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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.
The Story of
Petroleum

(1923)
 

A promotional film financed by the United States Bureau of Mines and featuring the facilities of the Sinclair Oil Company, this film is a significant document of early 20th-century industrial manufacturing, including the thoughtlessness of oil spillage, the seemingly careless method of cross-country pipeline laying, and a lack of facility grounds upkeep — a sad indictment of American post-Industrial Revolution practices. The film is also a fascinating view into the past — not often documented — of equipment, tools, facilities, architecture, even signage, clothing and shoes. — Carl Bennett

2008 Paramount Home Video Blu-ray Disc edition

There Will Be Blood (2007), color, 158 minutes, Rated R (Canada PG),
with The Story of Petroleum (1923), black & white, 25 minutes, not rated.

Paramount Home Video, 137420, UPC 0-97361-37420-0, ISBN 1-4157-4174-3.
Full-frame 4:3 1080p MPEG-4 AVC/H.264, one single-sided, dual-layered Blu-ray Disc, Region A, ? 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 BD keepcase, $39.99.
BD release date: 3 June 2008.
Country of origin: USA

Ratings (1-10): video: 9 / audio: 7 / additional content: 9 / overall: 8.
This first release of a silent era film on commercial HD home video has been transferred at a rate faster than natural speed from a 35mm print from the U.S. National Archives that shows signs of light projection wear to the film base, a moderate amount of dust and several splices. Some intertitles in this intertitle-heavy film are present in the form of flash titles, possibly due to film breakage and splices. There are sections of fine vertical scratches throughout and a long vertical scratch to the left side of the image late in the film, but the majority of the source print renders very-good to excellent image detail and graytone ranges.

In viewing this film, our fascination was not with the subject matter of petroleum production but with the picture clarity that allowed inspection of the historical images of things architectural, both industrial and civic — a detailed window into our recent but vanished past in industrial America.

This film is accompanied by exerpts from the music score by Jonny Greenwood for There Will Be Blood that implies the documentary is a sad, slow tragedy.

The supplemental section also contains unidentified silent era footage (some of it from the film at hand, some of it from another documentary on oil production) that was used in research for There Will Be Blood in the segment entitled “15 Minutes.”

We commend the producers of this disc for encoding this film in high-definition rather than in the industry-standard medium-resolution NTSC format for supplemental materials on a Blu-ray Disc. Many times the banal interviews that are a part — de rigeur — of a disc’s supplemental section don’t require HD encoding, but a historical document such as this short film benefits greatly from HD resolution and we encourage that it become an industry-standard practice for additional material of extra significance.

 
USA: Click the logomark to purchase this Region A high-resolution Blu-ray Disc edition from Amazon.com. Your purchase supports Silent Era.
 
Canada: Click the logomark to purchase this Region A high-resolution Blu-ray Disc edition from Amazon.ca. Your purchase supports Silent Era.
2008 Paramount Home Video DVD edition

There Will Be Blood (2007), color, 158 minutes, Rated R (Canada PG),
with The Story of Petroleum (1923), black & white, 25 minutes, not rated.

Paramount Home Video, 132574, UPC 0-97361-32574-3, ISBN 1-4157-3957-9.
Full-frame 4:3 NTSC, one single-sided, dual-layered DVD disc and one single-sided, single-layered DVD disc, Region 1, ? Mbps average video bit rate, ? kbps audio bit rate, Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound, no foreign language subtitles, chapter stops, cardboard wrap with plastic DVD tray, $34.99.
DVD release date: 8 April 2008.
Country of origin: USA

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

This presentation is identical to the Blu-ray Disc edition noted above except that the HD transfer has been has been down-converted for DVD’s lower picture resolution. Still, the film looks pretty darn good, benefitting from its high-definition video transfer.

This film is accompanied by exerpts from the music score by Jonny Greenwood for There Will Be Blood that implies the documentary is a sad, slow tragedy.

The supplemental section also contains unidentified silent era footage (some of it from the film at hand, some of it from another documentary on oil production) that was used in research for There Will Be Blood in the segment entitled “15 Minutes.”

 
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.
 
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