I love the fact that FOX has gone into their vaults to bring some long lost classics back out on blu-ray. It’s such a rare treat to see some of these films, that to be perfectly honest I would never have been exposed to.
One such film is Sunrise. Shot in 1929, Sunrise was honored at the first ever Academy Awards with the “most unique and artistic picture,” Best Actress and Best Cinematography. It’s a silent film, that you should really experience if you’ve never given these long lost classics a try.
Sunrise is based on Herman Sudermann’s A Visit to Tilsit, and tells the story of “The Man” (George O’Brien) who is a farmer and is having an affair with a woman in the City (Margaret Livingston). His Wife (Janet Gaynor) however, is quite pretty but the woman in the City tries to get The Man to murder his wife and sell the farm.
The Man thinks about it, even flying into a rage but then finally decides to commit the evil act. He decides to call his Wife out on the boat and then drown her. Once on the water he just can’t go through with it but his Wife figures it out. On land she runs from him in fear of her life, and jumps on a trolly to the city but The Man gets on at the last minute and follows her begging her to trust him.
Eventually they seem to reconcile over the course of the evening but on the boat ride home they hit a storm and the boat capsizes. It’s an interesting moral story and the rest of the film, which I won’t spoil makes you think about the choices you have in life.
The interesting this about the film was that while it’s technically a silent film, (There are effects and a score) it was done during the advent of the “talkies.” The special effects are also all done practical and “in camera.” There are some amazing sequences especially when The Man is going through the woods to the city or when The Man and Wife are winding through traffic in the city. It’s pretty incredible what they did considering the time period.
Another interesting thing about Sunrise, is that the original negative of the film was destroyed during the 1930’s fire at FOX studios. Subsequently, there is no “official” master version of the film. The European cut, i.e. silent version is included as well as the above recap of the Monotone version of the film. The Monotone version features the effects and score. Both cuts are different in many shots and are worth taking a look at.
It’s interesting to judge picture quality of a film that was released in 1929 but here we are in 2014 doing just that. Blu-ray as a medium is great for restoration and here while here are clear imperfections, it still looks great considering it’s age. I can’t imagine any other way that this film would look this good except on blu-ray.
The special features are plentiful on this disc which is another treat. There is a commentary track by ASC Cinematographer John Bailey, outtakes with commentary, original Scenario by Carl Mayer, The Sunrise Screenplay, notes on the restoration, and the theatrical trailer.
Overall, while you may think that silent films are not your cup of tea, I suggest giving this one a try. It’s pretty amazing that we can get these classic films released on blu-ray and new generations can experience them.
Sunrise is available now on Blu-ray!
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