Having just watched this DVD for the third time (this time, with the commentary) I thought I'd take a moment to weigh in with my opinions.
Perhaps, later, I'll take the time to make an in-depth posting about the film itself (possibly my favourite silent movie of all time,) but the moment I'll confine my post to the merits and flaws of the DVD...
- Firstly, the interlacing; On my first viewing, I watched the movie on a computer screen with no idea that there would be interlacing (I already new that MoC, commendably, tends to release NTSC versions instead of PAL>NTSC conversions, so when I saw the artefacts, I thought at first it must be an optical illusion or problem with my computer) and by about thirty minutes into the movie it was quite impossible not to notice it, especially on Mephisto's new costume (the sword, the creases and folds in the cape, etc.)
- Second viewing, on my new LCD television, properly calibrated, etc. was even worse.
- Third viewing; I had the idea of tuning the 'sharpness' right down to minimum (which, in part, negates the point of a high-quality DVD release) but at least the interlacing was finally bearable. Mostly non-existant, except for an occasional shot here and there.
I'll get back to my thoughts on the acceptability of this, later. Firstly, I'd like to offer a review of the extra-features...
Basically, unlike the transfer, I'm very pleased with the extras. But, as is my habit, I'll dwell on those points were I think there's some opportunity for tiny improvements...
- The commentators have been discussed elsewhere. Engaging and informative, but in future DVD releases it might be nice to have an onscreen glossary (in the form of a subtitle track,) just ten or fifteen subtitles over the course of the film should do it; enough to clarify terms like 'chiaroscuro' or, more importantly, to clarify the names of the various foreign films which are mentioned (titles from a foreign language are easy enough to recognise when written, but a bit of a problem to understand when only spoken.)
- As a concept, I very much liked the Tony Raynes interview (simple, one-shot camera set-up, without a distracting background, and recorded in black&white so as not to be jarring with the film,) but, I did find it a little hard to sit through. That sort of presentation might work well on shorter pieces, but I wonder if the 40 minute interview might have worked better as a half-length non-scene-specific commentary track (on the export version, if one doesn't want to take up further space on the domestic's bitrate)
- Haven't watched the comparison yet, so I shan't comment there.
- The harp-score is an excellent addition. I think a minimalist score is probably the best way to appreciate most silent movies (for years, I saw Faust only on video, with a similarly effective solo-piano score.) It may not be perfect for supporting the heavier horror moments, but it certainly isn't distracting and that's what matters to most to me. As for supporting the horror/melodrama scenes, and the various other advantages of a full-orchestral type score, fortunately we have...
- Extra points for the inclusion of two scores (although I haven't listened to the orchestral score yet) an additional score is always a wonderful extra with plenty or replay value.
- The booklets have been discussed, extensively, elsewere. I agree, it's splendid.
- I'm also inclined to award considerable points (whatever that means) for the 'straight to the menu screen' format, and the refreshingly polite wording of the copyright warning.
My recommendation; the unacceptable transfer flaw prevents me from giving this a recommendation to casual buyers. (Actually, I recently considered, and decided against buying a copy of MoC's "Spione" due entirely to reports of a similar flaw)
If, however, you absolutely must have this film on DVD (as I do) then MoC (or, Divisa Red, if you find it cheaply) is the way to go (still way ahead of all the 'export print' DVDs)
That ends my comment; incidentally, MoC and/or Amazon.uk recently dropped the prices on many of the series to 9.95 (were's the pound key?) so, after checking here on the quality of the transfers and extras, I ordered a few more which I may review, later, if I have time.
Post Scriptum - For those who suggest "not looking at the transfer flaws," I'd suggest that you've kind of missed the whole point of silent-movies. Certainly, what I love about the expressionist classics (and some of the early cinerama) is that the viewer is not just presented with a series of images, but with a series of immense tableux which he is free to explore. Studying every detail of the frame is the fun of these movies