One of the things I love about the DVD era is that there have been restored versions of silent films that habve only recently become available, and excellent quality ones at that. I’m partial to fantastic genre films, so you’ll have to forgive me that, but in the past couple of months I’ve seen
Metropolis – the fully restored version. My daughter recently asked me why I watched this so often. I puled out my oldest copy of the film and looked at it – it’s the one I grew up on, the horribly abridged and totally washed-out print with really inappropriate music. When I saw the Giorgious Moroder restored version i 1984 i was blown away by the sharpness and crispness of the image (especially the opening animation – the versions I’d seen before were so washed-out that I wasn’t even aware that there was title animation). then about ten years ago the newly-restored version with even crisper images 9and with more scenes. Among other things, Moroder actually cut out scenes to keep the running time 90 minutes). And then only a couple of years ago the newly-restored version, with scenes not seen since the initial release. i read an article recently about the film, in which someone talked to Fritz Lang about his film in the 1960s, and he said he couldn’t understand why people were so interested in a film that no longer existed – even Lang wasn’t aware of the version stored in South america. Each “restoration” has been a revelation, and this last one shows that there is overlying structure that wasn’t even evident in the previous release. A great flick, and worth the watching.
Nosferatu – I watched every version of Dracula I could get my hands on this month, including this one. Sadly, the most complete version of the film still hasn’t been released to DVD. One of these days it will be.
Frankenstein – the 1910 Edison version was thought to be lost for the longest time, but it turned up in the hands of a collector in the 1980s. he refused to release it or have it conserved for a long time, but finally relented and it was briefly available on DVD. Now you can watch it on YouTibe and other internet sites. Not a “Great” film, but historically significant. We still have a lot of the production documents and the script, too.
The Lost World the 1925 film was only available in a severely clipped version, a little more than half the original length, until about a decade ago. Using prints from several European libraries, a restorede version was put together circa 2000 by Eastman House in Rochester. To the ire of fans (who’d contributed to the restoration), they refused to release the film or make it generally available, restricting it to a few showings at their Dryden Theater. (In addition, Eastman House didn’t use much of the new material on the grounds that it was not described in scripts) In response, silent film restorationist Dave Shepard put together another version, using the same archival material (and using more of it). He released it to DVD back about 2002, when I bought my own copy. The Eastman House version was quietly released as a bonus feature on the DVD release of the 1960 Irwin Allen color version of The Lost World (an insanely backward decision, from several points of view). I recently purchased a copy of this at the Borders going out of business sale. And, of course, watched it. I can’t agree with the reviewers who call it “smoother” and “more artistic” – I prefer Shepard’s. I haven’t compared the two restorations side by side yet. ( http://silentmoviemonsters.tripod.com/TheLostWorld/LWRESTORATION.html )
I’ve plenty of other silent films, many recently restored, but these are the only ones I’ve watched recently.