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Details At A Glance

Category Drama Theatrical Trailer(s) None
Rating Other Trailer(s) None
Year Released 1924 Commentary Tracks Yes, 1 - Yuri ? (Film Historian?)
Running Time 94:25 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 First Workers Theatre of Proletkult
Case Brackley
RPI $32.95 Music Junk Metal Music

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)
English Audio Commentary (Dolby Digital 1.0, 192 Kb/s)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 1.33:1
Macrovision ? Smoking Yes
Subtitles None Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or
After Credits

Plot Synopsis

    After something of a quiet patch of late, Force Video have recently released a couple more DVDs, one of which continues our voyage of discovery through the films of Sergei Eisenstein. This time we find ourselves at the very beginning of the career of the Russian master, as this was his very first feature film, after the short Dnevnik Glumova of 1923. This was intended to be an instalment of an eight episode series entitled Towards The Dictatorship, commissioned by the Proletkult. As such, it was a typical piece of quasi-propaganda material of the era, designed to write the history of the origins of the Russian Revolution of 1917 from the Communist point of view. Notwithstanding the source of the commission of the film, Sergei Eisenstein as usual placed a rather unique look on the events and the resultant film is not only powerful, but moving and shows some stunning work for both the period and the then youthful director. Even in his first feature film, Sergei Eisenstein was not afraid to adopt a big scope to the film and this is typical Eisenstein in the size of the cast! The remaining episodes of the intended series were, by the way, never made.

    As ever with many of Sergei Eisenstein's films, it is very important to understand that this is essentially a propaganda film, commissioned for a specific purpose. In this instance, however, it is somewhat less overtly political than some of his later films. This does mean that at times the representations of the various classes may not be entirely accurate. Nonetheless, this remains a most interesting recreation of the origins of the factory strike of 1912 in Tsarist Russia and its eventual breaking by the use of the military and police engaged by the factory owners. The bloody breaking of the strike was no doubt one of the major turning points of Russian history, fostering significant support of the revolutionary ideal amongst the workers. It certainly did not lead directly to the Russian Revolution of 1917, but it was one of the major catalysts for the support of the revolution through the ever increasing disenfranchisement of the workers and the debauchery of the wealthy minority in those tough times immediately preceding and during World War I.

    In many respects this film and its immediate successor Bronenosets Potyomkin are very much a pair, having many common themes between them. In addition, they are most assuredly classic and powerful films, demonstrating with great clarity the genius of the young Sergei Eisenstein. From a film-making point of view, this is most clearly demonstrated in the montage style that the director used throughout many of his films, which obviously had its origins in this film. Unlike the later Oktyabr, the approach here is a less frenetic changing of images that ultimately contributes much to the power of the film. It is also less obviously riddled with Soviet imagery of the period and therefore carries its message into the future much more clearly. It is noteworthy for a number of reasons. Prime amongst these is the cinematography and at certain points you will be staggered by what Eisenstein achieved 75 years ago. However, his depiction of the factory owners and their cronies is very amusing and utterly accurate in concept. The main purpose of that depiction is probably to make the ultimate horrors perpetrated by these people all the more graphic. Believe me, there are segments of this film that simply would not be able to be done today: most specifically a rather graphic slaughtering of a live cow, as well as a baby being dropped from a multi storey building. You may be well advised to heed the PG rating here.

    The master was developing his style here, but this is nonetheless a very powerful film as well as being an entertaining film. It all depends upon what level you want to watch it at. Devotees of Russian film will rejoice with this release.

Transfer Quality


    As indicated, this film is over seventy-five years old. Aside from the fact that it is remarkable that we can enjoy films from this era, what makes it so special? Well, undoubtedly it has faults and these are very much in accord with what we would expect of a film of this age, however in that context this transfer is almost worthy of Hall Of Fame status. Why? Because significant portions of this film reveal detail and colour depth that you have in all probability not seen before in a film of this age. There are problems here, but there are also plenty of instances where you have to close your mouth after your jaw drops: this is at times a quite superlative transfer for its age.

    The transfer is presented in Full Frame format.

    We may be talking about another early black and white effort, but this is not like any such effort I have seen before. Sure, we do get periods of the rather expected diffuse, mildly murky images in various shades of grey at times, but to check out how good this transfer is, I urge you to watch the first five minutes of the film. This demonstrates two rather superb examples of how good this transfer can look. The first is the general detail and clarity, as well as depth of tone, displayed during the shots inside the factory. Wonderful stuff indeed. But by far the stand-out example comes at the 2:15 mark with the reflected images filmed in a puddle of water. This is such a stunning piece of film that I had serious doubts that it is the original film, but rather a refilmed piece from a much later period. If it is the original film, then this is probably the most stunning example of sharp, detailed and breathtaking cinematography that you will see in a black and white film made prior to World War II! At its best, this is a superbly detailed transfer, very sharp and with great contrast. At its worst it is a better than average display of slightly murky images, reasonably detailed and with average contrast. Somewhere in the middle is where this mildly inconsistent transfer lies, but when that really good stuff comes along in the transfer it is a joy to behold. Naturally for a film of this age, we have the usual editing problems with some inherent continuity problems that are a little glaring at times, but even these in comparison with other films from this source are nowhere near as bad as I have seen. There do not appear to be any low level noise problems with the transfer.

    The black and white transfer rarely descends into that wishy washy, murky grey look that is quite common in films of this vintage. In general, it maintains a steady image that is demonstrably black and white: perhaps the depths to the tones are not quite there, but it is definitely not only greys that are on offer. At its best, this is as good a black and white colouration as I have seen, especially for a film of pre-1945 vintage. The only thing that comes close, in my experience, to this effort is the THX-certified Region 1 version of It's A Wonderful Life. I have rarely been this satisfied with the quality of the "colour" on offer in a black and white film, and certainly never of a film of this vintage.

    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 were enough film artefacts here to hide a strike in: dirt, scratches, blotches and so on are here in abundance. This is no more than I was expecting for a film of this age and even when they did become a little intrusive, they could not diminish the enjoyment here.

    You should also note that whilst English subtitles are noted in the technical specifications for the disc, these are only related to the translation of the rather unusually windowboxed story boards and are not selectable.

    You should further note that the film is, in the words of Michael D, heavily windowboxed within the frame. Whilst this does create a noticeable black bar around each edge of the film, at least on my television this is mostly hidden by overscan. This will not necessarily be the same with all televisions.


    Thankfully, we have once again been spared the incongruity of a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack for this silent film.

    There are two audio tracks on the DVD, although you would not know this from the slip cover! One is an English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtrack and the second is a completely uncredited English Audio Commentary in Dolby Digital 1.0 sound. It is rather staggering that the commentary receives no mention whatsoever on the slip cover.

    The accompanying music score is a rather recent effort, apparently the work of Junk Metal Music, whoever they/he/she/it may be. Coming from, it would appear, 1998, this is a rather modern sounding effort that does provide some nice musical accompaniment to the film. It is quite supportive and has thankfully been included at a tastefully low level so as not to overpower the viewer and the film.

    There really is not much at all wrong with this soundtrack, and it is remarkably free of any distortion or hiss, reflecting the relative youth of the soundtrack. Obviously lacking any use of the surround channels and bass channel, it is perhaps just a little too much on the subdued side without being unbearably so. In the end I suppose that this is far more preferable to it being a too strident soundtrack, which would certainly destroy the enjoyment of the film. Decently acceptable I would guess is the best way of describing the soundtrack.


    Regular followers of my reviews of these early film releases from Eureka Video, through our friends at Force Video, will know that one consistent complaint that I have had is that they lack a commentary to put some perspective on the relative merits and importance of the films. So when it was found that this effort had an uncredited commentary, I was somewhat overjoyed. Now finally we are starting to see the sort of extras that these early films need. I hope that this is the start of a great trend from this source.


    Again bristling with the usual decent efforts of Eureka Video at audio and animation enhancement. They may repeat just a little too frequently, but a nice effort throughout. The menus are nicely handled, at least by the standards we have expected from this source.

Audio Commentary - Yuri ?

    Quite why this extra is completely omitted from the slip cover I do not know, but the result is one of the greatest understatements from an industry renowned for its hyperbole, especially as regards extras are concerned on DVDs. It is further regretted that no mention is made, as I have no idea what the gentleman's name is beyond Yuri, other than it sounds like Tsirian, Nor do I have any idea as to what his qualifications are. Still, an audio commentary is an audio commentary. I would hardly say it was the most enthralling effort that I have ever heard as the delivery is a little dry, but there are occasional snippets here that help the understanding of the film, as well as of Sergei Eisenstein's work in general. Having said that, it is great to see something being done to round out these releases of classic films ever more, and any reservations about this commentary track are easily forgotten.

R4 vs R1

    The Region 1 release misses out on;     Let me sit down a moment here as I am about to do something that was perhaps not ever considered likely based upon previous releases from this source: I am recommending this Region 4 release over the Region 1 release.


    The belated continuation of the Force Video voyage through the work of Sergei Eisenstein sees a stunning improvement in quality that is most unexpected. It still may not quite be what the likes of The Criterion Collection would do to the transfer, but this is a fine effort for a film of this vintage. It is an enjoyable film in its own right, with some nicely comedic aspects to the characterizations. Caution may need to be exercised over certain scenes which some may find disturbing, but overall this is well worth investigating.

    A very good video transfer for a film of this vintage.

    An adequate audio transfer.

    A decent extras package, since it does have an audio commentary.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ian Morris (have a laugh, check out the bio)
24th August 2000
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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 C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL