Pair of Silent Comedy Classics Return to Blu-ray in 2K Restorations
STREET DATE: FEBRUARY 7, 2017/KINO LORBER
DIRECTED BY CLYDE BRUCKMAN, BUSTER KEATON/SILENT/1926
Buster Keaton’s The General really is all it’s cracked up to be: intrigue, war, foibles, and love. KINO has teamed up with Lobster Films to bring us a new 2K restoration of this 1926 classic, paired with two orchestral scores.
If you are familiar with KINO’s previous Blu-ray release of The General, you will recall that the film is tinted and toned throughout. This restoration is not tinted or toned, but is instead presented in black & white. Which picture you prefer will probably depend a great deal on personal taste. The quality of the picture is, of course, gorgeous. The image is stable and retains grain. Some flicker is detectable, but does not distract from this reviewer’s experience.
The orchestral scores are impressive. The first is by Robert Israel and is a newly composed/compiled score which is different from his previously recorded score for KINO. Israel is a wonderful arranger/composer and films which he has scored and recorded continue to be some of my favorites in my collection. Atmosphere in Israel’s films is never lacking and The General is certainly one of his finer scores. I especially enjoyed the fuller instrumentation of the new Israel score when compared to the previous edition’s score.
Buster Keaton’s The General really is all it’s cracked up to be: intrigue, war, foibles, and love.
The other track is written by Japanese composer Joe Hisaishi and is a wonderful addition to the film. Composed in the early 2000s using a modern orchestral style which does not distract from the film, one can hear the influence which Carl Davis has exerted on the craft of silent film scoring. Complete with reflective moments and even alto saxophone solos, Davis’ style is not only emulated, but built upon handily by Hisaishi—a distinguished composer in his own right, having over 100 film scores to his credit.
The audio commentary by Michael Schlesinger and Stan Taffel is banter-filled and interesting. Far from being a dry recitation of facts (though facts are admittedly recited), the track is entertaining.
DIRECTED BY EDDIE CLINE, BUSTER KEATON/1923
Three Ages is Keaton’s take on Griffith’s Intolerance and doesn’t disappoint. Produced in 1923 for Metro Pictures by Joseph Schenk (the same producer with which he would make The General), the film is delightful to watch. It contains a wonderful period score by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra and a second score by Robert Israel.
Mild nitrate decomposition mars certain scenes, but the image is stable and beautifully presented. In the first story, Keaton is in love with the same girl as cave-man Wallace Beery. Beery rides a wooly mammoth and Keaton a brachiosaurus. The second story takes place in Rome and is complete with a sun-dial watch and chariots bearing license plates, complete with Roman numeral designations printed on them. The third story is a rehearsal of the same competition of love set in “modern” times. This film is scene after scene of beautifully executed comedy and I alternated between chuckles and laughing so hard I could barely breathe.
Both films are a joy to watch and to share—so pop some popcorn, invite some friends over, round up the kids, and watch a double feature!
The images in this review are not necessarily representative of the actual Blu-ray image quality and are intended only to represent the films themselves.
**This article previously incorrectly identified the Israel score has having been identical to the previous KINO editions. Mr. Israel kindly asked me to review my assertion and I offer my sincerest apologies for having posted something I had not fully investigated.**