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33 of 38 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Versions
It's a great nuisance the Connoisseur Video version is only on video, because to my mind it's considerably superior. This one lacks the tinted sequences (sepia in parts, red for the burning of Atlanta) and, much worse, the music sounds like the third form doing its best. That may, for all I know, be more authentic, but music is so important in a silent that this is...
Published on 2 Nov 2003 by R. M. M.

versus
4 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Technically good but with a vile & despicable message
No matter how much I agree DW Griffith was a great film-maker, I can't agree that Birth Of A Nation is a great film. Don't get me wrong, I'm not one of those embarrassing, middle-class, white liberals who tries to make friends with every black person they meet out of some sense of historic guilt (you pathetic saddos), but this is definitely one sickening and disgusting...
Published 10 months ago by The Demon Pazuzu


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33 of 38 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Versions, 2 Nov 2003
It's a great nuisance the Connoisseur Video version is only on video, because to my mind it's considerably superior. This one lacks the tinted sequences (sepia in parts, red for the burning of Atlanta) and, much worse, the music sounds like the third form doing its best. That may, for all I know, be more authentic, but music is so important in a silent that this is authenticity I could do without. On the other hand, the sharpness and overall quality of the print is really quite amazing - especially compared to much more recent films such as Lost Horizon.
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48 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of The Alltime Greatest Movies Ever Made, 17 Feb 2001
The first, and perhaps the greatest of the feature films, D.W. Griffith's wonderful and controversial film is a must have for anyone with any serious interest in cinema.
The beginning of the film deals with life in the old South, and much like Gone With The Wind, showed nothing of the harsh cruelty of slavery. However, this film does not bare the title 'Based on a true story' and so, as with the racist struggle at the end, with a little education, this may be judged purely in terms of cinematography. .. I simply saw it through Griffith's eyes, and could not help but give a broad smile many times at the wonderful atmosphere that the film created.
The film centres mainly around the Northern Stonemans and the Southern Camerons, and the relationship between them. The civil war presents some spectacular scenes, including the superb sequence where the eldest Cameron boy rushes forward to the front line towards the guns and rescues the Confederate flag. The horrors and tragedies of war are shocking, but spectacular. What follows is the heartbreak of loss, the surrender of General Lee, the beginning of the revenge that plagues the characters throughout the rest of the film and finally, April 14th 1865. Ford's Theatre is recreated, and one of history's greatest men is gunned down in a tragic scene.
The heroin of the film is a Northerner, played by the ravishingly beautiful Lillian Gish. Her love for the founder of the Ku Klux Klan creates an interesting situation. She condemns her lover but forgives him when the villain of the film, a mulatto named Syrus Lynch tries to force her into marriage and is rescued by our 'heroes' in white hoods. The eldest son of the Camerons founds the Ku Klux Klan, while the head of the Stonemans intends to crush the Southern whites by giving all the power to the blacks.
The film was condemned by blacks and white liberals and not without cause. Syrus Lynch, is given power after the end of the war and becomes Governor of South Carolina. He stands as a symbol for what will happen if the two races were to mix. Another of the bad guys is Gus, who harasses a white girl until she commits suicide to protect her honour. For the rest of the film, the blacks act as the villains while the Ku Klux Klan saves society and restores peace and justice to the land. It's a bit hard to take,.... I console myself by remembering that this film was made in unsympathetic times. It is advisable to read what really happened before seeing this film, but for those glorious 190 minutes, simply take this piece of cinema at face value and you will be the better for it.
This film changed history and movie history, as the Ku Klux Klan rose again in response to it, and the days of the one reeler films came to a close. There have been other films of this quality, but they can be counted on one hand. The Birth of A Nation is an utter masterpiece with no faults other than its political incorrectness. bfi films have painstakingly restored this masterpiece to its full, rich and deserved glory and the result is a superb and delightfully entertaining work of pure genius... It has not aged at all and I cannot recommend it enough. Buy it now!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good movie, 23 Sep 2013
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Amilestone ,and a masterwork in Movies.
loved the Movie,I wish they would a made a Version today
loved it ok
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Birth of a Nation, 6 July 2012
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I found this to be a hard-hitting and impressive work, especially for its age, however, I am sure that it could not be made today, at least not in the same way, as it does portray African Americans as being less than civilised and in many shots it uses obviously white people with blacked-up faces which are almost comical in their interpretation. Echoes of Al Jolson!

It also portrays the Ku Klux Klan as being a highly chivalrous and honourable organisation, the saviours of the Nation, when in fact they have never been anything of the sort. That said, it was a very enjoyable and an interesting reflection of the American Civil War from a particular viewpoint. Well worth the money.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars this isn't the Nazi film we've been led to believe!, 29 Oct 2013
By 
Firstly, the cover is highly misleading and the people who claim that this film is about white knights on horseback, with burning crosses, obviously haven't seen the film. They have glanced at the cover and written a review. Strange.

My girlfriend and I just watched this and we were surprised. We were expecting a toe curling Nazi film with bodies of black people piled high up, with lynching's of blacks, and their babies being kicked, and rednecks chasing black people down the street. Well can you blame us? Just skim through the Amazon reviews, this is the impression given! Like I mentioned, the cover of the DVD is very very misleading because there is zero dramatic shots of white knights in the film and the Klan part is at the very end.

Anyway, this film is more a 'big-up' to the white guy! That isn't really racism. And the film claims that after the American Civil War, the North wanted to punish the south by taking the land off the whites and giving it to the freed slaves. In other words, the Civil War didn't end with the surrender of the South. Instead, the North wanted to collectively punish the southern whites. This is why they assassinated Abraham Lincoln. What happened is similar to what the US did to Iraq after the supposed surrender. Americans are still in Iraq plundering the resources. Well the historians reckon this is what happened to the South after the war.

Another big theme in Birth of a Nation is party politics and how politicians can use the engines of voting to influence their own agenda. Sound familiar?

The ancient Greeks had no concept of a mob electorate, you see, and this is the main theme in Birth of a Nation. You would never guess this my mere skimming the opinions of others!

Also, the war scenes are excellent. The actors here are the actual grandchildren of the real warriors of the civil war. Amazing!

Anyway, don't trust the uneducated Amazon trolls who probably haven't the attention span to watch an old black and white film. This is a great view with ones girlfriend and a king size popcorn (its over 3 hours)!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars DVD, 23 Feb 2013
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Great piece of history. Told about it by a friend at work. Loved the extras on the DVD.
Why more words required?
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28 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dangerously Facinating, 9 April 2003
By A Customer
A truely facinating, but hughly alrming film. It is bemusing how a film which lasts over three and a half hours can be so compelling when there is not one word of spoken dialogue! However, the mastiful soundtrack somehow makes the lack of dialogue obsolete.
The story line covers the period of the American Civil War and is littered with huge amounts of racism; look out for the heroic intgerpretation of the Klu Klux Klan charging to the rescue to the "Ride of the Valcaries" in the latter part of the film.
However, the distastefull racist eliments of the film can be overcome when one looks at the film as a piece of cinematic history. The fact that this film was the first long feature film, the melodramatic style of acting, the use of sound track, editing and camera techniques make it a revolutionary film of it's age and well worth watching 88 years on.
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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Of all the masterpieces of cinema, this one is the hardest to defend..., 28 Feb 2011
...but I still have no hesitation in saying that it certainly is a masterpiece. I have seen it said that it is dull, the first claim that couldn't be farther from the truth. Its story may be simplistic and almost entirely reliant on the most basic elements of melodrama, but it moves at a remarkable pace and it is quite astonishing how quickly its over three-hour running time flies by. And it may be all the more astonishing when you consider that D W Griffith's direction is usually more functional than inspired. His big set-pieces are done with all the skill that makes them justly famous and exciting (sometimes despite yourself), but otherwise you often get the feeling that he points the camera and hopes for the best. It's not too difficult to believe that he never had a written script for the film...but most of the time it somehow actually works!

So, as one of the most maligned films ever made, does it deserve it? Well, undoubtedly yes. Working from source material written by an apparently admitted white supremacist was never going to be free of controversy, and this film had to deal with protests from the moment it came out. Griffith tried to defend himself from the outset by title cards on the film saying that he didn't fear censorship, was merely portraying actual historical events, and that it was no reflection on contemporary society. But he didn't really have a chance with that defence. Most of his main black characters were portrayed by white actors unconvincingly blacked up and they were mainly devious and lusting after white women. The villain in the second half of the film, the post-Civil War section where all the racist stuff comes from, is the mulatto Silas Lynch, the prime example of the devious type and a total caricature. And the lusting type is personified by the renegade Gus, played by Walter Long. Long was later a memorable heavy in a few Laurel and Hardy comedies, but here in blackface he drives pure innocent virginal Mae Marsh to jump off a cliff to avoid a fate worse than death. Which is, of course, pure melodrama, but in context very troubling.

And the worst problem of all is the portrayal of the Ku Klux Klan, who here are bright shining heroes, never questioned or doubted in their greatness - which is just a little hard for anyone to take then or now. Perhaps the most worrying scene in the whole film is the KKK's gallant climactic rescue of Lillian Gish from the evil clutches of Silas Lynch who wants her for his own (oh yes, he's a luster too, I guess they all are!!), which is done so well that you really go along with the excitement. Which is why some say that this film does leave a nasty taste in the mouth. And that is also why it is blamed for leading to a resurgence of the KKK, which had all but died out otherwise. Well that's probably true too, but I always prefer to make people take the blame for their own arrogance, stupidity and ignorance rather than to blame any work of art in whatever form. I hope that's not too arrogant of me...but I hope it's a valid point.

So, I think it's necessary to take a more distanced and informed view of this film. It is undoubtedly important in the history of cinema and it still works as a fine entertainment after nearly a hundred years. But you most certainly do need to know something about it, its origins, attitudes and overall context before you see it. I don't think it's unique in that, as many films (great and otherwise) from years gone by share that position. And I am always much more in favour of education over censorship in every case. I am aware that despite my liking for this film as a work of art and my top rating of it, I have had to criticise it adversely a great deal. But it is a film which needs and deserves a lot of criticism - and it is still a great film which is essential viewing.

I would also like to say a word about the BBFC's curious 15 rating for it too. Maybe that's because someone there is queasy about it as well, as it's awfully hard to know why it gets that rating otherwise. It seems that in the distant past that it always had a U certificate, but it has played in variously cut and censored versions at different times, whereas this version is as complete as you will ever get. I don't imagine it could possibly make any difference that it has a 15 rating anyway, as it is a somewhat unlikely scenario to imagine lots of 9 and 10-year-olds desperately trying to persuade their parents to let them see it!! I merely mention it as another curious point. Oh, and the version I am talking about is the British release on the Eureka label, which offers a generally very good print (comparatively speaking, remember its age), but does not have any of the tints which some prints have, and which can be helpful to add to the atmosphere if they are done with sensitivity.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Groundbreaking, but of its time..., 22 Oct 2000
By A Customer
...Previously, the cinema consisted of short one or two-reelers, which would not have lasted more than forty minutes, whereas The Birth of a Nation weighs in at a hefty three hours. Watching it on a small screen gives only a glimpse of the spectacle which this must have been: the war scenes stand up - along side those of Kurowsawa - as some of the finest in cinema. Not all gave it such a welcoming reception, however. The National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) were horrified at the creation and reenforcement of a series of black stereotypes: the rapacious "black buck" who preys on white women (represented by "Gus"); the "mammy," seen again later in Gone With the Wind, who implicitly supports the patriarchal, slave-based agrarian society of the south, and the black's place within the hierarchy. The real villans are, however, portrayed as mulatto, and the central ideological message of the film is that, while the Civil War saw "Anglo-Saxon" brothers fighting each other needlessly, when the races merge - as in the case of the mulatto - only bad could result. Both Lydia, the seductress, and Sylas Lynch are mulatto, and without their influence, it is implied that the tragic episodes of the Reconstruction wouldn't have happened. This is a pernicious message, which is luckily very easy to see through, as it is portrayed about as subtley as a poke in the eye. So this film, which led to a resurgence of the KKK in the 1910's and 20s, perculiarly also has the distinction of having largely formed the blueprint for a Hollywood movie spectacular for decades to come- just don't assume it is historically true!
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great film, 2 Aug 2012
By 
Steve Cantlow (England) - See all my reviews
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One of the greatest films of all time, released in 1915, this film was made only 50 years after the end of the American Civil War and was the most popular film of all time until well into the 1930s. I say this because it must of struck a cord with a huge amount of the public that lived through the events portrayed. The policy of Reconstruction in America, as depicted in the film, was, in my opinion, one of the most destructive and shameful events in its history. The rape of the Southern States was truly a foul and evil act. Finally after unimaginable suffering the people had had enough and rose up against such tyranny. The film explores all the main issues of the day. Today liberals have tried to re-write history and you will be hard pressed to find any contemporary work truly sympathetic to the plight of the Southern States. I do not think any rational human being can condone slavery of any kind. However, the policy of Reconstruction is said to have set back the civil rights of African Americans by over a hundred years. To me the film is as relevant today as when it was first made. It could be argued the resentment caused by polices such as affirmative action only divide a nation not bring it together. As this film was made in the silent era some of the characterisations of some people are over exaggerated and some people may find that offensive. I would recommend all students of history buy a copy and start reading works by people such as Professor William A. Dunning along side the revisionist historians to get a balanced viewpoint.
The 3 disc set that was sent to me is region free.
Product Description
[DISC 1 - : Nearly 100 years after its initial release, THE BIRTH OF A NATION remains one of the most controversial films ever made and a landmark achievement in film history that continues to fascinate and enrage audiences. It is the epic story of two families, one northern and one southern, during and after the Civil War. D. W. Griffith's masterful direction combines brilliant battle scenes and tender romance with a vicious portrayal of African-Americans. It was the greatest feature-length blockbuster yet to be produced in the United States and the first to be shown in the White House. After seeing it, President Woodrow Wilson remarked it was ''like writing history with lightning!'' However flawed, the film made history. In cities and states across the country, it energized the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), which tried to have the film banned and censored. The film also inspired African Americans to move into filmmaking as a way to offer alternative images and stories. This is a newly mastered (in 2011) version of the film from archival 35mm elements. It includes new music by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra (2011), in 2.0 Stereo and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 PLUS, spoken introductions by D.W. Griffith and Walter Huston (including the newly rediscovered intermission sequence).

[DISC 2 - SD DVD]: Is a DVD copy of Kino's ''Griffith Masterworks'' edition of the film restored by David Shepard of Film Preservation Associates in 1993. It contains an orchestral score adapted in 1993 from the original score by Joseph Carl Breil in 2.0 Stereo and ''The Making of The Birth of a Nation'' (24 min.) Produced by David Shepard and compiled and written by Russell Merritt.

[DISC 3 - SD DVD]: SPECIAL FEATURES (also on DVD ported over from Kino's ''Griffith Masterworks'' edition) that includes a filmed prologue to The Birth of a Nation (1930. 6 mins. Featuring D. W. Griffith and Walter Huston), Civil War Shorts directed by D. W. Griffith: In the Border States (1910. 16 mins.) The House with the Closed Shutters (1910. 17 mins.) The Fugitive (1910. 17 mins.) His Trust (1910. 14 mins. -- courtesy David Shepard. Music by Robert Israel, performed by the Biograph Quartet) His Trust Fulfilled (1910. 11 mins.) Swords and Hearts (1911. 16 mins.) The Battle (1911. 17 mins.), New York vs. The Birth of a Nation -- an archive of information documenting the battles over the film's 1922 re-release, including protests by the NAACP, transcripts of meetings, legal documents, newspaper articles, and a montage of scenes ordered cut by the New York Censor Board. Excerpts from a The Birth of a Nation souvenir book (1915) and several original programs.
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