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HerrSchreck
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#51 Post by HerrSchreck » Sat Feb 23, 2008 3:56 am

What A Disgrace wrote:...the entirety of your early Russian cinema classics are going to be on a DVD set? Protazanov and all? I know what I want for Christmas this year.
Glorious glorious fucking heaven above.

Yeehaw!

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tryavna
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#52 Post by tryavna » Sat Feb 23, 2008 11:49 am

That's precisely the response I expected from Schreck. Anything less enthusiastic, and I would have been greatly disappointed.

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Tommaso
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#53 Post by Tommaso » Sat Feb 23, 2008 3:17 pm

But he's damn right. The ultimate dream of the silent film fan coming true...

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Tribe
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#54 Post by Tribe » Sat Feb 23, 2008 6:46 pm

I'm way unfamiliar with this Russian cinema release...can anyone fill me in what would be included?

Tribe

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MichaelB
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#55 Post by MichaelB » Sat Feb 23, 2008 6:59 pm

Tribe wrote:I'm way unfamiliar with this Russian cinema release...can anyone fill me in what would be included?
As far as I'm aware, the original Milestone VHS release was a clone of the BFI's ten-tape compilation (or vice versa).

And these were the original BFI blurbs:

1) BEGINNINGS
Features four films: Pathe's 'A Fish Factory in Astrakhan' Drankov's Sten'ka Razin (1908), Pathe Moscow's Princess Tarakanova (1910) and Romance with a Double-Bass (1911).

2) FOLKLORE AND LEGEND
Aleksandr Khanzhonkov, and the pioneer director Vasilii Goncharov. Features the fresh and authentic 'Drama in a Gypsy Camp near Moscow', 'The Brigand Brothers', an unreleased adaptation of an epic Pushkin poem, 'Rusalka' which draws on French-style special effects to realise Pushkin's play and 'A 16th Century Russian Wedding' which shows the influence of history painting.

3) STAREWICZ'S FANTASIES
Three films from the brilliant pioneer of puppet animation. Features The Dragonfly and the Ant, Christmas Eve - a live-action, ribald adaptation of a Gogol story and The Lily of Belgium, an example of his wartime propaganda shorts which mixes live-action and stop-frame animation to create an allegory of the German rape of Belgium.

4) PROVINCIAL VARIATIONS
Although the early Russian cinema was based mainly in Moscow, provincial filmmaking contributed some striking novelties. Two films are featured: 'The Wedding Day', which provides an invaluable record of traditional Jewish customs and was made in Silesia with the aide of a troupe of travelling players and 'Merchant Bashkirov's Daughter', a sensational melodrama daringly based on an actual murder scandal and apparently intended to blackmail the Bashkirov family. The ensuing publicity provoked a change of title, but also a profitable sale of the film to Pathé Frères.

5) CHARDYNIN'S PUSHKIN
Screenwriter and director Petr Chardynin's experience as a touring actor-manager enabled him to take a robust and practical approach to these adaptations of Pushkin, whose work was gaining momentum during this era as exemplifying the Russian genius. Features 'The Queen of Spades', shot on a specially built set, and 'The House in Kolomna' which was also shot on the street where actor Ivan Mozzhukhin caused a stir when playing a farcical cook in drag.

6) CLASS DISTINCTIONS
Despite strict censorship intended to prevent any inflammatory material from reaching the screen, many early Russian films achieved a remarkably candid portrayal of social conditions. Vasilii Goncharov's 'The Peasants' Lot' provided a 'balanced' view of the country as seen from the city, and contrasted the life of a rich urban family with rural poverty. Evgenii Bauer's 'Silent Witnesses' is a drama of life 'below stairs' in a Moscow mansion that depicts a world on the brink of extinction.

7) EVGENII BAUER
In five prolific years before his premature death in 1917, Bauer achieved mastery in several genres from social melodrama and erotic comedy to psychological exploration. Three films are featured: 'A Child of the Big City', which traces the heroine's evolution from an innocent seamstress to a monster of depravity and egotism, 'The 1002nd Ruse', which has much in common with the contemporary sex comedies of Lubitsch and DeMille and 'Daydreams', which is regarded by many as Bauer's surviving masterpiece, with a plot and mise-en-scène reminiscent of Vertigo.

8) IAKOV PROTAZANOV
Protazanov was the only Russian director to successfully bridge the pre- and post-revolutionary periods and this collection features two films, 'The Departure of a Great Old Man', at which the Tolstoy family took offence and prevented the film's circulation in Russia, provoking the director to add a controversial sequence of the heretic Tolstoy being received into heaven. It also includes his adaptation of the Pushkin novella 'The Queen of Spades', for which Protazanov used all the expressive devices at his disposal, adding to Mozzukhin's intense central performance with novel tracking shots and telling superimpositions.

9) HIGH SOCIETY
Features 'Antosha Ruined by a Corset' - a risqué short and one of the 24 'Antosha' shorts made by the Czech-born comedian Anton Fertner, 'A Life for a Life', which marked the pinnacle of Evgenii Bauer's attempts to emulate the lavish production and artistic values of foreign cinema, and 'The Funeral of Vera Kholodnaia' which is newsreel coverage of the vast funeral that marked the passing of the most admired star of Russian cinema.

10) THE END OF AN ERA
Between the February and October revolutions in 1917, Russian cinema reflected urgent new themes and these tantalising surviving fragments show that commercial producers were keen to exploit topical events. Features Bauer's 'The Revolutionary', which was greeted as a 'vivid example of agitational cinema' and 'For Luck' - one of his most subtle films, exploring the theme of a daughter and mother both in love with the same man. Also features 'Behind the Screen', the single reel surviving from a major two-part film which shows its two stars, Ivan Mozzhukhin and Natalia Lisenko on the eve of their departure into exile.

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HerrSchreck
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#56 Post by HerrSchreck » Sat Feb 23, 2008 7:04 pm

Much of their (earlier at least) material were ports of bfi releases (Bauer Mad Love, this set, La Terre, Chess Player, Phantom of the Opera.. or if some releases didn't make it onto bfi, at least they are Channel 4/Brownlow sourced stuff..).
Early Russian Cinema
Director:
Russia. 1908-1917.
Black & White.

When these films first showed at the Il Cinema Muto in Pordenone, Italy, the world was astonished by the genius of these films. Unseen (and many of them banned) for more than seventy years by the Soviet Government, this anthology reveals the excellence of filmmaking in Czarist Russia. From the brilliance of Evgeni Bauer's astonishing tragedies, to the animation wonders of Ladislaw Starewitch, to the remarkable acting of Ivan Moujikine, you can discover new treasures in the world of cinema!

Volume One: Beginnings
Volume Two: Folklore and Legend
Volume Three: Starewiczs Fantasies
Volume Four: Provincial Variations
Volume Five: Chardynin' Pushkin
Volume Six: Class Distinctions
Volume Seven: Evgenii Bauer
Volume Eight: Iakov Protazanov
Volume Nine: High Society
Volume Ten: The End of an Era

From the Milestone page for the orig vhs rlelease.

The weirdest part is calling one film Bauers "surviving masterpiece", considering the mindblowing Mad Love contained three stunners one after the other, each one on its own terms took my head completely off my shoulders.

The thought of seeing more from this man has me so psyched.

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MichaelB
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#57 Post by MichaelB » Sun Feb 24, 2008 9:52 am

Loads more information on individual Russian silents here (PDF link).

drdoros
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Early Russian Cinema on DVD

#58 Post by drdoros » Sun Feb 24, 2008 8:43 pm

MichaelB wrote:
Tribe wrote:I'm way unfamiliar with this Russian cinema release...can anyone fill me in what would be included?
As far as I'm aware, the original Milestone VHS release was a clone of the BFI's ten-tape compilation (or vice versa).
Please, it's just DVD-Rs -- not too great of expectations please! But thanks for the enthusiasm.

Our ERC collection was a clone of the BFI compilation, but back in the old days, the BFI and Milestone were able to conspire to bring out some great stuff. The promise of American distribution and some financial contributions from Milestone to pay for some of the prints (actually two of them later showed up in Mad Love) helped convince the powers-that-be to green light the project. But it was my good friend and mentor Ian Christie and the Pordenone people who were the creative power behind the choices.

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Tommaso
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Re: Early Russian Cinema on DVD

#59 Post by Tommaso » Mon Feb 25, 2008 6:40 am

drdoros wrote:Please, it's just DVD-Rs -- not too great of expectations please! .
Does that make any difference, apart from them probably not lasting as long as pressed dvds? Honestly, I couldn't care less whether it's a dvd-r or not, as long as these films are available in a format I can watch. Going through the descriptions in the pdf-file and looking at the running times of the videos, I thought it probably would all fit on four or five discs which would make the whole collection significnatly cheaper. But if it will be single-layered dvd-r, however, I assume it will be ten discs, then?

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MichaelB
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Re: Early Russian Cinema on DVD

#60 Post by MichaelB » Mon Feb 25, 2008 7:20 am

Tommaso wrote:Does that make any difference, apart from them probably not lasting as long as pressed dvds?
Well, they'll be sourced from analogue tape masters that were created in the early 1990s - so while they'll probably be better than the VHS versions, they certainly won't be anywhere close to the standard of a Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung restoration. But then it would be wildly unrealistic to expect them to be.

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HerrSchreck
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#61 Post by HerrSchreck » Mon Feb 25, 2008 8:53 am

Well, Dennis just said he has them sitting at home on digibetas, no? i e when he said
Dennis D wrote:No, I don't mind at all. It would also make me very happy to own my own set. (It's so hard to look at Digibetas at home.) We have finished Volume 1 and 2 and one disc and will be doing them over the year as time, staff and finances permit. The real expense is printing the covers since you have to print in bulk.
.
So maybe they were 90's digital transfers that were printed to VHS for the first run (like so many of Kino's later vhs silents). So they shouldn't be too bad. But even if they are decent analog transfers like The Chess Player, we'll be in good business. Especially for Bauer, baby! The hidden crown prince of early cinema.

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MichaelB
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#62 Post by MichaelB » Mon Feb 25, 2008 9:00 am

HerrSchreck wrote:Well, Dennis just said he has them sitting at home on digibetas, no?
He didn't specifically say he has these titles on Digibeta - he just said it's hard to watch Digibetas at home.

I'd be very surprised indeed if the masters originated on Digibeta, as that format was introduced years after the VHSes were released. But this is guesswork, and there's someone else reading this thread who'll know for certain.

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Tommaso
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Re: Early Russian Cinema on DVD

#63 Post by Tommaso » Mon Feb 25, 2008 9:27 am

MichaelB wrote:so while they'll probably be better than the VHS versions, they certainly won't be anywhere close to the standard of a Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung restoration. But then it would be wildly unrealistic to expect them to be.
Yes, no problem at all. These films (or at least some of them) are so old and so rare that a top-notch resto would not only be unrealistic, but also probably impossible to make. I wonder that these films survive at all given the somewhat troubled Russian history in the 10s and 20s.
I'm really interested how much attention these discs will get once they're out. I suspect there will be either only those ten or twenty silent freaks here on this forum who buy them, or quite differently, they will be hailed as a landmark release internationally (assuming that there are very few people outside the US who have heard of and can actually play the old NTSC VHS's). I hope for the latter, of course.

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HerrSchreck
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#64 Post by HerrSchreck » Mon Feb 25, 2008 9:42 am

Actually gosfilmofond & it's antecedents seems to have operated according to the "save everything" philosophy, even those films which were not in political agreement. Much of these Tsarist films fell out of favor once the Soviet regime set in, but the films remained well cared for. Contrast this with the 1933 NaZi regime, which destroyed anything (3Penny, Machden in Uniform, foreigns like Renoir, etc) that didn't hew to the party line.

And these films, from what I've seen, are very well preserved-- have you seen the Yevgeni Bauer material w Twilight of a Woman's Soul, After Death, and The Dying Swan, Tom? This material is in incredible shape considering it's age.

Gosfilmofond has to be the largest and greatest (and containing the hugest hidden treasure trove) archive on the earth... especially for the kind of cinema you & I love so much.

And a restoration is never impossible to make unless the elements are just total deteriorated muck. Which these films don't seem to be anywhere near.

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Michael Kerpan
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#65 Post by Michael Kerpan » Mon Feb 25, 2008 10:07 am

HerrSchreck wrote:Gosfilmofond has to be the largest and greatest (and containing the hugest hidden treasure trove) archive on the earth... especially for the kind of cinema you & I love so much..
It also occasionally coughs up things like a more complete (albeit not full) version of Tomu Uchida's Earth (only seen the less complete version so far -- hoping for a DVD based on the Russian version).

Uchida's Earth seems to be just the kind of thing that would fit nicely into Milestone's catalog --- assuming the print quality is good enough.
Last edited by Michael Kerpan on Mon Feb 25, 2008 11:48 am, edited 1 time in total.

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MichaelB
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#66 Post by MichaelB » Mon Feb 25, 2008 11:16 am

HerrSchreck wrote:And a restoration is never impossible to make unless the elements are just total deteriorated muck. Which these films don't seem to be anywhere near.
No, they're certainly not - even going by the BFI VHSes, they're in surprisingly watchable condition, even the stuff that's literally a century old.

Which is particularly impressive given that this stuff all predates the Revolution and might well have bitten the dust on those grounds alone - just as huge swathes of Afghan film history were destroyed under the Taliban in the late 1990s.

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HerrSchreck
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#67 Post by HerrSchreck » Mon Feb 25, 2008 11:38 am

Well that's whats so impressive about Gos. Look at their holdings-- all the Starewicz, Bauer, Protozanov, etc (not to mention German, "bourgoise capitalist american" etc)-- this material is in fantastic condition. Without Gos, much of the material used by the Germans at the FWMStift for German Murnau & Lang (and Pabst) would fall subpar qualitatively. (of course this has much to do with the fact that so much German material fell into Russian hands post WWII; not to mention so much French & other European holdings fell into German hands before the Germans had to surrender their holdings to Rus, which is why the holdings in Gos are so incredibly vast).

When something went against the political program, the Soviets recognized that supression was enough, it seems. They stuffed them deep down in the fridge but seem to have destroyed little. I find that admirable, considering the gigantic fear of celloloid the germans obviously had, needing to go so far as eradicate forever what could have been merely "outlawed".

We live in glorious times combining the dvd age with restorations with these vast mysterious archives being thrown wide open, to intercontinental cooperation between such former raging enemies.

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Tommaso
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#68 Post by Tommaso » Mon Feb 25, 2008 12:06 pm

You're right, of course, about Gosfilmofond, and they are a blessing indeed when it comes to German silents. My assumption that these films would not be in good condition simply came from the deplorable condition that "Earth", "Entuziasm" and even worse, "Odna", are in. I'm not sure whether a resto would help them much (well, perhaps a little), and these films are not as old as most films in the Milestone collection. But all the better to hear that the ERC films seem to look good!
HerrSchreck wrote:have you seen the Yevgeni Bauer material w Twilight of a Woman's Soul, After Death, and The Dying Swan, Tom? This material is in incredible shape considering it's age.
Yes I have, and of course this disc is one of the main reasons why I desperately want to see more pre-Soviet Russian cinema, though it's hard to believe anything else would be as good as these three Bauer films. And indeed the films as presented by the BFI (though I actually have the Milestone disc) are in fantastic condition, although I don't know whether there was additional restoration work of whatever kind for them.

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HerrSchreck
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#69 Post by HerrSchreck » Mon Feb 25, 2008 12:20 pm

I'm pretty sure the Milestone Bauer was a straight re-use of the bfi beta.

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miless
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#70 Post by miless » Mon Feb 25, 2008 2:58 pm

MichaelB wrote:just as huge swathes of Afghan film history were destroyed under the Taliban in the late 1990s.
did you hear about that group of employees from an Afghan Film Archive whom hid the room that held all of the films by plastering over the door (and unplugging the lights in that section of hallway to mask it further). The Taliban continually threatened their lives, but the cache of films was never discovered. After the Taliban was (temporarily) toppled, the film archive was opened up. I think it might have even been a National Geographic special.

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#71 Post by MichaelB » Mon Feb 25, 2008 4:36 pm

miless wrote:
MichaelB wrote:just as huge swathes of Afghan film history were destroyed under the Taliban in the late 1990s.
did you hear about that group of employees from an Afghan Film Archive whom hid the room that held all of the films by plastering over the door (and unplugging the lights in that section of hallway to mask it further). The Taliban continually threatened their lives, but the cache of films was never discovered. After the Taliban was (temporarily) toppled, the film archive was opened up. I think it might have even been a National Geographic special.
I did indeed, and read about it only the other day - not sure where: one of the British broadsheet newspapers, I think.

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#72 Post by drdoros » Mon Feb 25, 2008 4:55 pm

MichaelB wrote:I'd be very surprised indeed if the masters originated on Digibeta, as that format was introduced years after the VHSes were released. But this is guesswork, and there's someone else reading this thread who'll know for certain.
Partly correct. I have digibeta backups that I did a few years ago to protect my masters. The original masters were D2 which are digital, but about ten of the short films were recorded off a Steenbeck by the BFI (remember, this was the 1990s and I think they had the prints for an extremely short period of time such as 24 hours) so those nine are decent but not digital. Also, these nine have a very small time-code inbedded in the lower left. Volumes 8, 9 and 10 all have Bauer films and they are as good as the MAD LOVE disc. There's a press kit that be downloaded on the set at our website. Here are the contents and those with an asterik have the time code

VOLUME ONE: BEGINNINGS
Documentaries like A Fish Factory in Astrakhan (1908) preceded the first Russian dramatic production, Sten’ka Razin* (Romashkov, 1908). Meanwhile, the Moscow branch of Pathé produced its own version of the film d’art, Princess Tarakanova (Hansen/Maître, 1910) and soon followed with the first of many Chekhov adaptations, Romance with Double Bass* (Hansen, 1911). 38 minutes.

VOLUME TWO: FOLKLORE & LEGEND
Drama in a Gypsy Camp* (Siversen, 1908) and the unreleased Brigand Brothers* (Goncharov, 1912) are plein air folklore subjects, while A 16th Century Russian Wedding* (1909) and Rusalka* (1910), both directed by pioneer enthusiast Vasilii Goncharov, show how rapidly Russian cinema espoused national and cultural themes. 40 minutes.

VOLUME THREE: STAREWICZ’S FANTASIES
Ladislaw Starewicz’s later puppet animation is now better known than his brilliant beginnings at the Khanzhonkov Studio. He pioneered insect-puppets in The Ant and the Grasshopper (1911), before turning to live-action fantasy in a version of Gogol’s Christmas Eve (1913) and contributing to the war effort with an anti-German allegory, The Lily of Belgium (1915). 58 minutes.

VOLUME FOUR: PROVINCIAL VARIATIONS
Jewish life was one of the exotic subjects covered in provincial films like the Latvian Wedding Day (Slovinski, 1912). The remarkably bleak melodrama Merchant Bashkirov’s Daughter (Larin, 1913), set on the Volga, was based on a real murder scandal. 55 minutes.

VOLUME FIVE: CHARDYNIN’S PUSHKIN
The former touring actor-manager Petr Chardynin made an early name for himself with Pushkin adaptations like The Queen of Spades (1910), and The House in Kolomna (1913), in which Ivan Mosjoukine played both a dashing officer and a farcical cook in drag. 45 minutes.

VOLUME SIX: CLASS DISTINCTIONS
Despite strict censorship intended to prevent inflammatory material, Goncharov portrayed the hardship of rural life in The Peasants’ Lot (1912); and an early film by Evgenii Bauer, Silent Witnesses (1914) dealt frankly with servants’ views of their masters. 95 minutes.

VOLUME SEVEN: EVGENII BAUER
Bauer is certainly the major discovery of the early Russian cinema. In a mere five prolific years he achieved mastery in several genres, including the social melodrama of A Child of the Big City (1913), erotic comedies like The 1002nd Ruse (1915), and the psychological gothic melodrama of Daydreams (1915). 93 minutes.

VOLUME EIGHT: IAKOV PROTAZANOV
Protazanov did not shirk controversy or challenge in either his highly successful pre- or post-1917 careers. The Departure of a Great Old Man* (1912) provoked legal action by the Tolstoy family for its scandalous portrayal of the writer’s last days. Protazanov’s The Queen of Spades (1916) starred Mosjoukine in one of his most compelling roles. 95 minutes.

VOLUME NINE: HIGH SOCIETY
A panorama of Russian cinema’s social impact: Antosha Ruined by a Corset* (Puchalski, 1916) is a racy, knowing urban comedy; A Life for a Life (1916) marked the pinnacle of Bauer’s ambition to equal lavish foreign production standards; and The Funeral of Vera Kholodnaia* (1919) records the vast public response to the early death of Russia’s greatest star. 86 minutes.

VOLUME TEN: THE END OF AN ERA
Between 1917’s two revolutions, cinema reflected new themes, as in Bauer’s The Revolutionary (1917), but also pursued the traditional subject of thwarted love in what would be his last film, For Luck (1917). A fragment Behind the Screen (1917) shows the husband-wife stars Mosjoukine and Lisenko on the eve of their departure into exile. 91 minutes.

Dennis
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MichaelB
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#73 Post by MichaelB » Mon Feb 25, 2008 5:34 pm

Oh yes - I remember the timecode and being surprised that it turned up on a commercial release!

But I can't stress enough that it's tiny and unobtrusive - absolutely nothing like the kind you get on a typical screener copy.

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tryavna
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#74 Post by tryavna » Thu Mar 27, 2008 3:05 pm

Dennis,

Not sure how often you check in here, but I was just looking through some of Milestone's Mary Pickford releases and it occurs to me to ask if/when we might expect releases of Pride of the Clan, Poor Little Rich Girl, and Rosita. The latter, of course, was directed by Ernst Lubitsch, but it's actually the former two, both directed by Maurice Tourneur, that really interest me. I've gotten onto a Tourneur kick lately, but there really isn't much of his work available on DVD at the moment. The two Pickford films seem like fairly likely candidates, though, considering how many Pickford films Milestone has released so far.

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#75 Post by drdoros » Sun Mar 30, 2008 4:10 pm

tryavna wrote:Not sure how often you check in here, but I was just looking through some of Milestone's Mary Pickford releases and it occurs to me to ask if/when we might expect releases of Pride of the Clan, Poor Little Rich Girl, and Rosita. The latter, of course, was directed by Ernst Lubitsch, but it's actually the former two, both directed by Maurice Tourneur, that really interest me. I've gotten onto a Tourneur kick lately, but there really isn't much of his work available on DVD at the moment. The two Pickford films seem like fairly likely candidates, though, considering how many Pickford films Milestone has released so far.
I check in every now and then but I just spent the last four days at the Orphans 6 Conference at NYU and haven't done any internet over that time. POOR LITTLE RICH GIRL, THE HOODLUM and the restored SPARROWS will be out next year hopefully. ROSITA is my pick for a major restoration in time for the 100th anniversary of her first film appearance for 2009, but to be honest, nothing has been started yet so perhaps it will come later. PRIDE OF THE CLAN isn't on the list yet.

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