Master of the House (Du skal ære din hustru) (Directors Suite) (1925)

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Released 14-Feb-2008

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Notes-Liner
Main Menu Audio
Short Film-Good Mothers
Short Film-The Fight Against Cancer
Featurette-Carl Th. Dreyer
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1925
Running Time 107:07 (Case: 92)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (79:05) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Carl Theodor Dreyer
Palladium Film
Madman Entertainment
Starring Johannes Meyer
Astrid Holm
Karin Nellemose
Mathilde Nielsen
Clara Schønfeld
Johannes Nielsen
Petrine Sonne
Aage Hoffman
Byril Harvig
Viggo Lindstrøm
Aage Schmidt
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $34.95 Music Lars Fjeldmose

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None 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 Yes
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    Master of the House, or in literal translation Thou Shalt Honour Thy Wife, is set in the household of John. He treats his wife Mary badly, carping on every little thing and never having a kind word to say. Eventually his maltreatment drives his long-suffering wife into a breakdown, and she leaves him to recuperate in the country. This enables his one-time wet nurse Nana to concoct a plan to give John his comeuppance and restore the family to its formerly harmonious state.

    This Danish silent was the seventh film of fourteen directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer, the greatest of all Danish film directors. The Danish cinema was the major European producer of films in the years leading up to the First World War. While Italy had their spectacular epics, the studios of Denmark produced more cinematically sophisticated dramas and comedies and were the main suppliers of the German market. This market and others dried up with the outbreak of war and the expansion of the US industry, but Denmark had still produced a number of major filmmakers such as Benjamin Christensen, August Blom and Holger-Madsen, and an international star in Asta Nielsen. The Danish cinema never recovered to its pre-war peak, but still continued to make quality films well into the latter part of the silent era. Starting in 1912 Dreyer was a scriptwriter and then in 1919 became a director. He quickly became recognised as a major talent through the films Leaves From Satan's Book and The Parson's Widow, the latter of which bears some thematic resemblance to Master of the House.

    The storyline of Master of the House is very simple and the denouement obvious, yet it manages to be stretched out to 107 minutes without boredom setting in. The reason for this is the quality of the direction, which uses judicious cutting to enliven scenes while also using a lot of small visual details to drive the narrative without resorting to an excessive number of titles. The most impressive aspect of the film is the quality of the lighting, which is often breathtaking. One downside is the excessive use of masking to focus the viewer on the actors, which at times feels oppressive.

    The print used for this transfer was one with English language titles and the character names Anglicised from the original Viktor and Ida to John and Mary. Images of letters and newspapers have been replaced with English language versions of the same.

    Dreyer has been woefully underrepresented on DVD in Australia until recently, with only the oddity Vampyr released in a less than ideal edition some years ago. His final film Gertrud has just been released in Madman's Director's Suite series, with Day of Wrath and Ordet to come shortly, so we have what amounts to a glut. Most of his other films are available in some form or another in other regions. It's worth pointing out that two of his early films, The President and the partially-incomplete Der Var Engang can be obtained from the Danish Film Institute, along with a series of silent Danish movies by various filmmakers, all featuring English subtitles and high quality transfers from restored materials.

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Transfer Quality


    The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1.

    The disc is in PAL format and I watched the film upscaled to 1920x1080i.

    This transfer is in roughly the same shape as most European silent films that have been released on DVD. The source material looks like a 35mm print that was in good if slightly battered shape. So the detail levels are very good, apart from a few shots, while there are numerous film artefacts.

    Contrast levels are generally very good, resulting in a nice range of greys and blacks and good shadow detail.

    I did not notice any film to video artefacts, which is a good thing considering the number of film artefacts that are present. There is a constant stream of small spots and flecks throughout the movie. There are occasional larger instances of damage, including some splice marks and tramline scratches. The frame is also a bit shaky, something that is generally unavoidable with historical material.

    There are no subtitles provided, as the print from which the transfer was made included English-language intertitles.

    The disc is RSDL-formatted with the layer break placed at 79:05. As the soundtrack is continuous music the layer pause is a little disruptive, but I guess that this could not be avoided.

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


    There is one audio track on this disc in Dolby Digital 2.0.

    The audio track is music only, featuring a piano score. The audio is in stereo and there is some imaging, with what sounds like a very large piano appearing somewhere in the air above the level of the two speakers. The recording is good though occasionally the piano sounds a bit hard.

    The piano score is by Lars Fjeldmose and is a very good one. It avoids anything that would draw attention to itself at the expense of the film, so while the sounds are pleasant there are not really any memorable tunes. It is perhaps a little too melancholy in tone, making it slightly out of touch with the comedic aspects of the movie.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    On the box it states that one of the extras is Dreyer's sardonic short film They Caught the Ferry, but this film is not actually on the disc. I believe it is included on the disc of Dreyer's Gertrud. Also the director's middle name is twice misspelled as Theodore on the extras menu while it is correctly spelled on the menu link for the documentary, even though it should be abbreviated as per the actual title of the documentary.

Liner Notes

    The liner notes contain a biography and filmography of the director.

Main Menu Audio

    Audio from the soundtrack plays with the static menu.

Good Mothers (11:19)

    Dreyer directed a number of short films, mainly educational, in Denmark during his later career. This one dates from 1942 and deals with the problems of unmarried mothers, specifically highlighting the many facilities available to help unmarried (and married) mothers who find themselves in difficulty. It is perhaps ironic and unfortunate, to English-language speakers at least, that having dealt with the trials of a particular unmarried mother that the Danish word for "the end" appears on screen, which is "Slut".

    The film is in reasonable condition although the soundtrack is damaged in parts. Optional English subtitles are in yellow.

The Fight Against Cancer (10:40)

    This 1947 short deals in often graphic detail with the need for early detection of cancer, through the patients of an elderly doctor. It seems to be mainly aimed at women, the bulk of the film talking about breast and uterine cancer. Again there are problems with the soundtrack being noisy, and the optional subtitles are in yellow.

Carl Th. Dreyer (28:32)

    This is a 1966 film by Danish director Jørgen Roos about Dreyer. It starts with remarkable newsreel footage from 1909 in which the twenty-year old Dreyer, then a journalist, can clearly be seen. This is followed by footage taken at the Paris premiere of Gertrud where Dreyer meets such luminaries as Jean-Luc Godard and Anna Karina, and a few brief talking heads to camera pieces by Francois Truffaut, Henri-Georges Clouzot and his eyebrows and Cinematheque founder Henri Langlois. But the bulk of the film is an interview with Dreyer recalling aspects of most of his films together with footage from them. This is an interesting documentary, though it lacks a bit of context on Dreyer's career and his struggles to make films at all. It is in French and Danish with burned-in English subtitles. The picture quality is not good, looking like it comes from a VHS source with interlacing artefacts and a general lack of clarity.

Trailers (13:06)

    After the ubiquitous and loud and irritating anti-piracy message we get four trailers, for The Leopard, The Blue Angel, Umberto D and An Autumn Afternoon.

R4 vs R1

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

    This film was also released in Region 2 by the British Film Institute. As far as I can tell from the reviews of that release, the Madman release is of the same quality. I'm not sure that it is the same transfer. The BFI appears to have replaced the original Danish titles with new English titles, while the Madman looks to have used an old print that had English titles. They have the look of being done at least as long ago as the 1960s if not earlier.

    The extras are also different: the BFI includes Good Mothers but the other short is They Caught the Ferry. Instead of the Roos documentary the BFI has the 90-minute documentary My Metier, which is also included in Criterion's box set of Dreyer's last three major films. On this basis the BFI probably wins on the extras. However the running time of the BFI is uncertain: one review site lists 91 minutes, another 114 minutes. The BFI site itself lists 92 minutes as the running time. This may be due to the speed at which the film is shown, but without a copy of the BFI to hand I cannot confirm anything.

    The film does not appear to be available on DVD in Region 1.


    A fine film from one of the great directors.

    The video quality is as good as could be expected.

    The audio quality is excellent.

    An appropriate selection of extra material.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Review Equipment
DVDSony DVP-NS9100ES, using HDMI output
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