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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Beggars of Life [Blu-ray]


(William A. Wellman, 1928)



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Paramount Famous Lasky Corporation

Video: Kino Lorber



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

Runtime: 1:22:22.270

Disc Size: 24,173,894,631 bytes

Feature Size: 23,233,431,552 bytes

Video Bitrate: 29.48 Mbps

Chapters: 9

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: August 22nd, 2017



Aspect ratio: 1.33:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



DTS-HD Master Audio English 1651 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1651 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)

DTS-HD Master Audio English 2059 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2059 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
DTS-HD Master Audio English 2070 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2070 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)



English intertitles



Audio commentary by actor William Wellman, Jr.
Audio commentary by Thomas Gladysz, founding director of the Louise Brooks Society and author of Beggars of Life: A Companion to the 1928 Film
Booklet essay by film critic Nick Pinkerton

Reversible sleeve





Description: An American Silent film classic, Beggars of Life (1928) stars Louise Brooks as a train-hopping hobo who dresses like a boy to survive. After escaping her violent stepfather, Nancy (Brooks) befriends kindly drifter Jim (Richard Arlen). They ride the rails together until a fateful encounter with the blustery Oklahoma Red (Wallace Beery) and his rambunctious band of hoboes, leading to daring, desperate conflict on top of a moving train. Based on the memoir of real-life hobo Jim Tully, and directed with adventuresome verve by William Wellman (The Ox-Bow Incident), Beggars of Life is an essential American original.



The Film:

A doctoral candidate in gender studies could have a field day with this 1928 Silent drama, for which macho director "Wild Bill" Wellman (Wings, The Public Enemy, Beau Geste) dressed screen siren Louise Brooks in men's clothing and cast her into a hobo jungle. A tramp (Richard Arlen) shows up at a farmhouse to find the owner dead at the hands of his adoptive daughter (Brooks), who claims she was defending her honor; they hit the road together but get hassled by a gang of bindle stiffs whose leader (Wallace Beery) wants the striking young woman for his bitch. This was Brooks's last Hollywood role before German director G.W. Pabst unleashed her ravenous sexuality in Pandora's Box, a film as destined for renown as this one was for obscurity.

Excerpt from The Chicago Reader located HERE

A vagrant falls in with a young woman wanted for murder; the two of them seek refuge with a group of hoboes, but find their own kind as hostile as the rest of society. Wellman sketches the hobo mentality with a fine economy, but cannot deliver the pace and suspense that the plot demands. Hence the importance of the players. Beery, entering with a pilfered beer-barrel on his shoulder, offers an extravagantly randy, bullying and sentimental performance as Oklahoma Red, leader of the hoboes. Despite his excellence, though, all eyes are on the 22-year-old Louise Brooks, who was about to leave for Germany to star in Pandora's Box. As the movie opens, she has just shot her adoptive father, who tried to rape her. She flees in boy's clothes, tough and vulnerable in equal proportions. The camera loves her, and she rewards it with a performance that radiates inner life.

Excerpt from TimeOut located HERE

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

The single-layered Kino Lorber Blu-ray of Beggars of Life is cited as being "Digitally restored from 35mm film elements preserved by the George Eastman Museum". It has a high bitrate but the source is, predictably, imperfect. There is damage but contrast exports some nice layers. Texture is impressively heavy. It's a shade inconsistent improving as the film runs along. This Blu-ray gave me a pleasurable viewing in regards to the picture quality.



















Frame damage sample



Audio :

Kino Lorber use a DTS-HD Master 2.0 channel track at 1651 kbps (24-bit) with original English intertitles. The musical score is compiled and performed by The Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra, employing selections from the original 1928 Paramount cue-sheet. It's very string oriented with a soulful violin adding another layer of melodrama. It sounds quite strong. My Oppo has identified it as being a region 'A'-locked.


Extras :

Kino add two commentaries - the first by William Wellman, Jr. who discusses his director father and the making of the film. I thoroughly enjoyed all the details exported in the second commentary by Thomas Gladysz, founding director of the Louise Brooks Society and author of Beggars of Life: A Companion to the 1928 Film. It is fascinating. There is a booklet essay by film critic Nick Pinkerton and the package has a reversible sleeve.



I had never seen Beggars of Life but knew of its reputation. It is considered the best of Louise Brooks' American-made films, which is a huge selling point in itself.  I was very impressed. I thought it was quite brilliant emphasizing the incredible storytelling talents of Wellman. The Kino Lorber
Blu-ray is a must-own for Silent-era, and Louise Brooks, fans and the two commentaries only add to the value. Very strongly recommended!  NOTE: At the writing of this review it is 33% OFF at Amazon.

Gary Tooze

August 4th, 2017


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.

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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