A city vamp seduces a country man and convinces him to kill his wife. At the moment heis about to commit the crime, he finds he cannot go through with it. We then follow the husbandand wife through the course of their reconciliation. Put this way, the film sounds flat and boring,but the poetry of its simplicity, imagery and performances is overwhelming. (There’s a stormsequence that must be one of the greatest storms in the movies.) This is emphatically one of thegreat clas…ics of cinema, from a director (F.W. Murnau) who already had a masterpiece underhis belt with Nosferatu.
You have a choice between two music tracks. One is the original Movietone score from1927. The restoration work is excellent. The score is, of course, mono, and there are somegurgles and static. What do you expect for a 1927 recording? What the restoration has done ispresent the music as it would have been heard at the time of the original release. If you wantsomething more recent, there’s a new score in 2.0 surround, and a fine score it is, beautifullymatching the images. You’ll have to watch the movie twice just to enjoy both scores.
Sure, there are scratches and some grain. What is astonishing is how few scratches and howlittle grain there is. The full range of the black-and-white is present. This is a superb restoration,and the jaw-dropping beauty of the film shines through. I am slightly puzzled by the fact that thecase says the ratio is 1.20:1, yet the full frame (1.33:1) of my screen was used.
Many have said that a good DVD is like a film course in a box. I have seen few discs ofwhich this is more true than this one. Cinematographer John Bailey provides the commentary. Hespeaks very well, and his focus, as is to be expected, is on the cinematography of the film. Histalk, though frequently very technical, is hugely informative. This track is an ideal way toappreciate fully the achievement this film represents. Baily also provides commentary for a seriesof outtakes, which you can watch also with his comments replaced by brief title cards. Interestedin the screenplay? The original scenario by Carl Mayer, with annotations by Murnau, isreproduced, and you can read the screenplay itself in transcribed form as well. There’s the trailer(scoreless) and a small gallery (four stills), and some restoration notes.
Then we get to a really fascinating extra. Murnau’s follow-up, 4 Devils, is lost, but thescreenplay is presented here, along with a narrated recreation using script passages, productionstills, and drawings. This is a work of accessible yet rigorous film scholarship, and the same istrue of the entire DVD. And all this on one side of a single disc! The menu is basic, but easy tonavigate.
My understanding is that Sunrise is available only as a free DVD that you get for mailing inproofs-of-purchase from the other Studio Classics DVDs. One can only hope that it will becomemore widely available. In the meantime, move Heaven and Earth to acquire this disc: a superbpresentation of one of the greatest movies ever made.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentary
- Outtakes with Optional Commentary
- Original Scenario
- Recreation of 4 Devils
- 4 Devils Screenplay