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S E A R C H    D V D B e a v e r

(aka "The Wheel" or "La rose du rail" or "La rosa sulle rotaie" or "Kolo udreki" )


directed by Abel Gance
France 1923


Taken to its bare bones, the story deals with Sisif, a locomotive engineer who saves Norma, an infant girl, from a train wreck and raises her as his adopted daughter. Norma thinks Sisif's son Elie is her brother, and when the two fall in love, she leaves to marry a virtual stranger. Sisif is also obsessed with her and the plot elaborates this triangular relationship. German director G. W. Pabst, an ardent admirer of La Roue, was encouraged by Gance's example to undertake his own remarkable explorations of human psychology in such silent films as Secrets of a Soul, Pandora's Box and Diary of a Lost Girl.

Yet La Roue is even more remarkable for its cinematic accomplishment than for its story. The film was taken almost entirely on location. Sets were built along the railroad tracks in the yard at St. Roch, near Nice, and at an elevation of 13,000 feet on Mount Blanc. Gance pioneered a dazzlingly innovative style of rapid montage that revolutionized filmmaking around the world, especially in the works of Eisenstein and his contemporaries in the Soviet Union. Almost every sequence was experimental; as his cinematographer, L-H Burel recalled, "I'd never come to the end of it if I were to list all the tests we did, all the special effects I invented, and all the innovations we launched." Like Intolerance and Citizen Kane, La Roue became a source book of cinematic invention that reverberated in countless other classic films over the decades. It was hailed by artists and intellectuals, who recognized it as a stunning advance in modern art. Said Akira Kurosawa, "The first film that really impressed me was La Roue."

Excerpt of review from Flicker Alley located HERE

Theatrical Release: February 17th, 1923 (France)

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DVD Review: Flicker Alley - Region 0 - NTSC

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Flicker Alley

Region 0 - NTSC

Runtime 4:22:30

1:33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 7.50 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 (Dolby Digital 2.0)
Subtitles English, None
Features Release Information:
Studio: Flicker Alley

Aspect Ratio:
Fullscreen - 1:33:1

Edition Details:
• Short: Around the Wheel
• Original press book
• Booklet with origial essay on the film and an additional essay on the score

DVD Release Date: May 6th, 2008
Keep Case

Chapters 25





Like J'Accuse, Flicker Alley has put a lot of loving work into restoring the print of La Roue. While the effort shows with this fine disc, the end result isn't as dramatic as it is with J'Accuse. The print here is at times a good deal rougher than their other Gance release and contains many more scratches as well. However, this hardly seems worth mentioning given that the print used is still pretty darn good for a film made over 85 years ago. Missing are the original title cards, replaced instead with directly translated material. Like J'Accuse we also get another superb score by Robert Israel that acts as the perfect accompaniment to the film.


The extras again provide for an informative look at the making and marketing of the film, and are worth the viewing. Included are an almost three minute animated tour of the original press book (which if you're worried about having plot points revealed, you'll want to hold off watching until the film is over), and one of the earliest "making-of" documentary shorts (a little under 8.5 minutes) that I've ever come across, which documents the lengths that Gance and the rest of the production team went to in order to get certain shots. Finally there's a booklet containing an essay by Robert Israel on scoring the film and an essay by William M. Drew on the production and reception of the film. Certainly this release is worth picking up for anyone interested in silent cinema.

 - Brian Montgomery


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Flicker Alley

Region 0 - NTSC



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