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Criterion Collection: Phantom Carriage [Blu-ray] [1920] [US Import]

9 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Format: Criterion Collection
  • Language: Swedish
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region A/1 (Read more about DVD/Blu-ray formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Studio: Image/Sphe
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0056ANHSQ
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 75,930 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

Product Description

Fantastic Criterion release of this 1920 silent classic. The last person to die on New Year's Eve before the clock strikes twelve is doomed to take the reins of Death's chariot and work tirelessly collecting fresh souls for the next year. So says the legend that drives The Phantom Carriage (Körkarlen), directed by the father of Swedish cinema, Victor Sjöström (The Wind), about an alcoholic, abusive ne'er-do-well (Sjöström himself) who is shown the error of his ways and the pure-of-heart Salvation Army sister who believes in his redemption. Based on a novel by Nobel Prize winner Selma Lagerlöf, this extraordinarily rich and innovative silent classic (which inspired Ingmar Bergman to make movies) is a Dickensian ghost story and a deeply moving morality tale, as well as a showcase for groundbreaking special effects. New digital transfer, restored in collaboration with the Archival Film Collections of the Swedish Film Institute Two scores, one by acclaimed Swedish composer Matti Bye and the other by the experimental duo KTL Audio commentary featuring film historian Casper Tybjerg Interview with Ingmar Bergman excerpted from the 1981 documentary Victor Sjöström: A Portrait, by Gösta Werner The Bergman Connection, an original visual essay by film historian and Bergman scholar Peter Cowie on The Phantom Carriage's influence on Bergman New and improved English subtitle translation PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by screenwriter and filmmaker Paul Mayersberg

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Brady Orme VINE VOICE on 16 Feb. 2008
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
A forgotten classic - Victor Sjostrom has suffered a sad case of cultural amnesia, call it "Geographical Displacement Syndrome" if you will. Had the man been churning out motion pictures of this ilk and quality in Hollywood in the '20s, he'd be up there with Murnau and Lang. Sadly, it was not to be, and apart from being cherished by the chief Scandinavian art polymath himself - Ingmar Bergman - Sjostrom vanished from sight as an auteur. Nowadays people chiefly remember him from his role in Bergman's "Wild Strawberries", a curiosity. Now, thanks to the efforts of that paragon of the hard-to-find movie (Tartan, ahem), you can view his labours yourself.

On New Years Eve, three drunkards evoke a tale steeped in the arcane; whomever dies last on New Years Eve is forced to drive the Phantom Carriage - An ancient collector of Dead Souls (which reminds one of Charon and the river Styx) for an entire year, until so relieved by the next to die at that fateful time. David Holm (convieniently one of the drunks) is the man to die in such a way - ironically relieving a friend of the same duty, whilst a dying Salvation Army girl calls for a last wish, the relevance which becomes clear later. All melded together like a metaphysical Robert Altman fable, it's no wonder that the movie has had such influence since. The special effects are not to be sniffed at either - No doubt the scence involving Holm's spirit rising from his body held all who viewed it in thrall.

Turning to the DVD release itself - The transfer is what can be expected in a film produced in 1922, resplendant in scratches and pops, but not bad.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Trevor Willsmer HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER on 20 Jan. 2015
Format: Blu-ray
Perhaps more known for its huge influence on Ingmar Bergman than widely seen these days, Victor Sjöstrom's The Phantom Carriage is a remarkably sophisticated and ambitious bit of silent cinema from 1921 that's still remarkably emotionally powerful. Despite its dark fantasy plot and special effects, the performances are extremely naturalistic while its structure offers flashbacks within flashbacks not just to establish plot points but also to reveal character, Sjostrom's focus less on the supernatural and gothic elements than the human and emotional ones.

Most people approach the film expecting a horror story, which is hardly surprising considering its premise: that whoever is the last soul to die on New Year's Eve must drive the phantom carriage for a year - with every day seeming like a hundred years - for a strict master, Death himself. For drunkard David Holm (Sjöstrom himself) it's just a tale to amuse his drinking cronies as they wait for midnight in the graveyard of the local church, added spice by the fact that his old friend and mentor in degeneracy Georges (Tore Svennberg) died, just as he feared he would, on New Year's Eve a year earlier. Not that that was the only cursed event that night that will come back to haunt him...

There are Dickensian elements - like Scrooge, its reprobate hero is shown the errors of his past by a dead friend - and at its heart it's really just a morality play about the evils wrought by the demon drink presented in a supernatural framework, yet Sjöstrom concentrates on the very human aspects of the story and underplays scenes that in other hands could have descended into barnstorming melodrama to create something that is at times incredibly moving (the first New Year's Eve sequence is genuinely touching).
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful By BLS on 25 Feb. 2008
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Wonderful, dark, film. Similar to Dickens' A Christmas Carol is some respects - a horrid old sod shown the error of his ways and forced to confront his demons. Full of rich and sinister imagery, The Phantom Carriage is a compulsive watch, as the lead character's life is spookily unravelled. The soundtrack by KTL deserves a special mention as it contemplates the film superbly with haunting authority. It'd be nice if the soundtrack was available separately - but it isn't. To top things off KTL's Stephen O'Malley (see also Sunn0))), Khanate, Burning Witch etc.) has designed a rather excellent DVD sleeve. One complaint however, the subtitiles in the last 15 mins only flash up on the screen breifly, blink and you miss them.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By G. Ratcheson on 4 July 2008
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This review is of the orchestral 2 disc edition.

The title of my review pretty much says it all. The print is quite clear & watchable, but there is a moderate jerkiness in the entire film to motion that looks like somehow a percentage of frames was dropped in the original mastering process, or perhaps the transfer started out as NTSC (though I have no idea why that would be) & there was a poor NTSC to PAL conversion. The bit rate is quite high, that's not the problem.

If anyone has info on this, I'd appreciate your sharing it.

Fine film.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Colin C on 28 May 2009
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This double DVD pairing of Sjostrom's early horror classic 'the Phantom Carriage' and Ingmar Bergman's theatre piece 'The Image Makers' is well worth a look.

First up, the Phantom Carriage is a film packed with eerie scenes and images, and ingenious special effects, all of which add up to what seems to be a genuine lost classic of cinema, more than deserving of mention in the aame breath as Nosferatu, for example. The print looks good, having clearly been heavily restored, and the film rushes by at considerable pace, never losing your attention. the Phantom carriage is worth the investment here on its own.

The Image Makers is basically a filmed chamber-theatre piece from very late in Bergman's career, made for television. It's set during the making of The Phantom Carriage so, I suppose, makes a good double bill, as Victor Sjostrom is the central character - however in itself, the film is a real disappointment. It is filmed on one single set throughout, and the characters (all four of them) seem inert and lifeless. the film is overlong, and lacks any real interest for anyone other than hardcore Bergman completists. I am a great admirer of Bergman's work throughout his career, and he succeeded in making brilliant films with small casts and limited sets at the height of his career, but sadly this film was a real disappointment.
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