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May 11, 2010

DVD of the Week – Spotlight on… Flicker Alley

by HELEN GEIB

This week’s DVD of the Week post inaugurates “Spotlight on…,” a new occasional feature that will profile independent companies producing high quality DVDs/Blu-ray discs of classics, foreign films, and other specialty releases. This new feature was suggested by a regular commenter on Commentary Track, and readers’ suggestions for future “Spotlight on…” columns are most welcome.

Flicker Alley has released 16 meticulously produced DVDs since the company was launched in 2002. The company takes its name from the nickname given to Cecil Court, Britain’s center of film production during the silent era. In keeping with that inspiration, its focus is on silent films, and specifically on the forgotten, neglected, and obscure. When it comes to silent films, forgotten etc. doesn’t necessarily denote minor or insignificant. In fact, Flicker Alley’s releases are an eclectic mix of famous titles by great directors and stars, re-discovered popular films, and works notable mostly for their historical or cultural significance.

Flicker Alley’s first release was The Garden of Eden, a delightful romantic comedy starring Corinne Griffith and Charles Ray. Its most recent is director Rene Clair’s highly acclaimed comedy of manners The Italian Straw Hat. Its most unexpected release is a DVD set called “Under Full Sail,” which collects five films starring windjammers filmed on the open water- a collection for sailing enthusiasts and amateur historians as much as for silent film lovers.

The Flicker Alley DVDs I’ve watched so far have been of the highest quality, I’ve read glowing reviews of their other releases, and the company has a sterling reputation. Those who look for special features with their DVDs will not be disappointed either. The extras are not lavish, but are interesting and selected with great care. The features on the Italian Straw Hat DVD are typical: a 1928 short film by Clair; a 1907 pre-feature exemplifying the films that inspired the director; two booklet essays by film scholars; and composer Rodney Sauer’s notes on his original score.

Flicker Alley’s website is easy to navigate and answers all the questions you could think to ask about their releases. Additional pages include third party reviews, archived press releases, and “the screening room,” offering streamed clips from many of the films. And of course, a page to place orders and contact the company with questions.

New releases this week: Daybreakers, Edge of Darkness, Legion


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