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Early Murnau - Five Films (Schloß Vogelöd, Phantom, Der Letzte Mann, The Grand Duke's Finances, Tartuffe) (Masters of Cinema) (Blu-ray)
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(Sep 26, 2016)
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Five masterpieces from one of the finest directors of the silent era on Blu-ray for the first time in the world, in one deluxe boxed set!
One of the most influential and revered figures in all of cinema, Friedrich Wilheim Murnau came to prominence in the first half of the 1920s with a diverse string of productions ranging from buoyant satire to swirling psychological drama. Five key works are presented here: Schloß Vogelöd, Phantom, Die Finanzen des Großherzogs (The Grand Duke's Finances), Der Letzte Mann (The Last Laugh) and Tartuffe.
In the sinister mystery Schloß Vogelöd, terrible secrets from the past threaten a group of aristocrats' gathering at a country manor. In the delirious Phantom, an aspiring poet's chance encounter with a beautiful woman leads into obsession and deception. The delightful Die Finanzen des Großherzogs sees a rakish-but-impoverished duke setting out to rebuild his fortune via blissfully comic high adventure on the Mediterranean coast. In Der Letzte Mann, one of the undisputed masterpieces of the silent era, Emil Jannings gives an overwhelming performance as a hotel porter with dreams of a higher station in life, and was a stylistic breakthrough for both Murnau and cinema in general. Finally, the slyly satiric Tartuffe features Jannings as Molière's iconic creation in a morality tale film-within-a-film as only Murnau could conceive.
This collection features new high-definition transfers of all five films from the finest archival elements, all on Blu-ray for the first time in a special edition three-disc set.
- New high-definition presentations of all five films, created by the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung
- Uncompressed PCM audio on all five scores
- Original German-language intertitles with newly translated optional English-language subtitles on all films
- What Will You Be Tomorrow? A new video essay by filmmaker and critic David Cairns
- The Language of the Shadows: Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau and His Films, a 31-minute video piece by Luciano Berriatúa on the early works of Murnau
- Audio commentary by film scholar David Kalat on The Grand Duke's Finances
- The Making of The Last Laugh, a 41-minute documentary by Murnau expert Luciano Berriatúa
- Tartuffe: The Lost Film, a 37-minute documentary by Berriatúa
- PLUS: A 100-page book featuring writing by Charles Jameux, Lotte H. Eisner, Janet Bergstrom, Tony Rayns, and archival imagery
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Five highly recommended films for a very good price. What's not to like?
Murnau essentials, crammed into what appears to me at least, a mere afterthought of production design. Indeed the relatively standard price for such quality is accomodating, but if only the presentation was of a standard too.
I have every single version of Der Letzte Mann that Eureka have released**, each one incrementally better than the one before, in terms of image quality, and the BD is of course another step up. But it would have been nice if it came with some new artwork. I don't think that there's a single extra item on this set that I haven't already got at least twice before on previous releases. The artwork from the previous DVD releases has been reused in every instance, while an indistinct font against a mid-grey background renders it impossible to read. The whole grey appearance of the plain grey discs and the book makes it a dull affair and contains nothing I haven't seen before.
**[Was thinking of Sunrise, of which MoC have released at least four versions; but the point remains the same.]
The presentation of the two disc cases is a muddle at best and at worst a deep disappointment for someone who has bought every other previous Murnau DVD and BD release by Eureka and was hoping for, indeed expecting something new for my money.
One case presents itself on the outside as containing the single film Der Letzte Mann, but when opened you find a second disc with Die Finanzen Des Grossherzogs & Tartuffe. Its inside cover has text referring to not only those films but to Schloss Vogelod & Phantom as well, although those films are on the disc is in the second case. The exterior art for the second case reproduces the front covers of the DVDs of Schloss Vogelod & Tartuffe, although Tartuffe isn't on the disc inside, while on the inside the we see the covers of Phantom & Die Finanzen Des Grossherzogs although the latter film is not on the disc either.
But one can see why they have arranged it like this, in fact it's blatantly obvious.
My conclusion is that the Der Letzte Mann will be released as a separate product in due course with the minimum of alteration. That's exactly how it's presented in this set, as a self contained item, with ready to go cover artwork on the front and the usual texted based information on the back, with no sign its part of a package other than a small Not For Individual Sale box.
Apart from the quality of the BD discs this is the first time I've been very disappointed with one of their releases.
PS: if you have no other Murnau films, or none on MoC, and are considering exploring his work, then this set will serve you very well.
Update: 7 Oct. Ha ha, now five negative votes, you guys kill me.
Update: 20 Oct. Keep 'em coming, I can take it.
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