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The mirror of life and people parade across the big screen in black and white moving images and then with sound and in color. Film historians Eric Lange and Serge Bromberg illustrate the birth of cinema and then guide you through the evolution of modern cinema using compilations from their own works from Lobster Films. This fascinating 2-documentary set includes Learning to Talk (2003/52 min.) and Movies Dream in Color (2004/52 min.) and is loaded with over two and a half hours of bonus materials. 2 DVDs. Color-Black & White/NR.
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The remarkable thing about both documentaries is the wealth of rare material used in both. Even an experienced film buff is likely to find something here that they've never encountered before and the excellent condition of the clips is absolutely breathtaking. It's also fascinating to see where most of these developments came about (France for sound and England for color) and just how many different experiments there were. In addition to the docs there is a wealth of bonus material including 1908 recordings of Enrico Caruso mimed by an actor, the first true Technicolor short LA CUCARACHA from 1934, a 1927 interview with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and color footage of the Marx Brothers from 1930. The total running time for this set is 267 minutes so you more than get your money's worth. Another winner from the folks at Flicker Alley.
Fascinating to follow the development of Cinema in it's early days. It is astounding to note that Sound on film today has gone around the circle to include separate sound discs that are used for Digital (sound is also on the actual film),as they were used in the pioneering days.
A good collection of rare films are used to show the development of both Sound and Color.
On the disc pertaining to sound, in addition to the documentary material, there are films and fragments dating back to 1900 and made in France, Germany, and the US. Included is Gus Vissar and his singing duck from the 1920's, also included on volume two of the Treasures of the American Film Archives. There is a ten minute interview with Arthur Conan Doyle from 1927, and a 1928 short film in which Ronald Colman introduces the governor of California, who urges people to attend the wholesome talkies versus what is now known as "the precodes". It was an effort to prevent the passage of the motion picture code, and it didn't work. There is also a Max Fleischer animation, "Finding His Voice", in which animated character Mutie, looking for work, visits his friend Talkie. Talkie takes Mutie to the Western Electric sound lab, where a technician explains how sound is put on film.
On the disc pertaining to color, in addition to the documentary material, there are fragments, trailers, and short films dating back to the 19th century. The earliest of these are eight French films that have been either stenciled or brushed in color that are under three minutes in length. "Inauguration of the Bell-tower of San Marco" (England, 1912) uses a early color film in which the problems are quite obvious when the subjects are moving. It is under ten minutes in length. The latter films from the 1930's are American including "La Cucaracha" from 1934, a twenty minute short that was the first to use the three-strip Technicolor process.
The one person I could find who has seen the original French DVD set stated "... it's a mixed bag, certainly not as good as the Treasures from The American Film Archives." But then, the Treasures from the American Film Archives are very good, so it may still be that the set is excellent.