Der Letzte Mann DVD Review
PictureAt just over eighty years old, The Leztze Mann was obviously made before the colour era. However, the lack of colour film stock just seems to be another trick up the sleeve of a director as talented and cunning as FW Murnau.
Yes, the blacks are black and the whites are white - but it's the way that the thousands of different shades in between are used that put this film above many others.
The estate where the porter lives is poorly lit to show up how destitute the people that live there are. Look a little harder and the detail in the shadows is stunning for a film of this vintage. Drunken vagrants sleep in alleyways and people with nothing better to do just hang around on dark and dingy corners - only springing to life to return the porters salute.
The restoration job carried out on the print is nothing short of remarkable. Scratches, marks and gate hairs are noticeable only by their absence...but there is an annoying line that runs through quite a lot of the film that for some reason wasn't removed.
Overall, for a film that outlived all my grandparents, you'll hear no complaints from me on the quality of the picture. The mark that I give it may surprise some people - but I'm taking into account the age of the print and the fine restoration job carried out.
SoundOK - how can a silent film have a sound section I hear you ask...?
Obviously, the film itself is devoid of all sound. Indeed, this film has one interboard (the board that pops up in silent films with the dialogue on it) as the whole film is played out through the acting. It does, as most silent films have, a musical accompanying score. However, with this film, instead of a man playing an organ in the corner of the theatre, we have a full-blown orchestra.
Recorded in Dolby Digital 2.0 and filling the front soundstage nicely, it's an emotional ride of a score that fits the onscreen action perfectly. It doesn't detract from what is happening onscreen but rather enhances it.
Needless to say, if you're a fan of the action blockbuster, then this soundtrack will not be for you...
ExtrasWhen this disc is released later this month, it will come with a lavishly illustrated 36-page booklet. Unfortunately, my review copy didn't have this booklet with it so I can't comment on it.
Der Letzte Mann - The Making Of - documentary by Murnau expert Luciano Berriatúa [41:00] is a fascinating documentary about the making of the film. It gives away just about every secret contained in the movie - some of which you will only spot once you've been told they are there.
Whilst the extras are a bit thin on the ground, the documentary is one of the best making of... I have seen and is well worth the cost of the disc on its own. Pity the booklet is missing but I am going to buy the retail copy when it's available so I'll report back then.
VerdictEureka Video are rapidly getting a reputation in the DVD world as authors of some of the finest films available - a kind of British Criterion collection. And I take my hat off to them.
Their Masters Of Cinema series contains some outstanding films from the silent era - some of which have been reviewed by my colleagues here at AV Forums reviews. What we don't realise though is if it wasn't for authoring studios like Eureka, these films would be lost forever. Because of them, they'll go on like the timeless classics they are for generations to come.
Der Leztze Mann is a film that should be seen by anyone that has the slightest interest in the history of cinema. It inaugurated a new era of mobile camera expression whose handheld aesthetic and sheer plastic fervour predated the various “New Wave” movements of the 1960s and beyond. As the watershed entry in Murnaus' work, its influence can be detected in such later masterpieces as Faust, Sunrise, and Tabu — and in the films of the same Hollywood dream-factory that would offer him a contract shortly after Der Letzte Mann's release. This Masters of Cinema release comes very highly recommended by me
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £19.99
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