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Copyright © 1999-2018 by Carl Bennett
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Beyond the Rocks


Long thought to be lost, a single print of Beyond the Rocks (1922), with Dutch intertitles, was recovered from the collection of a film collector by the EYE Film Instituut Nederland in 2000, and identified as a nearly-complete print in 2004. The film is important as the only pairing of two silent era stars — Gloria Swanson and Rudolph Valentino, who was riding the popularity wave created by The Sheik (1921).

Caught by circumstances in a loveless marriage, Theodora (Gloria Swanson) falls in love with the rich Hector (Valentino), neither of whom can resist — against their better judgment — each other’s company during their collective travels throughout Europe. When their love is discovered by chance by her aged husband (Robert Bolder), Theodora and Hector persue him as he flees the sad news of his wife’s infidelity on a perilous archeological expedition into the bandit deserts of northern Africa. Proving that the situation affords no antagonists, the husband sacrifices himself for his wife’s happiness through suicide-by-bandit and bestows his blessings on Theodora and Hector upon their timely arrival before his death.

Sam Wood, best known perhaps for his comedic direction, keeps the film moving forward and interesting, despite its melodramatic literary source, and the actors focused. Rudolph Valentino’s performance in the film is restrained but instense, without the eye-popping histrionics of other of his films from this period of his career. Valentino’s dance experience is apparent as he moves with a floating grace through the film’s Versailles historical sequence. Gloria Swanson is commanding, as usual, when she is onscreen. The romantic drama is never maudlin and presents to the viewer a subtly modulating tale of the triumph of love. — Carl Bennett

coverThe Milestone Cinematheque
2006 DVD edition

Beyond the Rocks (1922), color-tinted black & white, 85 minutes, not rated,
with The Delicious Little Devil (1919), black & white, 54 minutes, not rated.

Milestone Film & Video, MILE00102,
UPC 7-84148-01024-3, ISBN 1-933920-01-7.
One single-sided, dual-layered, Region 0 NTSC DVD disc, 1.33:1 aspect ratio image in full-frame 4:3 (720 x 480 pixels) interlaced scan MPEG-2 format, 6 Mbps average video bit rate, 192 kbps audio bit rate, Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound and Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo and mono sound, English language intertitles, French and Dutch language subtitles, 13 chapter stops; standard DVD keepcase, $29.95.
Release date: 11 July 2006.
Country of origin: USA

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

This DVD edition is presented from a very-good to excellent picture transferred at a natural-speed from the restored 35mm print, capturing the fine picture details and subtle tone variations retained in the restoration. While there is some residual dust and many print flaws, including beginning decomposition, dust, speckling, fine vertical scratches, scuffing and print warping, most of the defects of the nitrate source print have been cleaned-up through wet-gate duplication and digital processing. The restoration technicians have also done much to digitally stabilize the jumpy picture, caused mostly by print shrinkage — as noted in the restoration featurette on the DVD. A shot of a train entering a tunnel and portions of the Beachleigh house party sequence were too decomposed to restore but have been left in the restored print, as is, to maintain the continuity of the film. It is also obvious that several frames of some and the entirety of other shots have been lost to splices over the years. Some missing continuity footage is indicated by one second of black frames, and the closing moments of the film are indicated by a freeze frame.

The disc itself has been mastered at a highly-variable video bit rate ranging from 2 Mbps (intertitles) to bursts of 9 Mbps (water scenes, etc.), which fluctuates depending on the complexity of the picture detail moving within the frame. This attention to video compression is very time consuming, but also indicates a commitment to rendering the best possible picture from the DVD at home. However, some video compression artifacts are discernable on high-definition monitors, even with signal upscaling. The attentive eye will be able to discern artifacts in shots with waves, distant hillsides and, even, the sky in them — not film grain, as one might think, instead they are compression artifacts. We think it would have been best to release The Delicious Little Devil separately or to release a two-disc set that would have allowed less video compression and the maximum video bit rate to render a smoother, more filmlike picture. This is merely nitpicking on our part, and most viewers will relish the disc’s highly-detailed images.

This edition of Beyond the Rocks features an introduction by Martin Scorsese, a complete presentation of The Delicious Little Devil (1919) with Rudolph Valentino (see our The Delicious Little Devil on DVD home video page for details in this film), a stills gallery (176 images) with photos from Gloria Swanson’s personal collection, an optional audio track to the film of a 1955 wire recording by Swanson recounting her experiences and views (with the recording occasionally overcome by the music bleeding through in loud sections), trailers for the Valentino films The Sheik (1921) and The Young Rajah (1922), a featurette on the restoration of Beyond the Rocks, two audio options of the acoustic and synthesizer-based music score by Henny Vrienten, one in 5.1 surround with sound effects and in 2.0 stereo with limited sound effects, and more. English language intertitles have been substituted for the surviving Dutch print intertitles in the restoration print, taken from the original Paramount continuity, with Dutch and French subtitles available. A vintage Dutch flash intertitle is visible at 51:16 into the disc.

The music score by Henny Vrienten is very good, with traditional instruments, well-sampled digital keyboards and full orchestra, but just occasionally the composition is intrusive, distracting the attention of the viewer from the action of the film it accompanies. We are happy with the surround and stereo audio options offered on the disc.

Overall, this edition is excellent and would be a valuable addition to any silent film, Swanson or Valentino collection. We recommend the disc highly.

USA: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 0 NTSC DVD edition from Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
Canada: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 0 NTSC DVD edition from Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
This Region 0 NTSC DVD edition is also available directly from MILESTONE FILMS.
Other silent era GLORIA SWANSON films available on home video.

Other RUDOLPH VALENTINO films available on home video.

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