BFI to release BIRTH OF A NATION in September

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BFI to release BIRTH OF A NATION in September

PostTue Aug 18, 2015 8:35 am

The BFI will be releasing BIRTH OF A NATION in September:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/B012WL7FCK/

This will be the Photoplay restoration and the running time is listed as 194 minutes.

Special Features

Two short films by D W Griffith; The Rose of Kentucky (1911) and The Coward (1911)
The Drummer of the 8th (1913) - short film starring future Oscar® winning director Frank Borzage
(A Farewell to Arms)
Stolen Glory (1912) - a comedy starring Ford Sterling filmed against the backdrop of a parade
of Union Civil War veterans
1930 re-release title sequence and short archival introduction by D W Griffith
Photoplay orchestral recording sessions
Out-takes and original camera tests
D W Griffith on Lux Radio Theatre
BFI Southbank roundtable discussion (2015)
Fully illustrated booklet with news essays and full credits

Any thoughts on this one...?

( No political diatribes, please )
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Re: BFI to release BIRTH OF A NATION in September

PostTue Aug 18, 2015 9:14 am

I find the John Lanchbery score far superior to the original Joseph Breil, so I would get this one rather than the Kino version.
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Re: BFI to release BIRTH OF A NATION in September

PostTue Aug 18, 2015 11:34 am

This will be the definitive restoration of BOAN, in my opinion. It's coming out slightly late in the film's centennial year in part because Photoplay has been making a major effort to track down the best version of every last piece of footage. As I understand it, the sources include the original camera negative.

(Full disclosure: I contributed some research and essay material to this project, though I'm not sure whether it will be appearing in the final product).
Last edited by Brooksie on Wed Aug 19, 2015 4:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: BFI to release BIRTH OF A NATION in September

PostTue Aug 18, 2015 11:46 am

I'm betting this will blow the Kino out of the water. Yet another film I'm going to have to double dip on because Kino didn't get it right the first time.

Ordered.
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Re: BFI to release BIRTH OF A NATION in September

PostTue Aug 18, 2015 2:23 pm

The MoC from Eureka already blows Kino out of the water. Perhaps BFI will be better but it will have to be really great to get me to double dip. Here are the DVDBeaver screen caps of the Eureka (superior black levels, fewer specks, and better grain:

http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film/dvdcompare/birthofanation.htm
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Re: BFI to release BIRTH OF A NATION in September

PostTue Aug 18, 2015 4:47 pm

I have to say, looking at those screen captures there really hasn't been all that much improvement over the original Image DVD. It is what it is.
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Re: BFI to release BIRTH OF A NATION in September

PostTue Aug 18, 2015 5:26 pm

i hope it comes out on dvd here in the usa.
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Re: BFI to release BIRTH OF A NATION in September

PostTue Aug 18, 2015 6:01 pm

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Re: BFI to release BIRTH OF A NATION in September

PostTue Aug 18, 2015 6:04 pm

Yeah, looks like the equivalent of a brown paper bag...
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Re: BFI to release BIRTH OF A NATION in September

PostTue Aug 18, 2015 7:44 pm

Yike. Ugly art.
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Re: BFI to release BIRTH OF A NATION in September

PostTue Aug 18, 2015 8:26 pm

Looks worth it for the extras alone, esp if you don't already own a copy.
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Re: BFI to release BIRTH OF A NATION in September

PostTue Aug 18, 2015 10:09 pm

Well, my contribution is a new Mont Alto score for The Coward. Despite the Amazon.com listing, this is not a DW Griffith film from 1911, but was directed by Reginald Barker and Thomas Ince in 1915. The film is very competently made, especially the impressive battle sequences. What particularly struck me about The Coward is how much was borrowed from it for Buster Keaton's The General -- the recruiting station at which the hero doesn't get recruited (for very different reasons), the army marching off to war, and even our hero overhearing plans and hiding under a table in a house commandeered by Northern generals.
Last edited by Rodney on Thu Aug 20, 2015 9:23 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: BFI to release BIRTH OF A NATION in September

PostTue Aug 18, 2015 10:19 pm

Brooksie wrote:This will be the definitive restoration of BOTM, in my opinion. It's coming out slightly late in the film's centennial year in part because Photoplay has been making a major effort to track down the best version of every last piece of footage. As I understand it, the sources include the original camera negative.

(Full disclosure: I contributed some research and essay material to this project, though I'm not sure whether it will be appearing in the final product).


After so many years waiting for "this" release I will finally make the effort and plunge in and order it when it becomes available.
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Re: BFI to release BIRTH OF A NATION in September

PostWed Aug 19, 2015 6:00 am

I will definitely get this, I would like to see the Photoplay restoration and the extras look great. This will be my fourth double dip for this film (2x VHS, 2x DVD).
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Re: BFI to release BIRTH OF A NATION in September

PostWed Aug 19, 2015 4:52 pm

Rodney wrote:Well, my contribution is a new Mont Alto score for The Coward. Despite the Amazon.com listing, this is not a DW Griffith film from 1911, but was directed by Reginald Barker and Thomas Ince in 1915. The film is very competently made, especially the impressive battle sequences. What's particularly striking about The Coward is how much was borrowed from it for Buster Keaton's The General -- the recruiting station, the army marching off to war, and even our hero overhearing plans and hiding under a table in a house commandeered by Northern generals.


Aha! I suspected that might be the case. Many of the original reviews of The Coward that I've read make comparisons with BOAN, some even suggesting that the Ince film is the better of the two. As always, it's difficult to separate the truth from the ballyhoo, but I've still never seen it (despite writing about it last year) and look forward to doing so.

As to the box art - I think it attempts to replicate the original poster and 'logo', for want of a better word, from the original release in some markets. Whether there was an element of brown-baggishness to that choice of logo in 1915 is an interesting question. Then again, it could be an attempt to create something instantly recognisable at a time when newspaper advertisements for films were beginning to come into their own.

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Re: BFI to release BIRTH OF A NATION in September

PostWed Aug 19, 2015 5:32 pm

The Coward is quite good. Better? Well, hardly the epic BOAN Is, but you might well find it a more human and relatable story than the grandeur of Griffith and the overheated fantasies of Thomas Dixon. Anyway, well worth seeing in its own right.
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Re: BFI to release BIRTH OF A NATION in September

PostWed Aug 19, 2015 7:14 pm

The "art" looks like a circus poster..... but it's a great film nonetheless.
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Re: BFI to release BIRTH OF A NATION in September

PostThu Aug 20, 2015 6:48 am

Rodney wrote:Well, my contribution is a new Mont Alto score for The Coward. Despite the Amazon.com listing, this is not a DW Griffith film from 1911, but was directed by Reginald Barker and Thomas Ince in 1915. The film is very competently made, especially the impressive battle sequences. What's particularly striking about The Coward is how much was borrowed from it for Buster Keaton's The General -- the recruiting station, the army marching off to war, and even our hero overhearing plans and hiding under a table in a house commandeered by Northern generals.


The complete title for Griffith's 1911 Short film is "Bobby the Coward."
Unlike the 1915 Civil War story, it's apparently about a girlfriend who thinks her boyfriend a coward when he won't fight the town bullies. When the harassment escalates, he does fight and wins back his girl.
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Re: BFI to release BIRTH OF A NATION in September

PostThu Aug 20, 2015 7:10 am

Mike Gebert wrote:The Coward is quite good. Better? Well, hardly the epic BOAN Is, but you might well find it a more human and relatable story than the grandeur of Griffith and the overheated fantasies of Thomas Dixon. Anyway, well worth seeing in its own right.


Charles Ray's performance is very good, and the film has very good period atmosphere, but it shows a problem with pacing that we often see in early features. It moves rather slowly, as if Ince/Barker stretched the story, which could have been told effectively in three reels, into five.
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Re: BFI to release BIRTH OF A NATION in September

PostThu Aug 20, 2015 7:56 am

Mitch Farish wrote:
Mike Gebert wrote:The Coward is quite good. Better? Well, hardly the epic BOAN Is, but you might well find it a more human and relatable story than the grandeur of Griffith and the overheated fantasies of Thomas Dixon. Anyway, well worth seeing in its own right.


Charles Ray's performance is very good, and the film has very good period atmosphere, but it shows a problem with pacing that we often see in early features. It moves rather slowly, as if Ince/Barker stretched the story, which could have been told effectively in three reels, into five.


I agree with the pacing criticism... at film speeds where the battle scenes play well, some of the "acting" is too slow. While there are no scenes that I would have left out, Frank Keenan (the actor who plays the father of the coward) was a big stage star, and does his emoting verrrrry slowly. I'm sure it went over gangbusters in the legitimate the-ay-ter, and slow emoting certainly can work well in carefully-chosen silent film scenes... but Keenan tends to use the technique in every scene, no matter how trivial, and by the end of the movie it gets a bit ridiculous. Just open the door and forgive your son, okay? Charles Ray was clearly not the headliner, but he's a much better movie actor.

I did try to pick appropriately emotional music for the slower scenes, so you'll have something nice and effective to listen to.

The movie also makes good use of "movie" tricks, considering it's from 1915, including an amazing depth of field in the army mustering sequence with a parade in the foreground that we see winding across a hill in the very distant background, and a scene similar to The Musketeers of Pig Alley where a man on patrol walks almost into the camera's lens for a striking close-up.

I'd comment more on the Photoplay version of The Birth of a Nation, but I haven't seen that part of the project!
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Re: BFI to release BIRTH OF A NATION in September

PostThu Aug 20, 2015 8:59 am

As to the box art - I think it attempts to replicate the original poster and 'logo', for want of a better word, from the original release in some markets. Whether there was an element of brown-baggishness to that choice of logo in 1915 is an interesting question.


What I mean by that is, it spares anyone having to deal with the other imagery associated with the film-- Confederate soldiers and flags, menacing performers in blackface, etc.
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Re: BFI to release BIRTH OF A NATION in September

PostFri Aug 21, 2015 4:10 pm

Someone in this fórum told me about 2 years ago the original câmera negative of The Birth of A Nation survived, but there were few or no chance someone would restore it from this prime material, due polically correct clima related to the racista contente of thios film.

A shame... with so few silent films that survived in original câmera negative.


A web page once showed a restorer working in the alleged original câmera negative of The Kid (Chaplin). But the recent Blu Ray looks like the same not ideal tranfer of MK2, that do not look like a câmera negative.

A Photoplay documentary, In Old Hollywood (or sort of thing...), had footage of many silents films. When they showed Birth of a Nation, the image, despite vintage vídeo telecine (trannsfer) of early 80's techninology, the images for BOAN had very good dynamics range (better than the DVD Beaver captures link).
Considering the limited telecine technology of 80's I presumed they had good footage, since telecine machines wasn't good to extrat dynamics range information from shadows or highlights, and silent film copies had considerable contrast build up after each generation about copyng a film.
Last edited by All Darc on Fri Aug 21, 2015 4:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: BFI to release BIRTH OF A NATION in September

PostFri Aug 21, 2015 4:27 pm

All Darc wrote:Someone in this fórum told me about 2 years ago the original câmera negative of The Birth of A Nation survived, but there were few or no chance someone would restore it from this prime material, due polically correct clima related to the racista contente of thios film.

A shame... with so few silent films that survived in original câmera negative.


That doesn't sound correct to me at all. There have been three lavish re-releases of The Birth of a Nation in the past couple of years, and it's always been available in one form or another on film and home video. No one is avoiding this title because of its innate racism, let alone failing to restore it from the best elements because they feel squeamish about "political correctness." I know for a fact that each of these restorations has been given lavish care, attention, and money.

There may be politics of archives and ownership involved, but given the interest in this film over the years, and given how early duping technology was rough on negatives, I strongly doubt the original negatives of this one are in any better shape than we've seen in all of the recent releases.
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Re: BFI to release BIRTH OF A NATION in September

PostFri Aug 21, 2015 4:53 pm

Thanks for the information .
I edited my post ... Check the last paragraphy.

In the silent era, a negative was consodered useless maybe before produce 100 prints. I'm not sure. Nitrate was a fragile plastic, more prone to tears and scratchs. In the 50's, acetate and less abarasive copy machines was able to print a negative 1000 times. It got scratches and some brokes here and there, but they could print so much.

Today some people talk about a machine that can print a negative 1000 times withoud start scratch or broke. But if was economically viable, or fast as requiored, it would be common practice.

Anyway, in silent era they had no way to rescue a câmera negative as today. I think a film restoration department was a term that did not existed for film back then. No wet gate, no decent film duplication material, no way to rescue the câmera negative to create a new negative with rivaling sharpnes and wide dynamics range.
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Re: BFI to release BIRTH OF A NATION in September

PostFri Sep 11, 2015 8:47 am

From Amazon.co.uk:

Unfortunately, the release date for the item(s) listed below was changed by the supplier,
and we need to provide you with a new estimated delivery date based on the new release date:

"Birth of a Nation (Centenary Edition) Blu-ray"
Estimated arrival date: November 30 2015 - December 04 2015 "
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Re: BFI to release BIRTH OF A NATION in September

PostFri Sep 11, 2015 10:56 am

Mike Gebert wrote:
As to the box art - I think it attempts to replicate the original poster and 'logo', for want of a better word, from the original release in some markets. Whether there was an element of brown-baggishness to that choice of logo in 1915 is an interesting question.


What I mean by that is, it spares anyone having to deal with the other imagery associated with the film-- Confederate soldiers and flags, menacing performers in blackface, etc.


That was what I took you to mean. What I was wondering is whether the 'logo' was deliberately used in 1915 in states or countries that were less sympathetic to the themes of the film - or even just less interested in them. One of the unexpected challenges they faced in promoting the film in Australia, for example, is that it turned out Australians didn't know or care much about the American Civil War. The black and white advertisement I posted, which is from an Australian newspaper, makes no mention of the KKK, the South - in fact, hardly anything about the film's content, except that it's a Great Big Event That You Need To See.
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Re: BFI to release BIRTH OF A NATION in September

PostSat Sep 12, 2015 6:23 pm

I have got the 2002 DVD of Birth Of A Nation -- so I guess its time for an upgrade. I will probably get the BFI version, although I'm not quite sure yet, as the quality of the "Masters Of Cinema" version looks really good! And I've yet to have a bad experience with the Master Of Cinema series. In fact each title I have got from them has been a jewel in the crown. Their blu-rays really are the crème de la crème of classic cinema on the home screen!
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Re: BFI to release BIRTH OF A NATION in September

PostMon Sep 14, 2015 8:14 am

There was a hint in the Flicker Alley calendar, included with all purchases, that they'd be doing their own release of BIRTH OF A NATION, apparently in association with Photoplay.
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Re: BFI to release BIRTH OF A NATION in September

PostMon Sep 14, 2015 1:29 pm

What do these companies have against using the original poster art?
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Re: BFI to release BIRTH OF A NATION in September

PostMon Sep 14, 2015 8:06 pm

Interesting discussion of Birth Of A Nation at the BFI London earlier this year.

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