Friday, December 13, 2013


Sunrise: Limited Edition (1927)
Movie rating: 10/10
DVD rating: 10/10
Release Date: Limited availablity
Running Time: 1 hour 35 minutes
Rating: NR
Distributor: Fox
List Price: Free with purchase of 3 'Studio Classics' DVDs from FOX
Disc Details
Special Features: Full frame format
Chapter selection
Commentary track by cinematographer John Bailey
Outtakes with commentary by John Bailey
Outtakes with text cards
Theatrical trailer
Photo gallery
Original scenario by Carl Mayer with annotations by F.W. Murnau
Restoration notes
F.W. Murnau's lost film "The Four Devils"
"The Four Devils" treatment
"The Four Devils" screenplay
Original Movietone soundtrack
Alternate Olympic Chamber Orchestra score
Video Format: Full Frame (1.20:1)
Languages: English (Dolby Digital 2.0) mono
English (Dolby Digital 2.0) stereo

Subtitles: French, Spanish.
Captions: No
Casing: 1-Disc Keep Case

You might be surprised to discover that two films received Best Picture Oscars at the very first Academy Awards. "Wings" usually comes to mind when you think of the first Best Picture winner. There were two Best Picture categories at the first Oscar ceremony: Best Picture: Production and Best Picture: Artistic and Unique Production. F.W. Murnau's poetic "Sunrise" was the first and only recipient of the Best Picture: Artistic and Unique Production Oscar.

F.W. Murnau is best know to film fans for "Nosferatu," his unauthorized version of Bram Stoker's novel "Dracula." Five years later, Murnau filmed a simple story, which remains one of the best movies of all time. There can be little argument that "Sunrise" is composed of photography that remains innovative even by today's standards.

The title card for "Sunrise" includes the subtitle "A Song of Two Humans." The film tells the tale of a young farm couple torn apart by "the woman from the city." The characters aren't named in the film. They are called 'The Man,'(George O'Brien) 'The Wife'(the first Best Actress Oscar winner Janet Gaynor) and 'The Woman from the City' (Margaret Livingston). The Woman from the City goes on vacation at a small rural town. While there, she ensnarls The Man with her sensual charms. She pleads with him to sell the farm and move with her to the city. "What about my wife?" the Man asks. "Couldn't she get drowned?" replied his lover.

The Man takes his wife for a trip to the city. He rows her across the huge lake toward the city. Will the Man kill his Wife and run off with the Woman from the City? This simple story is secondary to the incredible visual imagery of "Sunrise."

I first read about "Sunrise" over thirty years ago. My desire to see Murnau's classic was further enhanced when I saw the great

documentary about cinematography "Visions of Light." Several wonderful scenes from "Sunrise" are analyzed in that great film. Thanks to FOX, I finally got to see this classic. I can't recommend this DVD any higher. If you are a student of cinematography and direction, "Sunrise" is a must have DVD. "Sunrise" also won the first Best Cinematography Oscar. Cinematographers Charles Rosher and Karl Struss shared the awards. "Sunrise" includes one of the longest dolly shots in the history of film. The movie also includes numerous process shots, all done in-camera as the optical printer had yet to be invented. The film is an artistic masterpiece. Murnau's film is heavily influenced by the German Impressionistic movement. "Sunrise" is considered to be one of the five best silent films ever made. It was entered in the National Film Registry in 1989.

The Disc
Great movie, picture, sound and extras. An amzing DVD.

Picture Quality: 10/10
The original nitrate negative of "Sunrise" was destroyed by fire in 1937. In 1936,the Museum of Modern Art made a diacetate print of "Sunrise." A new negative was made from this print. The digital transfer was made from this negative. There are some artifacts present, but they are minimal. There was no pixilation apparent. The delineation between the grayscales is outstanding. Excellent detail. The movie includes so many outstanding shots that it is hard to believe the movie is 76 years old. "Sunrise" was photographed using cameras with electric motors. This eliminated the jerky, hand-cranked visuals usually associated with silent films.

Sound Quality: 10/10
There are two different soundtracks. The movie was originally released with a Movietone soundtrack. Movietone soundtracks included both the picture and soundtrack on the same strip of film. This innovation differed from earlier silent films in which the musical track came on a phonograph record.

I like the original track better. I think it fits the film in subtle ways. The new soundtrack was recorded when the filk was restored.

Both soundtracks are full and rich. The stereo track makes better use of the surround sound features of your home theater system, but the mono track is still preferable. Nice balance between the ranges.

Menu: 10/10
Beautiful menu reminiscent of old silent film title cards. Easy to navigate. That is an accomplishment considering the amount of material present on this DVD. No Easter Eggs found.

Extra Features: 10/10
ASC Cinematographer John Bailey's (The Big Chill, As Good As It Gets and nearly 50 other films) commentary track is the best commentary track I have ever heard. This DVD is like a college course. Mr. Bailey takes you through all the nuances of the film's photography, lighting, direction, editing, special effects, production design and history. This is what a commentary track should be. Bailey's commentary track was more informative than some of my film professors in college. Mr. Bailey also provides commentary on the 30-minutes of outtakes. The outtakes weren't restored, so you get some idea of how wonderful and important the art of restoration is. The outtakes include several of Murnau's lengthy tracking shots, which were cut into scenes in the final film.

The scenario by Carl Mayer is a shooting script which, includes camera angle annotations by director Murnau. The entire screenplay is also included. The screenplay is on the disk proper, not a DVD-ROM feature.

Murnau died in a car accident at age 42. He made three films after "Sunrise." His follow-up was called "The Four Devils." That film starred Janet Gaynor. It was similar in theme to "Sunrise." The film was lost. The DVD includes an hour-long reflection of what the film might have been. Using studio stills, promotional material and the original script, FOX produced this version which should please silent film buffs. The recreation is narrated. Also included are the treatment and script for "The Four Devils."

The Final Word:
FOX is releasing one of the most incredible DVD series this year. The "Studio Classics" collection includes a multitude of Oscar winning films from FOX. "Sunrise" will be available in limited quantities free with the purchase of any three of FOX's "Studio Classics." Do not miss this opportunity to get this limited edition DVD. It is an important addition to any DVD collection. More than a must have.

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