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Reviews of silent film releases on home video.
Copyright © 1999-2017 by Carl Bennett
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The Bells
(1926)

 

This intriguing historical drama stars Lionel Barrymore, Gustav von Seyffertitz and the Caligarian Boris Karloff.

coverImage Entertainment
2000 DVD edition

The Bells (1926), color-toned black & white, 68 minutes, not rated,
with Paris endormi [The Crazy Ray] (1922), color-toned black & white, 19 minutes, not rated.

Film Preservation Associates, distributed by Image Entertainment,
ID5832DSDVD, UPC 0-14381-58322-9.
One single-sided, single-layered, Region 0 NTSC DVD disc, 1.33:1 aspect ratio image in windowboxed 4:3 (720 x 480 pixels) interlaced scan MPEG-2 format, 5 Mbps average video bit rate, 192 kbps audio bit rate, Dolby Digital 1.0 mono sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, 12 chapter stops; snapper DVD case.
Release date: 28 March 2000.
Country of origin: USA

Ratings (1-10): video: 8 / audio: 5 / additional content: 7 / overall: 7.

This early DVD edition features a natural-speed, pleasingly sepia-toned and slightly windowboxed video transfer (that will appear to be full-frame on most television monitors) from an excellent 35mm print that features a broad greyscale range, and a very light sprinkling of dust and speckling. On high-definition equipment with video upscaling, the older video transfer still renders well, with smooth tonal transitions and reasonably sharp image detail. Some horizontal details, like the shingled roof of a building, will shows twitching signs of its standard-definition NTSC video transfer.

This film is entertainly accompanied by a music score performed on synthesizers by Eric Beheim. The synthesizer sound settings for strings and horns can be annoying artificial-sounding to some listeners.

We highly recommend this edition of The Bells for the high quality of its print source material. The disc includes René Clair’s short film Paris endormi [The Crazy Ray] (1922).

 
USA: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 0 NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.com. Your purchase support the Silent Era website.
 
Canada: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 0 NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.ca. Your purchase support the Silent Era website.
coverAlpha Video
2008 DVD edition

The Bells (1926), black & white, 68 minutes, not rated.

Alpha Video, ALP 5545D, 0-89218-55459-8.
One single-sided, single-layered, Region 0 NTSC DVD disc, 1.33:1 aspect ratio image in windowboxed 4:3 (720 x 480 pixels) interlaced scan MPEG-2 format, ? Mbps average video bit rate, ? kbps audio bit rate, Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, 6 chapter stops; standard DVD keepcase, $7.98.
Release date: 26 February 2008.
Country of origin: USA

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

This DVD edition has been mastered from an analog videotape copy, as evidenced by the dark smearing to the right of the white lettering in the film’s intertitles, of a slightly-windowboxed video transfer of an excellent 35mm print. Given that the windowboxing is identical and the running times are the same, this disc has likely been mastered from a copy of the Image edition cited above. While the video quality is quite good, the disc’s bit rate could have been higher to increase the resolution of the coarsely-rendered picture.

Despite what the packaging has to say, the film was not based on any material written by Edgar Allan Poe. It is, instead, based on a French play by Émile Erckmann and Alexandre Chatrain. Do your research, Alpha!

The presentation is accompanied by a good but repetitious pipe organ music score composed and performed by Paul David Bergel.

Overall, this disc is far better than the majority of Alpha Video product and isn’t a bad alternative to the Image edition.

 
USA: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 0 NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.com. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
Other silent era BORIS KARLOFF films available on home video.
 
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