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Reviews of silent film releases on home video.
Copyright © 1999-2014 by Carl Bennett
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The
Beloved Rogue

(1927)
 

The life of François Villon was a popular subject for motion pictures in the silent era, with no less than four versions shot between France and America. Popular star John Barrymore was an inspired choice to portray the French poet and patriot. With characteristic charm and vivacity, Barrymore prances through the role with the occasional love scene to display the Great Profile.

François Villon is the toast of Paris: respected by the upper classes for his poetic expression, beloved by the lower classes as a boozing rascal. As our story begins, Villon is crowned by the street people of Paris as the King of Fools for an annual celebration. In the progress of the event, Villon insults the Duke of Burgundy (Lawson Butt) in verse. For the transgression, King Louis XI (Conrad Veidt) banishes Villon from Paris. Heartbroken that he will be separated from everything that he loves, Villon establishes himself in an inn just outside the walls of Paris. It isn’t long before Villon figuratively thumbs his nose at the authority that has banished him, with Villon scaling the walls and launching food and wine into the lower class section of Paris. An act that further endears him to them. Meanwhile, the Duke of Burgundy has designs on the throne of France, and the king is too easily swayed by advisors and astrology to see the impending threat. The king is persuaded to allow his ward, Charlotte (Marceline Day), to be married, establishing an alliance between Paris and Burgundy. By accident, Villon meets Charlotte and is smitten. Villon gets the ear of the king and convinces him that Burgundy is not a friend of the throne, but a threat. Eventually, Burgundy’s plans are foiled, Villon favor with the king is reestablished, and Villon wins the hand of Charlotte.

Barrymore is wonderful in the role of Villon, with his impishness rogueness played to the hilt. Marceline Day is lovely, as always, and Conrad Veidt plays a deliciously ineffectual Louis and manages to make his more-than-six-foot-tall body look a fraction of its size. Barrymore is ably supported by character actors Mack Swain and Slim Summerville. — Carl Bennett

2009 Kino International DVD edition

The Beloved Rogue (1927), color-tinted and color-toned black & white and black & white, 98 minutes, not rated.

Kino International, K654, UPC 7-38329-06542-3.
Full-frame and windowboxed 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, 5 chapter stops, standard DVD keepcase, $24.95.
DVD release date: 7 July 2009.
Country of origin: USA

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

This new edition surpasses all previous DVD editions in visual quality, benefiting primarily from a new video transfer — one that utilizes the same 35mm Paul Killiam collection print as that for the Worldview Entertainment edition noted below. The new video transfer has been made in a framing combination of full-frame for cinematographic footage and windowboxed for the main titles and intertitles. The visual quality is not excellent, but probably makes the most of film materials duplicated in the early 1970s with the limitations of film technology of the time. Dust and speckling are present in slightly higher amounts than in newer prints. Picture details are soft and slightly contrasty, with some highlight details lost (blame the source materials) but with otherwise a balanced (slightly flat) grayscale range and reasonable shadow details. The transfer looks good on high-resolution equipment with upscaling capabilities. Also, compared to the Worldview edition, the print’s color-tinting is more faithfully represented, without the dark, oversaturation of the previous disc. Altogether, while not great, this new Kino edition is the best visual presentation we have seen of The Beloved Rogue.

The film is accompanied by a music score performed on piano (in 1971) by William P. Perry. Its vintage is apparent in the recording’s limited dynamic and aural range, likely duplicated from a film-based optical track, but is not compromised by the poor audio mastering of the Worldview edition. Perhaps contractually obligated to keep the Perry performance with the Worldview materials, we instead would have preferred that Kino commission a new music score to accompany this new home video edition.

The sparce supplemental material includes a filmed introduction with ending comments by Orson Welles for the early 1970s syndicated Paul Killiam television series The Silent Years.

We now have a reasonable DVD edition of The Beloved Rogue that can replace the 1991 Voyager laserdisc edition. We recommend this Kino DVD edition as the best available on home video.

 
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.
2002 Image Entertainment DVD edition

The Beloved Rogue (1927), color-tinted black & white, 99 minutes, not rated.

Worldview Entertainment, distributed by Image Entertainment, ID1570WVDVD, UPC 0-14381-15702-4.
Full-frame 4:3 NTSC, one single-sided, single-layered DVD disc, Region 1, 5 Mbps average video bit rate, 224 kbps audio bit rate, Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, 15 chapter stops, standard DVD keepcase, $24.99.
DVD release date: 25 June 2002.
Country of origin: USA

Ratings (1-10): video: 5 / audio: 4 / additional content: 0 / overall: 5.

This home video presentation has been prepared by Worldview Entertainment (controllers of the Paul Killiam film collection) from the same Killiam preservation print that was issued, in a different video transfer, on laserdisc by The Voyager Company (Criterion) in 1991.

The DVD edition features a new full-frame video transfer, with color-tinting, and utilizes the piano score performed by William P. Perry from the source print, but the music level is low, muffled sounding and phases annoyingly.

The image contrast is a bit on the flat side and the image detail is soft, with the result being an average transfer of an average print. The Voyager laserdisc edition windowboxes the opening credits, with the balance of the transfer being full-frame and a different selection of coloring. The picture on the Voyager edition is more contrasty (although not to a fault), with the apparent image detail slightly greater, and the sound fidelity is better than on the DVD.

Our preference between the two editions clearly has been for the out-of-print Voyager laserdisc, with its clearer picture and sound. This Worldview DVD edition is acceptible, despite its soft, darkish picture and muffled sound. Our reevaluation on high-definition equipment leaves us with a reinforced low opinion of the disc, the quality of such may have been passable in the early 1990s but in the 21st century exhibits a shameful disregard for quality. Instead, we recommend the Kino DVD edition noted above.

 
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.
2004 Delta Entertainment DVD edition

The Beloved Rogue (1927), black & white, 98 minutes, not rated.

Delta Entertainment, 82 490, UPC 0-18111-24909-6.
Windowboxed 4:3 NTSC, one single-sided, single-layered DVD disc, Region 0, 3 Mbps average video bit rate, 1536 kbps audio bit rate, PCM 2.0 mono sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, 14 chapter stops, standard DVD keepcase, $6.99.
DVD release date: 24 February 2004.
Country of origin: USA

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

This budget edition was released early in 2004 as part of a major flood of silent titles from Delta Entertainment. The video transfer has been mastered from a very-good (what appears to be) 35mm source print, which features a broad range of graytones, and is marked with a light amount of speckling, dust and scratches. The transfer appears to have originated from the 1991 Voyager laserdisc noted above. The disc itself appears to have been mastered from a VHS videotape copy of the original transfer. The reduced resolution of VHS gives the disc the appearance of having been transferred from a very-good 16mm reduction print. Honestly, we do our best to discern the gauge of the source print from visual clues in the resulting picture image, but the history of this disc’s production are an educated guess at best.

The film is accompanied by a canned orchestral music track that is crudely edited together, and is occasionally unrelated to the film’s action.

This disc is watchable but, as with other budget releases, more could have been done to ensure the best possible quality. While image detail isn’t as sharp as the Image edition above, this is a passable edition for the budget conscious collector.

 
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.
2006 St. Clair Vision DVD edition

Classic Tales of Adventure (1921-1955), black & white, 880 minutes total, not rated,
including The Beloved Rogue (1927), black & white, 98 minutes, not rated.

St. Clair Vision, PDS87269-3VD, UPC 7-77966-87269-8.
Windowboxed 4:3 NTSC, three single-sided, dual-layered DVD discs, Region 0, ? Mbps average video bit rate, ? kbps audio bit rate, Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound (processed from mono sources), English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, 8 chapter stops, three-disc DVD keepcase, $9.98.
DVD release date: 2 May 2006.
Country of origin: Canada

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

This edition has been mastered from a very-good 35mm print, speckled and dusty, with soft image details, but with a reasonable graytone range. The slightly-windowboxed video transfer appears to have been lifted wholesale from the Voyager (Criterion) laserdisc of the 1990s — probably without licensing.

The film is accompanied by a collection of preexisting orchestral recordings from a variety of stereo sources, which begs the question why St. Clair Vision thinks that reprocessed 5.1 surround sound is justified, other than to dupe an unknowing consumer into thinking they are getting a disc of value.

 
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.
Other silent era JOHN BARRYMORE films available on home video.

Other silent era CONRAD VEIDT films available on home video.

 
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