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Showing 1-10 of 11 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 21 reviews
on August 28, 2010
The three films included in this set - UNDERWORLD, DOCKS OF NEW YORK and THE LAST COMMAND represent some of Josef von Sternberg's greatest work from the time before he discovered Marlene Dietrich, and clearly show that he was already a master at his art. His trademark style in the use of light and shadow, complex mis en scene, slow lap dissolves, deceptively simple storylines and characters of psychological depth are in full bloom during this late silent period.

Josef von Sternberg was unquestionably a unique genius among film directors, and as such is frequently misunderstood by those who are accustomed to a more conventional approach to how movies are made. In terms of visual style and sustained atmosphere he virtually has no equal, even though others have tried to imitate him and have borrowed many of his ideas in their own films. For example in UNDERWORLD, one can see foregleams of plot devices that figured prominently in the gangster genre that emerged during the 30's, particularly in the films from Warner Bros. Von Sternberg already laid the groundwork. In DOCKS OF NEW YORK there is the romantic relationship between George Bancroft and Betty Compson, but von Sternberg achieves it with little, if any, passionate embracing or kissing between the couple. This is typical von Sternberg and is part of what makes his screen romances different from other directors. His protagonists share a psychological bond more than a physical one, and yet one senses a potent eroticism that seems to permeate all of his films. In THE LAST COMMAND we have a wonderful example of life imitating art imitating life within the background of a motion picture studio as a former Russian general, played by Emil Jannings, is demoted to an extra recreating his past glories in a Hollywood production. The film presents the irony of life that von Sternberg liked to explore in so much of his work.

Criterion did a terrific job with all three films as well as with the supplemental material, and I highly recomended this DVD set to anyone interested in true cinematic art.

Now if only someone would put out THE SALVATION HUNTERS...
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on August 9, 2010
It has been a long time in coming but at last Josef von Sternberg's three legendary silent masterpieces are coming to DVD and in a Criterion edition no less. I'm not quite sure how or why Paramount agreed to this but I'm certainly not complaining. As others have pointed out, DOCKS OF NEW YORK and THE LAST COMMAND were available on home VHS some 20 years ago. They were high quality transfers accompanied by newly recorded Gaylord Carter organ scores. UNDERWORLD has never been available in a first rate transfer of any kind so that alone makes this set extra special. In addition, all three films will have 2 new scores to accompany them which will only enhance the viewing experience even more. Too bad the Gaylord Carter scores weren't included as they were models of their kind. Throw in the Criterion extras like the 96 page booklet and a 1968 interview with von Sternberg himself and you have something no silent movie enthusiast or film buff should be without.

For those of you unfamiliar with these films the stories are as follows. UNDERWORLD, the first of the three, can rightfully be considered the first gangster feature as it chronicles the rise and fall of crime boss Bull Weed and his associates. It also offers silent comedy fans a rare opportunity to see Larry Semon in a more serious role which was one of his last film appearances. Film number two, THE DOCKS OF NEW YORK, positively oozes atmosphere as it takes us into BLUE ANGEL territory with its vivid depiction of a lowlife bar full of smoke and fishnets and the poor souls who inhabit it. The best of the three, THE LAST COMMAND, features Emil Jannings' greatest American performance as a Russian general traumatized by the Russian Revolution and reduced to appearing as an extra in Hollywood movies. William Powell scores as a former revolutionary who is now a movie director. If you don't want to purchase these then get your Netflix queues ready for they are indispensible.
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on August 8, 2011
First let me say I am not a very patient person with respect to entertainment. It takes a well-polished presentation to maintain my interest due, I suppose, to years of watching blatantly ingratiating sitcom episodes. So when I purchased Three Silent Classics produced by Josef Von Sternberg, I did not actually believe that I could make it through even one of the movies. I was pleasantly surprised. These movies are quite slick and polished. Everything is "right:" the music, the dialog, the acting, the plot, the camera angles and lighting. These movies are not double speed, shaky, dust covered, cheap reproductions with carnival-like 1920's jazz. They are high quality films that will capture your attention and keep your interest. One star taken off for the price, but otherwise I highly recommend this DVD set.
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on February 18, 2014
I had only known of Josef von Sternberg's work with Marlene Dietrich in the 1930's. It wasn't until I read a review of one of his silent films "Underworld" that I was curious enough to rent the film. It was enough to hook me. Von Sternberg's talent is so obvious in these silent films, I would almost say that his talkies were secondary. These are powerful films, full of desperate, arrogant, fragile and violent characters, characters that sometimes reveal a nobility in their humanity. "The Last Command" to me is the finest work Emil Jannings ever did as an actor. If you love silent film, you must see these three films.
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on June 7, 2014
I was not familiar with these when I bought them, movie buff that I am. One of the best box-sets that I've come across. The prints are superb, and the bonus material was thoroughly illuminating regarding the history of the films and the contributions of von Sternberg to the American cinema. Forget D.W. Griffith -- this is some pioneering moviework that withstands the test of time, and evidences what it means to make "moving pictures."
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on December 29, 2014
Excellent Emil Jannings package
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on June 21, 2016
Great, classic, earliest of gangster movies, just nicely done. Gotta love the black and white.
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on November 5, 2010
UNDERWORLD is the first great gangster movie,and THE DOCKS OF NEWYORK a fascinating illustration of a slum melodrama "a girl in every port" style.But the real masterpiece is THE LAST COMMAND,which looks brillantly in the mirror of cinema,with a sublime Jannings and a great William Powell.Sternberg's silent movies equal the work of Griffith,and the Criterion edition is simply magnificent
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on December 18, 2013
This set includes the following films: THE DAMNED OCEAN (The Docks of New York), with George Bancroft and Evelyn Brent, THE LAST COMMAND (Twilight of Glory, 1928, with Emil Jannings, Evelyn Brent and William Powell) and UNDERWORLD (Nights Chicago 1927, with George Bancroft and Betty Compson). Three masterpieces beautifully restored and directed by Joseph von Sternberg in the late silent. The box is accompanied by a rich booklet in English only. It is undeniable that these three films are among the many masterpiece that produced silent films in the late 20s. The height is in my view reached by The Wretched of the ocean that combines a refusal of sentimentality with a splendid picture.
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on July 6, 2011
Three fine movies from one of the great visual stylists of the cinema before he launched Marlene on her dazling career. Beautifully restored prints from Criterion. Highly recommended.
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