Silent film by Ernst Lubitsch about the life of the infamous mistress of King Louis XV of France. Pola Negri plays the provocative couriter Madame DuBarry who seduces the King of France (Emil Jannings), charming her way into his lavish lifestyle. Harry Liedtke and Edward von Winterstein also star.
As far as I can tell, this is the first release worldwide of the 2001 Murnau foundation restoration of Madam Dubarry & the first release of the film in any form in the UK (Makes me wonder how many other gems are sitting in the Murnau foundation vaults!). The only other versions I can find are Public Domain low quality discs from USA indie Grapevine (great intentions, but they tend to use Public Domain quality prints), & a German PD edition that appears to have gone out of print.
The importance of this film is due to the 3 principles: Director Ernst Lubitsch, & stars Emil Jannings & (Polish actress) Pola Negri. The print quality is very, very good for 1919. As the booklet makes clear, the film is about entertainment, & not about historical accuracy. I appreciate MOC making that clear, as I am not a student of French history.
Dubarry held my attention completely, though it isn't Negri or Janning's best work. Jannings in particular didn't take on his usual intense persona until his death bed scene. I think part of the issue is that the long white historical French court wigs tend to anonymize the actors a bit.
Negri (& for collectors) Lubitsch are the main reasons for watching this film (She has some very good scenes); along with it being a very good print of a previously all but unavailable classic film. While much of Jannings & Lubitsch's work is available today on home video, there is little Pola Negri available (especially to the English speaking fan).
In fact, a quick check seems to show that for Americans such as I the only currently available restored Negri are Sumrun & The Wildcat; both with Lubitsch. There are also PD editions of Eyes of The Mummy (1918; also a collaboration between Lubitsch, Jannings & Negri) & Sappho (1921); & in the USA an expensive PD edition of another 1918 Ernst Lubitsch/Pola Negri film called Gypsy Blood & that's about it. There appears to be even less available in the UK. She was a fine actress; it's a shame her work is so poorly represented.
Madame Dubarry reunited Negri & Jannings with Lubitsch the year after Eyes Of The Mummy (which also deserves a restoration).
As a bonus, the set also includes a 1916 Lubitsch film, When I Was Dead that was previously considered lost (even by EL's main biographer, Scott Eyman).
To be honest, I didn't particularly enjoy Dead; your mileage may vary as I am not a big fan of silent comedy that borders on slapstick (I will state that Lubitsch shows much more restraint in this genre than his American counterparts). However, for German film collectors & Lubitsch fans it will likely still be a treat. The print is not nearly as good as Dubarry, but considering it was considered lost until now, having it at all is pretty significant, & it is quite watchable. It does make clear how much Lubitsch grew as a director between 1916-1919.
It also comes with an excellent booklet with background on both films by David Cairns. There are no other extras.
The version I reviewed is the dvd; I expect the Blu-ray will be even better as far as the excellent transfer of Dubarry.
Again, I would recommend this to both fans & completests of the 3 principle participants. Dubarry is an enjoyable watch, & MOC does there usual great work of choosing a superior transfer, & quality disc authoring.
Note: I'm not going to reviewing the actual movie here, but considering this item as a product.
I've found this title a bit of a disappointment from MoC. It’s the first ever proper release of this film in the UK, as represented by a restoration carried out in 2001. The film looks gorgeous in HD, and it’s good to finally see a non-bootleg version. I had this pre-ordered as I was looking forward to seeing it.
But it’s a very underwhelming release. Where are the extras?! Aside from the short film included (which is an interesting little footnote in the career of the director) there is nothing else on this disc. Nothing at all. I don’t require a lavish documentary or full-length commentary, but even just a little filmed introduction by a film boffin wouldn't have gone amiss. Are there any quotes from Lubistch concerning the movie that could have been included on screen in a manner akin to early DVD releases, even? The scores on both movies are also sadly in stereo only, and not 5.1. I find this a bit unacceptable for a BluRay released in 2014 - especially when the quality of other MoC titles in taken into consideration. The booklet is the only real ‘extra’ and it’s a very, very good little one with both of the films examined individually.
All in all, a rather underwhelming release. So much so I actually sold my copy on after watching it. For what amounts to the début of this film in UK since effectively 1919, I was hoping for much more than this. MoC will hopefully revisit this title at a later date and give it a bit more attention.