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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

The Last Command [Blu-ray]

 

(Josef von Sternberg, 1928)

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Paramount Pictures

Video: Eureka - Masters of Cinema - Spine #146

 

Disc:

Region: 'B'-locked (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:28:19.627

Disc Size: 40,155,330,022 bytes

Feature Size: 25,996,235,904 bytes

Video Bitrate: 35.18 Mbps

Chapters: 10

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: May 16th, 2016

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.37:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

LPCM Audio Undetermined 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit

 

Intertitles:

English

 

Extras:

New video interview with critic Tony Rayns (27:07)
Sternberg Till '29, a video essay by scholar Tag Gallagher (34:56)
A 32-page booklet featuring an excerpt from von Sternberg's autobiography Fun in a Chinese Laundry, two original reviews from 1928, a 1929 profile of Jannings, and archival images.

DVD included

 

Bitrate:

 

 

Description: Emil Jannings stars in the film which won the first ever Academy Award for best Actor for his role in this stunning early masterpiece from director Josef von Sternberg (The Blue Angel).

An exiled Russian general turned Hollywood extra (Emil Jannings, in an incredibly passionate performance) is chosen by a former adversary (William Powell) to play a role that resembles his former self and gradually loses his grip on reality. Equally a sharp witted satire of the Hollywood machine and a heartbreaking drama about one man's emotional downfall, Josef von Sternberg's The Last Command (his second major Hollywood picture) is one of the finest and most significant films of its era.

Featuring exemplary cinematography, beautifully designed sets, and rousing Revolution sequences, The Masters of Cinema Series is proud to present the worldwide Blu-ray debut of this wonderfully composed masterpiece.

 

 

The Film:

Josef von Sternberg's The Last Command was inspired by the true story of General Lodijenski, a Russian aristocrat who arrived penniless in the US after the 1917 Revolution and who supported himself by playing movie bit parts and managing a Russian restaurant. Emil Jannings stars as the Grand Duke Sergius Alexander, who in the last days of the Romanoff regime must decide the fate of two revolutionist actors, Leo Andreyev (William Powell) and the gorgeous Natacha (Evelyn Brent). Andreyev is carted off to prison, while Natacha becomes the Duke's mistress. She fully intends to kill him, but when the chance arises, she hesitates, having come to realize that the Duke is an essentially decent man who loves Russia as much as she does. Comes the revolution, and Natacha helps the Grand Duke escape the Bolsheviks, losing her own life in the process. The death of Natacha sends Sergius Alexander into a nervous shock, from which he never fully recovers. Years later, a shabby Sergius is eking out an existence as a Hollywood extra. Hired to play a Russian general in a crowd scene, Sergius discovers that his director is none other than former Russian revolutionary Leo Andreyev. The meaning of the title is clarified in the film's emotional climax. Plot inconsistencies aside, The Last Command is a stunning cinematic achievement, combining the harsh realities of Russia and Hollywood with von Sternberg's unerring sense of visual beauty.

Excerpt from MRQE located HERE

The Last Command starts from a brilliant script idea: a Czarist general, defeated in the Russian revolution, finds himself down and out in Hollywood, working for peanuts as a bit-player in movies; he is spotted and hired by his former adversary, a Mayakovskian stage director turned Hollywood film-maker; and both men loved the same woman ten years earlier. (Goodrich's script was apparently from an original story by Sternberg, based on an incident told by Ernst Lubitsch to Lajos Biro...) Half the movie is an acid vision of the gap between success and the breadline in contemporary Hollywood, and the other half is a long flashback to revolutionary Russia, with the general seducing the woman Communist, imprisoning his rival, falling from power, and discovering abject humiliation. In other words, this is the first Sternberg masterpiece, the first of his glitteringly stylised rhapsodies of commitment and betrayal, expertly poised between satire and 'absurd' melodrama. The cast are fully equal to it; Jannings, in particular, turns the characteristic role of the general into an indelible portrait of arrogance, fervour and dementia. Even more incredible, the sheer sophistication of Sternberg's visuals makes nearly all current releases look old-fashioned.

Excerpt fromTimeOut located HERE

 

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

1928's, Josef von Sternberg's, The Last Command arrives on Blu-ray from The Masters of Cinema group in the UK. I saw this first in Criterion's Three Silent Classics By Josef Von Sternberg, and fell in love with it. Now seeing it in 1080P with this aggressive layers of grain and the contrast (occasionally erratic) is definitely superior. There are, of course, marks and scratches but they are minimal and don't impinge upon your viewing. This is dual-layered with a max'ed out bitrate for the 1 1/2 hour film. This Blu-ray offers a masterwork film in a brilliant presentation considering the film is almost 90-years old. Exceptional. I loved watching this.

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

The audio is transferred via a linear PCM 2.0 channel track at 2304 kbps (24-bit). It's the original organ score by Gaylord Carter and it sounds very tight, and crisp in the uncompressed. There are original English intertitles and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'B'-locked.

 

 

Extras :

There is a new 27-minute video interview with critic Tony Rayns recorded exclusively for Masters of Cinema in 2016 - and it is excellent. As is Sternberg Till '29, a video essay by scholar Tag Gallagher that explores the surviving Silent works of von Stenberg's career. It runs 35-minutes. The package contains a 32-page booklet featuring an excerpt from von Sternberg's autobiography Fun in a Chinese Laundry, two original reviews from 1928, a 1929 profile of Jannings, and archival images. This is dual-format with a second disc DVD included.

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
The Last Command is a masterpiece. Period. Josef von Sternberg is near his height of storytelling, pace and story realization. This may be my favorite of his films along with The Blue Angel and The Docks of New York. What a fabulous choice for MoC to release on Blu-ray. The 1080P presentation is essential in my opinion and the package is another gem from MoC. Don't hesitate for a moment. 

Gary Tooze

April 30th, 2016


 

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 3500 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.

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze

 

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