This is D.W. Griffith's last great success, an epic melodrama from 1922 about two orphaned girls (real-life sisters Lillian and Dorothy Gish) raised in the same house and tragically separated during the French Revolution's... more » infamous reign of terror. While this is no Birth of a Nation or Intolerance, it still reveals Griffith's inimitable talent for spectacle and intimacy. Not surprisingly, it works best when focusing on the plight of the two sisters: Lillian is a peasant who cares for the blind Dorothy, a product of the deposed aristocracy. Orphans of the Storm is a film about intriguing pairings. Mingling with the upper class to help find Dorothy, Lillian falls in love with the handsome and compassionate Joseph Schildkraut (best known as Otto Frank in The Diary of Anne Frank) and beguiles the influential Danton. Dorothy, meanwhile, is held captive by a family of gypsies, and is fought over by two brothers. Despite the lavish sets and Lillian's stirring performance, the love stories and political tumult don't quite mesh. But there are two magnificent moments emblematic of Griffith's dual talents: When Lillian recognizes Dorothy's plaintive voice outside her window and comes to her rescue, and the thrilling climax when Danton rescues Lillian from the guillotine. --Bill Desowitz« less
Mr Peter G George | Ellon, Aberdeenshire United Kingdom | 03/01/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This film shows Lillian Gish in one of her greatest roles, but is also noteworthy as an instance of one of the few readily available films in which she appears alongside her equally talented sister Dorothy. Dorothy was most famous as a comedienne, but shows her ability here as a dramatic actress especially in the way she portrays the fear and bewilderment of being alone, blind, in a hostile and unfamiliar world. It is also interesting to see a very early appearance of Joseph Schildkraut, who would go on to win an Oscar for his role in the Life of Emile Zola and much later would play Anne Frank's father in the Diary of Anne Frank. The scope of the film is enormous with lavish sets and costumes. This is remarkable for Griffith was in financial difficulties when the film was made, so much so that at times there were doubts as to whether he could finish it. Thankfully he did, for the film remains one of his best. The story is exciting and passionate with one of Griffith's best race to the rescue climaxes. Granted it has some cliché's which were common to this genre, such as an orphan with an identifying locket, but these cliché's are no worse than those of Dickens and Oliver Twist. Indeed Griffith portrays the French revolution as well as any adaptation of A Tale of Two Cities. Where he goes astray somewhat is in his attempts to liken the French Revolution to events and persons with which American audiences might have been more familiar. It is ludicrous to call Danton a French Abraham Lincoln and his comparisons with Bolshevism and warnings against the `red menace' come across now as mildly amusing. But these are really criticisms only of the titles which, as so often with Griffith, are sometimes overblown. This is a very good DVD for it shows the film in the most complete and, as far as I am aware, the longest version available. There is however, one brief scene of Danton arguing with a court which seems to repeat itself. Whether this was Griffith's intention or a restoration mistake I cannot say. The print shows very little damage and reproduces the film's original tints. The music is wonderful especially in scenes of the riotous dancing of the crowds. It is possible to quibble with the use of La Marseillaise, as this was written later than 1789, but this is a very minor point. To conclude I would highly recommend this film as a wonderful example of an historical epic and as one of the most exciting silent films I have ever seen."
You'll shiver better without that shawl
Steven Hellerstedt | 05/09/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"ORPHANS OF THE STORM is a great movie, and this time I'm not going to deduct a point for print quality and its non-sequiter of a sound track.
Real sisters Lillian and Dorothy Gish star as half-sisters Henriette and Louise Girard. Louise (Dorothy) was found on the cold and snowy steps of the church Henriette's father had, before a change of heart, placed her. Their parents die, the girls grow into porcelain beauties and Louise loses her sight. Henriette vows to take care of Louise forever, and they travel to Paris in hopes of restoring Louise's sight.
En route a cruel aristocrat is inflamed with Henriette's "virginal beauty" and connives to kidnap her. Henriette is indeed kidnapped shortly after her arrival in Paris, and the helpless Louise is forced to fend for herself.
Half of the fun of ORPHANS OF THE STORM is watching the indignities DW Griffith subjects his two starlets to. Henriette is kidnapped by one of the slimier specimens of the over-fed and over-sexed aristocracy. Her desperate search for Louise is frustrated at every turn- when she finally spots Louise and attempts to reach her the police arrive and she is sent to a prison for fallen women. Oh, yeah, did I mention her delivery to "the foot of Death's gate?"
Louise has it no better. She is kidnapped by the monstrous Mother Frochard (Lucille La Verne). Mother Frochard, with her hair mole and moustache and missing teeth, may be the ugliest woman ever filmed. Mother F is a street beggar, and she plans to use the blind Louise as her main attraction. After she breaks Louise's spirit, that is. So, down into the rat-infested cellar with Louise and up comes the ladder. They're real rats down there. Griffith also throws a few cold days of beggary and an attempted rape in Louise's direction.
It's all great fun and the girls are indomitably strong and resourceful. The print quality is quite good in spots, simply awful in others. Most of the stock is sepia-toned, but some battle scenes seem to have been tinted red and there's a scene towards the end of the movie that seems to have been colorized. Because this isn't a restored print it's impossible to tell.
Having watched a handful of silent movies recently I'm beginning to wonder why they aren't rescored. Alpha Video puts a classical recording on the track of their releases and calls it good. It's not. These old films are works of art and national treasures, and they deserve better than this. Sound IS an important component to movies. Either restore the original music or have a contemporary composer write a brand new score. (Note: I watched the discount Alpha release of the film, and I didn't realize that Kino has a pricier print that includes the original music. I'm going out on a ledge here, but I'll bet the print quality is better, too. I'll be trading up to the Kino version in the near future.)"
emilycrawfordgreene2 | 09/29/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I bought Orphans of the Storm on DVD after having seen it on Turner Classic Movies. I just fell in love with it after seeing it for the first time. However, the DVD version is much different than the one shown on TCM. The music is completely different. I thought the score on TCM was wonderful, very choreographed to the scenes, and very moving. But the score on the DVD just sounds like generic music played on a modern keyboard. Also, the film on DVD has been slowed down to the "visually correct speed." This is both a blessing and a curse. It was interesting to see how the scenes played out in "real time," but I thought the film paced itself much better in the speeded-up version on TCM. With it slowed down, it did seem to drag a bit.Overall this is a good DVD, even though personally I think the version on TCM is the better one to watch."
A True Masterpiece and the Gish Sisters Dual Triumph!
emilycrawfordgreene2 | Dumfries, VA, USA | 09/06/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is indeed one of my favourites of the Gish sisters and the infamous and controversial D.W Griffith (known for his work in The Birth of a Nation, Broken Blossoms, Intolerance, Way Down East). I myself found the story heart-wrenching AND historically accurate on the French Revolution, a dark period in France. Lillian plays Henriette with such passion and her character searching for her beloved adopted sister Louise (played equally powerfully by Dorothy Gish) and her findings of love and being almost guillotined. It is truly seat clenchingly wonderful. I couldn't stop watching it and it remains my second favourite of D.W.'s films (Way Down East being the first). I found also the supporting actors equally brilliant. Joseph Schilkadrat was wonderful as Henriette's love and the tender scenes with them are beautiful. No greater film director ever recreated history as well as D.W. Griffith. I highly recommend this film to anyone! I am going to watch it again in fact it is so FANTASTIC! A true Masterpiece indeed and ever deserving of it!"
Great historic period piece
Daniel S. Russell | Blacksburg, VA United States | 02/06/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is one of those early films that kept me checking the date of production. This is impressive stuff coming so early in the history of American cinema. From the lush costumes and sets to the use of thousands of extras, this reminds us how ground-breaking some of Griffith's work truly was.Sure, it's campy melodrama, the sets are stagey, and cinematography had not yet matured beyond wide-shot vs. close-up, but for its time, "Orphans of the Storm" is full of moving characterizations and real drama. Like Griffith's other great works, "Orphans" is over-long but it must have been an expectation in the day for a "serious" film.The Gish sisters are great fun to watch, as are the young male stars, Schildkraut and Puglia. I LOVE Lucille La Verne's performance as the "scoundrel" Mother Frochard. You have to love the mustache!Yes, watch this film for the impressive work by Griffith in this EARLY period piece, but it also serves as a time-capsule to a by-gone era in American cultural history. While not as obvious or heavy-handed as "Birth of a Nation," the political leanings that underscore "Orphans of the Storm" are not subtly hidden but are on full display."