BluRay/DVD Reviews

THE F. W. MURNAU COLLECTION

By • Nov 11th, 2003 •

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Kino Video

A five-disc Boxed set, all mastered from 35mm archival materials, including:

NOSFERATU – 1922. 93 mins. Color tinted. Excerpts from other Murnau films. Two scores. New title translation.

THE LAST LAUGH – 1924. 91 mins. B&W Excerpts from alternate versions. Produced for video by David Shepard.

TARTUFFE – 1925. 63 mins. Color Tinted. THE WAY TO MURNAU 35-minute doc.

FAUST – 1926. 116 mins. B&W. Rare production stills. Orchestral Score. Produced for video by David Shepard.

TABU – 1931. 81 mins. Co-directed with Robert Flaherty. Restored by UCLA Film and Television Archive. Audio commentary by Prof. Janet Bergstrom. Outtake footage. Short film “Reri in New York”.

Hope I’m not going out on a limb when I say that Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau was one of the greatest filmmakers of the silent era, and possibly of all time. And if you’ll grant me that, then you’ll be excited to learn of this new collection from Kino, a company which has been patiently amassing the director’s work, almost like a collector, only they’ve been collecting them for us. Several of the titles have been out before – NOSFERATU has even been part of a separate Kino silent horror boxed set – but here they are together in a five-film collection, and something tells me there will probably be more in the years to come as more of Murnau’s work surfaces in decent condition.

TARTUFFE, in its American version, preserved by the Library of Congress but restored in Germany, is the latest addition to the Kino archives, admittedly a minor film from a major director, and accompanying it is a pretentious documentary by Alexander Bohr, which nonetheless is worthwhile viewing for its insights about paintings which influenced Murnau. Emil Jannings, who is also in the director’s THE LAST LAUGH, stalks around for most of the film, grimacing like the Golem, but he’s fun. Lil Dagover has put on some pounds since CALIGARI, but she’s good, too. And the casting of Lucie Hoflich as the maid in the framing story is a master stroke.

Though the boxed set is a gluttonous delight, there is one more of his films available, the quintessential silent film – SUNRISE – which is owned by 20th Century Fox. Fox has released it as part of their Studio Classics series, and have been offering it when you buy a certain amount of other titles. The odd thing is, SUNRISE is better than any of the other titles they’re allowing you to buy it along with. The film was honored in 1929 at the first Academy Awards ceremony, and the disc features audio commentary by cinematographer John Bailey, two scores, outtakes from the film, and information on a lost Murnau opus – FOUR DEVILS.

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