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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.19:1 Standard
  • English Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • Restored high-definition transfers of two different versions: the American Movietone version, and the silent Czech version Original English intertitles on the Movietone version, and optional English subtitles on the silent Czech version
  • Original Movietone score (mono) and alternate Olympic Chamber Orchestra score (stereo)
  • Full-length audio commentary by ASC cinematographer John Bailey on the Movietone version
  • Outtakes with either John Bailey commentary or intertitles
  • Murnau's 4 Devils: Traces of a Lost Film - Janet Bergstrom's updated 40-minute documentary about the lost Murnau film
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • Original 'photoplay' script by Carl Mayer with Murnau's handwritten annotations (150 pages in pdf format)
  • 68-page illustrated booklet with numerous essays including a new reprint of a piece by Dudley Andrew

Sunrise

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: F.W. Murnau
Starring: Janet Gaynor, George O'Brien
1927 | 95 Minutes

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: £24.99 | Series: The Masters of Cinema Series | Edition: #1
Eureka Entertainment Ltd

Release Date: September 21, 2009
Review Date: February 26, 2010

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SYNOPSIS

This new 2009 reissue of Sunrise (for the first time anywhere in the world in 1080p HD on Blu-ray, in addition to a newly mastered 2 x DVD set) contains two versions of the film: the previously released Movietone version, and an alternate silent version of the film recently discovered in the Czech Republic. The Blu-ray edition includes both versions in 1080p HD.

The culmination of one of the greatest careers in film history, F. W. Murnau's Sunrise blends a story of fable-like simplicity with unparalleled visual imagination and technical ingenuity. Invited to Hollywood by William Fox and given total artistic freedom on any project he wished, Murnau's tale of the idyllic marriage of a peasant couple (George O'Brien and Janet Gaynor) threatened by a Machiavellian seductress from the city (Margaret Livingston) created a milestone of film expressionism.

Made in the twilight of the silent era, it became both a swan song for a vanishing medium and one of the few films to instantly achieve legendary status. Winner of three Oscars for Best Actress (Gaynor), Cinematography, and a never-repeated award for "Unique and Artistic Picture", its influence and stature has only grown with each passing year. The Masters of Cinema Series is proud to present a new 2xDVD and Blu-ray special edition of the film, including an all-new alternate version recently discovered in a Czech archive of a higher visual quality than any other known source.

Discuss the film and Blu-ray here   


PICTURE

The Masters of Cinema Series presents two versions of F. W. Murnauís Sunrise: The original Movietone version, presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.20:1, and then the newly discovered Czech version, presented in the aspect ratio of 1.37:1. Both are presented on the same dual-layer Blu-ray disc.

I have not seen the original Masters of Cinema DVD, but have seen the North American Fox DVD. The Fox DVD looked pretty good with some minor if distracting source issues, but this new Blu-ray (which is also the first Blu-ray release for a silent film) offers a drastic improvement.

For all those that keep claiming older films canít benefit from high-def transfers (obviously not really understanding film resolution) they should really look at the transfer found here for both versions, both of which look spectacular. As to the Movietone version there is still print damage present (the booklet presents a note stating, more or less, that it was decided not to do much in the way of digital restoration as it would ďdisrupt the sfumato qualities in many scenesĒ) with some specs of debris, scratches, tears, and some mild flickering appearing, but itís nowhere near as bad as one would expect; itís still incredibly clean. And as stated the digital transfer itself is superb, looking incredibly film-like. The image is about as sharp as can be expected, the picture somewhat limited because of the original materials used, but the transfer is clean and free of artifacts.

The Czech version has far more damage present but itís actually quite a bit sharper than the Movietone version, looking quite striking. This version is actually shorter, with snips here and there (as well as some alternate shots) so the Movietone version is the one to watch, but I still recommend checking out the Czech version if just to see the quality of the image.

In all an impressive looking high-def release and a fantastic treat. I feared Iíd never see a film such as Sunrise on the format and it looks as good as I hoped it would.

(While a UK release the disc is region free and should play on all Blu-ray players. I had no issue playing the disc back on my North American PS3.)

8/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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Movietone Version

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Movietone Version

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Movietone Version

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Movietone Version

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Movietone Version

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Movietone Version

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Movietone Version

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Movietone Version

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Czech Version

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Czech Version

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Czech Version

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Czech Version

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Czech Version

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Czech Version

AUDIO

Both versions come with similar Dolby TrueHD 2.0 mono tracks presenting the filmís original score. The Movietone version also comes with an alternate Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Surround track presenting an alternate score by the Olympic Chamber Orchestra. It should be noted that the source materials for the newly discovered Czech version did not have any audio materials so the Movietoneís score was reedited to match the shorter Czech version.

Of the two the newer track does sound better, presenting excellent range and fidelity and filling out the environment beautifully. Itís sharp and crystal clear. The original mono track is certainly weaker but still nowhere near as weak as I would have expected. It actually still sounds fairly sharp with some okay range. The track is clear of noise and damage having been cleaned up beautifully.

Sound quality aside, though, I do prefer the original track. While the new track is interesting in presenting a different tone to the film I still find the original mono score more suiting and itís the one Iíll be sticking with. In the end itís going to come down to personal preference but know that the audio quality on both is exceptional.

7/10

SUPPLEMENTS

For their new Blu-ray release Masters of Cinema has included some great features, most of which have appeared on other DVD editions (including Masters of Cinemaís original DVD release.)

The most notable feature is the Czech version of the film, which so far is exclusive to this release and the DVD counterpart. It runs about 80-minutes compared to the Movietoneís 93-minutes. As I mentioned in the video section of this review the picture quality is a bit better than the Movietone version, looking far sharper, though containing far more damage to the print. Itís interesting to view, containing a few differences in comparison to the Movietone version. But while the image is quite a bit sharper here I would still recommend sticking with the Movietone. As the booklet points out there is no evidence as to which one comes closest to Murnauís preferred version, but some of the cuts and trims are bizarre and there is suspicion that some of the excised sequences were cut out simply because the film was in bad condition. Of course again it may come down to personal preference but no matter what the Czech version is a wonder to behold, giving the sharpest, clearest picture for this visual spectacle of a film and it is certainly worth viewing for anyone fond of the film. (Note: The menu has the times reversed. The Movietone version states itís 79-minutes while the Czech version states itís 93-minutes, when in fact the opposite is true. The Movietone version comes with English intertitles naturally, but the Czech version comes with Czech intertitles with optional English subtitles.

As mentioned in the audio portion of this review the Movietone version also comes with an alternate score composed by the Olympic Chamber Orchestra. Sound quality is excellent but I canít say I was too fond of it. Again, personal preference, but even though it does take some influences from the original Movietone score, the tone of it just didnít fit the film for me. Itís worth giving it a go, though, at least once.

The Movietone version also plays with an audio commentary by ASC cinematographer John Bailey, which appeared on the Fox DVD and the original Masters of Cinema DVD (or I suspect it to be the same track, again I havenít seen the original Masters of Cinema DVD.) As a director of photography he is certainly an excellent choice to provide a commentary for what is a visually complex film, with some impressive and stunning camerawork. Though it can maybe take some of the awe out of it itís intriguing listening to him break down some sequences, and it moves by rather briskly. He also points out things he is unsure about, possible compromises Murnau made have made with William Fox, and also provides theories as to how some sequences were shot. It gets technical but I found it fascinating and it has very few dead spaces. Certainly worth listening to.

The presentation for the outtakes is a little bizarre, presented without a commentary track or with one provided again by John Bailey. Whatís odd is that the time lengths differ, the ďnon-commentaryĒ version runs about 9-minutes and 15-seconds while the commentary version runs just shy of 10-minutes. The ďnon-commentaryĒ version also has intertitles. While they present a lot of the same outtakes they both also contain outtakes not found in the other version, such as the non-commentary version showing footage of Murnau. I found it odd and am not completely sure why it was done this way, but both are worth viewing since they do contain some differing material. As to the commentary, it has Bailey explain some of the differences, where he can see them anyways.

Murnauís 4 Devils: Traces of a Lost Film is a 41-minute visual essay by Janet Bergstrom. Murnauís film 4 Devils is long lost and in this essay Bergstrom covers the filmís history and even tries to offer a sort-of recreation of it using portions of the script, notes, and blueprints and designs. Thereís also photos from the set (including one of the set) and of the performers. Iíve been fairly fascinated with this film so this was an excellent comprehensive piece on it.

The disc then closes with the original theatrical trailer for the film.

Originally the release was to come with something like a 120-page booklet, but this was ultimately abandoned due to the girth of it. Instead we get a 20-page booklet featuring notes on the two film versions, the restoration, and the Blu-ray itself. Masters of Cinema also provided a download on their site, a zip file which includes the script for 4 Devils and the original photoplay for Sunrise, both in Word format. Thereís also a PDF for the Sunrise screenplay, which looks to be a copy of whatever version Fox has in their library (complete with studio stamps and markings.) There is also a reprint of an article on the film by Dudley Andrew, complete with references to stills from the film. Itís 38-pages and is also presented in PDF format. The download for this zip file can be found on MoCís page for Sunrise here.

In all a nice selection of supplements, though theyíve been available elsewhere, but theyíre still worth going through and the inclusion of the Czech version is an excellent find and makes for a great inclusion.

8/10

CLOSING

I applaud everyone involved with this disc. The transfer is incredible and it looks fantastic, despite the damage still present (which, letís face it, isnít at all bad when one considers the age of the film.) I love this release, one of my favourite Blu-rays from 2009, and it shows just how Blu-ray can benefit older films, even those from the silent era. Absolutely lovely.


View packaging for this Blu-ray

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