HTS Moderator , Reviewer
HTS Overall Score:80
One more time we step back into the early quarter of nearly a hundred years ago. It was the tail end of the silent film era and the “talkies” were slowly starting to catch on. We had a few hits on the tail end of that genre, but not many. “The Great Parade” was one of the greatest, but just before “The Great Parade” we have another one of the greats. “Sunrise” is not just a great film, but a film that was nearly lost to us forever. With the fire of 1937 that destroyed so many of the studio films and all their negatives “Sunrise” had to be retrieved from prints around the world in order to be reassembled. To make matters even more interesting the Czech cut of the film and several other European release versions, had different runtimes with, sometimes,
completely different sections of the film edited in and out. Spliced together and given a new restoration the film looks the best it has since the theatrical days and a jewel in the collectors stash.
“Sunrise” seems to be a simple story with a femme fatale (Margaret Livingston) trying to toy with and capture a married farmer (George O’Brien). The farmer is twisted around her finger like a ring, even going so far to agree to get rid of his wife for her. The only thing is that even though he’s a bit of an emotional high, he just doesn’t have it in him. Taking his wife (Janet Gaynor) out to the lake, he falters and realizes that this is not the kind of person he is. Instead of going any further he takes his, now terrified, wife to the big city and they share a time of reunion and rejuvenation as the two reconnect in an idyllic day of dining, relaxing and just enjoying each other’s company. This all leads up to a climactic finale on the lake where the two are caught up in a maelstrom that very well may finish what the farmer couldn’t.
Again, it seems to be a simple story, but is really a fable, or morality tale of the classic “grass is greener on the other side” tale that plagues man since the beginning of time. Mankind has always had difficulty being content with what they have and tend to get caught up in the desire for more and more. While striving to be better off than one once was isn’t ALWAYS a bad idea, many times it can lead us into situations that end up damaging us in the long run. Here we see a guy who’s enamored with the idea of going to an important big city, and being more than just a “simple” farmer. Except here he ends up damaging the person that cares about him and gives meaning to his simple farm life. It’s extraordinary to watch the facial expressions of the actors as the plot unfolds. George O’Brien is fantastic, switching from a poor victimized farmer, to seeing malice and evil twist across his face as he starts to enter into the monstrous deal that he’s struck with the Devil. Then you see him break and soften to a remorseful and repentant character only to go back to the very end as another sort of victim. Janet Gaynor is a little more subtle, shifting from despondent and hurt to hopeful and shy at the drop of a hat, torn up and begging for the best. As the story unfolds she comes out of the beaten down shell that she was and returns to become a vivacious beauty that the farmer most certainly fell in love with originally. Margaret Livingston was solid as the woman from the city, playing the standard, clichéd villainous, but her part was necessary as a cliché and was played well.
As mentioned, I love the subtle facial tics and queues that the actors went through to get the meaning of the story across. Beautiful, poignant and bittersweet it rises to a climactic ending that actually had me guessing WHAT would happen and who would come out on top till the last 7 minutes of the film. Well-structured and sweet, it may seem outclassed by the more complex tales of the modern day, but it still holds up both in meaning and in enjoyability to this day.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=14178[/img]For transparency’s sake, I must tell you that the original elements for “Sunrise” was lost in the great 1937 studio fire that claimed so many sources from so many films. So there was an INCREDIBLE effort to gain as many of the remaining elements as humanely possible and restore the film back to its original theatrical look, and the result is simple stunning. While it will never look as clear as a modern film the film is about as pristine as it can be, considering the film stock it was filmed upon. The black and white film looks fantastic with great blacks and a stunning amount of detail in the film. There are a few minor flecks and dirt on the film, but the detail is just astounding. Especially since they provide the old 2003 DVD in the combo pack and allows you to compare the old DVD with this newer transfer. As with old film stock, there’s a few scenes where the quality dips a bit, but that can also be blamed on hodgepodging of film sources to get all the elements. Truly a beauty for silent film lovers, the picture shows a lot of TLC put into it and I truly don’t think we can ever expect a better one.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=14179[/img]The audio score for “Sunrise” is given to us in two format. The theatrical U.S. version with a 1.0 DTS-HD MA mono track, and the European version in Dolby Digital 2.0. With 2 cuts and 2 audio of the film on one disc, I was in hog heaven. The European version is a slightly different cut, but the audio for the U.S. release is a bit more superior in terms of the depth of the audio. Clarity is clear, for the most part, with only minimal hissing in the sound recording as well as some minor tinny sounds during the dance scene. Overall It’s a great set of tracks and both will please viewers regardless of the cut of the film they view.
• European Silent Version
• Theatrical Trailer
• Restoration Notes
• Original Screenplay
• Original Scenario
• Audio Commentary
“Sunrise” is a bittersweet story from a time long ago and rightfully holding onto its status as a classic. As with most classic’s it was panned in its own time and took quite a few years for the fanbase to grow around it, and with the lost elements it’s absolutely fantastic to even HAVE it for our viewing pleasure after so much was lost and is never viewable again. Thanks to Fox and their restoration team this almost lost classic is on the best format money can buy at the moment with fantastic audio and video, this one is a treat to pick up, or at the VERY LEAST, check out. Highly recommended.
Starring: George O'Brien, Janet Gaynor
Directed by: F.W. Murnau
Written by: Hermann Sudermann, Carl Mayer
Aspect Ratio: 1.20:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 1.0 Mono, English DD 2.0
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Runtime: 94 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: January 14th, 2013
Buy Sunrise Blu-ray on Amazon
Recommendation: Check It Out
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