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Haxan (The Criterion Collection)

4.3 out of 5 stars 56 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Grave robbing, torture, possessed nuns, and a satanic Sabbath: Benjamin Christensen's legendary film uses a series of dramatic vignettes to explore the scientific hypothesis that the witches of the middle ages suffered the same hysteria as turn-of-the-century psychiatric patients. But the film itself is far from serious-instead it's a witches' brew of the scary, gross, and darkly humorous. The Criterion Collection is proud to present two versions of this genre-defying "documentary," for the first time ever on DVD.

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Witchcraft through the ages is explored with dark wit in this silent classic. Writer-director Benjamin Christensen uses a historical study of witchcraft as a jumping-off point for a fascinating film that is part science, part horror, and part social commentary. This Criterion edition uses a beautiful print, a rearrangement of music from the original Danish premiere, and the original Swedish intertitles (with subtitles). Goodies include commentary by Danish film scholar Casper Tybjerg, the option of watching a narrated version without intertitles, and test shots from the film. The test shots, in particular, give insight into the early filmmaking process, as when Christensen uses his own image to try out (and reject) a flying effect. This is a worthy edition to the collection of fans of horror films, silent films, and film in general. --Ali Davis

Special Features

  • Includes both versions of the film: Haxan (1922) - a new, speed-corrected digital trandfer of the Swedish Film Institutes's corrected tinted restoration and Witchcraft Through The Ages (1968) - the 74 minute version of Haxan, narrated by William S. Burroughs, with a soundtrack featuring Jean-Luc Ponty
  • Music from the original Danish premiere
  • Director Benjamin Christensen's introduction to the 1941 re-release
  • A short selection of outtakes
  • Bibliotheque Diabolique: a photographic exploration of Christensen's historical sources

Product Details

  • Actors: Benjamin Christensen, Elisabeth Christensen, Maren Pedersen, Clara Pontoppidan, Elith Pio
  • Directors: Benjamin Christensen
  • Writers: Benjamin Christensen
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC, Silent, Subtitled
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English, Swedish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    NR
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: June 1, 2010
  • Run Time: 87 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00005O5CA
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #23,555 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Haxan (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
I have just finished watching the new Criterion dvd of Haxan and I couldn't be more pleased! I have never seen this film, but thought I would try it out, as I have always had a fascination with the grotesque, mysticism, and the occult. Haxan delivers in spades.
This 1922 Danish silent film about black magic, witches, satanism, and the persecution of said subjects during the middle-ages, which attempts to make a connection between the ancient phenomena and the modern study of hysteria (modern in 1922), has been wonderfully presented by The Criterion Collection in their new dvd. This new Criterion dvd has the original 104 min. version with a newly recorded 5.0 soundtrack orchestrated from archival documentation, and the 76 min. version released in 1967, which has narration by legendary counter-culture icon William S. Burroughs.
Watching the original version, I found it full of great imagery and fine silent acting. Emotions and actions are superbly conveyed by the actors, and the sets, costumes, lighting, and effects are all wonderfully done. I especially like the interrogation chamber and the Sabbath scenes, which display lots of good props and much deviltry with rather convincing special effects and make-up. The movie is structured in seven chapters, the first giving a historical account of witchcraft's origins in literature and illustrations. We then are presented with drama plays, having to do with the practice of witches, and the persecution, trying, and torturing of said witches. We are also presented with several instances of the devil manifesting and making demands on his minions. In the end, Christensen attempts to make a correlation between the acts, mannerisms, and various disfigurements anciently attributed to witches and their craft, and the modern affects of hysteria.
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Format: DVD
One of the most famous cult/horror films from the silent era, Benjamin Christensen's "Häxan" is at its devilish best on this EXCELLENT DVD release by the great folks at the Criterion Collection. Say good-bye to those murky, washed out video prints we've all had to put up with, and say hello to a nearly flawless print of the film wonderfully transfered to the disc. The images are so crisp and clear, many of the scenes look as if they could have been filmed yesterday. The clarity also allows for you to see much more of the detail in each frame. Also lending to the beautiful images is accurate tinting and correct "projection" speed. Also included is a terrific musical score which has been reconstructed from the actual music that accompanied the original 1922 release in Denmark.
Extras include movie outtakes, production stills, audio commentary, and the 1960's version of the film with William S. Burroughs narrating.
The bottom line: this is far and away the best version of "Häxan" you will find anywhere, and belongs in the collection of any silent film buff.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
WARNING: My copy of the "(Enhanced)" version, does not contain the entire film!!!

Shortly after the Devil has compelled a nun to exit her office with a knife, the DVD abruptly ends! After some research (on youtube), I discovered that this act continues with the culmination of a dance frenzy at her convent, followed by the concluding act depicting the woes of a woman's psychosis. All said, the final 15 minutes of the film are missing.

The DVD states it is 90 minutes long. The feature length of the film is supposed to be 105 minutes! There is no sign of these final acts in the chapter menu either.

Whether a faulty DVD or an incomplete version of the film, you might do better purchasing the Criterion release instead.
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Nice restoration by Criterion, you almost wouldn't believe the film was made in 1922. For its time this is a pretty objective rendition of medieval witch hunt frenzy. Not very flattering of organized religion but then this is what makes this movie refreshing. The sets and acting are exaggerated probably to lend some levity on the serious subject matter. They could of done without the blue and red tinting, but maybe that was real novelty in the silent movie era and they kept this feature for posterity's sake. The version with the jazz score and Burrough's dry narration was different but not necessarily better. I also think the musical score in this version was inappropriate, but the narration did lend exposition to the story. Maybe having the original orchestral score with Burrough's droning narration would be better, if you don't mind the clash of genres. Other than that, this is a nice DVD to one's collection.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
What a great time to be a silent film enthusiast. Thanks to video technology it's now possible to have access to more silent films than ever before and in the best condition since their original release. For years Danish director Benjamin Christensen's 1922 controversial "documentary" HAXAN (The Witch) has been available (when it's been available) in either lousy public domain copies projected at the wrong speed or in the extremely funky edited version narrated by William Burroughs with a modern jazz score. Now with the help of the Swedish Film Institute and Home Vision Cinema/Criterion Collection it is finally possible to see the film the way that Christensen intended it. Over thirty minutes of censored footage has been restored along with original tints that make this version far superior to anything that has been previously available.

For those of you who know HAXAN only through the William Burroughs version known as WITCHCRAFT THROUGH THE AGES, it too has been included in this new release (DVD and VHS) so you can see the difference. Added bonuses include footage of Christensen in 1941 (in addition to directing he also portrayed Satan) and outtakes from various scenes. While not a great film it remains a remarkable, gripping experience full of striking images that stay with you long after the film is over. Although not a documentary in the true sense of the word, it does attempt to portray a selected history of what was called witchcraft and how it was brutally dealt with by the church. Scenes of nudity, torture, carnal lust, and flagellation helped to get it banned in several countries as well as heavily edited.
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