Unboxing the Silents: Behind the Door (1919) on DVD/Bluray from Flicker Alley

It’s dark, it’s bloody, it’s scandalous! And, until now, it was unavailable the the general public. Behind the Door is an anti-German vengeance picture released a year after the end of the First World War.

Thanks to Flicker Alley for the review copy!

The Film

Behind the Door was produced by Thomas Ince and distributed by Paramount. It stars Hobart Bosworth, the undisputed king of nautical action. Bosworth was one of the first movie stars in California and he successfully negotiated the rights to Jack London’s books, playing the first authorized onscreen Wolf Larsen. If you’ve never seen Bosworth in action, you are in for a treat. He has a splendid Rutger Hauer vibe and specialized in brawny seamen teetering between heroism and villainy.

Advertisement for Bosworth’s 1913 version of “The Sea Wolf”

The director, Irvin Willat, also helmed a dark little Bosworth potboiler called Below the Surface, which features some splendidly eerie underwater corpses in its finale. Finally, Behind the Door is based on a novel by Gouverneur Morris, the pulp novelist responsible for The Penalty (the one where Lon Chaney is a legless anarchist drug lord).

Behind the Door has an infamous reputation as one of the nuttiest, bloodiest, weirdest films made during the silent era. The San Francisco Silent Film Festival oversaw a restoration of the film from the only two known surviving prints and this is the result: the most complete version of the picture available since 1919.

Fasten your seatbelts, kids!

What you get:

The film comes in a standard clear Bluray case with the Bluray and DVD editions. The booklet contains essays on the film, restoration and music by Jay Weissberg, Robert Byrne and Stephen Horne.

Main disc menu
Extras menu

In addition to the restored film, which we will talk about in a moment, the release includes the following extras:

The Russian release version of the film, which varies considerably from the American release. Presented with Russian intertitles, English subtitles, and music by Stephen Horne. (47 minutes)

Russian title card.

Outtakes from the production with music by Stephen Horne (10 minutes)

An interview with Kevin Brownlow on the career of director Irvin Willat (31 minutes)

A featurette on the process of restoring the film (11 minutes)

A slideshow gallery of stills and promotional materials.

Picture

All screencaps taken from the Bluray version. I have cropped the pillarboxes for easier viewing but have not otherwise altered them. The original tints have been restored, which pleases me greatly.

Very nice, I must say!

Note that while the film has been restored, there are still brief missing sequences. Stills and titles are used to bridge the gaps and this missing footage should not interfere with a viewers enjoyment of the film.

Sound

The film features an excellent score from Stephen Horne, who uses piano, flute, accordion glockenspiel and thumb piano to create a suitably atmospheric soundscape.

Buy?

This is an opportunity to finally own one of the most famously lurid silent films. The restoration is gorgeous, the music is great and the extras are generous. Don’t miss this one!

Availability: Just released as a DVD/Bluray dual format edition. The Bluray is region A/B/C and the DVD is NTSC region 0.

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2 Replies to “Unboxing the Silents: Behind the Door (1919) on DVD/Bluray from Flicker Alley”

  1. Hi Fritzi, I 100% agree. Got mine in the mail yesterday and watched it last night. Not going to give anything away but to say I am still thinking about the film some today and greatly enjoyed it. I was surprised you mentioned all of the different instruments as I did not notice them, which I find a good thing. If I notice the music too much it is not blending. Here, I noticed very little but it did well to affect the mood of the scenes. Flicker Alley is awesome and once again delivered a very quality product.

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