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Edison - The Invention of the Movies (1891-1918)
Edison - The Invention of the Movies
1891-1918
Actors: Thomas A. Edison, Charles Musser
Genres: Classics, Documentary
NR     2005     12hr 10min

Studio: Kino International Release Date: 02/22/2005

     
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Movie Details

Actors: Thomas A. Edison, Charles Musser
Genres: Classics, Documentary
Sub-Genres: Silent Films, Film History & Film Making
Studio: Kino Video
Format: DVD - Color - Closed-captioned
DVD Release Date: 02/22/2005
Release Year: 2005
Run Time: 12hr 10min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 4
SwapaDVD Credits: 4
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 6
Edition: Box set
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

An invaluable piece of film history
Barbara (Burkowsky) Underwood | Manly, NSW Australia | 03/02/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This beautifully packaged set of 4 discs is both an education and a real pleasure to watch, thanks to an excellent interface that allows you to enjoy watching the films only, or go in-depth with program notes on each film, as wellas interviews and commentaries on many aspects of the Edison Company's productions. The educational aspect is, of course, the development of movies: from the very first experiments in 1889 which last only a few seconds, to the distinct steps towards telling a story and its evolution into the format we know today. The first disc comprises mainly these early experiments and quick glimpses into the past, lasting from a few seconds to several minutes, and which cover a wide range of subjects. One has to keep in mind that moving pictures were a novelty in those days, and it took some years for the concept of a narrative film for proper entertainment to emerge. Thanks mainly to the innovative pioneering spirit of Edwin S Porter, who directed nearly all of Edison's early short films in the period 1902-1908, we can clearly see how the foundation was laid for what was to follow, such as D W Griffith's Biograph Shorts. In fact, I'm sure that anyone who has enjoyed Griffith's Biograph work will enjoy the bulk of the Edison Company's productions. These shorts (about 10-20 minutes in length) cover a broad range of themes from simple but charming love stories to more involved plots with social and other themes: always interesting but perhaps overall not as intense or dramatic as many of Griffith's Biograph shorts. Apart from 3 or 4 short films that have suffered irreverisible damage, the picture quality is very good overall, and the traditional organ or piano accompaniment is varied and suited to the scenes. My personal favourites are these varied short films from 1905 to 1915, then after a break of 3 years, the final Edison production on disc 4 is a feature film of nearly 90 minutes made during World War I. "The Unbeliever" shows how a young man's experience at the front in Europe changes some of his prejudices and makes him a better person, which makes it more than just a war propaganda film. Although the picture quality is not the best here, I still got a lot out of the story, and it is a good end to the entire set which shows all the steps involved in the invention of the movies."
Great for what it is
Jmark2001 | Florida | 02/21/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"If you love film history, this is the best collection of Edison films available. Kino does its usual great job with the extras (but where is Edison's "Frankenstein"?). Those looking for entertainment, and not history, will find this tough to get through, though. Having seen most of these films on earlier video releases, let me warn you that these films are the earliest and the crudest of all films ever made. Film was not in its infancy here; it was embryonic. The invention was fresh out of the lab and no one was quite sure what to do with it. The result was two decades of clumsy plodding along, trying this and that, and coming up with only a very, very few films that still interest anyone but historians. You may find watching these films an endurance test. The historical commentaries are what these films are all about and Kino delivers."
The Rise & Fall Of America's First Movie Company.
Chip Kaufmann | Asheville, N.C. United States | 02/21/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"While the subject material of this set as well as the price ensures that it will not be for everyone, those with an interest in early cinema or early 20th century history cannot afford to pass this one up. An unprecedented collaborative effort between MOMA, The Library Of Congress, and Kino International, EDISON: THE INVENTION OF THE MOVIES allows us to witness the birth, the development, and the ultimate demise of America's first movie company and one of the most influential companies in cinema history.

140 Edison films are included in this 4 DVD set. Many of the earliest ones from the 1890s are less than a minute long and are time capsules of people and places from over 100 years ago while the mainstay of the collection are the one reelers directed by Edwin S. Porter between 1902 and 1908. Disc 2 in particular shows just how good Porter really was. Films like THE KLEPTOMANIAC, THE WHITE CAPS, and THE TEDDY BEARS are as good as any of the short works done later at Biograph by D.W. Griffith.

Ironically as Edison's films got longer and more polished the artistic level of their movies declined as they moved away from their original working class audiences and into the world of the middle and upper classes. The films lost their early edge and became safer and more predictable. In its last years Edison was at its best with non-dramatic pieces like THE PUBLIC AND PRIVATE CARE OF INFANTS and THE WONDERS OF MAGNETISM although THE PASSERBY is a remarkable dramatic gem of bitter irony. The company did go out in a big way with the World War I feature THE UNBELIEVER which featured a young Erich von Stroheim.

While this set gets 5 stars all the way for its historical significance and for its packaging of interviews and extras, I do have a few complaints. There are a few selections such as FIRESIDE REMINISCENCES which are so badly deteriorated that I wonder why they were included considering the wealth of material there was to draw from. I also found the various music scores that accompany the films to be rather bland as a whole. While not unsuitable, they do little to enhance the material which in some cases really needs to be enhanced.

However these are minor quibbles compared with the historic value and the surprising artistic achievement of some of these films and I cannot recommend this set highly enough to students of early cinema and to silent film enthusiasts. To be put on the shelf next to THE MOVIES BEGIN and the TREASURES FROM AMERICAN FILM ARCHIVES series."
Almost as comprehensive as the Edison Papers project!
Steven I. Ramm | Phila, PA USA | 02/24/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"What a fantastic set. I'm really only 6 hours into the 12 hours of film material but this some wonderful set! I've been collecting Edison films on video for about 20 years. To not only have them in one place with great prints, but to have the interesting interviews (2 hours worth) is fabulous. If I have one gripe it's the menu. If you are watching a DVd all the way through including the commentary and stop in less than the 3 hours the disc runs, you have to fast forward the next time to the place you were at. There is a film index but if you chose a film from that list it only plays that film and goes back to the index. Well, after watching it through once, I'll be using the index in the future.

Great packaging as well. Bravo to Kino and MOMA!

Steve Ramm"