Restored Silent Films

I love a good silent film. One of the better trends recently is Film Restoration. They’re doing this to more recent films, too (Lawrence of Arabia, Spartacus), but I’m blown away by what they’ve done to silent films.
Case in point, and the reason for this post: the original 1925 film The Lost World. Ages ago I got a copy of this film dubbed from a private collection. It was, of course, in terrible shape. I looked at commercial copies on VHS when they became available, and they weren’t much better.
About three years ago Lumivision put out a VHS copy of the print in the collection at George Eastman House. It was much better than the other copies, it was properly tinted, and it had a good score. They also included a series of stills from the missing scenes (the existing prints only ran for just under an hour. The original feature was over 100 minutes long.).

When I got my DVD player I picked up the DVD of the Lumivision version. I was disappointed – the “reconstructed” scenes using the stills weren’t there! I don’t know why not – perhaps there was some legal issue.

But a couple of months ago another DVD version came out. I thought at first that it was the same one, since it also used the original 1925 movie poster as a cover. But the back cover said that this one had additional footage, and a commentary track by the author of The Annotated Lost World. I bought it.

I am impressed. This version combined scenes from eight different prints, including some only discovered recently. They also added new title cards, a new set of credits, and new “cutaway” shots. The film is now over 90% of the original. I am blown away. The story is much less choppy, and makes a LOT more sense. There are two different scores. They’ve also added a set of newly-discovered outtakes from the film!

I liked Giorgio Moroder’s “restoration” of Metropolis (including the modern score), even though purists hate it. Moroder’s version actually cuts out some scenes from the “classic” version, but it adds a LOT of stuff that isn’t in any other copy, and it’s struck from a differenbt negative than most copies (I know of only one other version struck from that negative). Unfortunately, it’s not available on DVD, AFAIK. I’ve been told that a LOT more of the film is now available, but that, aside from one public showing in LA several years back, it hasn’t been seen. I hope that a restored version of it becomes available.

I also have heard (and now seen in stores) about a restored version of Nosferatu. This version, I hope, tints the prints so that the night scenes are in blue – the usual prints don’t tint them at all, and the night scenes are indistinguishable from the day scenes.

One of the more interesting “restorations” I saw was for Les Vampires. According to AMC, for years Les Vampires was hailed as a surrealist classic. Then the title cards were discovered, and oooops, it’s not surrealism at all. They showed episodes of the version with title cards over several Sundays and I enjoyed it very much. (Though as frenetic as it is, I think they could have thrown in a couple of real vampires. They had everything else imaginable going on.)

I have the Image edition of Nosferatu. I think the print is pretty good, including the tinting.

However, I was extremely disappointed with the score(s), especially since the original was recently re-engineered and performed by the NSO.

I think a definitive edition of that film has yet to be made for DVD, although I will be happy to be corrected.

I hope that this will be a proper link to some 85 Amazon customer reviews of this edition.