On August 24, Criterion releases the brand-new Josef von Sternberg Silent-Classic Collection, a 3-Disc set. Fully restored, two films were available in the past(both in 1987) on VHS tape, and the third, "Underworld", has likely never been seen by almost anyone, except private collectors, since 1927. Vienna-born, New Jersey- raised Josef von Sternberg directed some of the most influential, stylish dramas to come out of Hollywood. Best known for his collaborations with Marlene Dietrich, von Sternberg began his career during the final years of the silent era. First up is "Underworld", the movie responsible for starting the gangster-film cycle. At the Academy Awards in May, 1929, the film received an Oscar for writer Ben Hecht, who soon would be at work on "Scarface". "Underworld" achieved fame overnight, earning success in public screenings at the New York Paramount, and soon an all-night schedule was improvised to accommodate the unexpected crowds. "Underworld" opens with title cards telling of a "great city in dead of night..streets lonely...moon clouded..empty buildings of a forgotten age". Sudenly an explosion shatters a bank building. Crime leader Bull Weed(George Bancroft) emerges carrying loot. He spots a derelict(Clive Brook) nearby, in an inebriated state. Weed throws him in his car and speeds off. Weed takes a liking to his new friend, known as "Rolls Royce", who, when sober, becomes his stooge, friend, and driver. We also meet Feathers McCoy(Evelyn Brent), Weeds'gal. A violent gun-battle ends the show; a famous scene that scored with jazz-era audiences. Sternberg's underworld is a hell of false illusions. Though rich in mis-en-scene, "Underworld" is sadly dated and slow; Bancroft's learing ganster fails to carry the film. Next up is the real jewel of the bunch. In "The Last Command", Emil Jannings is passionate and heartbreaking as an exiled Russian military officer. "The Last Command" was based on the true story of Duke Alexander, who arrives penniless in the US after the 1917 Russian Revolution. He supports himself by playing movie bit parts. In Russia, the Duke had mistress Natacha(Evelyn Brent), who once thought of killing the Duke. Natacha is dispatched by the Bolsheviks, and her loss throws the Duke into dispair. Now the Duke is a Hollywood extra, performing for the director(a young William Powell). In a surreal final sequence, the Duke and director share a sense of futility; they recognise the correct positioning of the medal on the general's costume at the same time. Jennings is powerfully tragic. The late Preson Sturges called this film the only perfect movie he had ever seen. Finally, there is 1928's "Docks of New York". Geroge Bancroft plays a two-fisted ship's stoker. In a famous scene, he rescues Betty Comson from suicide. Bancroft marries her, but sobers up later, and decides to set-sail on the open sea...perhaps forever. The story is secondary to von Sternberg's careful camerawork and direction. Bancroft's career would fade with the gangster-film-cycle, and by 1939, he was playing a small part as the sheriff with John Wayne in "Stagecoach". This Criterion release is a three-DVD set, with new, restored digital transfers, a 1968 TV interview, essays by Geoffrey O'Brien, the film treatment by Hecht, and parts of von Sternberg's autobiography. Von Sternberg would shoot two more films for Paramount, and then, in 1930, his career would escalate again, with an ironic tragedy about "Naught Lola". It was called "The Blue Angel".