Unboxing the Silents: The Informer (1929)

Ooo, I have been waiting for this one! The Region A release of the 1929 version of The Informer! Let’s get this unboxing show on the road!

As always, thanks to Kino Lorber for the review copy!

This film will be released on Region 1/A DVD and Bluray on April 23, 2019.

A little background is in order, I think. The Informer was famously remade by John Ford in 1935 and won Academy Awards for director, actor, screenplay and music. It has been available on DVD for years. The 1929 original has not been so fortunate.

Like many films of the period, it was released as both a silent film and a part-talkie and a shabby print of the part-talkie was what I first encountered. I was new to silents at the time (I think it might have been my first part-talkie, in fact) and I found the whole thing dreary and dull. Further, European stars Lars Hanson and Lya de Putti were dubbed to fit in with the film’s Irish setting and Hanson sounded bizarrely catatonic.

After near two decades of silent film viewing under my belt and quite a few chances to compare versions of films, I was more than ready to give this picture another shot. And when I heard that the BFI was restoring the silent version, I was absolutely giddy with excitement. I find that in almost every case, when there is a silent version and a part-talking or all-talking version of a picture, the silent is superior. (For example, Blackmail.) Further, I am much more informed in the Irish independence movement that forms the backdrop of this film and I have come to admire director Arthur Robinson, who made the gloriously creepy fantasy Warning Shadows.

The Music

I cannot praise the new score highly enough. Garth Knox cranks the Irish flavor to eleven and I am so there for it! Traditional instruments, including Irish pipes and accordion, add so much flavor to the picture. THIS is exactly the kind of modern score that I love and would like to see done more often: studying the period of the film itself and scoring to match it. (Robert Israel did something similar with his Regency-infused score for Kean.)

Well done! Well done indeed! It’s so good, I would buy the solo album.

Image

As you can see, beautiful and clear with the original tints restored.

Extras

The disc also includes the part-talkie version in black and white and a featurette on the restoration.

Part-Talkie?

During the transition to sound, not all films were 100% talkies. Like The Jazz Singer, a good number of pictures were maybe 75% silent with sudden sequences of singing and talking. Some films were this way by design, some had talking sequences added later to improve box office. I am not a big fan. (I reviewed The Man and the Moment.)

Availability

I am tickled that this film is finally getting the first class presentation it deserves. Frankly, this disc is worth the price for the music alone. It will be released in the US market on April 23, 2019.

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7 Replies to “Unboxing the Silents: The Informer (1929)”

  1. You obviously have more patience than I, Fritzi. 😉 I had no idea that Kino would come out with these–a nice surprise!–so bought the Region 2 BFI Blu rays of THE INFORMER and Asquith’s great SHOOTING STARS and UNDERGROUND some time ago. I love all three. You are so right about the score for THE INFORMER. Interesting that Ford’s wonderful 1935 film and this lovely silent version both differ markedly from each other and from Liam O’Flaherty’s novel. An abundance of riches here.

    1. I have them too. I think they are playable in all regions. Try playing the BFI on zone 1 and see if it works.

      1. You’re quite right, Mitch. I spoke too fast All three BFI sets are Blu Ray (all region) + DVD (region 2). Thanks for correcting me.

  2. I will watch ANY film Lars Hanson was in, so this new bluray release is a must-buy for me. Thanks so much for the heads-up – I had no idea this film was being released by Kino.

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