Directed by William Worthington
USA 19


Remembered mostly for his magnificent performance as the Japanese officer in The Bridge over the River Kwai, few filmgoers realize that Sessue Hayakawa was one of the great stars of the silent cinema. In many films he played a dashing, romantic lead — a rarity for Asian actors in Hollywood, even today. Hayakawa became so popular and powerful that he was able to start Haworth Pictures to control his own destiny. The Dragon Painter was the finest of the Haworth productions. Beautifully acted, gorgeously shot (with Yosemite Valley filling in for the Japanese landscape), and lovingly directed, the film is an absolute marvel.

Hayakawa plays Tatsu, an artist living as a hermit in the wilds of Japan. Thought mad by the local villagers, he believes that his princess fiancée has been captured by a dragon. His obsession leads to artistic inspiration. It isn’t until a surveyor comes across Tatsu in the mountains that his genius is discovered. The surveyor informs the famed artist Kano Indara about his discovery. Kano is desperate to find a male heir to teach his art, but when Tatsu meets Kano’s daughter (played by Hayakawa’s wife, Tsuru Aoki) and sees only his lost princess, a clash of wills brings the household to the brink of disaster.

Long considered lost, The Dragon Painter was rediscovered in a French distribution print and brought to the George Eastman House for restoration with the original tints. The film survives today as a tribute to Hayakawa’s great artistry and a shining example of Asian-American cinema.

Excerpt from the Milestone website located HERE


Theatrical Release: October 4th, 1919

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DVD Review: New Yorker Video/Milestone Cinematheque - Region 0 - NTSC

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Distribution New Yorker Video/Milestone Cinematheque - Region 0 - NTSC
Runtime 53:50 
Video 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 4.87 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.


Audio Silent but musical track in Dolby Digital 2.0
Subtitles None (intertitles in English)

Release Information:
Studio: New Yorker Video/Milestone Cinematheque

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:

• The full-length feature, Thomas Ince’s The Wrath of the Gods (1914) - 57:34
• 1921 short subject, Screen Snapshots (1921) with Sessue Hayakawa, Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle and Charles Murray (courtesy of Larcas Productions).
• The original novel by Mary McNeil Fenollosa in PDF format
• Stills Galleries

DVD Release Date: March 18th, 200
Keep Case
Chapters: 6



This Milestone effort - distributed by New Yorker is single layered and region free in the NTSC standard. It is pictureboxed (large black border circumventing the frame) in and about the 1.33:1 aspect ratio. There is some inherent combing in the feature and bonus images - possibly due to frame-rate conversion. Rounded corners show. There is, expectantly, plenty of light scratches and marginal damage. It can look quite marvelously sharp if somewhat thin at times. The image is tinted in certain chapters (see samples below). The, restored, intertitles are in English with no subtitle options. The audio track sounds exquisite and subtle. So overall, the image is quite stupendous considering the age of the film - it looks quite remarkable. I was very pleased with the appearance despite the combing.

There are quite a few bonus features including the full-length feature, Thomas Ince’s The Wrath of the Gods, from 1914, running almost an hour. Image quality is quite acceptable. This feature stars Sessue Hayakawa, Tsuru Aoki and the fabled Frank Borzage. The restored tinted print courtesy of George Eastman House. In PDF form we are given a copy of the script for The Wrath of the Gods, courtesy of George Eastman House. There is also a How to Build Your Own Volcano by Jack Theakston and the original novel for The Dragon Painter by Mary McNeil Fenollosa in PDF format. For viewing we are given a 1921 short subject, Screen Snapshots made in 1921 with Sessue Hayakawa, Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle and Charles Murray (courtesy of Larcas Productions). There is also some stills galleries with original illustrations from the original novel by Mary McNeil Fenollosa, an In Lotus-Land Japan: Japan at the Turn of the Century section - photographs by Herbert G. Ponting. Some stills of Sessue Hayakawa and Tsuru Aoki and finally some promotional materials from the original film release (including the poster seen near the top of this page). There are no liner notes.

Great package for fans of the silent era. I don't know that a dual-layered DVD would have improved the appearance much but I always question the combing - plus the bitrate is very low. Still, it is loaded with quality supplements and it makes this DVD stand up and seek attention - which it rightfully deserves. I can only speak for myself when I say I enjoyed The Dragon Painter very much!  

Gary W. Tooze


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Distribution New Yorker Video/Milestone Cinematheque - Region 0 - NTSC


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