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Reviews of silent film releases on home video.
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The
Drop Kick

(1927)
 

Richard Barthelmess, star of The Drop Kick (1927), was a very popular leading man in the late 1910s and throughout the 1920s. However, he seems a little mature at age 32 to be playing a college student in this tawdry example of a popular subgenre of the 1920s, the college picture.

Jack (Barthelmess) is captain of his college football team and favored son of a well-to-do family. Amidst the pressure of an upcoming football game and discovering his love for a young friend of the family Cecily (Barbara Kent), Jack must cope with his friend Brad’s suicide and a turgid past relationship with Brad’s vampish wife, Eunice (Dorothy Revier).

Manipulating him for purely evil reasons, Eunice leads Jack to believe that the suicide was over her infidelity with him and not (unknown to Jack) because of the scandalous embezzlement of college funds to cover her foolhardy spending.

When Jack sadly breaks off his relationship with Cecily, his mother (Hedda Hooper) vows to discover what is behind his uncharacteristic behavior, and soon discovers Eunice’s true nature and the real reason for Brad’s death.

Meanwhile, it’s the day of the big game and Jack is having loads of trouble concentrating on the game. But one drop kick later and a seemingly hollow victory turns to joy as Jack learns the truth from his mother. Relieved, he rushes to reunite with Cecily.

The Eunice situation remains unresolved, and the game feels tacked onto an otherwise run-of-the-mill romancer, but — what the hey — it’s a college picture!

The Drop Kick is notable as the film debut of John Wayne as a unidentifiable football player and as a quickly-passing crowd extra. — Carl Bennett

2004 Nostalgia Family Video DVD edition

The Drop Kick (1927), color-toned black & white, 69 minutes, not rated.

Nostalgia Family Video, 1326D, UPC 6-44827-39982-6.
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 stereo sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, chapter stops, standard DVD keepcase, $19.99 (reduced to $18.99).
DVD release date: 2004.
Country of origin: USA

Ratings (1-10): video: 5 / audio: 5 / additional content: 2 / overall: 5.

We are generally pleased with this DVD-R product from a long-established public domain home video company.

The full-frame sepia-toned video transfer has been made from a good to very-good 16mm reduction print, which is soft of image detail but generally watchable with its OK range of graytones. Highlights are a little blasted out and shadows are a little dark, there is light speckling, some splices and a few scratches, but it is far from being as bad as other 16mm prints we have viewed. As is the case with many 16mm prints, the picture is slightly cropped on all sides and the film’s intertitles come very close to the frame edges. A full-frame transfer doesn’t compensate for the amount of the picture image that is cropped on most standard televisions, the area around all four sides that is known as overscan, like a windowboxed transfer (which slightly shrinks the picture into the center of the screen) can. In this edition, the intertitles will at times be cropped on both sides on most televisions to the point that intertitles will be a challenge to read.

Nostalgia Family Video produced a new music score in 1997 for their VHS release of this edition that is performed on synthesizers and, while the synthetic sounds aren’t always pleasing, it does the job of accompanying the film in its own clumsy way.

The packaging of this title are of higher quality than is usual for public domain companies. The cover insert, disc label and menus (which adapt the original poster artwork) show a sense of design which adds to the professional feel of the product.

Acknowledging the noted shortcomings of the 16mm source print and this edition’s coarse video transfer, we still recommend this DVD home video edition of The Drop Kick.

 
NOSTALGIA FAMILY VIDEO has discontinued business and this edition is no longer available.
2010 Grapevine Video DVD edition

The Drop Kick (1927), color-tinted black & white, 64 minutes, not rated.

Grapevine Video, no catalog number, UPC 8-42614-10374-2.
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 stereo sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, 10 chapter stops, standard DVD keepcase, $14.95.
DVD release date: 15 January 2010.
Country of origin: USA

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

This DVD-R edition of The Drop Kick has been mastered from a good to very-good amber-tinted 16mm reduction print that is soft in its image details and dark in its shadows in the first two reels. As is to be expected from a reduction print, there is an average amount of dust, speckling, scuffing, emulsion chipping and mild frame jitteriness, but the highlight details are reasonably well held in what appears to be an older video transfer.

The film is accompanied by a compiled score of preexisting orchestral music.

Considering this edition from Grapevine Video against the Nostalgia Family Video edition noted above, we slightly favor the NFV edition for its broader tonal range that allows for more image details in the darker tones of the picture than the Grapevine edition, with its darker and slightly faster video transfer.

 
This Region 0 NTSC DVD-R edition is no longer available.
Other silent era RICHARD BARTHELMESS films available on home video.

Other COLLEGE-THEMED FILMS of the silent era available on home video:
College (1927)
The Plastic Age (1925)

 
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