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The Phantom Carriage (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]

4.7 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

The last person to die on New Year’s Eve before the clock strikes twelve is doomed to take the reins of Death’s chariot and work tirelessly collecting fresh souls for the next year. So says the legend that drives The Phantom Carriage (Körkarlen), directed by the father of Swedish cinema, Victor Sjöström (The Wind), about an alcoholic, abusive ne’er-do-well (Sjöström himself) who is shown the error of his ways and the pure-of-heart Salvation Army sister who believes in his redemption. Based on a novel by Nobel Prize winner Selma Lagerlöf, this extraordinarily rich and innovative silent classic (which inspired Ingmar Bergman to make movies) is a Dickensian ghost story and a deeply moving morality tale, as well as a showcase for groundbreaking special effects.

Special Features

New digital transfer, restored in collaboration with the Archival Film Collections of the Swedish Film Institute

Two scores, one by acclaimed Swedish composer Matti Bye and the other by the experimental duo KTL

Audio commentary featuring film historian Casper Tybjerg

Interview with Ingmar Bergman excerpted from the 1981 documentary Victor Sjöström: A Portrait, by Gösta Werner

The Bergman Connection, an original visual essay by film historian and Bergman scholar Peter Cowie on The Phantom Carriage’s influence on Bergman

New and improved English subtitle translation

PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by screenwriter and filmmaker Paul Mayersberg


Product Details

  • Actors: Victor Sjöström, Hilda Borgström, Tore Svennberg, Astrid Holm, Concordia Selander
  • Directors: Arne Mattsson
  • Format: Blu-ray, Color, Full Screen, NTSC, Silent, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: Swedish
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region A/1 (Read more about DVD/Blu-ray formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
  • DVD Release Date: September 27, 2011
  • Run Time: 107 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0056ANHSQ
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #36,385 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
**EDIT 9-27-11** The overall quality of the Blu-ray is fair, not quite as good as I had originally hoped, but it's still decent. As with most silents, the tell-tale signs of aging are still present even after the restoration, mainly age spots and vertically running scratches. But don't let this discourage you from purchasing this silent masterpiece. Although it's not perfect, Criterion still did a good job on the restoration (as they normally do) and the overall quality is better than previous versions that I've viewed.

The Phantom Carriage is a silent Swedish film made by legendary actor/director Victor Sjöström. While Sjöström is known more for his acting performances later in life, namely as the protagonist in Ingmar Bergman's Wild Strawberries, he originally made his mark as a prolific and very innovative director, beginning in the silent era and spanning into early talkies. This film is considered by many to be one of his very best and is a perfect example of how Sjöström both pioneered and refined techniques that were used for decades to come.

The film uses double exposures quite extensively. While this technique was not new, for this film it was far more advanced, consisting of multiple layers and dimensions. While the techniques may seem obvious and even primitive by today's standards, they left audiences awed and mesmerized 90 years ago. Another innovation of this film is the unique structure in which it's told. This is one of the first movies to make extensive use of flashbacks, going as far as having flashbacks within flashbacks.

I will briefly cover the plot, as to not ruin the film for someone who has never seen it before.
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Format: DVD
I saw The Phantom Carriage on TCM not too long ago and was enthralled. This movie is one of the gems of silent cinema, and for American audiences it's still mainly an unseen gem. I hope this Criterion release will change that. The print quality is superb; even with higher-contrast orthochromatic film there is good tonal range in this restoration. This is a boon because the lighting is often subtle. I'm not familiar with the source material, but the way Sjostrom directs his actors makes me wish he'd done a silent adaptation of Crime and Punishment; The Silent Carriage is a Dostoevskyan drama that turns the protagonist's soul inside out. It's a masterpiece of direction and restrained acting, and makes me appreciate again the sophistication Scandinavian film-makers brought to the early development of the motion picture.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
It delights me no end that Victor Sjostrom's THE PHANTOM CARRIAGE is finally getting a Region 1 release and from Criterion no less. I have had the Region 2 version of this for a few years (complete with mislabeled discs) but now I will be able to enjoy the additional extra supplements that Criterion offers. Since it is also being offered in Blu-Ray I can assume that it has a digital upgrade from my release which is from the Swedish Film Institute and was already a decent restoration although I confess that I didn't care much for the modern KTL score. In my opinion, the Matti Bye score suits the material better. An improved English subtitle translation is always a plus as well. KORKARLEN, the film's original title and the name of the book it is taken from, translates as "The Coach Driver" and is an accurate description as the carriage and driver appear throughout and are the key symbol on which the plot hinges.

THE PHANTOM CARRIAGE is one of those silent movies to show people who think they don't like silent movies. I have yet to meet someone that I have shown it to who was not captivated by it. Part of that is due to the similarity of the plot to a well known English property which I won't name here but a lot of it is due to the simple but creative special effects that seem perfectly natural in keeping with the story being told. Credit should also be given to the lead performances of Victor Sjostrom and Hilda Borgstrom which seem as contemporary as anything seen today. It's easy to see why Ingmar Bergman would have been attracted to and inspired by this story of a vicious alcoholic who receives his comeuppance and an unexpected shot at redemption. The dysfunctional family theme, long a staple of Scandinavian drama, also plays well today. A surprising movie that still has the power to engage and enthrall audiences 90 years later.
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Format: Blu-ray
A psychological film that probes into the mental anguish and misery of a character, "The Phantom Carriage" is a film that inspired filmmakers such as Ingmar Bergman but also a film that would be the precursor of Bergman's probe into the psyche of his characters throughout his oeuvre.

"The Phantom Carriage" (Körkarlen) is a silent film from 1921 that is a film adaptation of the novel "They Soul Shall Bear Witness!" by Nobel-prize winning Swedish author Selma Lagerlöf (the first female writer to win the prize and is best known for her children's book "The Wonderful Adventures of Nils").

The film would be directed by Victor Sjöström who would also play the lead role of the film.

Known for directing films in the U.S. during the 1920's, it's unfortunate that for a talented filmmaker and actor, the majority of his films are considered as lost. Fortunately, those that did survive are his film adaptations of Lagerlöf novels such as the "Sons of Ingmar" (1919), "Karin, Daughter of Ingmar" (1920) and "The Phantom Carriage" (1921). The latter which received restoration courtesy of the Archival Film Collections of the Swedish Film Institute.

And now, "The Phantom Carriage" will receive its HD treatment on Blu-ray and also standard DVD release courtesy of the Criterion Collection.


"The Phantom Carriage" is presented in High Definition, tinted color and the fact that earlier versions that many people have watched this in the past were not in the greatest condition and considering the fact that the original film elements were not fully complete, I was quite amazed to see how beautiful this film looked on Blu-ray.
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The Phantom Carriage (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
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