I am so excited about this particular unpacking, let me tell you! I have been wanting a decent copy of Hitchcock’s silent Blackmail for the North American market for years and it’s here at last.
As some of you may already know, Alfred Hitchcock made both a silent and a talkie version of Blackmail (1929) and made innovative use of early sound technology. However, the silent version is still superior, in my opinion, and I am delighted to finally have a region 1/A version that I can recommend.
In addition to Blackmail, Kino has released Murder!, which is a talkie but it’s a pretty early one and I thought you might enjoy a little peek there as well.
First, what you get: This is a two-disc set with two different versions of the talkie (the “regular” and one labeled “1.20:1 version”) and the Grail, the silent version. I am not going to dig too deeply into the talkie because it will probably be covered elsewhere and I know what most of you are here for. (And, please, if there are any fights about aspect ratio, hold them elsewhere.)
We also get a commentary track by Tim Lucas, interviews, an introduction and star Anny Ondra’s screen test.
Very nice indeed! The restoration is BFI-branded and looks quite nice. The talkie version is a little more contrasty. Here is a comparison of the two:
And here are more screencaps of the silent. I have cropped the pillarboxes but have not otherwise altered the images.
Blackmail has a new score courtesy of the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra. This score is a bit more discordant than their usual work but is still quite traditional and the harsher sound suits the dark nature of the picture very well.
We have desperately needed a quality release of the silent version of this picture and we have it at last, thank goodness. I couldn’t be more pleased.
This release doesn’t have a silent but it does have a German language version that was also directed by Hitchcock! Cool, huh? I love foreign language versions of English language classics, so I am looking forward to really sinking my teeth in. The disc also includes a commentary, introduction, interviews and an alternate ending.
And here are a few more screen caps. Looks pretty nice, eh?
So, two Hitchcock releases in high quality and one with a rare silent version. I call that a win!
P.S. There are MANY low quality versions of these films out there but buyer beware, the quality is usually atrocious. If you want to see the stuff that I screencapped here, you’ll need to go with the Kino-branded releases in the North American market.