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Silent Era Home Page  >  Home Video  >  City Girl
 
Silent Era Films on Home Video
Reviews of silent film releases on home video.
Copyright © 1999-2014 by Carl Bennett
and the Silent Era Company.
All Rights Reserved.
City Girl
(1929)
 

For his last studio film, although it was not known to be so at the time, F.W. Murnau chose a simple, rural love story focusing on a disenchanted waitress who leaves behind her empty urban life on the spur-of-the-moment for what she dreams will be an uncomplicated rural lifestyle with her new farmer husband. What she, Kate (Mary Duncan), and her husband, Lem (Charles Farrell), does not forsee is the conflict with his dominating and emasculating father (David Torrence), and with simpleton farmhands (among them, the great Guinn ‘Big Boy’ Williams and future John Ford crony Jack Pennick) who envy and disrespect Lem and leer after Kate.

Originally nearly-completed by Murnau as Our Daily Bread (1929), the film was recut and rereleased with a synchronized Movietone soundtrack by Fox Film Corporation as City Girl in January 1930. It is the silent version of that 1930 release (formatted to a 1.20:1 picture ratio) that has survived and from which all modern prints originate.

Not generally seen or discussed among silent film enthusiasts, although recent high-quality home video editions may help, this film is better than its apparent current standing in film history. — Carl Bennett

2011 Eureka Entertainment Blu-ray Disc/DVD edition

City Girl (1929), black & white, 88 minutes, BBFC Classification U.

Eureka Entertainment, unknown catalogue number (MoC8), unknown UPC number.
Pillarboxed 16:9 24FPS AVCHD and full-frame 4:3 PAL, one single-sided Blu-ray Disc and one single-sided, dual-layered DVD disc, Region 0, ? Mbps average video bit rate, ? kbps audio bit rate, DTS-HD 5.1 surround sound and Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, chapter stops, two-disc standard BD keepcase, £14.99.
BD release date: 19 September 2011.
Country of origin: England

This two-disc combo edition replaces Eureka’s individual Blu-ray Disc and DVD editions that are noted below. The Blu-ray Disc in this edition should be identical to Eureka’s previous BD edition reviewed below.

The film is accompanied by the same six-piece musical accompaniment composed and conducted by Christopher Caliendo from the Fox DVD edition.

Among the supplementary material is full-length audio commentary by film scholar David Kalat, which was recorded for this edition and is very informative and entertainingly presented, and a 28-page booklet featuring an essay by Adrian Danks.

This is our recommended edition of City Girl on home video. This disc will play on North American Blu-ray Disc players that support the AVCHD video format.

 
United Kingdom: Click to purchase this Region 0 AVCHD Blu-ray Disc/PAL DVD edition from Amazon.co.uk. Your purchase supports Silent Era.
2010 Eureka Entertainment Blu-ray Disc edition

City Girl (1929), black & white, 88 minutes, BBFC Classification U.

Eureka Entertainment, EKA70014 (MoC8), UPC 5-060000-70014-5.
Pillarboxed 16:9 24FPS AVCHD, one single-sided Blu-ray Disc, Region 0, ? Mbps average video bit rate, ? kbps audio bit rate, DTS-HD 5.1 surround sound and Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, 16 chapter stops, standard BD keepcase, £24.99.
BD release date: 22 February 2010.
Country of origin: England

Ratings (1-10): video: 9 / audio: 7 / additional content: 7 / overall: 9.
This high-definition edition has been mastered from 20th Century Fox’s 2008 1080p HD video master created for the 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment DVD edition noted below.

The video transfer is highly-detailed — to the point of capturing a fine stippling of dots in the middle graytones that one might assume is capturing film grain in the source print. We wonder if this is true, as slow frame-stepping reveals that the stipple pattern in static areas of the picture remains pretty much the same for seven frames then changes slightly as the picture is entirely resampled, which indicated a standard digital picture compression technique. Our expectation of a high-definition picture is smooth graytones resolution (as much as is possible given the coarser film grain size of vintage nitrate filmstock) and not the technological introduction of stippling dots that may make the full-movement picture look sharp but introduces a stipple dot pattern that is not in the source print. This may be the result of post-transfer digital sharpening, as the stippling is not as pronounced in some shots and is more pronounced in others. We have seen this stippling in a number of recent high-definition transfers for Blu-ray and DVD, and we have to wonder whether the technology can be revised to render an even more filmlike picture rather than one of digital pointilism.

That being said, the high-definition picture is impressive, with a broad range of graytones and sharp image detail. The source print is relatively clean, but there are sections of moderate emulsion wear, a sprinkle of speckling and dust, and an occasional vertical emulsion scratch through the frame.

The film is accompanied by the same six-piece musical accompaniment composed and conducted by Christopher Caliendo from the Fox DVD edition.

Among the supplementary material is full-length audio commentary by film scholar David Kalat, which was recorded for this edition and is very informative and entertainingly presented, and a 28-page booklet featuring an essay by Adrian Danks.

It now comes down to format and cost; if you have a DVD player and want a great-looking edition of City Girl you will need to fork over a lot of cash for the Fox boxset noted below, but if you have upgraded to a Blu-ray Disc player, this is the best option for visual quality and price. This disc will play on North American Blu-ray Disc players that support the AVCHD video format.

This edition has been replaced by the Blu-ray Disc/DVD combo edition noted above.

 
United Kingdom: Click to purchase this Region 0 AVCHD Blu-ray Disc edition from Amazon.co.uk. Your purchase supports Silent Era.
2008 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment DVD edition

Murnau, Borzage and Fox (1925-1932), black & white and color, ? minutes total, not rated,
including City Girl (1929), black & white, 88 minutes, not rated.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, 35622, UPC 0-24543-56220-7.
Full-frame 4:3 NTSC, eight single-sided, single-layered DVD discs, one single-sided, dual-layered DVD disc, and three dual-sided, single-layered DVD discs, Region 1, ? Mbps average video bit rate, ? kbps audio bit rate, Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound and Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo and mono sound, English language intertitles, French, Spanish and English (sound films only) language subtitles, 16 chapter stops, clothbound binder with disc pockets in clothbound box, $239.98.
DVD release date: 9 December 2008.
Country of origin: USA

Ratings (1-10): video: 9 / audio: 7 / additional content: 8 / overall: 8.

This edition of F.W. Murnau’s final studio film is now available in a gorgeous DVD edition, long over due, after years of collectors forced to make due with home video editions prepared from substandard 16mm reduction prints. The viewer who is familiar with the film from these blurry editions will be blown away by the high-definition pillarboxed video transfer from the excellent 35mm source print that is available in this large boxset, which looks great on both standard-definition and high-definition monitors. The print itself is only lightly speckled, with nearly nonexistant dust and vertical emulsion scratches, and features a wide gamut of graytones with excellent image details. While the transfer speed is slightly faster than natural pacing, it is not distressingly so. Given a natural-speed video transfer, the film’s running time probably could have approached 95 minutes.

As enthusiatic as we are about the visual quality of the disc, we are lukewarm about the six-piece musical accompaniment composed and conducted by Christopher Caliendo, presented in both 5.1 surround and stereo. We acknowledge the attempt to convey diverse moods ranging from the lighthearted mirth of the city restaurant to the folkishness of the downhome country farm, but some moments of the musical arrangements are trite to our ear and others are outright hokey.

The disc is supplemented with visual materials on the lost Murnau film 4 Devils (1928), including a loose reconstruction of the film, Murnau’s 4 Devils: Traces of a Lost Film, from studio records and still frames, narrated by Janet Bergstrom, the 4 Devils story treatment, the 4 Devils scenario, and a City Girl stills archive (52 images).

Given the low quality of previous home video editions of City Girl, we highly recommend this DVD boxset edition for its excellent visual quality.

 
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.
2011 Eureka Entertainment DVD edition

City Girl (1929), black & white, 88 minutes, BBFC Classification U.

Eureka Entertainment, unknown catalogue number (MoC101), 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 5.1 surround sound and Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, chapter stops, standard DVD keepcase, £14.99.
DVD release date: 11 April 2011.
Country of origin: England

This edition has been mastered from 20th Century Fox’s 2008 1080p HD video master created for the 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment DVD edition noted below.

The film is accompanied by the same six-piece musical accompaniment composed and conducted by Christopher Caliendo from the Fox DVD edition.

Among the supplementary material is full-length audio commentary by film scholar David Kalat, which was recorded for this edition and is very informative and entertainingly presented, and a 28-page booklet featuring an essay by Adrian Danks.

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

This edition is no longer available, having been replaced by Eureka’s Blu-ray Disc/DVD combo edition noted above.

 
United Kingdom: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 2 PAL DVD edition from Amazon.c0.uk. Your purchase supports Silent Era.
2003 Grapevine Video DVD edition

City Girl (1929), black & white, 90 minutes, not rated,
with His Angel Child (1929), black & white, 14 minutes, not rated.

Grapevine Video, no catalog number, unknown UPC number.
Full-frame 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, 8 chapter stops, standard DVD keepcase, $19.95 (reduced to $14.95).
DVD release date: 2003.
Country of origin: USA

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

This edition has been mastered from a 16mm reduction print, yielding only good but acceptable viewing results. The full-frame video transfer, with its occasional video master playback glitches, is augmented with windowboxed insert shots to minimize the amount of visual information lost to overscan. The cropping of the source print itself loses picture information at the top and bottom when compared to surviving 35mm 1.20:1 frame aspect prints.

The film is accompanied by a soundtrack of theater organ music that may originate from the 16mm source print and does, at least, convey and accompany the film’s action and emotional status.

Revisiting the disc on high-definition equipment is both a positive and negative experience. While the image details of the source materials and the video encoding are smeary soft, the grayscale ranges are good and the film remains watchable on HD systems from this DVD-R that isn’t as bad as we remember it to be. That being said, we recommend the 20th Century Fox edition noted above, not this one.

 
USA: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 0 NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.com. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
 
This Region 0 NTSC DVD-R disc is also available directly from GRAPEVINE VIDEO.
2009 TeleVista DVD edition

City Girl (1929), black & white, 77 minutes, not rated.

TeleVista, no 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, $19.95.
DVD release date: 17 February 2009.
Country of origin: USA
This 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.
2006 Vintage Film Buff DVD edition

City Girl (1929), black & white, 88 minutes, not rated.

Vintage Film Buff, SC103, no UPC number.
Full-frame 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, chapter stops, standard DVD keepcase, $24.90.
DVD release date: 2006.
Country of origin: USA
This edition may have been mastered from a 16mm reduction print. The packaging touts color-tints and restored intertitles. The edition is now out-of-print.
Other F.W. MURNAU films available on home video.
F.W. Murnau filmography in The Progressive Silent Film List
 
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