While physical media is not as popular as it once was, it is still the best resource for silent films and companies like Criterion and Flicker Alley are releasing some loaded DVDs and Blurays that are little treasure boxes of bonus content.
This made me wonder: What kind of bonus material is your favorite? And so I made a poll to find out what you think.
If there’s something else you like better, be sure to let me know in the comments! I will publish the poll results in a week.
I chose documentaries, but specifically I enjoy documentaries about the restorations of such films.
Before and After shots are always so satisfying. 🙂
I love commentary. I bought the Criterion versions of Chaplin films because I wanted to hear the commentary, and it’s SO interesting.
There are some great ones out there!
I chose alternative scores, which are important. But I have to agree with the comment that a short film showcasing the restoration work is always fun to see.
I also like the commentaries best, followed by alternate scores. Interviews with experts, other relevant films, &c. can be found elsewhere. I’ve heard outstanding commentaries on films of William S. Hart, Chaplin, Lloyd, Griffith, De Mille’s silent “Ten Commandments,” Murnau’s “Tabu.” But they’re not all great. There is an extremely obnoxious one on a Garbo film in which the commentator drones on about his own publications & all the important people he knows.
My favourite particular extra is only from a silent-influenced film: Charles Laughton had the camera running between the takes of The Night of the Hunter. This has permitted an extra that really let’s to experience how is is to make a great film.
I have feelings about certain movies that are so special that I don’t want to break the movie’s spell by watching the bonus material. That said, the new Flicker Alley Blu ray of DER HUND VON BASKERVILLE has three short documentaries that are excellent. Flicker Alley’s Blu ray of THE LOST WORLD had some great bonuses. The recent PIONEERS: FIRST WOMAN FILMMAKERS from Kino could have done with more documentary info–both as short films and as expanded notes in the enclosed booklet. I kept going back to other box sets for more information on the films and filmmakers in PIONEERS. One of my favorite set of documentary extras was for a sound film, the Blu ray of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD.
Sometimes material is needed to put the film in context. You see something and go huh? Then someone says well in 1919 this or that was happening and you go Aha, now I get it. This would include bits like the Norma Talmadge feature you just did.
Commentaries are usually my favorite but the best bonus content I’ve ever seen was on the Criterion Blu Ray of “The Kid” when Ben Model explains undercranking. It’s the first time I bought a movie I already had just for the bonus content
My favorite extra when it comes to silent films are the restoration featurettes. I watched the Der Hund restoration featurette earlier and it’s amazing how the movie went from lost to two prints being found, then combined to make the longest possible cut (still missing footage though). Anytime there is a good story behind finding lost footage, I really get a kick out of it (yes, I like archaeological stories and that’s what these basically are).
I voted for documentaries, but its a hard choice over discussions with experts, alternate takes, and bonus shorts of the such that are seen on Harold Lloyd’s Criterion releases.
I’ve yet to ever finish listening to a commentary – so they’re pretty low on my list. Not that I want to deprive folks of things they enjoy, just add something besides a commentary. Indeed where on your questionnaire is “All of the Above”? 😉
My favorite is the documentaries, in fact, I purchased the Criterion edition of Safety Last just for the copy of Harold Lloyd, The Third Genius. That had been previously available only on a VHS tape.
I like a really thoughtful, informative commentary track that doesn’t just cover the lives of stars and production details but gets into how the film communicates through images. Loved the track on the blu-ray of Gance’s Napoleon. Jeffrey Vance’s commentaries on Chaplin and Doug Fairbanks are good. Also loved Tracey Goessel’s comments on THE GOOD BAD MAN and THE HALF-BREED.
Yuri Tsivian’s commentaries on the Eistenstein films are great for explaining details I would never pick on e.g. puns in the inter-titles of Strike, based on the shape of the Russian characters.
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