Bardelys The Magnificent, Monte Cristo [Import]
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The Marquis de Bardelys falls for a viscount's daughter after twenty years in prison, Edmond Dantes gains wealth and power to enact vengeance on those that wronged him.Genre: Silent FilmsRating: NRRelease Date: 0000-00-00Media Type: DVD
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Both films were reconstructed from incomplete prints which some may find a distraction but we're lucky to have these titles at all so a big round of thanks to everyone involved for making it possible. The Mount Alto Orchestra provides a fine score for BARDELYS (there's an alternate piano score by Antonio Coppola) while Neal Kurz's piano score for MONTE CRISTO is an absolute delight as well. Rounding out the set are lots of supplements that include an audio essay for BARDELYS and a featurette REDISCOVERING JOHN GILBERT with Gilbert's biographer (and daughter) Leatrice Gilbert Fountain who is now in her 80s. Like other Flicker Alley releases, this one is a must for silent film aficionados. Don't let the price put you off. Remember, you get what you pay for (especially with silent film releases).
It is therefore significant to see these two earlier films of another genre and style by this silent star whose brightness shone only briefly yet brilliantly, and I found his performance in both films surprisingly and delightfully refreshing and different. In the King Vidor production of "Bardelys the Magnificent" he rivals Douglas Fairbanks in his famous swashbuckling action-adventure, "The Three Musketeers", with a similar setting and many exciting action scenes. It is a good story told beautifully with light humour which blends perfectly with the romance, suspense and adventure of the whole film. Although one reel is missing from this exciting rediscovery, the use of stills and extra intertitles fills the gaps nicely and does not detract from the overall smooth, stylish and sophisticated feeling of the film. An outstanding and perfectly-suited orchestral musical score by Rodney Sauer and the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra enhances the quality of this already very satisfying Hollywood-style escape.
My personal favourite of the two films in this set however is the second film, "Monte Christo", being one of many versions based on the ever-popular Alexandre Dumas novel, and of all the ones I've seen, this is by far the best, in my opinion. If not for the slightly inferior picture quality and a piano score instead of the full orchestral treatment, it would proudly stand on its own as a great film, ranking among the best early versions of The Count of Monte Christo. As Edmond Dantes, Gilbert goes through various stages of appearance, circumstances and emotions, showing that he was a competent actor in other roles besides romantic leads. The first half of this legendary tale allows Gilbert to play the role of the prisoner whose hair and beard have grown wild and long, desperately trying to find a way out and seek revenge on those who caused his unjust imprisonment. When he is rewarded with treasure and becomes the Count of Monte Christo, he again takes on a new aura and manner as he plots to ruin the lives of those who ruined his. It is a serious yet satisfying story told especially well for a silent film made in 1922, and greatly contributes to completing the picture of John Gilbert, the actor.
A top quality glossy brochure with many fine photos accompanies this set and provides more background information on the films and Gilbert himself, along with the audio commentary and half-hour documentary, which is basically an interview with John Gilbert's daughter, Leatrice Gilbert Fountain, who wrote a biography of her father some years ago. All together, this is a wonderful set about a charming actor of the silent era whose films deserve to be remembered and enjoyed once again in this restored condition.
At any rate, the following is the press release for this set:
Bardelys the Magnificent (1926, 85 min.)
Based upon the novel by Rafael Sabatini and directed by King Vidor, who just one year before had directed Gilbert in the smash hit The Big Parade. In France "in an age of light loves and lively scandals," the Marquis de Bardelys (Gilbert), casual womanizer and accomplished swashbuckler, is entranced by Roxalanne de Lavedan (Eleanor Boardman); and against a background of knavery and intrigue, he sets out to woo and win her. Lavishly mounted and superbly directed with spectacular action scenes, Bardelys is a hugely entertaining action romance given an A-plus MGM production.
The sole surviving print was found in France in 2006; the English titles are restored according to the original script. A gap in the recovered footage (the third reel) is bridged with stills, titles, and footage from the original trailer so the story is complete; the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra provides a lovely score of period photoplay music. This release is possible through the permission of Warner Bros. and Sony Pictures.
Monte Cristo (1922, 100 min.)
Adapted from the novel by Alexandre Dumas, and directed by Emmett J. Flynn, Gilbert is Edmond Dantes, a sailor unjustly imprisoned for twenty years, time he spends acquiring education and finesse. Later the accidental heir to a vast fortune, Dantes reinvents himself as the Count of Monte Cristo, and wreaks revenge on those symbols of the decadent monarchy that wronged him.
Fox Film spared no expense on this prestige film with lavish sets and a distinguished supporting cast. The sole surviving copy of Monte Cristo is a worn and choppy print found in the Czech Republic, but nearly complete. English titles have been restored with the help of the original script. Pianist Neal Kurz arranged and performs a score of obscure yet beautiful French music of the period.
End of press release.
Film historians Jeffrey Vance and Tony Maietta draw from their own extensive historical research into the life of John Gilbert to provide:
1. A full-length audio essay on Bardelys the Magnificent
2. An enclosed booklet
3. A brand-new thirty-minute documentary Rediscovering John Gilbert, featuring an on-camera interview with John Gilbert's daughter and biographer, Leatrice Gilbert Fountain.
4. 200+ Image slide show
As the DVD also features a documentary, Rediscovering John Gilbert, let's start with the much loved star. Leatrice Gilbert Fountain, the actor's daughter, has been campaigning for years to rehabilitate Gilbert's reputation, mainly concerning the "high voice" MYTH and his talkie career. ( As such, it is disconcerting, to say the least, to see another reviewer -a `vine voice' no less-repeat the "high pitched nasal voice" canard in "his" review. Not that I consider cutting and pasting an article from a movie web site writing a review, but there it is.) So I'll put it all in caps: THERE WAS NOTHING WRONG WITH JOHN GILBERT'S SPEAKING VOICE. Anyone who's seen "Queen Christina" or any of his other talkies knows this. Personally, as a silent film fan, I don't think Gilbert's reputation needs much boosting. He starred in what is arguably the greatest silent film ever made- one of the greatest films ever made, period-The Big Parade, and will always be the subject of scholarly scrutiny because of this and his work with Erich von Stroheim (The Merry Widow), Great Garbo (the aforementioned Queen Christina, A Woman of Affairs, Flesh and the Devil and Love) and Vidor. His `downfall" has more to do with perceptions of fantasy and reality vis-a-vis talkies /silents, and changes in public taste.
For all those "Gilbert is no Fairbanks" naysayers I'll say, "You're right." But it's equally true that Fairbanks is no Gilbert, and the part of Bardelys- an amoral ladies man who wages he can seduce a young girl- is wrong for "Doug", right for "Jack". (I might add that neither Allan Dwan nor Fred Niblo is King Vidor, either. You may prefer Errol Flynn to Tyrone Power, too, but you'll never get to see Flynn play Zorro. It is what it is.)
As stated earlier, MGM really put their money into Bardelys, and it shows. Beautiful costumes, great sets, massive crowd scenes. Vidor, Gilbert and the stunt team do indeed try to "out Fairbanks" Fairbanks in the climax, and what's wrong with that? A great show. Swashbuckler fans shouldn't hesitate on purchasing this one- you've seen (as have I) Fairbanks' eight great costume pictures from 1920 -29 ( Zorro- The Iron Mask) over and over- here's a "new" adventure romp to enjoy again and again. I've owned the Grosset and Dunlap photoplay edition of Bardelys the Magnificent for years, so I've always pictured Sabatini's hero as Gilbert, and the actor doesn't disappoint. Speaking of whom, is there a better adventure writer than Rafael Sabatini? Simply, no. Dubbed "The Modern Dumas" by his publisher's publicist, Sabatini (author of Captain Blood, Scaramouche and The Sea Hawk) is in fact the better writer. The Count of Monte Cristo, subject of the second film on this set, was plotted by Dumas' highly paid secret collaborator Auguste Maquet, who wrote the initial drafts of his most famous books. The filmed version here is serviceable enough, but lacks the flair and polish of Bardelys. It has many of those "stage set" shots found in middle period silents, where the camera is the fourth wall of a perfectly balanced scene, the lines of the floor, ceiling and two walls symmetrically receding to the central, one-point-perspective vanishing point. Lacking the fluid camera work of the Vidor -directed Bardelys, the film gets its strength from the familiar revenge story, stripped of the many digressions and sub-plots of the unabridged novel, and Gilbert's strong lead performance.
The third part of this DVD release is Rediscovering John Gilbert, a single camera shot interview with Leatrice Gilbert Fountain. While she overlaps a few of her recollections so they don't quite jive with her previously written record, her love for her father, who died 73 years ago, is palpable, and it is an important oral record. Would the filmmakers had inserted a few photos of the people she discusses, for those unfamiliar with the silent period, or provided some other supporting material. Here's a hearty recommendation for her wonderful book, Dark Star, the biography of John Gilbert, one of the best biographies of a silent star available- and I've read plenty. I'd just like to reiterate that the likelihood of her father being forgotten or dismissed from film history is highly remote. Now if Flicker Alley would only release some work by some truly hard-to-find performers, such as Milton Sills or Thomas Meighan, two other stars who also died too young. Still, Bardelys the Magnificent? Never thought I'd see it. Bought it as soon I knew it was available. You should, too. Given the talent involved I knew it had to be great, and it is better than I imagined.
If you're a fan of silent films or a fan of John Gilbert's,this is a must.
I don't have anything extra to add that hasn't been said already. I only know that I love this,and it was well worth the price paid.
So if you're thinking about picking this up,go ahead and buy it,you won't be sorry you did.