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directed by Frank Urson
USA 19
27

 

Like the musical Chicago that won the Best Picture Academy Award and five other Oscars in 2002, this original 1927 version descends from a 1926 hit Broadway play by Maurine Watkins. It’s a terrifically entertaining mix of humor and melodrama as well as a pungent critique of trash journalism. Frank Urson signed Chicago as director, although it is substantially the work of Cecil B. DeMille and his A-list technical staff. (DeMille apparently judged it unseemly to take full credit for this cynical and secular story while his religious spectacle The King of Kings was still in theatres!) Chicago is silent filmmaking at its peak, with an outstanding score for this edition by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra. The 1927 Chicago was long believed a lost film, but a perfect print survived in Cecil B. DeMille’s private collection. Restored by the UCLA Film and Television Archive in 2006, it has since been widely performed to rapturous audiences.

****

Sexy, jazz-loving and dressed to kill, Roxie Hart (Phyllis Haver) has a doting, handsome husband in Victor Varconi; not to mention a gold-digging affair on the side with Eugene Pallette, who pays and pays, eventually with his life. Put on trial for murder, Roxie secures lawyer Billy Flynn (Robert Edeson), equal part mob 'mouthpiece' and publicity agent. When Roxy hits the headlines, the courtroom theatrics begin. Like the musical Chicago that won the Best Picture Academy Award and five other Oscars in 2002, this original 1927 version descends from a 1926 hit Broadway play by Maurine Watkins. It s a terrifically entertaining mix of humor and melodrama as well as a pungent critique of trash journalism. Frank Urson signed Chicago as director, although it is substantially the work of Cecil B. DeMille and his A-list technical staff. (DeMille apparently judged it unseemly to take full credit for this cynical and secular story while his religious spectacle The King of Kings was still in theatres!) Chicago is silent filmmaking at its peak, with an outstanding score for this edition by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra. The 1927 Chicago was long believed a lost film, but a perfect print survived in Cecil B. DeMille s private collection. Restored by the UCLA Film and Television Archive in 2006, it has since been widely performed to rapturous audiences. This deluxe Flicker Alley 2-disc collection also includes two excellent bonus films: The Golden Twenties (1950), a compilation documentary feature produced by The March of Time from authentic footage of the era; and Oscar-winning Lauren Lazin's The Flapper Story (1985), in which several self-declared children of the roaring twenties look back across the decades on their youthful lives. A Note on This Edition Chicago is mastered in high definition at 25 frames per second directly from Cecil B. DeMille s original nitrate print, through the courtesy of the DeMille Estate. The Golden Twenties is also mastered in high definition from a 35mm duplicate negative and magnetic sound track, while The Flapper Story is mastered from a composite print by arrangement with producer-director Lauren Lazin. All three films are produced for DVD by David Shepard. Included are a brochure by Thomas Pauly on author Maurine Watkins and the factual background of Chicago, notes by Robert S. Birchard, author of Cecil B. DeMille s Hollywood, and a special documentary supplement, Chicago; The Real Roxy Hart by Jeffery Masino and Silas Lesnick.

Posters

Theatrical Release: December 23rd, 1927

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DVD Review: Flicker Alley (2-disc) - Region 0 - NTSC

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Distribution

Flicker Alley

Region 0 - NTSC

Runtime 1:43:16
Video

1.37:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 6.94 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

Disc 1

Audio Silent (Dolby Digital 2.0)
Subtitles None
Features Release Information:
Studio: Flicker Alley

Aspect Ratio:
Fullscreen - 1.37:1

Edition Details:
• Chicago: The Real Roxie Hart (8:10)
• Production Stills

• Publicity promotion
• The Real Story: original stories by Maurine Walker
Disc 2

• The Golden Twenties - 1950 (1:03:59)

• The Flapper Story - 1985 (29:37)

 

• 16-page liner notes booklet with essay by Thomas H. Pauly

DVD Release Date:
July 6th, 2010
Transparent Keep Case

Chapters 13

 

Comments

Well, you learn something new everyday. What a great character Roxie Hart is! Her story would seem far more appropriate in today's media cesspool than yester-years'. She certainly has the beauty for femme-fatale status - as well as the conniving murderous intent. Her visage substantiates a grand story - one the modern world has not forgotten that the modern musical duplicates to a healthy degree. This silent classic was absolutely wonderful - it gave me a great presentation. Great storytelling going on here.

Once again Flicker Alley, produced by Jeffrey Masino and David Shepard, have brought us another silent masterpiece remastered in high-definition (from Cecil B. DeMille's original nitrate print) - plucked from an obscure existence and ready for the masses to devour on the DVD format. Bravo! The image quality is exceptionally strong but due to the 25 fps frame-rate the transfer shows interlacing. Contrast is excellent and film grain is peeking through via the dual-layered transfer. The below captures should give you an idea of the highly impressive visuals. It looked exceptionally good on my system.

As stated in a short essay by Rodney Sauer in the liner notes - creating a new film score for Chicago was particularly problematic as the film shifts violently from comedy to drama. They used a valuable tool in a cue sheet but it differed from the film in two specific places. Having nothing to compare it to - I'd have to say it all sounds perfect on the DVD. The jazzy cues and orchestra sound support transitions well via the 2.0 channel stereo. There are no English subtitles as none are necessary for this silent film with intertitles.

On disc one with the feature we have the 8-minute extra "Chicago: The Real Roxie Hart", some production stills and publicity promotional material and "The Real Story: original stories by Maurine Walker" - these are the original Chicago Daily Tribune articles by Maurine Dallas Watkins, detailing the cases that inspired the original play and subsequent film and theater adaptations. They can be accessed via your computer (Mac or PC) drive as an 800 kb PDF file. On disc 2 there are two feature supplements - The Golden Twenties is a 1950 piece that runs for more than an hour and The Flapper Story - is 1/2 an hour from 1985 produced, written, directed and edited by Lauren Lazin at Stanford University. There are also some excellent liner notes - a 16-page booklet with an essay by Thomas H. Pauly, photos and more.

Overall, this is another outstanding 2-disc set from Flicker Alley that silent cinema aficionados will undoubtedly desire for their collections. The film had overtones of true history and it was simply a great story. You, probably, won't be seeing this anywhere else and it is absolutely recommended!

 - Gary Tooze

 



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DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

 

Distribution

Flicker Alley

Region 0 - NTSC

 

 





 

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