††† This DVD does not appear to be available in any other Region.


††† Napoleon is considered to be one of the masterpieces of the silent movie era, and deservedly so. The video quality was far better than expected and the audio was very good. Unfortunately, there are no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Geoff Greer (read my bio)
Friday, December 05, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDSony DVP-S525, using S-Video output
DisplayBang & Olufsen BeoVision Avante 82cm 16:9 Widescreen. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderDenon AVR-1803. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationDenon AVR 1803
SpeakersParadigm: Phantom V. 3 Front, Paradigm CC270 V. 3 Centre, Paradigm: Titan V. 3 Rear, Yamaha YST-SW305 Sub

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