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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Behind the Door [Blu-ray]


(Irvin Willat, 1919)



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Thomas H. Ince Corporation / Paramount

Video: Flicker Alley



Region: FREE! (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:10:45.115 / Russian Version:  0:47:10.077

Disc Size: 44,785,668,860 bytes

Feature Size: 20,590,765,056 bytes / Russian Version: 12,596,665,728 bytes

Video Bitrate: 34.76 Mbps / Russian Version:  31.70 Mbps

Chapters: 11

Case: Transparent Blu-ray case

Release date: April 4th, 2017



Aspect ratio: 1.37:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



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



English, none (for intertitles on the Russian version - see ample below)



• Russian version of Behind the Door - The re-edited and re-titled version of the film that was distributed in Russia, with musical accompaniment by Stephen Horne (47:10)
Outtakes from Behind the Door - Featuring music composed and performed by Stephen Horne (10:27)
Restoring Irvin Willat's Behind the Door - A behind-the-scenes look at the restoration (11:19)
Kevin Brownlow Spotlights Irvin Willat - Film historian Kevin Brownlow spotlights director Irvin Willat (31:23)
Slideshow gallery of stills and promotional material from Behind the Door
Souvenir Booklet - Featuring rare photographs and essays by film historian Jay Weissburg, film restorer Robert Byrne, and composer Stephen Horne

Second disc DVD





Description: Legendary producer Thomas H. Ince and director Irvin V. Willat made this - "the most outspoken of all the vengeance films" according to film historian Kevin Brownlow - during the period of World War I-inspired American patriotism.

Hobart Bosworth stars as Oscar Krug, a working-class American, who is persecuted for his German ancestry after war is declared. Driven by patriotism, Krug enlists and goes to sea. However, tragedy strikes when his wife (Jane Novak) sneaks aboard his ship and is captured following a German U-boat attack. Krug's single-minded quest for vengeance against the sadistic German submarine commander (played with villainous fervor by Wallace Beery) leads to the film's shocking and brutal climax.

This newly restored edition represents the most complete version of the film available since 1919, thanks to the collaboration of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, the Library of Congress, and Gosfilmofond of Russia.

Sourced from the only two known remaining prints and referencing a copy of Willat's original continuity script, this edition recreates the original color tinting scheme and features a new score composed and performed by Stephen Horne. Flicker Alley is honored to present Behind the Door on Blu-ray and DVD for the first time ever.



The Film:

America has just entered World War I, and because of his name, German-American Oscar Krug (Hobart Bosworth) is thought to be an enemy sympathizer. He fights his foes to prove that they're wrong, then immediately enlists and is assigned to the merchant marines. The night before boarding, he marries his sweetheart, Alice Morse (Jane Novak), and she sails with him, disguised as a Red Cross nurse. A German submarine torpedoes the craft and sinks it. Krug and his bride board a lifeboat, where the sub finds them a couple of days later. The Germans take Alice and leave Krug, who swears revenge to the commander (Wallace Beery). Krug is saved by a passing ship and gets his chance a year later when he is in charge of another ship. It blows up a sub, and Krug sees the commander -- the same man he is looking for -- in the water. He pulls the commander on board and tricks him into telling Krug the details of how the commander ravished Alice and threw her body overboard. Then Krug reveals his identity and skins him alive. The movie's end shows Krug a saddened old man, whose soul rises from his broken body (with the help of double exposure) to join his dead bride. This film was based on a Gouverneur Morris story that appeared in Collier's Weekly.

Excerpt from B&N located HERE

Behind the Door is one of the Silent era’s most notorious films, its plot and punchline once recalled in amazed tones similar to the ways a later generation discussed ‘50s-era horror comics. As historian Kevin Brownlow states in an excellent interview on this new Blu-ray/DVD combo, the film belongs to a trend in brutality of the late teens and early ‘20s that could reasonably be showcased as part of the development of the horror film.

Yet the film itself isn’t “graphic” in that sense. It’s visual approach is graceful and often aesthetically beautiful on this restoration, and this is one reason its power of suggestion has great impact. Even the title cards are elegant works of graphic art that, along with the original tints and tones, showcase the era’s advanced visual and narrative sophistication.

Excerpt from PopMatters located HERE

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

Behind the Door is one of the earliest feature films to make it to Blu-ray - it's approaching its 100th birthday.  Flicker Alley do their usual impressive, labor-of-love, work. Behind the Door was produced in December of 1919 and no single, complete, copy of the film is known to survive. This restoration is based on an incomplete 35mm print and a separate small roll of shots preserved at the Library of Congress National Audio-Visual Conservation Centre, and a 35mm copy of a Russian version, based on an export negative preserved at Gosfilmofond of Russia. In two sequences, still images have been inserted (see sample below) to bridge gaps where the motion picture material was not available. Shot continuity and text for recreated intertitles and bridging stills are based on director Irvin Willat's original script and continuity. Color tinting and toning have been reproduced based on laboratory notations in the leaders of the Library of Congress print. The restoration was completed in May 2016 as a partnership between the Library of Congress, Gosfilmofond of Russia, and the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. This Blu-ray is from the 2016 restoration and has, predictable, damage (see last capture) but also many very, remarkably, sharp visuals - so much so that you can almost see the make-up and it can dramatically impress. I think most will be very appreciative of the presentation.




1) Flicker Alley - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP

2) Flicker Alley (Russian Version) - Region FREE - Blu-ray - BOTTOM



1) Flicker Alley - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP

2) Flicker Alley (Russian Version) - Region FREE - Blu-ray - BOTTOM


NOTE: Sequence not the same in the two versions!










Sill image insert






Damage Sample



Audio :

Flicker Alley use a linear PCM 2.0 channel track (24-bit) and it exports the films music by Stephen Horne - who has done score for A Cottage on Dartmoor and Varieté - beautifully from aggressive, combative, impact to gentle expressions of love. The recreated intertitles export a fully authentic, and seamless, interpretation and there are optional English subtitles for the Russian text intertitle cards.  My Oppo has identified it as being a region FREE disc playable on Blu-ray machines worldwide.


Extras :

As stated - we get 47-minutes of the Russian version of Behind the Door, distributed in Russia, which is a re-edited and re-titled version of the film with rearranged editing and with the plot considerably altered from the original narrative. It is presented here with musical accompaniment, also, by Stephen Horne. The quality varies but it, likewise , can look excellent. There are 10-minutes of outtakes from Behind the Door, an 11-minute piece on restoring Irvin Willat's Behind the Door with a behind-the-scenes look at the restoration and details of the challenge. I enjoyed the 1/2 hour of Kevin Brownlow discussing Irvin Willat. There is also a slideshow gallery of stills and promotional material from Behind the Door and the package contains a souvenir booklet featuring rare photographs and essays by film historian Jay Weissburg, film restorer Robert Byrne, and composer Stephen Horne. Thee is a second disc DVD included.



I thoroughly enjoyed Behind the Door - especially in the higher resolution of Blu-ray. A shocking and engrossing tale - brilliantly realized - even in the expected presentation hurdle that come from a century's age. This was another of my favorite Silent Era films - and, again from Flicker Alley. We give this a VERY strong recommendation! 

Gary Tooze

September 15th, 2017




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