Unboxing the Silents: Go West and College on Bluray

As part of their ongoing Buster Keaton project, the Cineteca di Bologna at L’Immagine Ritrovata Laboratory in association with Cohen Film Collection has restored two of Keaton’s features and they have been released on DVD and Bluray by Kino. Let’s dive in.

Disclosure: Thank you to Kino Lorber for the review copy. This post contains affiliate links and I may earn a small commission from sales made through them.

Kino previously released Keaton’s features on Bluray about ten years ago. I don’t have those discs for a side-by-side comparison, I will just be looking at this as a standalone release.

The double feature is available for purchase now.

What you get

Go West and College fully restored with new scores, plus the Hal Roach short Go West, which features a cast of monkeys. (Titles were reused and reused throughout the silent era, so I appreciate the inclusion of this short as a cheeky acknowledgement of this fact. Plus, it saves me the trouble of tracking it down because duplicated titles are fascinating.)

The image quality is crisp and clean, as we would expect. The biggest draw for this collection is the new music. Go West is scored by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra and College is scored by Rodney Sauer and performed by a small ensemble. I particularly enjoyed the Go West music, which is suitably playful and humorous and includes some musical puns. (Musical puns are always a plus in my book.)

This is a high quality release that is elevated by good music. If you haven’t upgraded your Keaton collection to HD, this is an excellent excuse to do so.

☙❦❧

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3 Comments

  1. Steve Phillips

    Thanks for heads up about this release.
    I was surprised to read that Cohen Media Group was having Kino Lorber release it. I then found an announcement that Cohen recently made an agreement with Kino, and some 200 other Cohen titles also will be released by Kino.

  2. Andrew Holliday

    These are both great examples of the near endless frustration over different restorations in the silent movie market. I do have the previous Kino blu ray releases – and I’ve compared them with these new ones – and it’s swings and roundabouts. Both Cohen releases are more stable and scratch free – which is very easy on the eyes – but both the previous releases have better ‘greyscale’ contrast and more detail (but with scratches and dirt still present) than the new ones – no matter what the commentaries on the recent releases claim. It’s particularly odd that the new Go West – with a ‘4K scan’ of the best elements available via the Library of Congress (College is 2K) – the same source as Kino’s previous blu ray releases – has less picture detail than its predecessor (e.g. (extreme example), there’s a silhouette of a horse on the prairie in the new Go West that wasn’t a silhouette in the previous release!). But on the other hand a better score and a significantly longer running time that, for me, suits the film better than the (until now, standard) shorter run-time. The new Our Hospitality and The General were similar – cleaned up re scratches, dirt etc – but picture detail unchanged or slightly worse (depending on the scene/element source, etc). And the Cohen releases eschew tinting/toning while the previous editions embraced them. And there are pros and cons to either choice in that regard. Which means, as I said at the start, the frustration that we still don’t have a ‘definitive’ version to own (something with a standard running time and licensing to have all the best scores (and never lose a Carl Davis option if it exists) accessible on the same release would be nice). Seeing the glass as half full, perhaps I should see this as being spoilt for choice….which is a big improvement on my first home media silent movie purchases – tinkly piano (or even entirely silent) VHS dubs of dubs of dubs at 24fps – and that’s all there was.

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