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Directed by Tod Browning
USA 1920

 

While under contract at Universal Studios, Tod Browning crafted a series of melodramas with strong female protagonists, women on the wrong side of the law, who stood defiantly against the men who tried to control them. No actress better personified this tough, glamorous anti-hero than Priscilla Dean (Drifting, White Tiger). In Outside the Law, Dean plays hard-boiled jewel thief Molly Madden. When her father is framed for murder by Black Mike Sylva (Lon Chaney), Molly partners with safecracker Dapper Bill (Wheeler Oakman) to stage a double-cross of their own. Outside the Law was Browning’s second film with actor Lon Chaney, whose gifts for elaborate makeup and ruthless villainy would flower under Browning’s direction, setting the stage for a series of monstrous characterizations that would revolutionize the melodrama and lay the foundations of the American horror film.

***

Molly Madden (Priscilla Dean) goes bad when her father (Ralph Lewis) is framed for a crime and goes to prison. She agrees to participate in a jewel robbery, but "Dapper Bill" (Dean's real-life husband, Wheeler Oakman) eventually tells her of a plan to frame her and the two of them abscond with the jewels, leaving the rest of the robbery gang high and dry.

Molly and Bill hide out in an apartment and gradually start to reform thanks to the innocence of a little boy who lives next door, and they decide to return the jewels and go straight so they can live a happy life together and raise a family. But returning the jewels might be more difficult than they hope...

Excerpt from Laura's Miscellaneous Musings located HERE

Posters

Theatrical Release: December 26th, 1920

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Review: Kino - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

Box Cover

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Bonus Captures:

Distribution Kino - Region 'A' - Blu-ray
Runtime 1:16:07.980        
Video

1.33:1 1080P Single-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 23,263,099,595 bytes

Feature: 21,096,744,960 bytes

Video Bitrate: 30.99 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate Blu-ray:

Audio

DTS-HD Master Audio English 2018 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2018 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Commentary:

DTS-HD Master Audio English 1861 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1861 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)

Subtitles English Intertitles
Features Release Information:
Studio:
Kino

 

1.33:1 1080P Single-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 23,263,099,595 bytes

Feature: 21,096,744,960 bytes

Video Bitrate: 30.99 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Edition Details:

• Audio commentary by film historian Anthony Slide
• Alternate ending (10:06)
• Footage comparison (9:00)


Blu-ray Release Date:
October 20th, 2020
Standard Blu-ray Case

Chapters 9

 

 

Comments:

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

ADDITION: Kino Blu-ray (October 2020): Kino have transferred Tod Browning's Silent Era Outside the Law to Blu-ray. This is from a Universal Pictures restoration, although I don't have a lot of details. But it is probably the one that premiered during the 2017 San Francisco Silent Film Festival. PR Newswire states "After a worldwide search by NBCUniversal Global Media Operations, the best quality source elements were found at the Library of Congress who loaned a 35mm safety dupe negative for the restoration. Assistance was also provided by The Packard Humanities Institute at the UCLA Film & Television Archive. The 4K digital restoration was completed by NBCUniversal StudioPost." For the most part it looks extremely impressive. The contrast does fluctuate during the centre of the frame and I suspect some warping. There is also extensive damage is a couple, of scenes (see below.) But black levels seen heightened and although it can appear frail - it looks impressive in-motion. This film is 100-years old - but the 1080P image quality is miraculous throughout most of the feature presentation. 

NOTE: We have added 64 more large resolution Blu-ray captures (in lossless PNG format) for DVDBeaver Patrons HERE

On their Blu-ray, Kino use a DTS-HD Master stereo track (24-bit) comprised of an orchestral score by Anton Sanko. I really liked it - you can hear a variety of wind and string instruments - even a subtle harp. It can get quite boisterous - almost James Bond-like. It suits the film experience wonderfully. The Kino has original English Intertitles on their Region 'A' Blu-ray.

The Kino Blu-ray offers a new commentary by Anthony Slide (author of Nitrate Won't Wait: A History of Film Preservation in the United States.) He discusses the 'yellow face' make-up, how Outside the Law is difficult to categorize - early example Film Noir?, a Feminist film? not your average Browning melodrama, the frequent use of the ' little person actor' John George, the appearance of 15-year old Anna May Wong and much, much, more. He was a pleasure to listen to. There is also a 10-minute alternate ending - where the footage comes from a 16mm "Show-at-Home" print of Outside the Law (and is believed to have been adapted from the 1926 re-issue cut of the film). It is comprised completely of alternate takes, with significantly less nitrate decomposition. This print eliminates the climactic fight scene and replaces it with a different conclusion. It has music composed and performed by Andrew Earle Simpson. Kino include a 9-minute split screen footage comparison highlighting the restoration. 

Tod Browning's Outside the Law is a keen crime thriller. It has the director/writer's edginess with an aggressive conflict in the finale and Chaney's dual performance. It has plenty of wicked grimaces and bedroom eyes from Priscilla Dean (Silky Moll.) I was entertained. The Kino Blu-ray offers an impressive presentation - restored image and great score - plus the commentary, alternate ending etc. Silent Era aficionados shouldn't hesitate for a moment. This is a desirable Blu-ray - an absolute 'keeper'.

Gary Tooze

 


Menus / Extras

 


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Damage Samples

 

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Distribution Kino - Region 'A' - Blu-ray


 


 

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