Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: John Barrymore, Camilla Horn, Louis Wolheim, Boris de Fast, George Fawcett
Directors: Lewis Milestone, Sam Taylor, Viktor Tourjansky
Genres: Classics, Drama
A lavish and beautifully-produced Hollywood confection of the high silent screen, this star vehicle for premier actor John Barrymore follows the adventures of peasant soldier Markov, who becomes an officer in the Imperia... more »
TEMPEST Will Make You a Silent Film Fan
Robert M. Fells | Centreville, VA USA | 07/17/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I concur with Peter George's remarks about this wonderful film but let me add a few additional points. The rather abrupt ending is indeed due to some missing footage. Contemporary reviews of TEMPEST mention a sleigh ride chase to the nearby Austrian border whereby Markov and Tamara make their escape from Soviet Russia. Some years back, the late, great film historian William K. Everson, told me that when the negative and prints of this film were discovered in the early 1950s, presumably including the one used for this dvd, all material had the chase sequence cut out. Everson surmised that it was used as stock footage for some other film. A brief intertitle bridging the action would smooth things out but this is such a minor point that it does not impact one's overall impression of this fine film.It's difficult to resist comparing TEMPEST to a more celebrated silent of that same time, the classic SUNRISE, especially since Charles Rosher worked as a cinematographer on both films. Yet in my opinion, and I'm probably a majority of one here, I think that while SUNRISE is an easy film to respect, TEMPEST is more entertaining and will probably do more to whet the appetite of a viewer today to explore films from the silent era. Back in the 1970s I ran TEMPEST several times with live piano accompaniment and audience reaction was always the same: they didn't know a silent film could be so enjoyable. TEMPEST is so eloquent visually, it's easy to understand why dialogue would be superfluous. And John Barrymore gives a wonderfully underplayed performance that puts the lie to the stereotype of silent screen acting characterized by exaggerated gestures. With all the legends of great silent film stars who flopped in the talkies, it's sometimes forgotten that Barrymore effortlessly made the transition and was a greater star than ever in sound films until alcoholism undermined his health in the mid-1930s. I wish the producers of this dvd cleaned up some of the flecks and specs in the picture but I realize that's an expensive process so I can't really complain. With the release of TEMPEST, we can now view on dvd John Barrymore's three United Artists films (the other two are The Beloved Rogue, 1927; and Eternal Love, 1929, directed by Ernst Lubitsch) made when both Barrymore and the silent screen were at their peak. If you weren't interested in silent films you wouldn't be reading this review, so don't miss this film!"
Steven Hellerstedt | 09/17/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"John Barrymore may not have been the greatest actor ever, but if you want to argue that he was you could do worse that enter as evidence the late-silent era film TEMPEST (1928). This is a film that has it all - romance across class lines (a peasant loves a princess,) set against a romantic yet contemporary (circa 1928) backdrop of the Russian Revolution.
Barrymore plays Ivan Markov, to the peasantry born, who we meet while still a sergeant in the Russian Army, studying diligently to become an officer and a gentleman by promotion to first lieutenant. It certainly helps that to the company commander he is a surrogate son. Unfortunately, he's attentively shunned by his fellow officers (upstart peasant!) while the commander's daughter, Princess Tamara (Camilla Horn), doesn't bother to disguise the fact that Ivan should go back to whatever stable he was born in. The Princess's beneath-contempt attitude is complicated by the fact that Ivan has fallen madly in love with Tamara at first sight. For her part, Princess Tamara's attitude of disgust and loathing is at violent odds with some tender emotions of her own she does her best to conceal.
Although a silent movie, this one reads as though it had spoken dialogue. Barrymore's performance is intensely subtle. One of the biggest differences between silent and sound movies is the acting styles. Most silent acting seems broad and phony. You can adjust and enjoy - hey, they had to sell the scenes somehow, didn't they? They couldn't talk their way out of them. But rather than the expressionistic silent style of acting, Barrymore's is more a modern, sound, naturalistic style. Not only does it work, but Barrymore is so strong (yeah, probably the greatest ever) that TEMPEST doesn't really need the inter-title dialogue cards to convey the rather familiar rich snob girl meets humble boy story. Horn, who has her own range of emotions to broadcast, doesn't embarrass herself, either.
Silent or sound. TEMPEST is a great movie. Good thing, too, because the Image transfer print was in pretty rough shape. The frames are consistently scratchy. The original tasteful pipe organ score is included, here rendered on piano. Also on the dvd is the 13-minute short `Vagabonding On the Pacific,' a travelogue silent short from 1926. `Vagabonding' takes us along with Barrymore as he yachts down to Mexico. The high point of this kind of boring film is Barrymore playing tag with some 1,100 pound sea lions. A somewhat strange look at Barrymore at play.
acmse | Washington, DC | 11/16/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I consider this film to be a prime example of how truly powerful an impact silent film can have on the viewer. This was the first noncomedic silent I can recall seeing--about 30 years ago on local TV--and I only caught the end of it, including the tremendous prison confrontation scene. In the intervening years, I never forgot that scene, and noticed when it was imitated in other romantic melodramas (e.g., 'The English Patient' and the saffron thimble bit).When the upcoming DVD release was described, I realized that this probably was the movie that had haunted me all these years. And it was! I was thrilled to finally be able to see the whole thing--and it didn't disappoint, even though it had to compete with powerful old impressions. I'm very grateful to David Shepard for this release--and to the great Philip Carli, whose piano score is magisterial. The cobbled-together orchestral soundtrack is OK--mostly snatches of stuff like the waltz from "Eugene Onegin"--but the sound quality is not up to modern standards; oddly enough, I found that more distracting than the occasional visually scratchy portions of the print. Carli's performance and score are, as usual, as elegant as the images (and that's saying something with this film), but never distract from them.Barrymore's inescapably "aristocratic" looks do sometimes interfere with the suspension of disbelief, but he overcomes this handicap--and not with a resort to grotesque makeup, but with a truly committed and engaged performance, overcoming even the more serious handicap of his age. Cinematographer Rosher's interview in Kevin Brownlow's great book "The Parade's Gone By" mentions that "Barrymore was especially pleased with [the cameraman's Rosher Kino Portrait Lens] because its softness smoothed away his dewlaps. For the first time he could be photographed properly full-face; before they had to favor the famous profile." Barrymore's mad scene is another example of great acting working in tandem with great cinematography.The ending is quite abrupt, but all that comes before is completely satisfying. If you are in the mood for a good, old fashioned romantic epic, you can't do better than this movie!"
A Good John Barrymore Silent
Mr Peter G George | Ellon, Aberdeenshire United Kingdom | 07/12/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Tempest is a good, entertaining late silent picture. It is well made with high production values and is often stunning to look at with beautiful costumes and sets. That it does not quite reach greatness may in part be owing to its somewhat troubled production, which involved the use of three directors. The only really obvious sign of this disruption however is a rather abrupt ending, which works perfectly well but seems hurried. The story begins in 1914 just prior to the First World War. It concerns Ivan Markov (John Barrymore) a sergeant in the Russian army who despite coming from the peasantry is about to join the officer class. This promotion is almost unprecedented and the other officers resent a peasant encroaching on their territory. Princess Tamara (Camilla Horn) is equally contemptuous of Markov's origins, but he falls in love with her anyway and gradually despite her prejudices she begins to feel something for him. With the arrival of the Russian Revolution the social structures are turned upside down and in these dangerous times peasant and aristocrat face each other again.John Barrymore is very good in Tempest. I find that I generally prefer his acting in silent pictures to talkies and in his role as Markov he is both subtle and eloquent, using his face expressively to convey what he is thinking and feeling. The only problem with Barrymore is that he does not really convince as a peasant. With his famous profile he looks more aristocratic than the aristocrats. Camilla Horn was one of the great German silent actresses. She is convincing as a beautiful Russian Princess and is able to suggest haughty contempt with just a look. Fans of All Quiet on the Western Front will enjoy recognising Louis Wolheim playing a similar role to that of Katczinsky. In both films he is the loyal friend, good humoured and tough. Tempest is fairly even handed in its treatment of the Revolution. It recognises that there was fault on both sides. It has as a villain a cruel Bolshevik commissar, but he has appeared earlier in the film as a poor beggar being treated badly by the aristocrats. While most of the officers are monocle-wearing snobs, one in particular is a kindly and sympathetic character. Although it is fair to say that the film in the end is against the Bolsheviks, it never descends into crude propaganda. It is content to show the evils in Russian society before and after the Revolution and leave it at that. The print on the Image DVD varies in quality from very good to fairly poor. There are no obvious breaks in continuity apart from at the very end where there may be a brief piece of film missing. At times the print is marred by a lot of wear and tear with numerous scratches, at other times the picture is pristine. The picture is occasionally rather soft and blurred, but for the most part is sharp and detailed. The black and white photography is generally quite beautiful. The DVD includes a choice of two soundtracks. One option is to listen to the original mono Vitaphone discs. Not all of these survive so the soundtrack fills in the gaps by editing and re-using those that do. Naturally these original discs sound a bit scratchy, but it is good to have the choice of hearing the score which was played when the film first was released. The other soundtrack option is to listen to a stereo score performed by Philip Carli. This score sounds great and fits in well with the mood and action of the film. The DVD includes as an extra Vagabonding on the Pacific. This film is a record of a trip Barrymore made on his yacht from Los Angeles to an island off the Mexican coast. It is very sophisticated for a home movie and is quite interesting and entertaining. This DVD is as good a presentation of Tempest as is now possible. The film may be no masterpiece but it remains well worth seeing and is a must for silent film fans."