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. Once more, Tartan have included no extras whatsover (see recent releases such as "Edmond" if you don't believe me), which can grate for some who expect such a vaunted film to come inclusive with them. I suppose one could view Bergman's "The Image Makers" as a semi-extra, as it is but a "TV Play" which dramatises the filming of Sjostrom's film and can be considered one of Bergman's lesser offerings. Still, it's far better than the entire career of Brett Ratner.
A word of warning - Tartan does not make it explicitly clear that this and the "KTL Version" have different soundtracks. The KTL Version has an electro-goth soundtrack composed by drone metal band Sunn O))) and Peter Rehberg that is perfect for Fields of the Nephilim fans, whilst this version has the more traditional (not sure if it's the ORIGINAL soundtrack mind) orchestral version and suits the film far better. Another word of warning - The discs are labelled incorrectly, i.e. swapped around. The state of craftmanship nowadays....