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U.S. 1915

 

Nearly 100 years after its initial release, THE BIRTH OF A NATION remains one of the most controversial films ever made and a landmark achievement in film history that continues to fascinate and enrage audiences. It is the epic story of two families, one northern and one southern, during and after the Civil War. D. W. Griffith's masterful direction combines brilliant battle scenes and tender romance with a vicious portrayal of African-Americans. It was the greatest feature-length blockbuster yet to be produced in the United States and the first to be shown in the White House.  However flawed, the film made history. In cities and states across the country, it energized the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), which tried to have the film banned and censored. The film also inspired African Americans to move into filmmaking as a way to offer alternative images and stories.

 

"He achieved what no other known man has achieved. To watch his work is like being witness to the beginning of melody, or the first conscious use of the lever or the wheel; the emergence, coordination and first eloquence of language; the birth of an art: and to realize that this is all the work of one man" -  James Agee

 

Classic or not, ‘Birth of a Nation' has long been one of the embarrassments of film scholarship. It can't be ignored ... and yet it was regarded as outrageously racist even at a time when racism was hardly a household word.” - Andrew Sarris

It is like writing history with Lightning. And my only regret is that it is all so terribly true.”—President Woodrow Wilson, allegedly after seeing it at a White House screening. The words are quoted onscreen at the beginning of most prints of the film.

The President was entirely unaware of the nature of the play before it was presented and at no time has expressed his approbation of it.”—Letter from J.M. Tumulty, secretary to President Wilson, to the Boston branch of the NAACP, which protested against the film's blackface villains and heroic Ku Klux Klansmen.

 Posters (CLICK to ENLARGE)

Theatrical Release Date: March 3rd, 1915

Reviews                              More Reviews                      DVD Reviews

Comparison:

Image - Region 0 - NTSC vs. Kino (Masterworks) - Region 0 - NTSC vs. Eureka - Region 0 - PAL vs. Kino (3-disc Special Edition) - Region FREE - Blu-ray vs. Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray

Kino and Eureka DVD screen captures courtesy of Pavel Borodin Thanks Pavel!

1) Image - Region 0 - NTSC LEFT

2) Kino (Masterworks) - Region 0 - NTSC SECOND

3) Eureka - Region 0 - PAL - THIRD

4) Kino - Region FREE - Blu-ray FOURTH

5) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray RIGHT

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Box Covers

Distribution

Image Entertainment

Region 0 - NTSC

Kino Video

Region 0  - NTSC

Eureka 
Region 0 - PAL

Kino Video

Region FREE  - Blu-ray

Masters of Cinema  - Spine # 52

Region 'B'  - Blu-ray

Runtime 3:06:52 (bit shows with documentary) 3:06:54 3:07:00 (No adjustment for PAL) 3:13:25.833 3:13:08.201
Video 1.33 Original Aspect Ratio 
Average Bitrate: 4.83 mb/s
NTSC 704x480 29.97 f/s

1.33 Original Aspect Ratio 
Average Bitrate: 4.30 mb/s
NTSC 704x480 29.97 f/s

1.33 Original Aspect Ratio 
Average Bitrate: 5.4
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 47,813,916,376 bytes

Feature: 45,391,773,696 bytes

Video Bitrate: 25.85 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 48,930,218,958 bytes

Feature: 40,223,229,504 bytes

Video Bitrate: 22.19 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

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

Bitrate:

Image

Bitrate:

Kino

 

Bitrate:

Eureka

Bitrate: Kino

Blu-ray

Bitrate: MoC

Blu-ray

Audio English (Silent) (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo) English (Silent) (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)

English (Silent) (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)

DTS-HD Master Audio English 2059 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 2059 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 16-bit)
LPCM Audio English 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit
DTS-HD Master Audio Undetermined 1852 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1852 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
DTS-HD Master Audio Undetermined 2022 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 2022 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Subtitles Inter-titles: English Inter-titles: English Inter-titles: English Inter-titles: English Inter-titles: English
Features Release Information:
Studio: Image Entertainment


Aspect Ratio:
Full Screen (Standard) - 1.33:1

Single -sided, Dual layer

Edition Details:
• 24-minute making-of documentary detailing the production of the movie with rare behind-the-scenes footage

DVD Re-Release Date: August 14, 2002
Snap Case

Chapters 42

 

Release Information:
Studio: Kino Video (Griffith Masterworks edition)

Aspect Ratio:
Full Screen (Standard) - 1.33:1

(Griffith Masterworks edition, 2 discs)


Sides: 1
Layers: 2 (disc 1) and 1 (disc 2)


Special Feature:
• 7 Civil War shorts: In the Border States, The House with Closed Shutters, The Fugitive, His Trust, His Trust Fulfilled, Swords and Hearts, The Battle;
• "The Making of The Birth of a Nation" (1992);
• Filmed prologue to The Birth of a Nation (1930);
• New York vs. The Birth of a Nation: an archive of information documenting the battles over the films 1922 re-release;
• Excerpts from 1915 souvenir book and several original program

 

DVD Release Date: December 10th, 2002
Keep Case

Chapters 24

Release Information:
Studio: Eureka Video (UK)

Aspect Ratio:
Full Screen (Standard) - 1.33:1

(It's part of "D. W. Griffith - Monumental Epics" 4-disc Boxset,
but should be the same as single edition)

Sides: 1
Layers: 2

Special Feature:
• The Making of "The Birth of a Nation" (Produced by David
Shepard, 24:00)

DVD Release Date: August 21st, 2000
Keep Case

Chapters 37

Release Information:
Studio: Kino Video (Griffith Masterworks edition)

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 47,813,916,376 bytes

Feature: 45,391,773,696 bytes

Video Bitrate: 25.85 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video


DISC 1 - Blu-ray
• The Birth of a Nation, newly mastered in HD from archival 35mm elements
• Music by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra (2011), in 2.0 Stereo and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
• Spoken introductions by D.W. Griffith and Walter Huston (part 1 - 5:57

+ part 2 - 1:54) (including the newly rediscovered intermission sequence - and 1930 re-release title sequence - 1:22)
 

DISC 2 DVD
• The Birth of a Nation, restored by David Shepard of Film Preservation Associates in 1993
• Orchestral score adapted in 1993 from the original score by Joseph Carl Breil, in 2.0 Stereo
• “The Making of The Birth of a Nation” (24 min.) Produced by David Shepard; Compiled and written by Russell Merritt
 

DISC 3 DVD
• Civil War shorts directed by D.W. Griffith: (Music by Jon C. Mirsalis unless indicated)
· In the Border States (1910, 16 min.)
· The House With Closed Shutters (1910, 17 min.)
· The Fugitive (1910, 17 min.)
· His Trust (1910, 14 min.)
Courtesy of David Shepard; Musical setting compiled and arranged by Robert Israel; Performed by the Biograph Quartet
· His Trust Fulfilled (1910, 11 min.)
· Swords and Hearts (1911, 16 min.)
· The Battle (1911, 17 min.)
• “New York vs. The Birth of a Nation”, Archival documents pertaining to the censorship battles over the film’s 1922 re-release
• Excerpts of souvenir program books

 

Blu-ray Release Date: November 22nd, 2011
Thick
Blu-ray Case inside a sturdy cardboard sleeve box

Chapters 20

Release Information:
Studio: Masters of Cinema

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 48,930,218,958 bytes

Feature: 40,223,229,504 bytes

Video Bitrate: 22.19 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video


• New 1080p presentation of the film from archival 35mm elements, in its original aspect ratio
Music by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra in 2.0 stereo and DTS - HD Master Audio 5.1
Short archival introductions to the film by D. W. Griffith and Walter Huston
Newly rediscovered original intermission sequence and 1930 re - release title sequence

• The Making of "The Birth of a Nation" (Produced by David Shepard, 24:00)
Seven Civil War shorts directed by Griffith: In the Border States (1910); The House with Closed Shutters (1910); The Fugitive (1910); His Trust (1910); His Trust Fulfilled (1910); Swords and Hearts (1911); and The Battle (1911).
A lengthy booklet with writing about the film, rare archival imagery, and more.

 

Blu-ray Release Date: July 29th, 2013
Transparent
Blu-ray Case

Chapters 20

 

Comments:

NOTE: These Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

 

ADDITION: Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' Blu-ray (July 2012): Quite similar, especially in regards to the tints, but the MoC has richer black levels - you can even see it in the intertitles. The UK disc also seems to have far less speckles/damage marks - this is quite remarkable! It is technically a shade less robust as the lone Blu-ray has all the supplements (unlike the 3-disc package Kino). Both have the 2011 rendition of the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra score in both 2.0 and 5.1 lossless - it sounded the same as the Kino, to my ears. The differences are the UK transfer has richer contrast and they have put the intro (see below), intermission, Making of..., and the Civil war shorts all on the single Blu-ray. MoC also include one of their lengthy liner notes booklets. This is Region 'B'-locked. If you are keen on the image I'd positively go for the Masters of Cinema - the rest of the differences seem less consequential to me. Either are a must-own for serious film fans. Of the two I'll be keeping the MoC. 

 

***

 

ADDITION: Kino (3-disc) - Region FREE Blu-ray (November 11'):  There appears to be both new tinting and more prominent tinting on the new Kino 1080P transfer of The Birth of a Nation. Although there are some instances where detail is obscured from being overly bright - for the most part - the Blu-ray image shows more detail and is sharper. Generally there is also more information in the frame - varying but on all 4 edges. I'm less a fan of the tinting but have to admit the image has plenty of moments where it is impressive - and surpasses all the SD renderings of the 3-hour film. There are still plenty of marks, scratches and minor damage. It is advertised as 'newly mastered in HD from archival 35mm elements'. I don't discount some contrast manipulation and it can look thin at times but overall I think it is a huge improvement.

 

Audio options come in the form of a DTS-HD Master 5.1 at 2059 kbps or a linear PCM stereo track at 1536 kbps. These are exporting a 2011 rendition by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra. I preferred the latter and it sounds excellent - wonderful piano and is a perfect fit for The Birth of a Nation. Sometimes there is a disconnect when audio is so far in advance of video - but this supportive track works in lossless. It's like seeing the film a fresh. Title-cards and intertitles appear original.

 

Extras on the feature disc include an oddly staged introduction by D.W. Griffith and Walter Huston in 2 parts as well as the 1930 re-release title sequence. These are short - more room for the 3 hour film - close to filling the dual-layered disc. There are also 2 DVDs included - the first with The Birth of a Nation, restored by David Shepard of Film Preservation Associates in 1993 and “The Making of The Birth of a Nation” (24 min.) produced by Shepard and compiled and written by Russell Merritt - as found on the previous DVD editions. The 3rd disc seems to duplicate the second disc of the 2002 Masterworks set with the Civil War shorts directed by D.W. Griffith - the souvenir program excerpts remain.

 

The Birth of a Nation remains an important and unforgettable historical document and I have never seen it look or sound better. It remains an impressive and draining experience - a journey that demands a position in any cinephile library. The Blu-ray is recommended!

***

ON THE DVDs: The Eureka DVD image in this case is the sharpest. It doesn't have the sepia and purple tinting that both the Image and the Kino versions have, which I have been told is accurate (akin to the original - black-and-white transfers of the film are taken from 2nd/3rd/4th generation). The Kino and Image pictures are identical, meaning they used the same print and probably the same process, if Kino didn't just buy it from Image which would be my guess. The Kino disc has many extras (see above), but for image quality you will want the Eureka as well.

NOTE: The Eureka PAL DVD is part of "D. W. Griffith - Monumental Epics" 4-disc Boxset, but should be the same as single edition and the Kino can be bought as part of the 'Griffith's Masterwork Set' or individually.

 - Gary W. Tooze


Menus

(Image - Region 0 - NTSC - LEFT vs. Kino (Masterworks) - Region 0 - NTSC - MIDDLE vs. Eureka - Region 0 - PAL - RIGHT)


 

 

Kino - Region FREE - Blu-ray

 

 

Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray

 

 


CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

Screen Captures

 

Title card / Intertitle Sample

 

1)  Kino - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP

2) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

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1)  Kino - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP

2) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

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1) Image - Region 0 - NTSC TOP

2) Kino (Masterworks) - Region 0 - NTSC SECOND

3) Eureka - Region 0 - PAL - THIRD

4) Kino - Region FREE - Blu-ray FOURTH

5) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

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1) Image - Region 0 - NTSC TOP

2) Kino (Masterworks) - Region 0 - NTSC SECOND

3) Eureka - Region 0 - PAL - THIRD

4) Kino - Region FREE - Blu-ray FOURTH

5) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

.


1) Image - Region 0 - NTSC TOP

2) Kino (Masterworks) - Region 0 - NTSC SECOND

3) Eureka - Region 0 - PAL - THIRD

4) Kino - Region FREE - Blu-ray FOURTH

5) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

.


1) Image - Region 0 - NTSC TOP

2) Kino (Masterworks) - Region 0 - NTSC SECOND

3) Eureka - Region 0 - PAL - THIRD

4) Kino - Region FREE - Blu-ray FOURTH

5) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

.


1) Image - Region 0 - NTSC TOP

2) Kino (Masterworks) - Region 0 - NTSC SECOND

3) Eureka - Region 0 - PAL - THIRD

4) Kino - Region FREE - Blu-ray FOURTH

5) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

.

More Blu-ray Captures

1)  Kino - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP

2) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

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1)  Kino - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP

2) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

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1)  Kino - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP

2) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

.

 

1)  Kino - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP

2) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

.

 

1)  Kino - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP

2) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

.

 

1)  Kino - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP

2) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

.

 

1)  Kino - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP

2) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

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Hit Counter


Report Card:

 

Image:

MoC Blu-rays

Sound:

Blu-rays

Extras:

Kino Blu-ray

 

Box Covers

Distribution

Image Entertainment

Region 0 - NTSC

Kino Video

Region 0  - NTSC

Eureka 
Region 0 - PAL

Kino Video

Region FREE  - Blu-ray

Masters of Cinema  - Spine # 52

Region 'B'  - Blu-ray

 




 

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Gary Tooze

Many Thanks...