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In the Land of the Head Hunters [Blu-ray]
(Edward S. Curtis, 1914)
Review by Gary Tooze
Theatrical: Seattle Film Co.
Video: Milestone Films
Region: FREE (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)
In the Land of The Head Hunters Runtime: 1:06:34.198
In the Land of the War Canoes Runtime: 0:43:58.635
Disc One Size: 24,562,906,361 bytes
Disc Two Size: 24,920,480,514 bytes
In the Land of The Head Hunters - Feature Size: 16,589,942,784 bytes (MPEG-4 AVC Video)
In the Land of the War Canoes - Feature Size: 8,314,675,392 bytes (MPEG-2 Video / 480i)
In the Land of The Head Hunters Video Bitrate: 25.99 Mbps
In the Land of the War Canoes Video Bitrate: 22.31 Mbps
Chapters: 12 / 8
Case: Standard Blu-ray case
Release date: February 24th, 2015
Aspect ratio: 1.33:1
Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps
LPCM Audio English 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit (both features)
DTS-HD Master Audio English 2013 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 2013 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 16-bit)
In the Land of The Head Hunters Commentary:
LPCM Audio English 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit
• Optional English subtitles for the Kwak’wala dialogue on the In the Land of the War Canoes soundtrack
•In the Land of the Head Hunters (Restoration of the 1914 version with original musical score, 66 mins, Tinted)
Track featuring Bill Holm, Andy Everson, and Aaron Glass,
Edited by Keith Sanborn*
• Trailer (1:12)
NOTE: I failed to mentioned these 'Audio-Only' extras on the second Blu-ray disc:
In he Land of the Head Hunters
In the Land of the War Canoes
Description: In 1911, as part of his massive undertaking,
famed Northwest photographer Edward S. Curtis travelled to
Vancouver Island, British Columbia, to visit the
Kwakwaka'wakw. By the next year, needing money for his
project and to add to his research and still photography
work, Curtis decided that the best way to record the
traditional way of life and ceremonies of the Kwakwaka'wakw
was to make one of the first feature motion pictures. Curtis
had already shot footage in 1906 of the Hopi Snake dance,
which he had previously showed during his talks, but this
was to be on a grander scale. It took three years of
preparation for this one film including the weaving of the
costumes; building of the war canoes, housefronts, poles;
and the carving of masks. Assisting on the film was George
Hunt, a Kwakwaka'wakw who had served as an interpreter for
the famous anthropologist Franz Boas nearly twenty years
before. Hunt helped contribute substantial portions of the
film’s story as well.
The Kwakiutl Indians of Vancouver Island were both skilled fishermen and able craftsmen long before they met white explorers. Edward S. Curtis lived several years among this tribe and created this documentary which includes the retelling a tribal love story. This black-and-white film also features many tribal customs and footage of decoratively painted war canoes.
It's an exciting story, and while Curtis was primarily a still
photographer famed for his pictures of Native Americans, he put an
exciting narrative together. Though Head Hunters is only about an hour
long, that was a full-length feature in 1914, and it's one that hits the
ground running and seldom lets up. There are chases, battles, dreams,
and all manner of other action, and while some intrigue and romantic
plots fall a bit by the wayside, even a modern audience will seldom feel
bored. It's a cracker, even a hundred years later.
Image : NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.
In the Land of the Head Hunters comes to Blu-ray transfer from Milestone Films. In 1914, The American photographer Edward S. Curtis worked with the Kwakwaka'wakw people of British Columbia to produce a Silent feature film called In the Land of the Head Hunters - an epic of love and war set before Europeans arrived on the North Pacific Coast. Like many early Silent films, it was soon lost and its contribution to the history of early cinema was largely forgotten. Up until now, the only version available has been a reconstruction made in 1973 from a fragmented copy. Entitled In the Land of the War Canoes, it was synched to a naturalistic soundtrack and distributed as an early documentary. Following the recent discovery of the original music score and long-lost nitrate release, a team of collaborators came together to reconstruct what they could of the 1914 film. In 2008, a restored print screened in cities across North America with live musical accompaniment and a cultural presentation by the Gwa'wina Dancers, descendants of the original Kwakwaka'waka cast. In the Land of the Headhunters has been preserved from two heavily-worn, decomposing, and incomplete prints. Missing shots have been bridged with stills and enlargements from surviving frames. Original titles cards have been recreated. Text for missing titles was derived from preliminary title lists found in an early synopsis of the film. This is only single-layered and is obviously inconsistent - solely dependant on the restoration of the surviving elements. I don't know that dual-layering would benefit the visuals extensively. In the Land of the Headhunters has a 1080P AVC transfer on the first Blu-ray but In the Land of the Canoes is actually MPEG2 and 480i resolution and not tinted where In the Land of the Head Hunters is tinted. If the image quality is of prime concern, the two films will not provide a watchable presentation, but those keen on the history and appreciative of the visuals, no matter the extent of damage, should look at this as a golden opportunity to see a highly interesting artefact of cinema history.
CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION
Heavier damaged frames
Both features get a linear PCM 2.0 channel mono track at 1536 kbps with In the Land of the Canoes synched to a naturalistic soundtrack and offers optional English subtitles. In the Land of the Head Hunters has a recreation of the, rediscovered, original score by Turning Point Ensemble and offers no subtitles. The latter also offers the option of a DTS-HD Master 5.1 at 2013 kbps significantly improved and adds a wonderful flavor to the viewing presentation with some atmospheric range in the music. Sounds great! My Oppo has identified it as being a region FREE disc playable on Blu-ray machines worldwide.
There are plenty of supplements on the two Blu-rays, aside from the 1973 version, In the Land of the War Canoes, by Bill Holm & George Quimby adding knowledge about the films. In the Land of the Head Hunters has a wonderful commentary track featuring Bill Holm, Andy Everson, and Aaron Glass. The Image Maker and the Indians is a 16-minute making-of documentary by Holm and Quimby in color from 1979. There is a three minute piece focusing on 'Turning Point Ensemble' and the score - made in 2013. Documents of Encounter: The Head Hunters Reconstruction Project is a 40-minute video produced by Aaron Glass, Brad Evans and the U’mista Cultural Centre - as is the 1.5 hour Cultural Presentation video by the Gwa’wina Dancers. from 2008. We also get a Stills Gallery, courtesy of the University of Washington Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture and Mick Gidley and, surprisingly, even a trailer.
February 17th, 2015
About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.
Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who
focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I
find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.
Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD
Gary W. Tooze
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