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Rent >> Griffith Masterworks, Vol. 2

Griffith Masterworks, Vol. 2 (Sally of the Sawdust / Abraham Lincoln / The Struggle / The Avenging Conscience / Edgar Allen Poe / Way Down East / D.W. Griffith: Father of Film)
Griffith Masterworks, Vol. 2 (Sally of the Sawdust / Abraham Lincoln / The Struggle / The Avenging Conscience / Edgar Allen Poe / Way Down East / D.W. Griffith: Father of Film) (1920)
Actor: W.C. Fields, Carol Dempster, Alfred Lunt, Lillian Gish, Richard Barthelmess, Henry B. Walthall, Walter Huston, Una Merkel, Jason Robards Sr., Zita Johann, Spottiswoode Aitken, (more) Blanche Sweet, Harrison Ford (II), Creighton Hale
Director: D.W. Griffith
Genre: Silent, Comedy, Drama
Year: 1920
Studio: Kino Video
Length: 695 minutes
Released: November 18, 2008
Rating: NR
Format: DVD
Misc: NTSC, Black & White
Language: English (Original Language)
SYNOPSIS:

Sally of the Sawdust (1925)
In a fascinating departure from the austere moral drama in which he specialized, D.W. Griffith demonstrates his talent for warm-hearted comedy with Sally of the Sawdust. Fresh from the Ziegfeld Follies, W.C. Fields made his second screen appearance as Professor Eustace McGargle, a lovably disreputable confidence man who becomes the unlikely guardian of an orphaned circus waif (Carol Dempster). Intending to return Sally to her grandparents, McGargle learns that her wealthy and esteemed grandfather (Erville Alderson) is a stern judge who harbors a deep contempt for shysters and show people.

Faster than a sucker can say “three-card monte,” McGargle finds himself wanted by the police and chased by bootleggers, while trying to protect his cherished Sally, who has won the affection of a slumming socialite (Alfred Lunt). Sally provided Griffith ingenue Carol Dempster (whose work for the director is generally overshadowed by that of her predecessors, Mary Pickford and Lillian Gish) with a delightful role:  the spry, innocent and hot-tempered dancing girl wholly devoted to her criminal “Poppy.”  At the same time, it showcases the comic juggling and dry wit that would make a legend of W.C. Fields (who remade the film in 1936 under the title of the original play, “Poppy.”)

BONUS FEATURES:
  • Filmed introduction by Orson Welles
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Image gallery
Abraham Lincoln (1931) / The Struggle (1931)
The silent cinema’s renowned pioneer, D.W. Griffith, directed only two sound features: Abraham Lincoln (1930) and The Struggle (1931), both collected on this DVD. Returning to the historic era of his greatest success, Griffith paid homage to the sixteenth President in this moving drama starring Walter Huston (The Treasure of the Sierra Madre). Focusing on Lincoln’s personal tragedies, as well as his great accomplishments, Griffith’s film depicts the American icon with a sensitivity and grace rivaled only by John Ford’s Young Mr. Lincoln. A departure from the historical super-productions for which he was known, The Struggle was an intimate drama of an American everyman who falls victim to the debilitating affliction of alcoholism.  No stranger to the destructive influence of drink, Griffith pulls no punches in dramatizing its potential horrors, especially in the terrifying climax when Jimmie, tormented by delirium tremors, attacks his young daughter (Edna Hagan) in the hovel that was once their happy home. Abraham Lincoln has been mastered in HD from the Museum of Modern Art’s 35mm restoration of Griffith’s historical epic.  The Struggle was remastered in HD from a 35mm archive print from the Raymond Rohauer Collection.

BONUS FEATURES:
  • Introduction to The Birth of a Nation, featuring Walter Huston and D.W. Griffith on the set of Abraham Lincoln
  • Lincoln’s assassination: comparison of scenes in Abraham Lincoln and The Birth of a Nation
  • Gallery of photos and original pressbook for Abraham Lincoln
The Avenging Conscience (1914,  84 min.)
D.W. Griffith indulged his lifelong fascination with Edgar Allan Poe in this ambitious amalgam of the writer’s poetry and prose: “Annabel Lee” and “The Tell-Tale Heart,” flavored with shades of “The Pit and the Pendulum,” “The Black Cat,” and “The Conqueror Worm.” Poe’s tales are interwoven in one tragedy-laden narrative of a young man (Henry B. Walthall) who yearns to escape from his overbearing, one-eyed uncle (Spottiswoode Aitken). After the nephew murders the ogre, he and his lover (Blanche Sweet) are wracked by guilt and tormented by nightmares, ghosts, and demonic entities that drive them to even more horrifying extremes. Just as Poe cloaked his horrors in artful poetry and prose, so does Griffith filter the story’s macabre elements through a Victorian lens, gilding it with quaint symbolism without diminishing its impact. When asked, in 1925, to rank the cinema’s greatest achievements, critic Gilbert Seldes called special attention to this film.  “The picture was projected in a palpable atmosphere,” he wrote in his book The Seven Lively Arts, “After ten years I recall dark masses and ghostly rays of light.”

BONUS FEATURES:
  • Piano score compiled and performed by music historian Martin Marks (2.0 Stereo)
  • Griffith’s 1909 short Edgar Allen Poe (7 min.)
  • Notes on the preparation of the music score
Way Down East (1920)
D.W. Griffith’s penchant for Victorian melodrama reached its height of expression in Way Down East.  First performed in 1898, Lottie Blair Parker’s play was one of the most successful stageworks ever written, a theatrical chestnut, heavy with sentiment, that cried out for the touch of the master. Griffith captured the appeal of Parker’s original, while embossing it with devices borrowed from other popular melodramas, such as the climactic chase across an ice floe (inspired by stage adaptations of Uncle Tom’s Cabin).

Lillian Gish stars as a small-town girl who is seduced, impregnated, and cast aside by Lennox Sanderson, a wealthy playboy (Lowell Sherman). To escape the shame of having a fatherless child, Anna changes her name and starts a new life in a small farming community, where she meets David, an icon of male virtue and decency (Richard Barthelmess). Their delicate happiness is threatened when Lennox arrives in town, and word of Anna’s unsavory past begins to spread.

BONUS FEATURES:
  • Score compiled from historic photoplay music, performed by The Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra (2.0 Stereo)
  • Excerpts from Lottie Blair Parker’s original play
  • Photos of William Brady’s 1903 stage version
  • Film Clip: The ice floe sequence of the Edison Studio’s production of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
  • Image gallery, including the original souvenir program book
  • Notes on the preparation of the music score
D.W. Griffith: Father of Film
In this acclaimed three-part documentary, celebrated film historians Kevin Brownlow and David Gill (Unknown Chaplin, Buster Keaton: A Hard Act to Follow) tell the proud, sad story of D.W. Griffith (1875-1948): the man who first brought artistry and ambition to the movies, and then, having dragged a reluctant American film industry to international prominence, found it had no more use for him. Judiciously chosen film clips illustrate exactly how, within seven years of going to work for the Biograph Studios in 1908, Griffith painstakingly refined camera and acting techniques; how trial and error led him to create a grammar that was the cinema’s own; and how, in 1915, he presented the fully-fledged film masterwork The Birth of a Nation. Griffith strove to outdo himself in skill, spectacle and soaring ambition, and Brownlow and Gill illuminate the successes that highlighted his career: Intolerance, Broken Blossoms, Way Down East and Orphans of the Storm.  A wealth of background detail is provided by vivid accounts of Griffith at work (from Lillian Gish, Blanche Sweet, Karl Brown, Stanley Cortez, among others), and by a comprehensive account of the great controversy sparked by The Birth of a Nation. With its extensive historic details and dazzling extracts from beautifully tinted prints, Brownlow and Gill’s three-part documentary is the perfect reminder of just how great Griffith’s achievements were.
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