A long overdue second installment of the works of D.W. Griff
calvinnme | 10/30/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Kino is putting out a second boxset of the works of D.W. Griffith. The best known works of Griffith are in volume one, but this one is worth having too. It features Griffith as he was working his way up, at his peak, and on the way down as he used his own money to finance his final films. Included is an excellent three-part documentary on D.W. Griffith that puts the man's life and the body of his work in perspective.
Sally of the Sawdust (1925)
Stars W.C. Fields in only his second film appearance. This film was remade in 1936 as Poppy. Fields reprises his stage role of Professor Eustace McGargle. Fields plays a circus performer and the unlikely foster father to the baby of a dying girl who was thrown out by her father, a well-known judge. The plot is laid out like one of Griffith's melodramas, but it is actually a pretty good comedy showing Fields in his prime.
Filmed introduction by Orson Welles
Abraham Lincoln (1931) / The Struggle (1931)
This double feature are the only two sound features that Griffith ever directed. The film on Lincoln doesn't have the polish of John Ford's Young Mr. Lincoln, but considering it is an early talkie it is pretty well made. Griffith does a good job of balancing a presentation of Lincoln's personal life with his life in politics. Walter Huston turns in a great performance in the title role, as always. The Struggle is about a man's descent into alcoholism and the effect it has on his marriage. By the time "The Struggle" was made D.W.Griffith was a director in popular decline. However, these two sound films show that he still had it in him to make good films. He had just run out of money and was considered old-hat by the Hollywood establishment. Abraham Lincoln has been mastered in HD from the Museum of Modern Art's 35mm restoration of Griffith's historical epic. The Struggle was remastered in HD from a 35mm archive print from the Raymond Rohauer Collection.
Introduction to The Birth of a Nation, featuring Walter Huston and D.W. Griffith on the set of Abraham Lincoln
Lincoln's assassination: comparison of scenes in Abraham Lincoln and The Birth of a Nation
Gallery of photos and original pressbook for Abraham Lincoln
The Avenging Conscience (1914)
The feature film was in its infancy at this time, and here we get to see Griffith just before he reaches his peak. Here Griffith combines some of the tales of Poe into a very strange little story. A young man (Henry B. Walthall) is forbidden by his uncle to continue his love affair with his sweetheart (Blanche Sweet). The uncle is presented as a ghastly figure, and the young man as a weakling. Yet, he murders the uncle just the same. After the crime, he and his lover are tormented by their own guilt and by ghostly apparitions.
Piano score compiled and performed by music historian Martin Marks (2.0 Stereo)
Griffith's 1909 short Edgar Allen Poe (7 min.)
Notes on the preparation of the music score
Way Down East (1920)
One of the greatest silents ever made and a great performance by Lillian Gish. Gish plays a naive small-town girl who is used by a wealthy playboy and then cast aside. Actually, he makes her believe they have been married when in fact the whole wedding is a fake. When she discovers she is pregnant, and abandoned by the father, she moves away to spare her family the shame of her dilemma. On her own she faces even more tragedy, the only bright spot being her meeting David (Richard Barthelmess) who loves her unconditionally. This movie shows the Victorian moral absolutes of the early twentieth century that had no room for mercy or extenuating circumstances.
Score compiled from historic photoplay music, performed by The Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra (2.0 Stereo)
Excerpts from Lottie Blair Parker's original play
Photos of William Brady's 1903 stage version
Film Clip: The ice floe sequence of the Edison Studio's production of Uncle Tom's Cabin.
Image gallery, including the original souvenir program book
Notes on the preparation of the music score
D.W. Griffith: Father of Film (1993) - This is a documentary made by film historians Kevin Brownlow and David Gill who tell the triumphant yet tragic story of D.W. Griffith (1875-1948). After spending several years making very good short films, Griffith practically invented the feature film and much of the technical techniques that went along with making them. He rose like a meteor during the silent era, but as soon as the early 1920's Hollywood began having less and less use for him. This film tells the entire sad story that actually plays out like one of Griffith's own melodramas.
Highly recommended for the silent film fan and the student of film history.