D.W. Griffith's towering epic of man's inhumanity to man throughout the ages, "Intolerance" is considered the greatest film of the silent era and perhaps the greatest film ever made. This edition of "Intolerance" has been ... more »restored and reconstructed to 178 minutes with the original color tinting specifications and a digital stereo organ score by Gaylord Carter.« less
D.W. Griffith and INTOLERANCE In The 21st Century.
Chip Kaufmann | Asheville, N.C. United States | 02/15/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Imagine that Steven Spielberg was no longer directing movies and that WAR OF THE WORLDS would be the one film he is remembered for. Would that be a fair assessment of his career? Absolutely not but that is what has happened to cinema pioneer D.W. Griffith. The film he is remembered for today is the 1915 BIRTH OF A NATION which was the first important American epic. Unfortunately its source material THE CLANSMAN (the film's original title) is a Southern view of the Civil War which glorifies the Ku Klux Klan and is extremely racist (although toned down considerably from the book by Thomas Dixon). Griffith made 34 feature films and over 400 shorts between 1908 and 1931. In the overwhelming majority of these he is a social progressive tackling such issues as poverty, political corruption, worker exploitation and interracial romance. He even made an anti-Klan film THE ROSE OF KENTUCKY back in 1912.
I mention all of this because in this current climate of political correctness Griffith is being judged and censured on the basis of one film as opposed to his whole body of work and the damage being done to his reputation is still going on. In the recent Oscar nominated film JUNEBUG, one of the characters is a Southern racist Civil War painter who happens to be named David Wark (the D.W. in Griffith's name).
INTOLERANCE, the follow-up to NATION, was the most ambitious and expensive film ever made up to that point (1916) and forever changed the way that movies would be made after it. Because of the lifesize sets of Ancient Babylon and the thousands of extras employed, the movie would cost over $500 million to remake today. Its central theme shows how intolerance through the ages breeds anger, anger then breeds repression and repression breeds more intolerance. Set in four different historical time periods (including then present day 1916), the film shifts back and forth from story to story with ever increasing frequency until it reaches its dramatic climax followed by a fanciful epilogue of what the world would be like if we could only banish our fear and hatred. Virtually every visual film technique you can think of appeared in this film inspiring filmmakers around the world who quickly followed suit. After 90 years it still remains a wonder to be seen.
There are several different versions of INTOLERANCE currently available on DVD. This Kino edition is the most complete while the Image edition follows Griffith's reissue wishes for the film. AVOID at all costs all the low budget DVDs of this cinematic milestone as they are of inferior visual quality and have uncoordinated sound accompaniment. It's time once again to give D.W. Griffith his due and this is the place to start. Follow this up with his BIOGRAPH shorts and then some of his features such as BROKEN BLOSSOMS or SALLY OF THE SAWDUST and see just what he was capable of. Griffith's wheel of fortune has come full circle a number of times and will continue to do so. That is the measure of a true artist. Remember to look for the Kino or Image DVD versions of his films. They cost a lot more but like Criterion DVDs they are loaded with extras and are more than worth it."
Christopher R. DeFay | Los Angeles, CA United States | 05/30/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Many of the reviewers here rightly praise Griffith's well-deserved credit for his technical achievements. Others criticize him for a poorly constructed film. The fact of the matter is that, for 1916, this film is an incredible feat. The first American big-budget extravaganza, it followed closely in the steps of other big multi-reel films in vogue at the time(Griffith's own Birth of a Nation, and others coming out of Italy). The spectacle alone makes this film worth a look, but viewers should try to contextualize it. There was a great expectation across the nation to what would come from Griffith after the amazing--and incendiary racist-film, Birth of a Nation.What is Intolerance really a metaphor for anyway? Griffith was fighting off attempts by legislators to regulate or censor the motion picture industry. An anti-censorship booklet released by Griffith in 1916 suggests he continued to respond to "moral reformers" even as he assembled Intolerance. In fact, his film is an attempt to address these reformers while simultaneously opining on nothing less than the historic importance of the film media itself.Intolerance is really about a nation's cultural memory and Griffith's attempt to offer a totalizing, yet entertaining version of it. His belief that if we were educated on the subject of past "sins of hate, hypocrisy and intolerance" through the magic of film that we could inoculate ourselves against war, capital punishment and other evils. He argued that film was a better education than traditional education. To quote the master: "Six moving pictures would give students more knowledge of the world than they have obtained from their entire study." Such an understanding is, of course, naïve and dangerous. Griffith was caught in a double-bind. In order to fight the censors he needed to simultaneously argue that his epics (like Birth and Intolerance) were a kind of filmed truth, yet the construction of this "truth" should only be the purview of the director. Griffith's logic is dangerously flawed. Birth of a Nation is hardly true history. In fact its racist vision of blacks fanned the flames of racial hatred in whites and surely accounted for many more lynchings than if the film had not been made. What's missing from his vision is how truth is arrived at: certainly not from a lone man's dictates. We have another word for that...Intolerance is worth viewing because it is a wonderful illustration of the limitations of film. It's a simple morality tale blown up to epic-and phantasmagoric-proportions. It's greatest weakness is the cross-cutting between the four time-periods, and the attempt to narrate all history, yet this is precisely what makes the film interesting. The failure to arrive at an overarching metaphor that somehow spans history and unites us with our past points to Griffith's own flawed vision. It reminds us-contrary to Griffith's own advice-that understanding history in all its irresolvable complexity is absolutely essential."
The Gotham/Alpha Video version is unwatchable
matthewslaughter | Arlington, VA USA | 01/03/2005
(1 out of 5 stars)
"This cheapy version of Griffith's "Intolerance" (as opposed to the Kino version) is practically unwatchable -- out of focus, poorly scanned, and at times you can even detect tracking lines (i.e. this DVD was simply transferred from a videocassette version). Would not recommend at all. Check out the Kino version, as they tend to do good job at transfering old silent films to DVD.
The 1 star review is not reflective of Griffith's film. It is one of my favorite silent films and probably the most ambitious film ever made in terms of casting, sets and the enormity of the timespan of the four separate stories. This film is probably much more representative of Griffith's acievements than the racist and way outdated "Birth of a Nation." So this film deserves to be preserved properly, not in this bastardized cheapy version. Alas, I got what I paid for :-("
Daniel H. Hawkins | Fort Worth, TX USA | 01/22/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I must admit that I was intimidated by "Intolerance" before sitting down to watch it. I knew it was an early silent movie (1916) consisting of four different stories. I knew that the three hour running time would be spent intercutting between these four stories. Would I be able to keep up with all four stories? Would I be able to tell the different characters apart in the grainy black and white (with color-tinting)?After watching it, I have a whole new appreciation for D.W. Griffith. Yes, I was able to tell the characters apart, and yes, I was able to keep up with all the storylines. This film was a giant leap forward in filmmaking from Griffith's previous film, "The Birth of a Nation." The most impressive story of the film is the fall of Babylon. The sets were magnificent, and the battle scenes were spectacular. Constance Talmadge was wonderful as the Mountain Girl. The modern story was entertaining and moving. The French and Judean stories were very underdeveloped, but that really didn't bother me.Anyone with an interest in silent movies or film history must see this film."
A Masterpiece of Fine Art
Christopher R. DeFay | 09/19/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A box office disaster at the time of its release, Griffith's Intolerance is now generally considered the highwater-mark of his career and stands as one of the most influential films of both silent and sound eras. Unlike the more famous but extremely dated Birth of a Nation, Intolerance is an extremely watchable film even by today's sophistocated standards. Intercutting four different stories in four different eras to draw a powerful portrait of man's inhumanity to man down through the ages, Griffith achieves startling cinematic and intellectual effects through out the body of the film. Noteworthies in the cast include stunning performances by Mae Marsh, Constance Talamadge, and Bill Haines; Lillian Gish, who worked primarily as Griffith's assistant on the film, also appears in a cameo. A must-see for any one who enjoys cinema as fine art."