|Year Released||1924||Commentary Tracks||Yes, 1 - Yuri ? (Film Historian?)|
|Running Time||94:25 minutes||Other Extras||Menu Audio and Animation|
|Starring||First Workers Theatre of Proletkult|
|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||
|Subtitles||None||Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or
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.
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.
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.
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.
© Ian Morris (have a
laugh, check out the bio)
24th August 2000
Need more info? http://us.imdb.com/Title?0015361
|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|