A Great Value DVD
Mr Peter G George | Ellon, Aberdeenshire United Kingdom | 10/11/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a really great value DVD with two fine early DeMille films and a bonus Chaplin short. Carmen stars Geraldine Farrar and she shows herself to be a very good film actress. It must have been difficult for her to make the transition from Opera star to film star, as the style of acting in the two mediums is quite different. It must furthermore have been strange for her to be filming Carmen without songs. Nevertheless her performance and the film works well, not least because Carmen is a dramatic and emotional story. It helps that the film is accompanied by familiar themes from Bizet's Opera, but the film is not some pale imitation of the Opera. It is successful in its own right. I did not miss the singing. The print for this 1915 film is first class, clear and sharp and detailed. It is colour-tinted and uses some quite unusual shades to enhance the mood of the story.Chaplin's Burlesque on "Carmen" was produced just after DeMille's film while he was working at Essanay. It is not as clever as his later Mutual and First National films, but is still very funny. Edna Purviance plays Carmen, while Charlie plays the soldier she attempts to deceive. The story is followed fairly closely, but it is subverted and ridiculed. The colour-tinted print of the film has been reconstructed and looks good with hardly any apparent damage. Having both Carmen and Burlesque on "Carmen" on one DVD gives the viewer a fine opportunity to compare the two films and adds greatly to the experience of watching both. The Cheat is the best film on this DVD. It is a sensational story of society lady Fannie Ward stealing Red Cross funds, losing the money on the stock market and asking ivory trader Sessue Hayakawa for a loan to cover her theft. The problem is that Hayakawa takes the loan to mean that he has bought her and wants her for his slave. This story was considered, at the time, to be so inflammatory that the nationality of Hayakawa's character was changed, due to Japan's objections, from Japanese to Burmese. This film has everything and is great fun in an over the top sort of way. It even includes an amazing instance of human branding. Hayakawa is a superb villain, suave and sinister. His performance is subtle and nuanced. Fans of David Lean's The Bridge on the River Kwai may just recognise him as the camp commandant. Fannie Ward's somewhat hysterical performance actually fits in quite well with the tone of the film and contrasts nicely with Hayakawa's restraint. It is however a little hard to believe that youthful Hayakawa is obsessed with 44-year-old Ward. The colour-tinted print of The Cheat used on this DVD is again very good with only occasional minor blemishes."
Fine triple feature
Gwen Kramer | Sunny and not-so-sunny California | 06/22/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Before I begin, I say that all three films on this disc are silent movies and as such should not be judged in comparison to talkies. The art of making a silent film is a seperate one.Image has a good reputation for putting out nice prints of older films. All three movies in this set have good to very good prints. All feature appropriate musical accompaniment. "The Cheat" has a piano and strings score. "Carmen" and "Burlesque on Carmen" feature orchestral music based on the Bizet opera."Carmen" is the familiar tale of a flirtatious gypsy woman who bites off more than she can chew when she jilts a young army officer. The acting is all around good with famed Opera star Geraldine Farrar playing her attractive character to the hilt."Burlesque on Carmen" is the Chaplin spoof that came out a month later. It effectively lampoons the movie and is a great addition to this DVD. It has the poorest picture quality of all three movies with the picture somewhat fuzzy at points. However, it is still very viewable."The Cheat" is really the reason why I bought this DVD. I had seen Sessue Hayakawa in "Bridge on the River Kwai" and was curious to see his silent work. In this film, he is the villain, designed to make the despicable social climber, Edith (Played by Fannie Ward), more palatable to the audience. This is a later print of the film when Hayakawa's character was changed from Japanese to Burmese after a Japanese-American group complained about the unfair portrayal of their culture. (apparently, no one cared what the Burmese would think) The change is merely superficial, only the subtitles were changed.The plot of the movie involves Edith stealing $10,000 from the Red Cross to supplement her clothing allowance. When she loses it in the stock market, her long time guy friend Arakau (Hayakawa) offers the money- if she will become his lover. Edith agrees but backs out when her husband Dick (played by Ward's real life husband Jack Dean) gives her the money she needs. Angered at being jilted, Arakau brands Edith on the shoulder. Edith shoots him but her husband takes the blame.I am going to discuss the ending. If you want it to be a suprise....In a dramatic courtroom scene, Edith defends her husband by showing her brand and confessing to the shooting. The courtroom rises up to defend her honor and nearly killed Arakau while the penitent Edith walks out arm-in-arm with her adoring husband.But wait a minute, she stole $10,000 from the Red Cross, thousands of war victims could have died because of her selfishness. This is never discussed in the movie. Also, she had been leading on Arakau for apparently quite some time, why was she suprised at his anger? Actually, both her husband and Arakau seemed like rather nice men whenever Edith was not around.Oh well, you either accept the movie's reality or you don't. The incredibly handsome Hayakawa would go on to play some more heroic roles but eventually left Hollywood for a few years and made movies in France. It's a shame that his most available movie is one of his villain roles but so many silent movies have been lost that we are fortunate to see them at all.All in all, a great deal, three enjoyable movies nicely presented."
Early DeMille Films Shows His Fine Talent
Robert M. Fells | Centreville, VA USA | 10/02/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"These two films from 1915 are ample proof that Cecil B. DeMille has too often been unfairly dismissed as a purely commercial filmmaker of comic book epics. Both THE CHEAT and CARMEN display DeMille's story-telling skills and ability with characterizations. Each film was quite successful in its day with CARMEN providing a showcase for charismatic Metropolitan Opera star Geraldine Farrar. The fact that this wonderful soprano was appearing in a silent film didn't seem to faze anyone and, indeed, her personality shines through without any need for her vocal talents. The young and ill-fated Wallace Reid plays Don Jose. It's easy to see why he would become one of DeMille's favorite leading men. THE CHEAT is more sensational but shows DeMille's forgotten skill with a modern dress story. Designed as a vehicle for Fannie Ward, the underplaying of Sessue Hayakawa steals the film and seems undated next to the comparative histrionics of Miss Ward. Charlie Chaplin's BURLESQUE ON CARMEN, also from 1915, provides a nice bonus on this DVD. No classic, Chaplin handles the ending, where Don Jose kills Carmen and then himself, in a straightforward dramatic manner. The film closes with Chaplin and his leading lady, Edna Purviance, getting up from their death poses with Chaplin demonstrating that the dagger he used had a retractable blade. They laugh and both seem to step out of character to share the joke with the audience. The film quality and musical accompaniment is quiet good throughout and all the films have color tints although THE CHEAT is listed as being in black & white. Well, not all the scenes in THE CHEAT are tinted but many are. I found one minor technical flaw in this DVD. There is a brief freeze-frame a few minutes into THE CHEAT that just happens to be the start of a chapter index. My guess is that some faulty data got encoded onto the disc but it only happens once."
Gwen Kramer | 09/04/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Cheat was supposed to be lost. I heard it was lost. But it apparently isn't, and I'm glad, because Pola Negri is sooo cool. I would buy this movie because it is one of your few oppurtunities to see Pola Negri in action. This DVD is good enough to watch, but KINO makes better silent DVDs. But most of my DVDs are Image anyway, so I thought what the heck. Still, I would rather have it on KINO DVD but they cost more anyway. This DVD will be a worthy edition to your silent film collection if you buy it. HOORAY FOR POLA NEGRI!!!!"