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Reviews of silent film releases on home video.
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Battleship
Potemkin

(1925)
 

Sergei Eisenstein’s greatest achievement of the silent era has long been recognized as a world cinema masterpiece.

Originally commissioned to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the 1905 Socialist uprising, Eisenstein’s film focused on the mutiny of the crew of the armored cruiser Potemkin. In the process, Eisenstein continued his boldly-conceived filmmaking style of close-ups and rapid cutting that he explored in his first film Strike (1924) for his telling of the crew’s human-rights struggle.

The film was recently restored as close as possible to its original finished state, including all of Eisenstein’s intertitles and 1374 original shots, as it was before Eisenstein was required to censor his own intended version before the film’s December 1925 Russian premiere. The excised material survived the years in untouched original prints struck by German distributor Prometheus from the original German negative before it was also censored and edited in 1926 and again in 1928. The restoration was a 20-year-long collaborative effort of Deutsches Kinemathek in Germany, with support from the Gosfilmofond film archive of Russia, the Bundesarchiv film archive of Germany, and the British Film Institute. — Carl Bennett

Kino International
2010 Blu-ray Disc edition

Battleship Potemkin (1925), black & white, 69 minutes, not rated.

Kino International,
unknown catalog number, unknown UPC number.
Pillarboxed 16:9 MPEG-4 AVC/H.264, one single-sided Blu-ray disc, Region 0?, ? Mbps average video bit rate, ? kbps audio bit rate, Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound and Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound, Russian and English language intertitles, English language subtitles, chapter stops, standard BD keepcase in cardboard slipcase, $34.95.
BD release date: 20 April 2010.
Country of origin: USA
This Blu-ray Disc edition of the definitive restoration of Sergei M. Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin (1925) includes the restored film transferred in high-definition, including all of the footage edited from the film before its premiere in its original and intended sequencing with all of the original Russian intertitles in their correct order.

The film is accompanied by a 5.1 surround sound presentation of the German premiere music score composed by Edmund Meisel (which was overseen by Eisenstein), arranged by Helmut Imig and performed by the 55-piece Deutches Filmorchestra.

If you have made the leap to Blu-ray Disc, this one will be the home video edition for your collection.

 
USA: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 0 NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.com. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
 
Canada: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 0 NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.ca. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
 
United Kingdom: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 0 NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.co.uk. Your purchase supports Silent Era.
Kino International 2007 DVD edition

Battleship Potemkin (1925), black & white, 69 minutes, not rated.

Kino International, K558, UPC 7-38329-05582-0.
Full-frame 4:3 NTSC, two single-sided, dual-layered DVD discs, Region 0?, ? Mbps average video bit rate, ? kbps audio bit rate, Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound and Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound, Russian and English language intertitles, English language subtitles, 20 chapter stops, cardboard wrap with plastic DVD trays in cardboard slipcase, $29.95.
DVD release date: 23 October 2007.
Country of origin: USA

Ratings (1-10): video: 9 / audio: 9 / additional content: 7 / overall: 9.

This exciting two-disc edition of the definitive restoration of Sergei M. Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin (1925) includes the restored film transferred in high-definition, including all of the footage edited from the film before its premiere in its original and intended sequencing with all of the original Russian intertitles in their correct order.

The results are very impressive for a reconstuction, with a reasonably consistent range of graytones and image quality throughout, despite being conflated from a number of 35mm negatives and prints. All restoration work was performed optically on filmstock rather than digitally. We do not know whether any digital clean-up was performed on the natural-speed HD video transfer. While there a sections of footage with moderate print wear, the majority of the film has a normal amount of dust, speckling, filmbase and emulsion wear that would be present in material of this vintage. The overall image quality is very-good to excellent.

As is detailed in the included documentary on the film, the shorter running time of this reconstruction is due to the natural-speed video transfer, while previous source prints (actually shorter in print length) were actually slowed down and reedited to fit the accompanying music. None of the jerkiness seen in those earlier sound-film prints is present in the restoration print and, thus, in this edition.

Two versions of the film are presented in the set. First, the reconstructed film with Russian intertitles (with optional English intertitles). Second, the reconstructed film with English intertitles. Our preference when watching the film alone is for the Russian intertitles, and the English intertitles version when sharing a viewing with others.

The film is accompanied by a 5.1 surround sound presentation of the German premiere music score composed by Edmund Meisel (which was overseen by Eisenstein), arranged by Helmut Imig and performed by the 55-piece Deutches Filmorchestra. Also included is a 42-minute German-language documentary (with English subtitles) on the making and restoration of the film with Enno Patalas, Naum Kleeman and Helmut Imig, and three photo galleries.

If you still collect films on DVD home video, this one will be the one for your collection — especially given the reasonable cost of this definitive two-disc set.

 
USA: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 0 NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.com. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
 
Canada: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 0 NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.ca. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
 
United Kingdom: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 0 NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.co.uk. Your purchase supports Silent Era.
Image Entertainment 1998 DVD edition

Battleship Potemkin (1925), black & white, 74 minutes, not rated.

Corinth Films, distributed by Image Entertainment,
ID4574CODVD, UPC 0-14381-45742-1.
Full-frame 4:3 NTSC, one single-sided, single-layered DVD disc, Region 0, 5.5 Mbps average video bit rate, 1536 kbps audio bit rate, PCM 2.0 mono sound, Russian language intertitles, English language subtitles, 12 chapter stops, snapper DVD case (reissued in standard DVD keepcase), $24.99.
DVD release date: 7 October 1998.
Country of origin: USA

Ratings (1-10): video: 7 / audio: 5 / additional content: 0 / overall: 6.

This early DVD edition, from Corinth Films (U.S. distributor of the film), has been transferred from a positive print struck from a 35mm Russian preservation print. The source print appears to be comprised of 35mm and 16mm elements, and some surviving shots are rougher than others, but the image generally ranges from good to very-good and is watchable. The film’s jerkiness is not the result of a subpar video transfer, but rather the result of the film’s low exposure frame rate at the time it was shot (an educated guess is approximately 12-14 frames per second) combined with its conversion to a sound film print (24 frames per second).

Our reevaluation of the disc on high-definition equipment still leaves us with an unchanged quality rating, but we note that the high-quality video transfer is only compromised by the shortcomings of the source print material.

The English language subtitles over the Russian intertitles were a part of the source print and thus cannot be turned off.

 
USA: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 0 NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.com. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
 
Canada: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 0 NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.ca. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
Films-sans-frontières 2006 DVD edition

Battleship Potemkin (1925), black & white, ? minutes, not rated,
with Glumov’s Diary (1923), black & white, ? minutes, not rated, Strike (1924), black & white, ? minutes, not rated, October (1928), black & white, ? minutes, not rated, Old and New [The General Line] (1929), black & white, ? minutes, not rated, Sentimental Romance (1930), black & white, ? minutes, not rated, Que Viva Mexico! (1932), black & white, ? minutes, not rated, Bezhin Meadow (1937), black & white, ? minutes, not rated, Alexander Nevsky (1938), black & white, ? minutes, not rated, and Ivan the Terrible (1944), black & white, ? minutes, not rated.

Films-sans-frontières, unknown catalog number, unknown UPC number.
Full-frame 4:3 PAL, four single-sided?, dual-layered? DVD discs, Region 2, ? Mbps average video bit rate, ? kbps audio bit rate, Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo? sound, Russian language intertitles, French and English language subtitles, chapter stops, four-disc DVD keepcase, €90,00.
DVD release date: 2006.
Country of origin: France
We have not viewed this edition, but have received reports that the visual quality ranges from very-good to excellent.

This edition features a music score by Edmund Meisel.

North American collectors will need a region-free PAL DVD player capable of outputting an NTSC-compatible signal to view this edition.

 
This Region 2 PAL DVD is available directly from FILMS-SANS-FRONTIÈRES.
Delta Entertainment 2004 DVD edition

Battleship Potemkin (1925), black & white, 72 minutes, not rated,
with Sergei Eisenstein 1898-1948 (19??), black & white, 46 minutes, not rated.

Delta Entertainment, 82 341, UPC 0-18111-23419-1.
Full-frame 4:3 NTSC, one single-sided, dual-layered DVD disc, Region 0, 4.5 Mbps average video bit rate, 1536 kbps audio bit rate, PCM 2.0 mono sound, Russian language intertitles, English language subtitles, 5 chapter stops, standard DVD keepcase, $6.99.
DVD release date: 24 February 2004.
Country of origin: USA

Ratings (1-10): video: 5 / audio: 4 / additional content: 5 / overall: 5.

We must report that this budget edition has been mastered from a VHS videotape copy of the same video master as the Image edition above. There is some visual evidence of the lack of resolution common to VHS as is the inherent oversharpening of some white image edges. That being said, we have seen far worse examples of DVDs mastered from VHS. This disc will be watchable to undiscerning eyes. The video transfer has been made at a natural pace, and since the camera was originally cracked at a low frame rate of approximately 14-16 frames per second the action is a little jerky. As above, the English language subtitles over the Russian intertitles were a part of the source print and thus cannot be turned off.

The film is presented with the latter day music score composed by Dmitri Shostokovich that is common to today’s sound-projection prints of the film.

The sole supplementary material is an older documentary on director Eisenstein that is mastered from a noisy, coarse, contrasty 16mm reduction print.

Ultimately, we cannot recommend this disc when the Image edition is of higher quality. Some collectors may choose to forgo quality for value.

 
USA: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 1 NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.com. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
 
Canada: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 1 NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.ca. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
Unknown Chinese 200? DVD edition

Battleship Potemkin (1925), black & white, 75 minutes, not rated.

Unknown Chinese company (BoYing?),
unknown catalog number, unknown UPC number.
Full-frame 4:3 NTSC, one single-sided, single-layered? DVD disc, Region 0, ? Mbps average video bit rate, ? kbps audio bit rate, Dolby Digital 2.0 mono sound, English? language intertitles, Chinese language subtitles, chapter stops, standard DVD keepcase?, unknown suggested retail price.
DVD release date: 200?.
Country of origin: Chinese
This Chinese edition may or may not be an authorized release of the US Corinth Films/Image Entertainment edition. The disc’s quality is probably rougher than the Image edition.
Other silent era SERGEI EISENSTEIN films available on home video.

Other RUSSIAN and SOVIET FILMS of the silent era available on home video.

 
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