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Pioneers of African American Cinema (5 Discs) [Blu-ray]

Kino: This collection of the historically vital works of America's legendary first African-American filmmakers is the only one of its kind. Funded in part by a highly successful Kickstarter campaign, the packaged set includes no fewer than a dozen feature-length films and nearly twice as many shorts and rare fragments. Subject matter includes race issues that went unaddressed by Hollywood for decades.

Films: Birthright (1938), The Blood of Jesus (1941), Body and Soul (1925), The Bronze Buckaroo (1939), By Right of Birth (fragment, 1921), Commandment Keeper Church, Beaufort, South Carolina (excerpt, 1940), The Darktown Revue (1931), Dirty Gertie from Harlem USA (1946), Eleven P.M. (1930), The Exile (1931), The Flying Ace (1926), God's Stepchildren (1938), Heaven-Bound Traveler (1933), Hellbound Train (1930), Hot Biskits (1931), Mercy the Mummy Mumbled (1918), Regeneration (fragment, 1923), The Scar of Shame (1929), S.S. Jones Home Movies (1924-26), The Symbol of the Unconquered: A Story of the KKK (1920), Ten Minutes to Live (1932), Ten Nights in a Bar Room (1926), Two Knights of Vaudeville (1918), Veiled Aristocrats (1932), Verdict Not Guilty (1934), We Work Again (1937), Within Our Gates (1920)

Musical scores (for silent films) by Paul D. Miller (aka DJ Spooky), Max Roach, Samuel D. Waymon, the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra, Donald Sosin, Makia Matsumura, Alloy Orchestra, Rob Gal, Andrew Simpson.

BFI: Among the most fascinating chapters in film history is that of the so-called race films which flourished between the 1920s and 1940s. Unlike the black cast films produced within Hollywood studio system, these films not only starred African Americans but were also funded, written, produced, edited, distributed, and often exhibited by people of colour. Entrepreneurial filmmakers built an industry apart from the Hollywood establishment, cultivating visual and narrative styles that were uniquely their own. Previously circulated in poor-quality 16mm print, these digitally restored presentations allow modern audiences to witness the legacies of Oscar Micheaux, Spencer Williams, Zora Neale Hurston and James and Eloyce Gist with fresh eyes. These pioneers of African-American cinema were truly innovative.

The Films
Two Knights of Vandeville (1915) Mercy, the Mummy Mumbled (1918) A Reckless Rover (1918) Within Our Gates (1920) The Symbol of the Unconquered: A Story of the Ku Klux Klan (1920) By Right of Birth (1921) Body and Soul (1925) Screen Snapshots (1920) Regeneration (1923) The Flying Ace (1926) Ten Nights in a Bar Room (1926) Reverend S.S. Jones Home Movies (1924-1928) The Scar of Shame (1929) Eleven P.M. (1928) Hell-Bound Train (1930) Verdict: Not Guilty (1933) The Darktown Revue (1931) The Exile (1931) Hot Biskits (1931) Heaven-Bound Travelers (1935) The Girl from Chicago (1932) Ten Minutes to Live (1932) Veiled Aristocrats (1932) Birthright (1938) The Bronze Buckaroo (1939) Zora Neale Hurston Fieldwork Footage (1928) Commandment Keeper Church (1940) The Blood of Jesus (1941) Dirty Gertie from Harlem, U.S.A. (1946) Moses Sisters Interview (1978)


Some Posters

 

 

 

Distribution

Kino Lorber - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

BFI - Region ''B' - Blu-ray

Intertitles

English (original)

English (original)

Features

Release Information:
Studio: Kino Lorber

Edition Details (detailed for each disc below):

• 80-page booklet with essays and detailed film notes
Interviews with series curators Charles Musser and Jacqueline Stewart
Documentary on the restoration of the films
Documentary on the restoration efforts of the Library of Congress
Archival interview with actors Ethel and Lucia Moses (1978)
Tyler Texas Black Film Collection promo film (with Ossie Davis, 1985)

Blu-ray Release Date: July 26th, 2016

Release Information:
Studio: BFI

Edition Details:

• An Introduction (7:29)
The Films of Oscar Micheaux (8:47)
The Colour Line (6 mins)
Ten Nights in a Bar Room: An Introduction (4 mins)
About the Restoration (8 mins)
Religion in Early African-America Cinema (7 mins)
Eleven P.M.: An Introduction (3 mins)
S.Torriano Berry discusses the works of James and  Eloyce Gist (5 mins)
Veiled Aristocrats trailer (4 mins)
Brightright trailer (4 mins)
We Work Again (1937, 15 mins)
Tyler-Texas Black Film Collection (1985, 6 mins)
The Films of Zora Neale Hurston (2 mins)
The Films of Spencer Williams (7 mins)
The End of an Era (5 mins)
• Fully illustrated 80-page book with essays, photographs and film credits

Blu-ray Release Date: November 21st, 2016

 

 

 

Comments:

NOTE: These Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

ADDITION: BFI Blu-ray Region 'B' - November 2016: I realize this is a very large webpage and I'll try to keep things brief without examining this BFI set with a magnifying glass. As you might expect - the packages are very similar. As opposed to duplicating every screen capture - we will note the differences, here, in the comments section.

We technically compared the first two BFI Blu-ray discs to the first two Kino BD discs (bitrate graphs, discs sizes, a/v transfers, extras etc.). I have not fully watched the entire BFI yet, but the seem to have the same scores (Paul D. Miller (aka DJ Spooky), Max Roach, Samuel D. Waymon, the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra, Donald Sosin, Makia Matsumura, Alloy Orchestra, Rob Gal, and Andrew Simpson.)

The transfers are technically very close with all the films spread over 5 dual-layered Blu-ray discs. And, it seems, the same films housed on each Blu-ray. There are slight exceptions - ie. on the first Blu-ray BFI have the same 7 films but add 1.5 minutes of "Screen Snapshots" - the only footage of Oscar Micheaux at work - as a film where Kino has it as an extra. The BFI 1080P image looks a shade darker - deeper black levels and I have shown it with an exact frame of one of the damaged frames. This difference is consistent throughout the package. Quality in-motion is the same.

NOTE: Kino have not subtitles the following three video; We Work Again, Birthright trailer, Tyler-Texas Black Film Collection where BFI have.

BFI have corrected the Kino oversight of lossy audio on the first Blu-ray - (the rest have LPCM on both) with a linear PCM and similar uncompressed audio transfers on the on all the rest (but 24-bit - not 16-bit as on the Kino.) So that may be one notable improvement over the Kino. Title cards etc. are the same. The BFI Blu-rays are region 'B'-locked.

The rest of the set, so far in my investigations - is the same with, different menus but all the same films and extras although I have not seen BFI's 80-page book - with essays, photographs and film credits - included in the box but I expect it to, also be similar, to the Kino.

So BFI gets a slight edge (audio) but this remains an amazing package - something to marvel over for many months. The historical significance can't be underestimated:

Our highest recommendation!

***

ON THE KINO: Disc One (Total Running Time 282 minutes): Two Knights of Vaudeville Ebony Film Co., 1915. 11 minutes. Music by Donald Sosin Mercy the Mummy Mumbled  Ebony Film Co., 1918. 12 minutes. Music by the Alloy Orchestra. A Reckless Rover Ebony Film Co., 1918. 14 minutes. Music by Donald Sosin. Within Our Gates Oscar Micheaux, 1920. 73 minutes. Music by Paul D. Miller, aka DJ Spooky. The Symbol of the Unconquered: A Story of the KKK Oscar Micheaux, 1920. 59 minutes. Music by Max Roach. By Right of Birth Lincoln Motion Picture Co., 1921. 4 minutes. Music by Donald Sosin. Body and Soul Oscar Micheaux, 1925. 93 minutes. Music by Paul D. Miller, aka DJ Spooky. Extras: Screen Snapshots (Micheaux footage, 1920, 1 minute) Bonus: An Introduction (7 minutes) Bonus: The Films of Oscar Micheaux (8 minutes)

Disc Two (Total Running Time – 259 minutes): Regeneration Richard E. Norman, 1923. 11 minutes. Music by Donald Sosin. The Flying Ace Richard E. Norman, 1928. 65 minutes. Music by Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra. Ten Nights in a Bar Room CPFC, 1926. 64 minutes. Music by Donald Sosin. Rev. S.S. Jones Home Movies Rev. Solomon Sir Jones, 1924-1926. 16 minutes. Music by Andrew Simpson. The Scar of Shame Frank Peregini, 1929. 86 minutes. Music by Makia Matsumura Bonus: The Color Line (5 minutes) Bonus: Ten Nights in a Bar Room – An Introduction (4 minutes) Bonus: About the Restoration (8 minutes)

Disc Three (Total Running Time – 253 minutes): Eleven P.M. Richard Maurice, 1928. 60 minutes. Music by Rob Gal. Hell-Bound Train James and Eloyce Gist, 1930. 50 minutes. Restored by S. Torriano Berry. Music by Samuel D. Waymon. Verdict Not Guilty James and Eloyce Gist, 1934. 8 minutes. Restored by S. Torriano Berry. Music by Samuel D. Waymon. Heaven-Bound Travelers / James and Eloyce Gist, 1935. 15 minutes. Restored by S. Torriano Berry. Music by Samuel D. Waymon. The Darktown Revue Oscar Micheaux, 1931. 18 minutes. The Exile Oscar Micheaux, 1931. 78 minutes. Hot Biskits Spencer Williams, 1931. 10 minutes. Extras: Religion in Early African-American Cinema (6:45), Eleven P.M. - an Introduction (3:04) , Interview with S. Torriano Berry (5:08)

Disc Four (Total Running Time – 272 minutes): The Girl from Chicago Oscar Micheaux, 1932. 70 minutes. Ten Minutes to Live Oscar Micheaux, 1932. 58 minutes. Veiled Aristocrats Oscar Micheaux, 1932. 48 minutes. Birthright Oscar Micheaux, 1938. 73 minutes. Bonus: Veiled Aristocrats Trailer (4 minutes) Bonus: Birthright Trailer (4 minutes) Bonus: We Work Again – WPA Documentary (1937, 15 minutes)

Disc Five (Total Running Time – 243 minutes): The Bronze Buckaroo Richard Kahn, 1939. 58 minutes. Zora Neale Hurston Fieldwork Footage (excerpt) Zora Neale Hurtston, 1928. 3 minutes. Commandment Keeper Church, Beaufort South Carolina, May 1940 (excerpt) Zora Neale Hurston, 1940. 15 minutes. The Blood of Jesus Spencer Williams, 1941. 56 minutes. Dirty Gertie from Harlem U.S.A. Spencer Williams, 1946. 60 minutes. Moses Sisters Interview Pearl Bowser, 1978. 32 minutes. Bonus: Texas Tyler Promo Film with Ossie Davis (1985, 6 minutes) Bonus: The Films of Zora Neale Hurston (2 minutes) Bonus: The Films of Spencer Williams (7 minutes) Bonus: The End of an Era (4 minutes)

Firstly, WOW - This Kino Lorber Blu-ray release has 5 dual-layered BD discs and represents almost 19-hours worth of material. It is all transferred in 1080P with liner PCM audio (except the first BD which is lossy Dolby). It has many shorts, that I was very keen to see like Ten Nights in a Bar Room (1926), Dirty Gertie from Harlem USA (1946), Eleven P.M. (1930), The Exile (1931) and The Symbol of the Unconquered: A Story of the KKK (1920).

Quality obviously varies with some significant damage/inconsistencies and some digitization in efforts to make some of the weaknesses more, or at all, watchable. The damage can be quite extensive in some shorts but the reasoning is that it is the only way to see some of these pioneering films at all. The restoration details are usually indicated via text screens before each specific film (see samples below.)

The audio is in 2.0 channel linear PCM (uncompressed) - 16-bit - and the silent films in this collection are presented with scores by Paul D. Miller (aka DJ Spooky), Max Roach, Samuel D. Waymon, the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra, Donald Sosin, Makia Matsumura, Alloy Orchestra, Rob Gal, and Andrew Simpson. The few Talkies' audio can be very poorly preserved and thankfully Kino have included optional English subtitles. These 5 Blu-ray discs are Region 'A' -locked.

Extras include an 80-page booklet with essays and detailed film notes included in the package. Each Blu-ray offers supplements as well with introductions to certain films, interviews with series curators Charles Musser and Jacqueline Stewart, a documentary on the restoration of the films, archival interview with actors Ethel and Lucia Moses (1978), Tyler Texas Black Film Collection promo film (with Ossie Davis, 1985) and much more.

I was blown-away by this package and watched transfixed hour after hour. The HD material on each of the five Blu-ray discs represent an incredible historical artifact that you aren't likely to find anywhere else.  Very strongly recommended - especially to fans who may not be initially interested - there is an absolute treasure-trove of value here. An exceptional package.   

Gary W. Tooze

 

 

 

 

 


Intertitle / Text Screen Samples

 

 


 

 

 

Two Knights of Vaudeville (Ebony Film Co., 1915. 11 minutes. Music by Donald Sosin)


Mercy the Mummy Mumbled
(Ebony Film Co., 1918. 12 minutes. Music by the Alloy Orchestra)


A Reckless Rover
(Ebony Film Co., 1918. 14 minutes. Music by Donald Sosin)


Within Our Gates
(Oscar Micheaux, 1920. 73 minutes. Music by Paul D. Miller, aka DJ Spooky)


The Symbol of the Unconquered: A Story of the KKK
(Oscar Micheaux, 1920. 59 minutes. Music by Max Roach)


By Right of Birth
(Lincoln Motion Picture Co., 1921. 4 minutes. Music by Donald Sosin)


Body and Soul
(Oscar Micheaux, 1925. 93 minutes. Music by Paul D. Miller, aka DJ Spooky)

 

Title Samples

 

 

 

1) Kino (Disc 1) - Region 'A' - Blu-ray TOP

2) BFI (Disc 1) - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

Bitrate: Kino

Bitrate: BFI

  Pioneers of African American Cinema Blu-ray 1
  Kino Lorber BFI

Total Runtime:

4:30:45.310

4:30:21.708

Disc Size:

48,034,780,203 bytes

48,,289,768,892 bytes

Features Sizes:

45,307,619,328 bytes

43,219,085,568 bytes

Video Bitrate:

21.01 Mbps

18.01 Mbps

Chapters:

10 (one per short + extras)

27 (in total)

Audio:

Dolby Digital Audio English 256 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 256 kbps

LPCM Audio English 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit
Extras: Introduction (7:31) / The Films of Oscar Micheaux (8:49) Introduction (7:29) / The Films of Oscar Micheaux (8:47)

 

Menus

1) Kino (Disc 1) - Region 'A' - Blu-ray LEFT

2) BFI (Disc 1) - Region 'B' - Blu-ray RIGHT

Extras (same on both)

 

Restoration Screen Samples

 

 

 

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

Damage Sample

1) Kino (Disc 1) - Region 'A' - Blu-ray TOP

2) BFI (Disc 1) - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Regeneration (Richard E. Norman, 1923. 11 minutes. Music by Donald Sosin)


The Flying Ace (Richard E. Norman, 1928. 65 minutes. Music by Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra)


Ten Nights in a Bar Room (CPFC, 1926. 64 minutes. Music by Donald Sosin)


Rev. S.S. Jones Home Movies (Rev. Solomon Sir Jones, 1924-1926. 16 minutes. Music by Andrew Simpson)


The Scar of Shame (Frank Peregini, 1929. 86 minutes. Music by Makia Matsumura)

 

 

1) Kino (Disc 1) - Region 'A' - Blu-ray TOP

2) BFI (Disc 1) - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

Bitrate: Kino

Bitrate: BFI

  Pioneers of African American Cinema Blu-ray 2
  Kino Lorber BFI

Total Runtime:

4:04:04.283

4:03:46.695

Disc Size:

46,854,481,101 bytes

46,,615,928,428 bytes

Features Sizes:

43,092,142,080 bytes

42,746,022,528 bytes

Video Bitrate:

20.59 Mbps

19.98 Mbps

Chapters:

7

22

Audio:

LPCM Audio English 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit

LPCM Audio English 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit
Extras: The Color Line (5:17) , Ten Nights in a Bar Room – An Introduction (4:14) Bonus: About the Restoration (8:06) The Color Line (5:15) , Ten Nights in a Bar Room – An Introduction (4:12) Bonus: About the Restoration (8:04)

 

Menus

1) Kino (Disc 1) - Region 'A' - Blu-ray LEFT

2) BFI (Disc 1) - Region 'B' - Blu-ray RIGHT

Same Extras on both

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

Eleven P.M. (Richard Maurice, 1928. 60 minutes. Music by Rob Gal)


Hell-Bound Train
(James and Eloyce Gist, 1930. 50 minutes. Restored by S. Torriano Berry. Music by Samuel D. Waymon)


Verdict Not Guilty
(James and Eloyce Gist, 1934. 8 minutes. Restored by S. Torriano Berry. Music by Samuel D. Waymon)


Heaven-Bound Travelers
(James and Eloyce Gist, 1935. 15 minutes. Restored by S. Torriano Berry. Music by Samuel D. Waymon)


The Darktown Revue
(Oscar Micheaux, 1931. 18 minutes)


The Exile
(Oscar Micheaux, 1931. 78 minutes)


Hot Biskits
(Spencer Williams, 1931. 10 minutes)

 

Bitrate:

  Pioneers of African American Cinema Blu-ray 3
  Kino Lorber

Total Runtime:

4:08:40.622

Disc Size:

45,808,253,887 bytes

Features Sizes:

43,512,010,752 bytes

Video Bitrate:

20.49 Mbps

Chapters:

9

Audio:

LPCM Audio English 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit

Subtitles:

English, none (for all Talkie films)

Extras: Religion in Early African-American Cinema (6:45), Eleven P.M. - an Introduction (3:04) , Interview with S. Torriano Berry (5:08)

 

Extras

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

The Girl from Chicago (Oscar Micheaux, 1932. 70 minutes)


Ten Minutes to Live
(Oscar Micheaux, 1932. 58 minutes)


Veiled Aristocrats
(Oscar Micheaux, 1932. 48 minutes)


Birthright
(Oscar Micheaux, 1938. 73 minutes
)

 

Bitrate:

  Pioneers of African American Cinema Blu-ray 4
  Kino Lorber

Total Runtime:

2:52:59.595 

Disc Size:

48,119,390,947 bytes

Features Sizes:

43,247,708,160 bytes

Video Bitrate:

20.52 Mbps

Chapters:

6

Audio:

LPCM Audio English 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit

Subtitles:

English, none (for all Talkie films)

Extras: Veiled Aristocrats Trailer (4:07), Birthright Trailer (3:52) Bonus: We Work Again – WPA Documentary (1937, 15:11)

 

Extras

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

The Bronze Buckaroo (Richard Kahn, 1939. 58 minutes)


Zora Neale Hurston Fieldwork Footage
(excerpt - Zora Neale Hurtston, 1928. 3 minutes)


Commandment Keeper Church, Beaufort South Carolina, May 1940
(excerpt - Zora Neale Hurston, 1940. 15 minutes)


The Blood of Jesus
(Spencer Williams, 1941. 56 minutes)


Dirty Gertie from Harlem U.S.A.
(Spencer Williams, 1946. 60 minutes)


Moses Sisters Interview
(Pearl Bowser, 1978. 32 minutes.)

 

Bitrate:

  Pioneers of African American Cinema Blu-ray 5
  Kino Lorber

Total Runtime:

3:45:42.202

Disc Size:

41,008,079,391 bytes

Features Sizes:

37,645,977,600 bytes

Video Bitrate:

19.41 Mbps

Chapters:

8

Audio:

LPCM Audio English 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit

Subtitles:

English, none (for all Talkie films)

Extras: Texas Tyler Promo Film with Ossie Davis (1985, 5:58), The Films of Zora Neale Hurston (1:58), The Films of Spencer Williams (6:58), The End of an Era (4:42)

 

Extras

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 




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