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Wyler’s “Hell’s Heroes” on DVD?

Discussion in 'DVD' started by StephenALT, Feb 1, 2006.

  1. StephenALT

    StephenALT Active Member

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    Has anyone ever heard of this 1930 film coming out on DVD? I believe it’s the second filming of the Peter Kyne story “The Three Godfathers” and arguably the best. Visually stunning and unsentimental as you can get (just the title change alone hints to it’s rough edges).

    The ideal DVD would be to include both the sound and silent versions. This was made in that murky middle period from 1927 to 1931 or so when the industry had perhaps frequently made sound AND silent versions of their films (their first HD/Blu-Ray war?). (The silent versions were made one of two ways: 1. the talkie was stripped of sound and title cards added; 2. an alternate version was cut from alternate takes.) As you can imagine, the sound versions are the ones that typically still exist. Sadly, from the handful of examples I’ve seen, the silent versions tend to be more proficient and polished. The editors and filmmakers were more accustomed to telling the story without the crutch of the spoken word.

    To see this film in both of its incarnations is to get a lesson in filmmaking. The silent version is approx. 10 minutes shorter and just as stunning.

    Anyway, it would be great to see it on DVD at all, tho I believe this would be a great presentation. The American Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, NY, ran a series of films like this, where you would see both versions of a film in the same day. They only had six films where they were able to locate acceptable prints of both versions but it was a fascinating series. They showed Capra’s “Ladies of Leisure”, with Barbara Stanwyck, and the silent version was much sexier than the sound version.
     
  2. Richard--W

    Richard--W Banned

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    I would also like to see Wyler's HELL'S HEROES on DVD. Now that Ford's 1948 version has been released in a glorious Technicolor edition, it would be nice if the earlier versions -- Peter Kyne's story had been filmed three times before -- were available too.

    I'm curious, what other films were screened?

    Off-hand I can only think of two films that were shot in silent and in sound versions:

    Hitchcock's MURDER (1930)
    von Sternberg's THE BLUE ANGEL

    but my memory fails me because I know there are many others. Can anyone list them?

    For that matter, which American films were shot in English and then foreign language alternates, besides DRACULA (1931)?

    Also, there were some early attempts at 70mm widescreen alternates of standard films. Kino released both versions THE BAT WHISPERS (1930), while Fox has seen fit to release THE BIG TRAIL (1930) only in a full screen edition, whereas the widescreen version aired in the glory days of AMC and hasn't been since. No doubt there were other widescreen experiments at this time.
     
  3. Richard--W

    Richard--W Banned

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    You're correct of course, I meant to say BLACKMAIL.
    How is the Arthaus edition by the way?
     
  4. StephenALT

    StephenALT Active Member

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    Uh-oh. You got me there. I can't beleive I can't find the program from that series, seeing as it was where my wife and I went on our second date. (Yeah, when she suggested that we see 2 versions of the same film in one day, I knew it was love!) I only remember there were six and the Capra/Stanwyck film was the only one I caught. I do remember they made it a point to stress in their flyer that some films were silent prints with intertitles while others were alternate versions altogether.

    The Wyler film was a little trickier. I saw the silent version at MoMA about ten years ago, and I don't think their handout mentioned there was a sound version. Then I talked about it for years to any film geek within earshot (I especially love the 3 different ways he cinematically represents suicide) and was very exicted to see that it was going to be on AMC. I still had no idea it was going to be the sound version screened. When it did, I had mixed feelings. It was still great but I wish I could see the version that inspired me a decade ago.

    Film Forum (in NYC) just showed both versions of Blackmail,but not on the same day. I'm sorry I missed the silent version.

    I always figured that the alternate versions were sometimes the A versions, the versions some of the more experienced filmmakers and editors crafted more naturally. Wyler had made over twenty silent films (shorts mostly) so there must have been a polish to visual style that came more naturally, less gimmicky. Just a theory.

    I'm eager to get The Bat Whispers. The DVD sounds like the aspect ratio version of the "Hell's Heroes" DVD I'd like.
     
  5. StephenALT

    StephenALT Active Member

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    It would be great if Ford's silent version became available. It would have been great to include that on the 1948 version DVD. (As you can see, I'm really into these DVDs that include A/B versions of films!)

    It's also been made in as a Japanese anime, called "Tokyo Godfathers" (2003).

    Totally coincidentally, according to Amazon, the 1922 book has just been re-published as of 2 days ago! Tempting...
     
  6. ChristopherDAC

    ChristopherDAC Well-Known Member

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    I was going to mention Tokyo Godfathers [dir. Kon Satoshi] just in passing. Saw it in theatre a couple of years back; a cery nice addition to the Three Godfathers film record.

    Wouldn't it be nice if there were some way to reconcile copyright holders, so that all the different movie versions of a particular story or play could be put out in a set?
     
  7. David_AG

    David_AG Member

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    Is HELL'S HEROES still owned by Universal, its original rights holder? In 1930, Walter Lantz released a cartoon parody, HELL'S HEELS, with Oswald Rabbit as a fugitive from justice out west. Loaded with Tex Avery sight gags, this very funy cartoon would make a wonderful DVD bonus.
    Of course, this is presuming that Universal has someone in-house who is willing to dig through their animation holdings. AFAIK, Columbia House's Woody Woodpecker DVDs two years ago were seriously marred by Universal's laziness, using a majority of chopped-up TV prints of the cartoons because those were easier to access at the moment the decisions were being made.
     
  8. David_AG

    David_AG Member

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    Er, I meant "funny," not "funy." Sheesh.
     

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