(aka "The Threepenny Opera" or "The 3 Penny Opera" or "The Beggar's Opera")

 

directed by Georg Wilhelm Pabst
Germany 1931

 

The sly melodies of composer Kurt Weill and the daring of dramatist Bertolt Brecht come together on-screen under the direction of German auteur G. W. Pabst (Pandora's Box) in this classic adaptation of the Weimar-era theatrical sensation. Set in the impoverished back alleys of Victorian London, The Threepenny Opera follows underworld antihero Mackie Messer (a.k.a. Mack the Knife) as he tries to woo Polly Peachum and elude the authorities. With its palpable evocation of corruption and dread, set to Weill's irresistible score, The Threepenny Opera remains a benchmark of early sound cinema. It is presented here in both its celebrated German and rare French versions.

Poster

Theatrical Release:  February 19th, 1931 (Berlin)

Reviews    More Reviews  DVD Reviews

DVD Review: Criterion (2-disc) - Region 1 - NTSC

Big thanks to Per-Olof Strandberg for the Review!

DVD Box Cover

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Distribution

Criterion Collection - Spine # 405

Region 1 - NTSC

Runtime 1:50:48
Video

1:1.19 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 6.24 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

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

Bitrate

Audio German (Dolby Digital 1.0)
Subtitles English, None
Features Release Information:
Studio: Criterion

Aspect Ratio:
Fullscreen - 1:1.19

Edition Details:
• Disc one:
• Audio commentary by scholars David Bathrick and Eric Rentschler
• Archival introduction by Threepenny stars Fritz Rasp and Ernst Busch (1:28)
• New exclusive documentary on Threepenny's controversial journey from stage to screen (48:54)
• Disc two:
• French version of the film
•  Multimedia presentation by film scholar Charles O'Brien on the differences between the English and
• Galleries of production photos by Hans Casparius and production sketches by art director Andre Andre
• Production Sketches
• Archival interview with Fritz Rasp (17:46)
• PLUS: A new essay by film critic Tony Rayns

DVD Release Date: September 18, 2007
Transparent two disc keep-case

Chapters 27

 

 

Comments:

When Criterion announces a DVD that has already been in the market from a different distributor, or region, the big question is: How much better is the Criterion than the previous releases? Criterion doesn't disappoint this time either. Criterion uses a restored High Definition transfer from 2006. The previous BFI (UK/R2) was released in 2004, and obviously, used a different transfer. I believe that the Criterion package is actually the best we are ever going see this film in SD-DVD format. The picture is pillar-boxed (not picture boxed) to obtain the OAR of 1:1.19. The image is stable and almost total free from dirt and scratches. However, there are parts with missing frames, and many of the picture changes have a jump cut, the first and last frame in the cut is dizzy. The image is quite dark, and even tough most of the close-ups are amazingly sharp, there's plenty of wide-shots that are soft. I don't know if these is something to do with the digital restoring system, or that (according to IMdb) the film was banned by the Nazi Party, and many prints of the film were destroyed, possibly also the original negative. Watching it with a projector it feels almost as if you've gone back in time 76 years to the films premiere. The clean image is truly marvelous.

The audio is also cleaned up and there's almost no dropouts or pops remaining. When the dialogue is spoken there's a, very minor, low hiss throughout. I feel that occasionally there's missing a few seconds of the sound here and there. Actually, now the sound-mix felt a little bit to perfect (modern) - if that can be considered a flaw.

In my projector system, the English subtitles occasionally had an unusual one frame vertical shadow during the move to the next subtitle.

On disc two we get the French version of this film, entitled "L'Opéra de quat'sous'". This print is borrowed from BFI and is most certain the exact same print that is used on the BFI DVD. The image is in horrible condition. It's zoomed in to 1:1.33 and there's an overall vertical shaking in the picture, that the digital media can't seem to follow. The image quality is quite fuzzy. Overall it has a strong videotape appearance, and unusual for Criterion the subtitles are burned-in into the picture. Compared to the German version the image is much brighter. These is explained in the excellent documentary found it the supplements. It's still a big value to have the French version included, even in this poor condition.

I haven't seen all of the supplements included, but I was thrilled by the multimedia presentation by film scholar Charles O'Brien on the differences between the German and French versions. Typical for the era, both versions were made at the same time, and the actors for both versions were present in the studio.

Criterion doesn't only bring the best in DVD format - the film with the extra material is a quite impressive history study, and the value in film history is larger than most people could ever dream of in university studies. Bravo to Criterion! Highly Recommended.

 - Per-Olof Strandberg

 



DVD Menus
 

 

Disc 2
 

 


Screen Captures


Subtitle sample

 

 

 


 

 

 


 

 

 


 

 

 


 

 

 


 

 

 


 

 

Disc 2

 

Screen Captures - L'Opéra de quat'sous

 

 

 


 

 

 


 

 

 


 

 


DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

Distribution

Criterion Collection - Spine # 405

Region 1 - NTSC



 

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