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Silent Era Home Page  >  Home Video  >  The Birth of a Nation
 
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Reviews of silent film releases on home video.
Copyright © 1999-2014 by Carl Bennett
and the Silent Era Company.
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The Birth
of a Nation

(1915)
 

D.W. Griffith’s greatest triumph remains the most-discussed film of the entire silent era of cinema. Creaky and melodramatic, the film nonetheless still retains much of the emotional power to move audiences — although, today, the pro Ku Klux Klan film tends to move viewers to outraged indignation. The film remains important for its ground-breaking storytelling scope and methods, and probably is the greatest guilty pleasure of cinema in today’s politically-correct world.

We are careful not to identify any surviving version of the film as the original 1915 release version, as it has been well-documented by historians that in the months following the film’s initial release, and for years after, D.W. Griffith continued to reshape the film through small abridgements and reedited sequences. Some prints are, there is no doubt, victims of amateur editors employed by censors, exhibitors, and regional and rerelease distributors. Any surviving version of The Birth of a Nation is a record of the survival state of the individual source print utilized to create the legion of duplicate 35mm prints and 16mm reduction prints in film archives and in distributors’ warehouses.

A synchronized music and sound effects soundtrack was added to the film for a 1930 American rerelease. Some surviving prints of that version still exist.

2011 Kino Classics Blu-ray Disc/DVD edition

The Birth of a Nation (1915), color-toned black & white, 187 minutes, not rated,
with [Filmed Prologue to The Birth of a Nation] (1930), black & white, 6 minutes, not rated, In the Border States (1910), black & white, 16 minutes, not rated, The House with Closed Shutters (1910), black & white, 17 minutes, not rated, The Fugitive (1910), black & white, not rated, His Trust (1911), black & white, 14 minutes, not rated, His Trust Fulfilled (1911), black & white, 11 minutes, not rated, Swords and Hearts (1911), black & white, 16 minutes, not rated, The Battle (1911), black & white, 17 minutes, not rated, and The Making of The Birth of a Nation (1992), color and black & white, 24 minutes, not rated.

Kino Lorber, K835, UPC 7-38329-08352-6.
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, Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound and Dolby Digital 2.0 mono sound, and 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 2.0 stereo sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, chapter stops, three-disc BD keepcase, $39.95.
DVD release date: 22 November 2011.
Country of origin: USA
This Blu-ray Disc and DVD edition has been transferred from high-quality 35mm materials.

The set is made up of one Blu-ray Disc featuring the remastered HD edition of the film, with music performed by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra, while two other DVD discs represent the content of the 2002 Kino DVD edition noted below.

 
USA: Click the logomark to purchase this Region-Free Blu-ray Disc edition from Amazon.com. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
 
Canada: Click the logomark to purchase this Region-Free Blu-ray Disc edition from Amazon.ca. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
 
United Kingdom: Click the logomark to purchase this Region-Free Blu-ray Disc edition from Amazon.co.uk. Your purchase supports Silent Era.
2011 Kino Classics DVD edition

The Birth of a Nation (1915), color-toned black & white, 187 minutes, not rated,
with [Filmed Prologue to The Birth of a Nation] (1930), black & white, 6 minutes, not rated, In the Border States (1910), black & white, 16 minutes, not rated, The House with Closed Shutters (1910), black & white, 17 minutes, not rated, The Fugitive (1910), black & white, not rated, His Trust (1911), black & white, 14 minutes, not rated, His Trust Fulfilled (1911), black & white, 11 minutes, not rated, Swords and Hearts (1911), black & white, 16 minutes, not rated, The Battle (1911), black & white, 17 minutes, not rated, and The Making of The Birth of a Nation (1992), color and black & white, 24 minutes, not rated.

Kino Lorber, K834, UPC 7-38329-08342-7.
Full-frame 4:3 NTSC, three single-sided, dual-layered DVD discs, Region 0, ? Mbps average video bit rate, ? kbps audio bit rate, Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, chapter stops, three-disc DVD keepcase, $29.95.
DVD release date: 22 November 2011.
Country of origin: USA
This three-disc DVD edition has been transferred from high-quality 35mm materials.

The set is made up of one DVD disc featuring the remastered HD edition of the film, with music performed by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra, while two other DVD discs represent the content of the 2002 Kino DVD edition noted below.

 
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.
2002 Kino on Video DVD edition

The Birth of a Nation (1915), color-toned black & white, 187 minutes, not rated,
with [Filmed Prologue to The Birth of a Nation] (1930), black & white, 6 minutes, not rated, In the Border States (1910), black & white, 16 minutes, not rated, The House with Closed Shutters (1910), black & white, 17 minutes, not rated, The Fugitive (1910), black & white, not rated, His Trust (1911), black & white, 14 minutes, not rated, His Trust Fulfilled (1911), black & white, 11 minutes, not rated, Swords and Hearts (1911), black & white, 16 minutes, not rated, The Battle (1911), black & white, 17 minutes, not rated, and The Making of The Birth of a Nation (1992), color and black & white, 24 minutes, not rated.

Kino International, K266, UPC 7-38329-02662-2.
Full-frame 4:3 NTSC, two single-sided, dual-layered DVD discs, Region 0, 4 Mbps average video bit rate, 192 kbps audio bit rate, Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, 24 chapter stops, two-disc DVD keepcase, $29.95.
DVD release date: 10 December 2002.
Country of origin: USA

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

This two-disc edition has been transferred from high-quality 35mm materials. It is, in fact, identical to the Image edition noted below that was produced for home video by David Shepard. The highlights of the natural-speed video transfer are only occasionally burnt-out with most being fairly well controlled, while shadows are also being a little plugged in the darkest places. The amber-sepia middle tones are fairly well balanced and detailed.

The film is accompanied by the original Joseph Breil music score as arranged and conducted by Robert Israel, and performed by an ensemble. The Breil music is best presented in this satisfying stereo recording.

The edition also contains seven additional short Civil War films directed by D.W. Griffith, including In the Border States (1910), The House with Closed Shutters (1910), The Fugitive (1910), His Trust (1911), His Trust Fulfilled (1911), Swords and Hearts (1911) and The Battle (1911).

Among the supplementary materials is the 1930 sound version introduction to The Birth of a Nation, featuring a staged conversation between D.W. Griffith and actor Walter Huston, mastered from a good 16mm reduction print (6 minutes), a collection of documents presented as “New York vs. The Birth of a Nation,” a reproduction of an article in which Griffith discusses the film, exerpts from the source novel, plus a gallery of posters, ads and programs.

We highly recommend this edition for its high-quality, presentation completeness, and supplemental materials. Although, we think that home video collectors would now be well-served by a new high-definition video transfer. This DVD edition is also included in Kino’s Griffith Masterworks boxset.

 
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.
1998 Image Entertainment DVD edition

The Birth of a Nation (1915), color-toned black & white, 187 minutes, not rated.

Film Preservation Associates, distributed by Image Entertainment, ID4674DSDVD, UPC 0-14381-46742-0.
Full-frame 4:3 NTSC, one single-sided, dual-layered DVD disc, Region 1, ? Mbps average video bit rate, ? kbps audio bit rate, Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, chapter stops, snapper DVD case (reissued in standard keep case), $29.99.
DVD release date: 17 November 1998.
Country of origin: USA

We originally viewed this edition in the 1992 laserdisc version of this release and expected this early DVD to be of the same high quality.

David Shepard has assembled to most complete edition of Griffith’s controversial film. When compared to the 1991 Lumivision laserdisc edition (and its subsequent release on DVD), this Image Entertainment edition features restrained sepia and color toning of the picture, some scenes are extended, it has additional shots and scenes not included in other home video editions, and they are all edited together in a much easier to follow continuity. For a film of this age, and considering the fragmented history of the many prints that have survived Griffith’s and censors edits, the film is in very good condition, with some print wear noticable. The only thing available in the laserdisc edition and missing from the DVD edition is the reproduction of the 1915 roadshow programme booklet. Based on our knowledge of the laserdisc version, we recommend this David Shepard edition of The Birth of a Nation.

 
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.
2000 Eureka Entertainment DVD edition

The Birth of a Nation (1915), black & white and color-toned black & white, 189 minutes, Classification 15.

Eureka Entertainment, unknown catalog number, unknown UPC number.
Full-frame 4:3 PAL, one single-sided, dual-layered DVD disc, Region 2, ? Mbps average video bit rate, ? kbps audio bit rate, Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, chapter stops, standard DVD keepcase, £19.99.
DVD release date: 21 August 2000.
Country of origin: England
This PAL edition is accompanied by the original Joseph Breil music score, and includes a documentary on the making of the film (24 minutes).

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

 
United Kingdom: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 2 PAL DVD edition from Amazon.co.uk. Your purchase supports Silent Era.
2002 Eureka Entertainment DVD edition

D.W. Griffith Monumental Epics (1915-1930), color-toned black & white and black & white, 693 minutes total. Classification PG, 15 and U,
including The Birth of a Nation (1915), black & white and color-toned black & white, 189 minutes, classification 15, with Intolerance (1916), color-toned black & white, 177 minutes, classification PG, Broken Blossoms (1919), black & white, 88 minutes, classification 15, Way Down East (1920), color-toned black & white, 145 minutes, classification U, and Abraham Lincoln (1930), black & white, 94 minutes, classification U.

Eureka Entertainment, 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 mono and stereo sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, chapter stops, keep case, £49.99.
DVD release date: 24 June 2002.
Country of origin: England
This PAL boxset edition includes the above-noted Eureka edition of The Birth of a Nation, plus four other Griffith films from Eureka.

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

 
United Kingdom: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 2 PAL DVD edition from Amazon.co.uk. Your purchase supports Silent Era.
2000 Triton Multimedia DVD edition

The Birth of a Nation (1915), color-toned and color-tinted black & white, 200 minutes total, not rated,
with The Birth of a Race (1918) [exerpts], black & white, ? minutes, not rated.

Triton Multimedia, TDVD9138, UPC 0-17078-91382-8, ISBN 1-58448-043-2.
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, 8 chapter stops, super jewel DVD case [reissued in standard DVD keepcase], $19.99.
DVD release date: 31 October 2000 [rereleased 2002].
Country of origin: USA

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

We originally viewed this video master, which was prepared from a 35mm print held by the George Eastman House archive, in the Lumivision laserdisc edition that was released in 1991. The Lumivision laserdisc displayed the picture in oversaturated color-tones to the point of distraction. We have since viewed this Triton DVD edition prepared from the same video master. The color saturation issue is not a problem on this DVD.

When this edition is compared to home video producer David Shepard’s DVD editions detailed above, some scenes in this print were edited and presented in a confusing continuity. But the fault was not with Lumivision or the George Eastman House film archive, suppliers of the 35mm print utilized for the video transfer appearing on this DVD. The Birth of a Nation is well-documented as a film that was under sporadic revision for years after its release at the hands of its direct, D.W. Griffith, and others. It should be no surprise that a straight transfer of an existing original print might render confusing results. Still, for a film of this age, and considering the fragmented history of the many prints that have survived Griffith’s and censors edits, the film is in very good condition, with some print wear noticeable.

The original music score by Joseph Breil, with some arrangements along the way, is performed on synthesizers.

The disc also features exerpts from The Birth of a Race (1918), a feature film response to The Birth of a Nation.

This long out-of-print edition features the best home video edition of the version of The Birth of a Nation held by the George Eastman House archive.

 
USA: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 0 NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.com. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
2000? Force Video DVD edition

The Birth of a Nation (1915), black & white and color-toned black & white, 189 minutes total, classification PG.

Force Video, FV509, UPC 9-318500-00509-0.
Full-frame 4:3 NTSC, one single-sided, dual-layered DVD disc, Region 4, ? Mbps average video bit rate, ? kbps audio bit rate, Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, chapter stops, standard DVD keepcase, unknown suggested retail price.
DVD release date: 2000?
Country of origin: Australia
This NTSC edition of the Eureka Entertainment edition noted above contains the same presentation, with the original Joseph Breil music score and a documentary on the making of the film.
2002 Catcom Home Video DVD edition

The Birth of a Nation (1915), color-toned black & white, 191 minutes, not rated.

Catcom Home Video, CAT0134-6, UPC 7-41914-01346-4.
Full-frame 4:3 NTSC, one single-sided, dual-layered DVD disc, Region 0, 5 Mbps average video bit rate, ? kbps audio bit rate, Dolby Digital 2.0 mono sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, 13 chapter stops, standard DVD keepcase, unknown suggested retail price.
DVD release date: 2002
Country of origin: USA

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

Surprises never cease if you are prone to assumptions, and we assumed that this budget edition from Catcom Home Video was going to be mastered from a 16mm reduction print like most other low-cost discs. Instead, we were flabbergasted to discover that this disc has been mastered from the same predominantly sepia-toned full-frame, natural-speed video transfer produced by David Shepard for the Image Edition noted above. Not manufactured to the same high-quality standards, this edition does have a few video glitches to remind you of how little the disc costs.

The ensemble music score arranged and conducted by Robert Israel, originally a stereo recording, has been reduced to mono for this release.

If you’re too cheap to purchase either of the high-quality Image or Kino editions, and while it’s not a great disc, this DVD can probably still be found for sale on eBay and represents the highest-value option for the lowest cost.
2004 Reel Classic DVD edition

The Birth of a Nation (1915) [1930 sound rerelease version], black & white, 103 minutes, not rated.

Reel Classic DVD, no catalog number, no UPC number.
Windowboxed 4:3 NTSC, one single-sided, single-layered DVD-R disc, Region 0, ? Mbps average video bit rate, ? kbps audio bit rate, Dolby Digital 2.0 mono sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, no chapter stops, standard DVD keepcase, $20.00.
DVD release date: 2004
Country of origin: USA

Ratings (1-10): video: 6 / audio: 5 / additional content: 3 / overall: 5.

This DVD-R edition has been transferred from a 16mm reduction print from a private collection of the 1930 rerelease version, with a soundtrack of synchronized music and sound effects. The source print is slightly flat, with light gray highlights and charcoal gray shadows, but their is a reasonably good range of graytones in between. The image detail is OK for an older 16mm print, and better looking than many. The windowboxed video transfer will appear full-frame on most television monitors, and appears to accurately reproduce what image detail exists in the source print.

Structurally different from earlier versions in its editing and with some different intertitles, the 1930 version of the film is shorter than earlier versions as some sequences begin or end abruptly with a soundtrack pop. The original cinematography, shot at a Griffith-imposed slow cranking speed, zips by in this 24-frames-per-second sound version also accounting for the shorter running time. People clapping their hands in a shot do so at a hummingbird-wing rate. This edition is missing the spoken introduction by D.W. Griffith and Walter Huston from the 1930 sound-rerelease version.

The film is accompanied by the music score compiled by Louis F. Gottschalk as recorded, with primitive synchronized sound effects, for the sound rerelease. It is reproduced here from the optical soundtrack of the 16mm source print.

Occasionally, “Reelclassicdvd.com” appears for several seconds in yellow type in the lower right-hand corner to discourage video pirates (and collectors, who don’t want such things imposed upon their film viewing).

Included as supplemental material is a theatrical trailer for the sound rerelease (2 minutes). The notoriously slow Griffith footage (usually shot around 15-16 frames a second) races by in this sound-speed 16mm reduction print. The announcer and his bombastic script are the attraction.

This is the best-looking home video edition of one of the many 16mm reduction prints available of the 1930 sound rerelease version of the film.

 
This Region 0 NTSC DVD-R edition is available directly from REEL CLASSIC DVD.
2005 Alpha Video DVD edition

The Birth of a Nation (1915), black & white, 192 minutes, not rated.

Alpha Video, ALP 4716D, UPC 0-89218-47169-7.
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 mono sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, 7 chapter stops, standard DVD keepcase, $6.98.
DVD release date: 26 April 2005.
Country of origin: USA

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

This budget edition has been mastered from a very-good print that appears to be a 16mm reduction print, which is slightly grayed out but remains quite watchable. The print rarely has blasted out highlights, but the shadows dark and verge on featureless. There is the same amount of speckling, dust and emulsion damage that is present in other surviving prints of the film. The full-frame video transfer has been made at close to natural speed and holds much of the detail present in the source print, but we saw at least one instance where a video glitch from the source master tape playback was present in the disc.

The film is accompanied by a canned classical orchestral music that is pleasant enough but it reproduced in varying volume and quality, and rarely has anything to do with what is happening on-screen.

Not a bad edition for the few dollars it costs — in fact it is the best-looking of the cheapy Birth of a Nation DVDs we have reviewed — but we still recommend the Image or Kino editions noted above.

 
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.
2009 Reel Classic DVD edition

The Birth of a Nation (1915), black & white, 185 minutes, not rated.

Reel Classic DVD, no catalog number, no UPC number.
Windowboxed 4:3 NTSC, two single-sided, single-layered DVD-R discs, Region 0, ? Mbps average video bit rate, ? kbps audio bit rate, Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, no chapter stops, standard DVD keepcase, $25.00.
DVD release date: 2009
Country of origin: USA

Ratings (1-10): video: 4 / audio: 8 / additional content: 3 / overall: 4.

This two-disc DVD-R edition has been digitally video transferred from a 16mm reduction print prepared by Griggs Moviedrome/Essex Films. The good to very-good print loses image detail in many of its highlights and is closed-up in shadows, but reproduces more of the original camera framing than some 16mm prints that are tightly cropped.

Unfortunately, we are not happy with the video encoding of the disc that leaves a picture of noticable digital artifacts in a dithered pattern (as any still frame will confirm). The artifacts are not as visually apparent on a standard-resolution television, but the coarse dithering pattern actually diffuses image detail on a high-definition monitor.

The film is accompanied by an excellent music score composed and performed on Miditzer virtual (computer-based) theatre pipe organ by Ben Model. Usually, 16mm print-based home video editions of silent films do not feature such high-quality music. The music is the highlight of this edition.

While the picture looks OK on a standard-definition television, you have to ask yourself how much longer will you have your NTSC television before you bite the HD bullet. Several home video editions noted above do a much better job of representing the silent film versions of The Birth of a Nation.

 
USA: Click the logomark at right to purchase this Region 0 NTSC DVD-R edition from Amazon.com. Your purchase helps support the Silent Era website.
 
This Region 0 NTSC DVD-R disc is available directly from REEL CLASSIC DVD.
2001 Madacy Entertainment DVD edition

The Birth of a Nation (1915), black & white, 180 minutes, not rated.

Madacy Entertainment, DVD9 9263, UPC 0-56775-07039-7.
Full-frame 4:3 NTSC, one single-sided, single-layered DVD disc, Region 0, 2.5 Mbps average video bit rate, 384 kbps audio bit rate, Dolby Digital 2.0 mono sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, 15 chapter stops, standard DVD keepcase, $7.98.
DVD release date: 8 May 2001.
Country of origin: Canada

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

You get what you pay for. Just remember that old saying and you may save yourself from wasting a little pocket change.

Ask how you can fit a 180-minute film onto a single-layer DVD and the answer comes back . . . overcompress the video information! While the source material for this DVD edition of The Birth of a Nation utilizes a very-good 16mm reduction print, the MPEG-2 video compression bit rate is low enough (an average of 2.5 megabytes per second) to be obvious in any still frame on any size monitor and remains as apparent in full motion to experienced eyes. The result is a passible picture at first glance, but soon the blocky lack of true detail becomes noticeable and gradually annoying (particularly on monitors larger than 24 inches).

The print itself appears to be on a par in detail and tonal range to the other budget editions of The Birth of a Nation available in Region 1 on DVD. The print’s highlights are rarely blasted out to white, but the grayscale range is a little on the flat and gray side, while image shadows remain open and reasonably detailed. The image framing is generally open, as well.

An orchestral music score has been cobbled together from existing recordings and does a passible job of accompanying the film.

Since there is better to be had, our recommendation is to pass on this one and spend a little more for the Image edition from David Shepard’s Film Preservation Associates.

 
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 Birth of a Nation (1915) [1930 sound rerelease version], black & white, 103 minutes, not rated.

Delta Entertainment, 82 337, UPC 0-18111-23379-8.
Full-frame 4:3 NTSC, one single-sided, single-layered DVD disc, Region 0, ? Mbps average video bit rate, ? kbps audio bit rate, PCM 1.0 mono sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, 15 chapter stops, standard DVD keepcase, $19.99.
DVD release date: 24 February 2004.
Country of origin: USA

Ratings (1-10): video: 3 / audio: 4 / additional content: 0 / overall: 3.

This budget edition was transferred from a 16mm reduction print of the 1930 sound rerelease version. Due to the low camera-cranking rate of early Griffith films (approximately 15 FPS) and to the 24 FPS speed at which the sound rerelease was duplicated, the film’s action zips by with unintended comic effect.

The 16mm reduction print utilized for the video transfer is very soft of image detail, with gray highlights and deep shadows. A persistent hair in the gate of the negative-to-positive duplication stage shows up at the bottom of the frame of the early reels. There is a little print dust, but almost no speckling. There are also a few twitchy video glitches that have been allowed to go by, such as at 4:21 into the disc.

The film’s accompaniment is the music score compiled by Louis F. Gottschalk as recorded, with sound effects, for the sound rerelease. It is reproduced here from the optical soundtrack of the 16mm print in all its noisy, hissing mono glory.

This edition has made the sound rerelease version available to collectors who are completists, and it might be of some value for that reason, but do not let this shortened, blurry, manic version be your first exposure to this great film.

 
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.
2009 A2ZCDS DVD edition

The Birth of a Nation (1915), black & white, 190 minutes, not rated.

A2ZCDS, 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, no foreign language subtitles, chapter stops, standard DVD keepcase?, $14.95.
DVD release date: 10 January 2009.
Country of origin: USA
This budget edition has likely been mastered from a 16mm reduction print.

The film is likely accompanied by a soundtrack compiled from preexisting recordings.

 
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.
2004 Pro-Active Entertainment DVD edition

The Birth of a Nation (1915), black & white, ? minutes, not rated.

Pro-Active Entertainment, 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, no foreign language subtitles, chapter stops, standard DVD keepcase?, $4.99.
DVD release date: 29 June 2004.
Country of origin: USA?
What would you expect for five dollars?

Not recommended.

 
USA: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 0 NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.com. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
2004 Digiview Productions DVD edition

The Birth of a Nation (1915), black & white, ? minutes, not rated,
with The Birth of a Race (1918), black & white, ? minutes, not rated.

Digiview Productions, unknown catalog number, unknown UPC number.
Full-frame 4:3 NTSC, one single-sided, single-layered disc, DVD Region 0, ? Mbps average video bit rate, ? kbps audio bit rate, Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, chapter stops, slimline DVD keepcase, unknown suggested retail price.
DVD release date: 2004.
Country of origin: USA
These cheap editions keep proliferating like cockroaches. Don’t expect much from these discs that pop up on eBay and in low-ball stores like Wal-Mart, Walgreen’s and dollar-marts everywhere. The disc has likely been mastered from a 16mm reduction print.
2004 Miracle Pictures/Movie Ventures DVD edition

The Birth of a Nation (1915), black & white, ? minutes, not rated,
with Abraham Lincoln (1930), black & white, ? minutes, not rated.

Miracle Pictures/Movie Ventures, no catalog number, unknown UPC number.
Full-frame 4:3 NTSC, one dual-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, no foreign language subtitles, chapter stops, standard DVD keepcase, unknown suggested retail price.
DVD release date: 2004.
Country of origin: USA
This double feature edition also includes an early Griffith sound film. Don’t expect much.
Other silent era D.W. GRIFFITH films available on home video.

Other silent era LILLIAN GISH films available on home video.

Other silent era MAE MARSH films available on home video:
Hoodoo Ann (1916)
Intolerance (1916)
Polly of the Circus (1917)

Other WALLACE REID films available on home video.

Other silent era ERICH VON STROHEIM films available on home video.
Lillian Gish filmography in The Progressive Silent Film List
 
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The Big Parade on Blu-ray

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Birth of a Nation on Blu-ray

Way Down East on Blu-ray

Metropolis on Blu-Ray Disc

Keaton on Blu-Ray Disc

Chaplin at Keystone

Complete Metropolis on DVD

Josef von Sternberg DVD

The General on Blu-ray Disc

Battleship Potemkin on Blu-ray Disc

Georges Méliès DVD

Beyond the Rocks DVD

Valentino DVD

Miss Mend on DVD

Chaplin Mutuals on DVD

La Roue on DVD

The Last Laugh DVD Restored

Unknown Chaplin on DVD

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