Nell Shipman is a name silent films enthusiasts may not be familiar with. By 1918, the Canadian-born actress began appearing in a genre with which she would forever be associated: the Northwoods melodrama, many written by author James Oliver Curwood.
Curwood’s Back to God’s Country is the story of a young woman born in the northern wilderness, befriended and soon courted by a government researcher. A fugitive marine captain kills a man and flees into the Canadian backwoods, pursued by the law. He assumes the identity of a Canadian mountie and wreaks havoc on Dolores and her father. Time passes and Dolores marries her backwoods suitor. They travel together on a research trip to the far northern reaches of the Canadian waterways on a ship that turns out to be commanded by the fugitive captain. He intends to force himself on Dolores and plots to be rid of the husband while holding them captive aboard his ship, now icebound near a remote trading post. The nearest mountie fort is 200 miles over frozen wasteland and Dolores resolves to traverse the distance with her injured husband, while being pursued by the murderous captain.
Back to God’s Country (1919), color-tinted and color-toned black & white, 74 minutes, not rated,
with Something New (1920), color-tinted and color-toned black & white, 57 minutes, not rated.
Milestone Film and Video, distributed by Image Entertainment, ID9796MLSDVD, UPC 0-14381-97962-6.
Full-frame 4:3 NTSC, one single-sided, dual-layered DVD disc, Region 1, 5.5 Mbps average video bit rate, 224 kbps audio bit rate, Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, chapter stops, snapper DVD case, $29.99.
DVD release date: 24 April 2001.
Country of origin: USA
Back to God’s Country (1919) has been preserved by Canada’s National Film, Television and Sound Archives in a restoration 35mm print that originates from two separate 35mm prints, one held by the American Film Institute and another from the private collection of J.D. Cunningham of England. The restoration was supervised by National Archives of Canada’s senior archivist D.J. Turner.
The first reel is compromised by some fluctuating decomposition on the left side of the frame. The nitrate film decomposition does effect the color-toning of the original print and is bad enough in places that restoration producers appear to have decided to shorten some shots where the decomposition has totally obliterated the image. Intertitles have been recreated from the best surviving frame and are held in still frame in the restoration print. The image quality in one print is more constrasty, with brighter highlights than the flatter highlights of the second print. The composite print features the usual amount of light speckling, scratches and other defects, and has been well transferred full-frame to video.
Both films in the new Milestone edition are presented with well-recorded stereo piano scores performed by Philip Carli. As usual, Carli’s performances here are always entertaining, tasteful and appropriate to the action.
Overall, we are very pleased with this new edition of two of Nell Shipman’s best-known films. For those unfamiliar with Nell’s work, this DVD makes a nice introduction. For the initiated Shipman collector, the DVD represents an opportunity to upgrade their collection to this quality edition.
USA: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 1NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.com. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
Canada: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 1NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.ca. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
The Nell Shipman Collection, Volume 1: A Girl from God’s Country (1919-2006), color-tinted and color-toned black & white, and color and black & white, 119 minutes total, not rated,
including Back to God’s Country (1919), color-tinted and color-toned black & white, 74 minutes, not rated.
Boise State University, no catalog number,
UPC 9-780932-12943-7, ISBN 0-932129-43-4.
Full-frame 4:3 NTSC, one single-sided, dual-layered? DVD disc, Region 0, ? Mbps average video bit rate, ? kbps audio bit rate, Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, 10 chapter stops, standard DVD keepcase, $19.99.
DVD release date: 13 March 2006.
Country of origin: USA
This first disc in the Nell Shipman Collection series of three DVDs features a new presentation of Back to God’s Country. Allegedly, the film has been color-tinted to match the original release prints, and features musical accompaniment by British composer and musician Lindsay Cooper, that incorporates a performance of the film’s title song. The video transfer has been prepared from the same restoration print as the Milestone edition above.
The disc’s supplementary section includes “The History and Restoration of Back to God’s Country” by Canadian film archivist D.J. Turner, who worked on the film’s restoration print, and the Canadian History Channel’s 45-minute documentary, Ah Gee, Forgetting Me . . . Nell Shipman, written and directed by Patricia Phillips of Great North Productions, Edmonton.
USA: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 0NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.com. Your purchase helps support the Silent Era website.