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(aka "Hallelujah" )

 

directed by King Vidor
USA 1929

 

Hallelujah is a cinematic milestone: the first all-black feature from a major studio and famed director King Vidor's (The Champ, The Big Parade) first talkie. But the film surpasses its historical significance, telling a story of such profound dignity and understanding that it as fresh and moving as the day it premiered. Featuring a largely unknown cast and infused with spirituals, folk songs, blues and jazz (Irving Berlin provided two songs for the production), Hallelujah follows the fortunes of Zeke (Daniel L. Haynes), a poor cotton farmer. He succumbs to the temptations of Chick (Nina Mae McKinney), a mercenary honky-tonk girl, finds salvation in religion, and falls again when his obsession for Chick overpowers his better self. Love, loss, passion, redemption and brilliant moviemaking: Hallelujah has it all.

Posters

Theatrical Release: August 20th, 1929

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DVD Review: Warner Brothers - Region 1, 2, 3, 4 - NTSC

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Distribution

Warner Brothers

Region 1, 2, ,3, 4  - NTSC

Runtime 1:39:48
Video

4:3 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.73 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 English (Dolby Digital 1.0)
Subtitles English, French, Spanish, None
Features Release Information:
Studio: Warner Brothers

Aspect Ratio:
Fullscreen - 4:3

Edition Details:
• Commentary by Donald Bogle and Avery Clayton
• Short: Pie, Pie Blackbird
• Short: The Black Network
• Theatrical Trailer

DVD Release Date: January 10th, 2006
Keep Case

Chapters 24

 

Comments

Hallelujah presents a difficulty for anyone reviewing it. On the one hand, it's an undeniably important work of cinema. Not only was it the first talkie from King Vidor, one of the masters of the silent era, but it was also the first studio film to feature an all African-American cast. On the other hand, it contains many of the worst racial prejudices of its day, often times portraying its cast of characters as uneducated and foolish drunks who give in to every base and immoral desire that they experience. While the film will hardly ever be mistaken for portraying its cast in an enlightened way, as the commentary track reveals, Vidor fought the MGM studio head for the chance to make the film. Holding that black audiences have a right to see their own lives portrayed on screen, Vidor forsook his salary for the film and personally fought for distribution in individual theaters north of the Mason-Dixon line. Whatever political message the film ultimately conveys, there is no denying that it is a good movie, worthy of being watched not only as a historical artifact, but also an effective morality tale with some great music to boot.

Now, let's get to the film's presentation. Visually, this release has its good points and its bad points. Let us start with the former. The film looks about as good as we could hope for any movie made at the beginning of the sound era to look. Sure, the contrast is slightly muted and there are a fair amount of scratches, but on the whole its certainly acceptable. Now, for the bad news. Like they did with their release of "Public Enemy", Warner Brothers has cropped the print from 1.17:1 to 4:3. The end result is a loss of information on both top and bottom. Audio wise, the film's mono track leaves a little to be desired, but given that its generally free of manipulation or unwanted background noise, it too is satisfactory. As far as the extras go, there are a number of standouts here. The most important supplement here is a feature length commentary by Donald Bogle (and occasionally Avery Clayton) that not only details the film's production, but also attempts to place it in its proper historical context. Also of interest here are two all African-American shorts. The first, "Pie, Pie Blackboard" is stars the Black Garbo herself, Nina Mae McKinney, while the second short, "The Black Network" gives us a glimpse into a fictitious African American run radio network of the time.


So, should you get the disc? I think so. While the film itself is decidedly politically incorrect, its also of great historical and artistic interest.

 - Brian Montgomery

 


 

 

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DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

 

 

 

Distribution

Warner Brothers

Region 1, 2, ,3, 4  - NTSC

 

 




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