Based on a play called "The Clansmen," D.W. Griffith's three-hour Civil War epic traces the development of the Civil War itself, the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the rise of the Ku Klux Klan through the lives of tw... more »o families.« less
Extreme Target Shopper | Avondale Estates, GA United States | 07/19/2004
(2 out of 5 stars)
"This film was one of the assigned viewings for a History of Film class. The professor specified the 180 minute version and specifically described the ending as being important to a complete analysis of the work. My bad for not checking the specifics for this edition, but be forewarned: if you want the full version, this is NOT it. This version ends with Liberation. Several other key scenes appear to have been edited out."
Outstanding example of early cinema
gishfan | Texas | 02/01/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Birth of a Nation remains one of the giants of motion picture making and one of the most controversial landmarks in film history. As a cinematic achievement the movie was both a stunning commercial and artistic success. No, Griffith did not create such innovations as the closeup, fade-out, irising effect, etc., but it was he under whom these devices were used so successfully and creatively.One of the main arguments against the film is its racist portrayal of the newly freed slaves. Yes, the pre-Civil War South is overly romanticized, the movie is historically inaccurate, and the caricatures are insulting. Nevertheless, the movie is an awesome achievement, and here, viewing the definitive version of the film, restored to its full twelve-reel length at the visually correct speeds and with the original color tints and original musical score performed by a full orchestra, it is engrossing entertainment and it is easy to see why it was so influential both as a film achievement and as an opinion-molder.The Birth of a Nation is often criticized for its racism, but the film is eigthy-five years old this year (2000), and should be viewed with that in mind. As for Griffith, there is ample evidence that Griffith did not hate blacks, but he was a product of his time and the portrayal of the newly freed slaves in the picture reflects this. No, Griffith did not view blacks as equals, but in many ways he did admire them. Yes, his attitude was undoubtedly condescending, but as I said, he was a product of his time.I have read in many reviews of this film anger over the film's inclusion in the AFI 100 list. The film was enormously influential to the industry, and claims that someone else would have or could have achieved what Griffith achieved have no legitimate foundation. There is no way of knowing whether someone else would have achieved what Griffith achieved, and in any event, if someone would have, that does not change the fact that Griffith did it first. The film is in the interesting position of being supremely white-supremecist yet an undeniable landmark at the same time. It should be given a chance and viewed as superior picture making, and not simply as racist garbage. Such an attitude is as simple-minded as is much of the film's haracterizations and romanticizing of history and the silly wording of some of its intertitles. This, the restored and definitive edition (also available on DVD from Image Entertainment) is the ideal way to see this great cinematic masterpiece, and it is a masterpiece. Beware of inferior shortened versions at incorrect projection speeds!A definite silent film fan, I recommend this film to anyone else who can appreciate silent drama and who can keep an open mind. Enjoying this film does not make you a racist.(By the way, the review for this film that someone submitted on January 18, 2000 was copied word-for-word from the VideoHound Golden Movie Retriever review of this film!)"
Cato | 05/24/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"There is no need to comment further on this film because so many people have already done so. What I am troubled by are the number of people who have claimed that the movie is "only controversial to modern audiences." It should be noted that this is absolutely false. It was highly criticized at the time for being extremely racist, caused riots in several major cities, spawned movements to have it banned, and inspired African Americans to begin making films to counter its distortions. The storm of criticism was so intense that Griffith himself was personally terribly hurt and attempted the rest of his career to change the impressions people had of him because of the movie. Even President Wilson (who famously declared the movie to be "history written with lightening") had to respond to the criticism of the film by later denouncing it and its message (a fact that rarely gets mentioned when people use his quote). So let's not think that the film's message has only become controversial in our post-Civil Rights Movement age. The film sparked immediate outrage and critcism that continues to this day."
The Version of The Birth of a Nation to Buy!
Lynn Ellingwood | Webster, NY United States | 12/27/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"While it seems that many reviews posted on the DVD site aren't actually for this DVD, this review is specifically a review of Kino's Griffith Masterworks edition. The DVD contains the most complete version of The Birth of a Nation known and available. The film is 187 min. long on this disk. It is a beautiful print, well restored and re-tinted. A beautiful print. The musical score is clever and very entertaining too. I think of any bad thing to say about the disk. I think most know of the story line and its hints of racism. It's there and it can't be argued away. D.W. Griffith was a son of a Civil War soldier and grew up in the South. He used the book The Clansman by Thomas Dixon Jr. as it jibed with his own viewpoints and many of the day. The hero worship of the Klan actually encouraged its resurgence in late 1910s and 1920s into the 30s. The racism brought Griffith so much grief, he spent his life trying to justify his views and created Intolerance to offset the criticism. What brings The Birth of a Nation is its reliance on story and use of the film camera never tried before in the USA before. It is a cinema powerhouse and actually a pretty moving film. Never before had Americans seen the cinema come to life before. Some French, Italian and German filmmakers created feature films that are quite good and successful, but World War I basically destroyed their film industries and the US reigned supreme. DW Griffith took American film to the next level permanently. No longer were films relegated to the poorer urban areas and Nickelodeons. It was now a popular art form and respectable to attend the cinema. The DVD also includes a making of, and introduction by DW himself made in 1930, and several early versions of his Civil War films. It seems to me that because of the closeness to the time period, the films might indicate a closer idea of how former Confederates actually thought and how they remember the war."
Imagine it's 1915, and you're in the theater....
gishfan | 02/26/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Having read the reviews of this film in Amazon, I have four comments: 1)The best way to appreciate this movie is to imagine it's 1915 and you're in the theater.You're seeing stuff that's never been done before: close ups, an extended narrative, character development, crosscutting and all kinds of crazy things never done with a camera before. We take it for granted now: try to imagine yourself back then. 2)Of course, the sad part about this movie is that that African-Americans were little more than stereotypes (they weren't even allowed to play themselves!)But you have to remember Griffith was not unique in that respect. 3)I find it really disturbing that some reviewers would use this forum to espouse racist or nativist opinions. OK, free speech, but please... 4)Henry B. Walthall, who plays the "little colonel," appears in John Ford's 1934 "Judge Priest," where he plays a Confederate veteran.If you found him interesting in this movie, wait till you hear his speaking voice! It's a shame they didn't have sound in 1915. In sum: Worth seeing for historical content and context, but Saturday night? I don't think so!"