(aka "The Last Laugh")

directed by F.W. Murnau
Germany - 1924

A landmark work in the history of the cinema, Der letzte Mann represents a breakthrough on a number of fronts. Firstly, it introduced a method of purely visual storytelling in which all intertitles and dialogue were jettisoned, setting the stage for a seamless interaction between film-world and viewer. Secondly, it put to use a panoply of technical innovations that continue to point distinct ways forward for cinematic expression nearly a century later. It guides the silent cinema’s melodramatic brio to its lowest abject abyss — before disposing of the tragic arc altogether. The lesson in all this? That a film can be anything it wants to be… but only Der letzte Mann (and a few unforgettable others) were lucky enough to issue forth into the world under the brilliant command of master director F. W. Murnau.

His film depicts the tale of an elderly hotel doorman (played by the inimitable Emil Jannings) whose superiors have come to deem his station as transitory as the revolving doors through which he has ushered guests in and out, day upon day, decade after decade. Reduced to polishing tiles beneath a sink in the gents’ lavatory and towelling the hands of Berlin’s most-vulgar barons, the doorman soon uncovers the ironical underside of old-world hospitality. And then — one day — his fate suddenly changes…

Der letzte Mann (also known as The Last Laugh, although its original title translates to “The Last Man”) inaugurated a new era of mobile camera expression whose handheld aesthetic and sheer plastic fervour predated the various “New Wave” movements of the 1960s and beyond. As the watershed entry in Murnau’s work, its influence can be detected in such later masterpieces as Faust, Sunrise, and Tabu — and in the films of the same Hollywood dream-factory that would offer him a contract shortly after Der letzte Mann’s release.

Excerpt from the Masters of Cinema website located HERE

Poster

Theatrical Release: December 23rd, 1924 - Germany

Reviews    More Reviews  DVD Reviews

DVD Comparison:

Kino (Restored Deluxe Edition) - Region 0 - NTSC vs. Eureka - Region 2 - PAL vs. Eureka 'Masters of Cinema' - Region 0 - PAL vs. Kino - Region 0 - NTSC vs. Films Sans Frontieres - Region 2 - PAL

Big thanks to Pavel Borodin for original Kino and Films sans Frontieres caps and Mikhail for use of the Deluxe Kino edition!

DVD Box Covers

 

 

 

Distribution

Kino Video (Restored Deluxe Edition)

Region 0  - NTSC

Eureka Video
Region 2 - PAL

Eureka - Masters of Cinema # 23
Region 0 - PAL

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kino Video

Region 1  - NTSC

Films Sans Frontieres
Region 2 - PAL

 

1) Kino (Restored Deluxe Edition) - Region 0 - NTSC LEFT

2) Eureka (original release) - Region 2 - PAL 2nd

3) Masters of Cinema - Region 0 - PAL 3rd

4) Kino - Region 0 - NTSC - 4th

5) Films Sans Frontieres - Region 2 - PAL - RIGHT

Distribution

Kino Video

Region 0  - NTSC

Eureka Video
Region 2 - PAL

Eureka - Masters of Cinema # 23
Region 0 - PAL

Kino Video

Region 1  - NTSC

Films Sans Frontieres
Region 2 - PAL

Runtime 1:30:09 1:30:05 1:30:36 1:27:39 1:41:48
Video 1.33 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 6.43 mb/s
NTSC 704x480 29.97 f/s
1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: ?
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s
1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 7.35 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

1.33 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 6.21 mb/s
NTSC 704x480 29.97 f/s

1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.42
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

 

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

Kino Deluxe

Eureka original

UNAVAILABLE

Bitrate:

Masters of Cinema

 

Bitrate:

Kino

 

Bitrate:

Films Sans Frontieres

 

Audio

Original Score

Original Score

Original Score

(Few) intertitles: English

(Few) intertitles: German

Subtitles Intertitles and credits pre-translated into English or some English subs for German text (see sample below) (Few) intertitles in German with choice of English, French, Spanish subs English, none none French
Features Release Information:
Studio: Kino Video

Aspect Ratio:
Original aspect ratio - 1.33:1

Edition Details:
 German documentary (40 minutes) with optional English subtitles

 Photo Gallery
  Separate German opening credits

 2nd disc of Un-restored Export version (DVD5)

 

DVD Release Date: September 30th, 2008
Keep Case

Chapters 12

Release Information:
Studio: Eureka Video

Aspect Ratio:
1.33:1

Edition Details:
 includes fine German documentary (40 minutes) with optional English subtitles



DVD Release Date: February 23rd 2004
Keep Case

Chapters 20

Release Information:
Studio: Eureka Video

Aspect Ratio:
1.33:1

 

Edition Details:
 includes fine German documentary (40 minutes) with optional English subtitles

36-pages liner notes booklet

DVD Release Date:
January 21st, 2008
Keep Case

Chapters 20

Release Information:
Studio: Kino Video

Aspect Ratio:
Original aspect ratio - 1.33:1

Edition Details:
Photo Gallery
Alternate Sequence (German final sequence)

DVD-5 - Single sided, single layer

DVD Release Date: June 5, 2001
Keep Case

Chapters 12

Release Information:
Studio: Films Sans Frontieres, France

Aspect Ratio:
Original aspect ratio - 1.33:1

Edition Details:
• Murnau's Filmography

DVD-5 - Single sided, single layer

 

DVD Release Date: Feb 16th, 2001
Keep Case

Chapters 5

Comments:

ADDITION: Kino Deluxe - November 08': A kind friend has sent me this Kino Deluxe edition to add to this comparison. There is a reason I don't buy Kino anymore.

This is similar to the Metropolis comparison, with both Masters of Cinema (UK) and Kino (US) getting the same German Transit-Universum restored master.... but this time Kino have transferred it to SD-DVD 'interlaced' and every capture from their edition below shows 'combing' and all the associated artifacts of that inferior practice of film-to-DVD methodology. I'm unsure of the frame-rate issue but the Kino runs the same time as PAL most probably indicating that it will have 'ghosting' mixed in with the combing as well. It's hard to tell the combing is so heavy. The Kino contrast and greyscale are poorer with some brown/sepia/green infiltration. Like with Metropolis, Kino have pre-translated the German intertitles and credits and there are burned-in English subtitles for the text portions (like newspaper reading etc. - see below). This makes it all inferior to the UK edition.

 

Kino have included the same 40 minute German documentary (with subs), image gallery and have added a separate portion of the original German title sequence. The second Kino disc is a single-layered, interlaced, 'un-restored Export version of the film.

This ends up being just another reason to be region-free, as far as I am concerned.  Masters of Cinema and their 36-page booklet with writings by film scholars R. Dixon Smith, Tony Rayns, and Lotte H. Eisner, is the package to own.

Kino continue their slipshod transfer practices and I am pleased to expose them without, this time, bothering to have purchased their DVDs myself.       

 Gary Tooze

***

ADDITION: Masters of Cinema - January 08': Well, the original comparisons were done a very long time ago and I can no longer vouch for the total accuracy of the screen captures. I used the same methodology that we always have but we had not standardized it back then. So, what that means is that I cannot state with our usual accuracy about the editions. But I can still make a reasonable guess.

The MoC is the original German domestic version (with original German intertitles) and looks to be the exact same transfer from the 2004 DVD edition (utilizing the Murnau Stiftung/Transit Films restoration from 2001-2003) although the old was interlaced and had playback issues on some region-free machines. Perhaps the new is a shade darker. It has November 2007 VOB files so there may have be some slight differentiation (as Robert Harris said once - about another film/DVD - 'they just moved the pixels around'). It is more than that I believe - especially now that it is progressive. Anyway, it is still the best looking - it is dual-layered, progressive and represents probably the most complete and beautiful representation of THE LAST LAUGH since its first release 80 years ago. The old Eureka had subtitle options in French and Spanish where the new MoC has only optional English. By the way, the Kino is riddled with chroma and is poorer in just about every comparable facet (also it is interlaced).

It has the same 40 minute Der letzte Mann – The Making Of documentary by Murnau expert Luciano Berriatúa and is advertised as having 'New and improved optional English subtitles' and I'm in no position to argue. Plus Masters of Cinema have added a lavishly illustrated 36-page booklet with writing by film scholars R. Dixon Smith, Tony Rayns, and Lotte H. Eisner. So better cover, better menu - same excellent transfer, but now progressive, and those wonderful liner notes - YES! - buy the Masters of Cinema DVD today!  

 Gary Tooze

ON THE FIRST THREE COMPARED: Well, it is obvious that the "beautifully restored version..." that Markus discusses below has been brought to DVD. It is without question the definitive version of this masterpiece. It is sharper, brighter and more detailed. I think the last capture with them smoking is the most obvious. Thank you Eureka !  

Not unlike the Eureka, Kino, Divisa 'Faust' this is actually two different films (Films Sans Frontieres is over 15 minutes longer than the Kino). Why? I don't know. Trouble is it makes it impossible to find exact frames, because often, there are none that are duplicates. The most obvious difference in picture quality is brown tint of the Films Sans Frontieres PAL version. The Kino version is cleaner and sharper in most sequences with honest-looking contrast. The film is not only "silent" but done without dialogue as the actors are mostly pantomiming. Subtitles are not necessary, and there need only be very few intertitles. True fans of this film should get both versions.               

- Gary W. Tooze

NOTE: A beautiful newly restored version of this film was shown at the last Berlin Film Festival and also on German TV, and it surely will be available on DVD some day.

NOTE:  From Markus of Chiaroscuro

The difference in run time might be due to different projection speed (FsF is at 20 fps). But I suspect that the Kino version is from the US version of the film from which the last reel was cut. The FsF version is from the 1983 German TV restoration (ZDF), is the complete 6-reeler, but uses a mediocre TV teleciné master.


Associated Reading  (CLICK COVERS or TITLES for more information)

DVD Menus

Kino (Restored Deluxe Edition) - Region 0 - NTSC

.

 

Masters of Cinema - Region 0 - PAL

.



(Eureka - Region 2 - PAL LEFT vs. Kino - Region 0 - NTSC - MIDDLE  vs.Films Sans Frontieres - Region 2 - PAL - RIGHT)


 

 

 


 

Screen Captures

 

Kino Deluxe - pre-translated - LEFT - German text to English non-removable RIGHT

 

 

1) Kino (Restored Deluxe Edition) - Region 0 - NTSC TOP

2) Eureka (original release) - Region 2 - PAL 2nd

3) Masters of Cinema - Region 0 - PAL 3rd

4) Kino - Region 0 - NTSC - 4th

5) Films Sans Frontieres - Region 2 - PAL - BOTTOM

 

 


 

 

1) Kino (Restored Deluxe Edition) - Region 0 - NTSC TOP

2) Eureka (original release) - Region 2 - PAL 2nd

3) Masters of Cinema - Region 0 - PAL 3rd

4) Kino - Region 0 - NTSC - 4th

5) Films Sans Frontieres - Region 2 - PAL - BOTTOM

 

 


1) Kino (Restored Deluxe Edition) - Region 0 - NTSC TOP

2) Eureka (original release) - Region 2 - PAL 2nd

3) Masters of Cinema - Region 0 - PAL 3rd

4) Kino - Region 0 - NTSC - 4th

5) Films Sans Frontieres - Region 2 - PAL - BOTTOM

 


 

1) Kino (Restored Deluxe Edition) - Region 0 - NTSC TOP

2) Eureka (original release) - Region 2 - PAL 2nd

3) Masters of Cinema - Region 0 - PAL 3rd

4) Kino - Region 0 - NTSC - 4th

5) Films Sans Frontieres - Region 2 - PAL - BOTTOM

 


 

1) Kino (Restored Deluxe Edition) - Region 0 - NTSC TOP

2) Eureka (original release) - Region 2 - PAL 2nd

3) Masters of Cinema - Region 0 - PAL 3rd

4) Kino - Region 0 - NTSC - 4th

5) Films Sans Frontieres - Region 2 - PAL - BOTTOM

 

 


 

1) Kino (Restored Deluxe Edition) - Region 0 - NTSC TOP

2) Eureka (original release) - Region 2 - PAL 2nd

3) Masters of Cinema - Region 0 - PAL 3rd

4) Kino - Region 0 - NTSC - 4th

5) Films Sans Frontieres - Region 2 - PAL - BOTTOM


 


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Report Card:

 

Image:

Eureka / Masters of Cinema

Sound:

-

Extras:  Masters of Cinema

Menu:

 Masters of Cinema

DVD Box Covers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kino Video

Region 1  - NTSC

Films Sans Frontieres
Region 2 - PAL

 


 

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