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3.2 out of 5 stars
3.2 out of 5 stars
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on 12 October 2016
Superb films handicapped by atrocious scores. Sounds in some cases like they've been recorded in a toilet, in an office during a lunch break, near a copy machine, etc. I take it this is another attempt by cultural Marxists using their lackey students to destroy what could have been an uplifting experience.
Its a pity art students posing as "musicians" get the chance to experiment with these things. As has been shown with Lang's Metropolis or Murnau's Faust when the correct score is used the effect can be uplifting and beautiful unlike this bilge posing as "experimental music".
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on 2 February 2013
First I have to say that I agree with most of the remarks made in the review of Mr. Arias. No doubt the music is highly inappropriate. The tendency of scoring silent films with experimental music produces strange results. Latest victim is Méliès' handcoloured "Voyage dans la lune" with the Air soundtrack. I don't blame the musicians. If BFI had hired the Sex Pistols there would have been a soundtrack according to expectations. What you hear now are mostly electronic sound experiments or what is known as musique concrète. Well, these scores simply don't match the films that consist mainly of féeries, fairy tales, fantasy films or grotesques in the Méliès style with Albert Capellani shooting outdoors with a moving camera. Better composers have failed. I think of Mauricio Kagel who tried to score Bunuel's "Chien andalou". The whole thing is really annoying and unless you switch off the sound and play your Rimsky-Korsakov record you can't enjoy the naive pictures.

Another thing is the booklet remark that no attempt has been made to restore or complete the films of the BFI National Archive with the support of other Film Archives holding fragments of titles on the DVD. This is no policy solely practised by the BFI. There are also DVDs from the Netherlands Filmmuseum (De wereld rond met Pathé 1910-1915), the Belge Cinemathèque (Animalomania) and the Filmarchiv Austria (Inferno) with the same approach. In fact, the Animalomania-DVD contains the same German print of "Martyrs chrétiens" as the BFI-DVD. There is also the same English version of one of my favorites, "La peine du talion", here called "Tit for Tat". Oddly the belgian print looks much better with a nice piano score but unfortunately has a Pathé logo in the lower left corner of the frame. There is the shorter - but complete - Lobster version on "Saved from the flames" and "Retour de flamme" with the original title and the Pathé rooster at the end.

I admit that I don't mind the practice of publishing DVDs with unrestored silents of Archive stock that otherwise wouldn't see the light of day. However there is at least one film in the collection that exists on DVD in more versions than one and supports the argument of trying everything to restore it (well, of course this applys to all incomplete films). I mean the totally crazy Segundo de Chaumón film "La légende du fantome". There is a German version on the Inferno-DVD from Filmarchiv Austria that contains underwater sequences (staged, of course) missing on the BFI-DVD which are in much better condition than the rest of the film. But there is an ugly Filmarchiv-Austria-logo in the upper right corner of the frame that destroys not only this film but all the other silents on the DVD, too. And again there is this unfortunate electronic score. Finally there is a 13 minute b/w version on a bootleg Chaumón Double-DVD that has a totally different cut with no intertitles and makes absolutely no sense. The official spanish Segundo de Chaumón-DVD doesn't contain the film.

Despite all the flaws of the BFI-DVD I recommend it for the sheer pleasure these silent films can give you. You just have to cut off the soundtrack and let your little sister play on your home cinema organ.
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on 8 September 2013
I agree with all the previous reviewers - the films are great but quite disappointed with the music soundtrack. Some in particular - La Dance du Diable is a complete failure.
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on 27 April 2014
The earlier reviews were correct . Wonderful collection of early stencil art but the soundtrack ... What were they thinking? Old projectors running backwards do nothing to enhance the images. I resorted a few times to using my own sound tracks.
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on 14 January 2013
I'm an asiduous silent movie fan and an usual buyer of this kind of products. Thus, I think I'm in a fair right to say this is not what it should have been. Films, of course, are interesting in themselves, and some of them are amazing, and DVDs of these materials are always welcome. I'm also aware that they are meant for a very specific group of buyers, and thus they should meet with certain expectations. Especially if they are produced by institutions like BFI.

That's why two of the decisions taken with this collection of hand-colored early films are hard to understand and to accept:

1) Films are not restored. Even the DVD producers state that other copies of these particular films exist in other places but that they didn't care to look for them in order to improve their prints of make them more complete. They argue proudly that they present all films as they were found on their archives, untouched, as if this was good in any way. The result is you get films with jumps here and there, no beginnings or no endings, some (if not all) of which could have been avoided by checking other prints in other film institutes in Europe. I'm sure BFI has their telephone numbers. Why to make the decision of presenting incomplete materials if that could have been prevented in a DVD meant to preserve those materials is something that escapes my mind. Obviously the original film producers didn't mean their films to be shown incomplete. So, to begin with, this is in my opinion a stupid and snob decision. On many cases, not even titles are put at the beginning of the films. If the original prints had no titles, then you get no titles on your DVD, which forces you to check on the menu or on the DVD box to understand what you at watching at, for in those cases films start abruptly. In those cases when the films did have titles (which in many cases are not even the original ones, because some are Spanish prints, some English prints, some German prints), you don't get the original French title of the film and you never get the year of production. I'm OK with letting the original print titles, but, please, put before them an explanation of what we are about to see!! As an example of another choice they could have made, you should watch the DVD restoration of the Roscoe Arbuckle/Buster Keaton recently discovered short "The Cook". Two prints from different archives were used to produce the most complete version of that film possible. And as a bonus, the DVD includes both incomplete raw original prints as a way to put in evidence the complexities of the restoration work.

2) Secondly, the DVD producers chose for the soundtrack "music" by some contemporary composers. I say "music" because you'll hardly find something like that. Instead, soundtrack usually consists of just annoying noises (but in most cases not even noises synchronized in any way with the action on the actual films), like the sound of a movie projector, and in many cases little more than that. To the point that I took the DVD out and checked with another disc to see if there was some problem with the sound system of my TV. It didn't. The soundtrack of this DVD is pure crap. It's the kind of sound effect you may find in those snob (yes, I know I already employed that word) modern art exhibitions consistent of abstract objects. It may be OK to create an ambiance in a museum, and even I wouldn't have been so harsh criticizing it, would it have been in just one of the films, or maybe in two. But ALL OF THE FILMS on this DVD are subject to such a treatment, and you do not even have the chance (something very easy to obtain) to choose a secondary more traditional sountrack. So, after checking all soundtracks, I was forced to put the TV volume down and put some piano music CD just to be able to watch the complete DVD. So distracting and disturbing are the soundtracks (or in many cases the absence of any sound). I don't say there is just one way to accompany these movies. Nor that you can only do so by employing period music. I've heard lots of different accompaniments to silent movies in other DVDs, some modern, some traditional. Some of them I like, some of them I like not. But the soundtracks on this DVD are really outrageous and seem to have been created more in order of being fancy than to favor the actual films.

Unless you have all other silent film DVDs from the period and feel complied to buy this in spite of what I say, you should better choose another collection.
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on 13 December 2015
I agree with everyone's thoughts on the soundtracks. How inappropriate and annoying! If they want to experiment, go experiment on some other group of films...or better yet they should play "Far Away" as the old joke goes. A failed experiment indeed.
I think these probably played in some places with no sound at all. One of those places is in my living room. The films are little gems after muting the speakers!
Note: Not one of the above stars go to the musicians.
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on 4 April 2015
our grandchildren loved it - no CGI !!
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on 22 March 2015
....not for everyone (especially today's kids brought up on computer animation-but sufficient to be enjoyed as a historical archive well as a useful ''source '' record.
Other commentators have discussed the sound track- in some depth- and '' reasons why''
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on 27 January 2015
Once you've seen the technique, you've seen them all. The stories themselves and the treatments aren't particularly endearing.
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on 12 May 2015
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