DVD of the Week – “3 Silent Classics by Josef von Sternberg” Box Set
by HELEN GEIB
It’s a happy day for silent film lovers. Criterion has released director Josef von Sternberg’s Underworld (1927), The Last Command and The Docks of New York (both 1928) in a new three film DVD box set. This a terrifically exciting and long-overdue DVD release.
Each film presents a choice of two scores.* The ever-reliable Robert Israel composed a new orchestral score for each film, and there is a second original score by the Alloy Orchestra (a personal favorite in the world of silent film accompaniment) for Underworld and The Last Command and by Donald Sosin and Joanna Seaton for The Docks of New York.
The set is a must-have for the films alone, which are presented in new and restored digital transfers. This being a Criterion release, there are also… extras, of course! These include “visual essays” by Janet Bergstrom on Underworld and by Tag Gallagher on The Last Command. The Docks DVD includes a 1968 interview for Swedish television with von Sternberg. There is also a booklet featuring: multiple essays on the films; composers’ notes on the scores; Ben Hecht’s original story for Underworld; and an excerpt from von Sternberg’s autobiography on Emil Jannings, star of The Last Command.
*I’ve started seeing multiple scores on silent film DVDs more often recently. Is this an industry trend? If so, it’s a most welcome one.
Other new releases this week: The Back-up Plan, Survival of the Dead, Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg