The Holy Mountain (Arnold Fanck, 1926; Kino) -- comments and reactions?

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Bill Burns, Aug 13, 2003.

  1. Bill Burns

    Bill Burns Supporting Actor

    May 13, 2003
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    Digitally Obsessed has just reviewed this silent release (which streeted on Tuesday, August 12th):

    The Holy Mountain (Der Heilige Berg)

    And while the overall review was positive, Mark Zimmer rang that most dreaded of bells among the fearsome chimes that haunt my silent enthusiasm: PAL-NTSC artifacts.

    Yes, it appears that Kino has again taken the path apparently taken on their (otherwise outstanding) The Iron Mask and released a PAL conversion, with its attendant motion blur. This phenomenon, and the ways in which it irks some viewers and bothers others not at all, was recently discussed in depth as regards The Chaplin Collection from WB and MK2:

    That this was recently done by WB, and that it has apparently been done again by Kino, is prompting me to take a "wait and see" approach to all classic releases derived from overseas restorations ... and if evidence suggests a PAL conversion, I just won't buy it. That's a shame, because I love The Iron Mask (I'd buy it again), but motion blur can be such a problem for me that if the overall video quality isn't absolutely outstanding and the film itself superb (ala The Iron Mask), it's a deal breaker.

    Kino has also released Assunta Spina alongside The Holy Mountain, but I don't know offhand if it was restored overseas (that it's an Italian film isn't necessarily an indication; if Kino acquired the film elements themselves and created their own video master, it'd naturally be in NTSC, but if a restoration was undertaken for overseas purposes and a PAL master created in conjunction with that effort, it seems Kino will on occasion take the existing master and forego the creation of their own -- as Mark also suggests).

    With their upcoming The Man Who Laughs, which is reportedly an overseas restoration itself ... this Holy Mountain news is disheartening to say the least.

    The good news is that Milestone, by on-line reports, appears to be creating new NTSC masters for their UK Photoplay restorations (or so reviews of The Chess Player lead me to believe, and if anyone here has seen it, please offer your reactions as well -- I haven't seen that title myself, and it's the first to be released in their Photoplay "line"), which brings me great hope for their September release of The Phantom of the Opera. But Kino ... well, I'm very disappointed that a PAL master was used for this title, for The Iron Mask (which would otherwise be the finest looking film on DVD in my estimation), and (if on-line reports are accurate -- I haven't yet seen this one) for Metropolis. I don't know if there are any other culprits from the company, but these three are the only ones about which I've heard (or seen, in the case of The Iron Mask). If Assunta Spina and/or The Man Who Laughs join their company, that will be ill news indeed.

    I can confirm from experience that two Kino titles I had assumed to be overseas restorations (perhaps they were never mastered to video overseas, though), Cabiria and The Last Days of Pompeii, do not exhibit any PAL conversion anomalies, and The Last Days of Pompeii, in particular, looks outstanding on disc. So Kino has, on many occasions (these are just two examples), released foreign silents properly -- that they haven't done so with The Holy Mountain is a shame.

    Many don't find PAL ghosting/motion blur distracting, and it's largely a matter of individual taste, but ... well, as said, I was surprised and dismayed to read of this. I won't be buying the title as a result, and I'm rather glad I held off on a pre-order. I greatly value much of Kino's work and product, and I hope they soon adopt an "NTSC-only" policy to better enable finicky buyers (like me [​IMG]) to pre-order anything they've acquired through overseas restoration with confidence. For now, I cannot.

    If anyone else has seen the DVD, and in particular if they've seen and can compare it with other PAL conversion culprits, I'm sure such reactions would be of value to silent fans here who are on the fence and may not find PAL conversions objectionable. Some such conversions are certainly worse than others.
  2. Mark Zimmer

    Mark Zimmer Producer

    Jun 30, 1997
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    PAL-NTSC artifacting also plagues Kino's otherwise wonderful The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926). The silhouette animation really suffers from the ghosting on this disc. If only this could have been given a native NTSC transfer, it's such a beautiful little film.

    My solution for purchasing such films is to go the overseas route; I'm buying the Chaplin Gold Rush in the forthcoming UK edition. On my trusty Malata N996 PAL discs look sparkling. It truly is odd that a cheap Chinese DVD player can flawlessly produce an NTSC conversion from a PAL disc but whatever professional equipment Warner and Kino are using can't do so.

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