End of St. Petersburg, The (Konets Sankt-Peterburga) (1927)

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Released 7-Sep-2001

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Menu Animation & Audio
Notes-Essay
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1927
Running Time 87:22
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5 Directed By Vsevold I. Pudovkin
Studio
Distributor

Beyond Home Entertainment
Starring Alexander Chistiakov
Vera Baranovskaia
Ivan Chuvelev
V. Obelenski
A. Gromov
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $32.95 Music Vladimir Larovski


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English 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 Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    So our friends at Force Video, via Eureka Video, scrabble around the lucky dip that is the vast resource known as Russian film and dig out another early silent classic from Vsevolod Pudovkin. Since it was made in 1927 and the story is about the end of one of the main centres of Tsarist Russia, you can (I hope) pretty much guess that this is one of many films made in celebration of the 10th Anniversary of the 1917 Revolution. Since it is very much a celebration of the Soviet revolution, you can also pretty much guess that this is little more than propaganda in style. But even knowing those things, you still have to marvel at the way that Pudovkin made the film.

    The story begins on the farmlands with the struggling peasantry, and one house in particular where the lady of the house is about to give birth to yet another child. With the additional mouth to feed, members of the household have to leave the village and head to the city of St. Petersburg in search of work. With an address of a man who had already left the village in hand, the departing lad (Ivan Chuvelev) unfortunately arrives at an inopportune time. The workers at the Lebedev factory have had enough of the treatment they have received at the hands of the owners and management. When they are asked to extend their working hours after the factory receives a big government contract, the workers decide to strike. One of the leaders (Alexander Chistiakov) is the man from the village being sought by the lad and returns home with some other organisers to discuss strategies. The lad is forced to leave the house by the man's wife (Vera Baranovskaia) and becomes one of the strike breakers, mainly poor peasants from the land, enlisted to work in the factory. Turned back by the strikers, the lad turns in the ringleaders to the disgust of the families of the strikers. But before this mess is sorted out, Russia goes to war and most of the men end up going to the front where many die. The political problems continue at home, though, and as the Tsarist regime slowly comes to its end, the troops are recalled to support the government. When asked to shoot their own brothers, the tide turns against the capitalists and the proletariat ranks are burgeoned by the soldiers, who aide the revolution that sees St. Petersburg become Leningrad.

    Whilst strict historical accuracy is obviously not a high point here, this is nonetheless a very stylised, propagandised version of the events pertinent to the fall of the Tsarist regime in one of its strongholds - St. Petersburg. And forget about the standard of acting here, although it has to be said that the combination of a bit of melodramatic acting with pure dramatic acting adds a bit of variety here that is not that common in silent film, which often is either strict drama or strict melodrama. What makes the film stand out is the way Pudovkin shot it. You really note that preponderance of shots where we don't see any heads here. This tends to emphasise the depravation of the workers in Tsarist Russia. We tend to get slow reveals of the characters, giving us a chance to get drawn in to what we are seeing here. These are really a quite striking aspect of the film that I find most fascinating, and certainly a most successful technique that I have rarely noted before. Add into the mix some quite striking photography, such as the shots in the city done purely as reflections in water, and this ends up being quite an interesting lesson in film making.

    Toss aside the obvious propaganda aspects of the film, and marvel at the film making. I would certainly not be calling this the most essential of the releases Force Video have given us of Russian film, but it is definitely worthwhile checking out if you have any interest in this area of film.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    It might have been restored in 1969 and it might say that it is digitally remastered but you will have to make some allowances if you wish to enjoy the film. But understand this - after several poorish transfers of Alfred Hitchcock films of the 1960s and 1970s, you might be surprised by how few serious allowances you have to make. Seventy four years is a long time, but at times there are glimpses here of quality that would not look out of place in a thirty four year old film. The transfer is of course presented in a Full Frame format that is not 16x9 enhanced.

    The actual transfer itself is not bad at all. There are naturally lapses of soft definition here and there, but in general the image remains reasonably sharp throughout for a film of this age. Indeed, in the previously mentioned reflection shots, it is quite astounding how good they look. Had it not been for a significantly poorer couple of reels at the end of the film, I could certainly have rated this better than one or two of those aforementioned Hitchcock transfers. Detail is quite reasonable, considering that portions of the film are shot in rather spartan ways. The backgrounds have a tendency to a little murkiness, which seems to be consistent with other films from this era of Russian film, but overall I am not complaining about much here at all. Thankfully, there is not much of an issue with grain in the transfer, and this is certainly better than I expected in that regard. Overall clarity is fair, with only a few reels showing that characteristic murky white filmy look. Shadow detail is fair given the age of the film and the standard of the source material. There were no significant instances of low level noise in the transfer. Obviously there must have been some serious damage to the source material, as it would seem that odd excisements of small bits have taken place in the film.

    I was a little surprised too by how good some of the black and white film looked in colour terms. Whilst woefully inconsistent, as it does venture into murky greys at times, there are segments here that are quite stunningly and obviously black and almost white in tone. Sure it is not going to be confused with something far more modern, but it really looks better than most of the releases in this little voyage.

    There did not appear to be any significant MPEG artefacts in the transfer. There was also no real evidence of any significant film-to-video artefacts in the transfer. What you do notice is the obvious issue with film artefacts, and there are plenty here. Some of them are rather large, but they are no worse than would be expected in a film of this vintage. However, a more successful restoration could perhaps have seen a better clean up than we have here. Naturally the film jumps around like a hiccoughing frog at times, but that is nothing we have not seen before.

    The title boards in the film have been given English subtitles done in 1975, which are a little out of style with the boards themselves. The film has also been given new English credits done at the same time and these really do not fit the film at all well, as well as being no substitute for the original Russian credits.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There is just the one soundtrack on offer on the DVD, being an English Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. As usual this is a misnomer as it is a silent film and the only sound we have is the orchestral music accompaniment.

    The musical score is credited to Vladimir Larovski, which was added to the film during the 1969 restoration of the film. Whilst it is a fairly blatant score, in that it is entirely predictable support, it is also disappointing that they have resorted to adding sound effects like applause where it appears on screen. This sort of cheap effect to me destroys part of the mystique of silent films. Still, that is my point of view and probably not shared by too many.

    The soundtrack does its job of providing the musical accompaniment without much general issue whatsoever. The one problem with the soundtrack is that on a couple of occasions there seemed to be some slight distortion in the sound. Nothing really serious and to some extent an example of the slightly variable music recording standards in the former Soviet Union in the 1960s and 1970s. A couple of examples are at 2:10 and 7:35, but there are others throughout the film. Otherwise, the soundtrack is reasonable enough but it would be worthwhile turning the volume down a little when watching this film.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    Not an exactly stellar extras package, and sadly lacking a commentary or indeed some sort of featurette about the restoration process - either of which could have featured film historian David Shepard, according to the slick the person responsible for the restoration.

Menus

    With some slightly strident sound and some moderate animation, not exactly the greatest ever but reasonable enough.

Notes - Essay (4:13)

    Not so much an essay as some production notes about the making of the film, it is unfortunately presented in a scrolling fashion that as usual runs far too slowly for me. Quite interesting if not especially expansive.

R4 vs R1

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

    Whilst not certain, it would appear that this film does not grace the Region 1 DVD release sheets.

Summary

    The End Of St. Petersburg is another of those rather interesting little voyages into Russian film that Force Video keep titillating us with from time to time, and whilst I would not be suggesting that you would sit down to watch this for pure entertainment too often (if at all), if you have an interest in the history of film then this worthwhile viewing. Certainly not the sort of thing that would grace too many general collections, and not the most ideal way of starting an investigation of this era of film (Sergei Eisenstein is probably a better place), I for one am very grateful that we have this on DVD. It was an interesting reviewing experience, even given my limited knowledge of Russian film.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Saturday, October 13, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-515, using S-Video output
DisplaySony Trinitron Wega (80cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RXV-795
SpeakersEnergy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL

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