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S E A R C H    D V D B e a v e r

(aka "The Kaiser of California" or "The Emperor of California")

 

Directed by Luis Trenker
Germany 1936

 

On the surface, The Kaiser of California appears to be a cinematic anomaly: an epic Western produced under the state-controlled cinema of the Third Reich. But the film’s novelty value is quickly eclipsed by its dazzling visual aristry: striking compositions and stunning location photography worthy of John Ford (who was still three years away from making his signature Western, Stagecoach). In telling the story of German-born pioneer John Sutter, actor/director Luis Trenker returned to the awe-inspiring vistas and daring feats of rock-climbing that had made his “mountain films” such a sensation. The result is a film whose style is deeply Germanic and spectacularly American at the same time, virtually unseen in the United States, prior to this 2K restoration by the Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau Stiftung.

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The film follows the life story of Johann Augustus Suter, the owner of Sutter's Mill, famous as the birthplace of the great California Gold Rush of 1848.

Posters

Theatrical Release: July 21st, 1936

Reviews                                                                                                       More Reviews                                                                                       DVD Reviews

 

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

Box Cover

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Distribution Kino - Region 'A' - Blu-ray
Runtime 1:39:26.291        
Video

1.19:1 1080P Single-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 21,993,691,777 bytes

Feature: 21,874,523,328 bytes

Video Bitrate: 25.93 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

LPCM Audio German 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit
Commentary:

Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps

Subtitles English, None
Features Release Information:
Studio:
Kino

 

1.319:1 1080P Single-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 21,993,691,777 bytes

Feature: 21,874,523,328 bytes

Video Bitrate: 25.93 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Edition Details:

Audio commentary by film historian Eddy Von Mueller


Blu-ray Release Date:
March 23rd, 2021
Standard Blu-ray Case

Chapters 10

 

 

Comments:

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

ADDITION: Kino Blu-ray (March 2021): Kino have transferred Luis Trenker's The Kaiser of California to Blu-ray. It appears to be a Murnau-Stiftung restoration (actually advertised as a "2K restoration by the Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau Stiftung") and generally looks excellent with some, understandable, inconsistencies and less-crisp, blockier, sequences. It is in the slightly pillar-boxed 1.19:1 aspect ratio. The grain textures are thick and appealing - contrast is adept and the 1080P image in-motion looks stable and pleasing.

On their Blu-ray, Kino use a linear PCM mono track (16-bit) in the original German language. It can have some rougher patches but dialogue and there is audible and a supportive score by Giuseppe Becce (Tartuffe, The Last Laugh, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari), adding to this western genre effort weaving different tones into the production (so sayeth Eddy in the commentary.) Kino offer optional English subtitles on their Region 'A' Blu-ray.

The Kino Blu-ray offers a new commentary by film historian Eddy Von Mueller (author of Frankenstein: How A Monster Became an Icon.) He discusses this 'blind spot' in cinema history, this a product of a Nazi-fied film system, John Augustus Sutter (a Swiss immigrant of Mexican and American citizenship, known for establishing Sutter's Fort in the area that would eventually become Sacramento, California, the state's capital), dispelling past rumors about him, plenty on writer / director / star / alpinist, and bobsledder Luis Trenker, how The Kaiser of California has a Faustian vibe (both Goethe and Friedrich W. Murnau), the less-popular sympathetic view of the native Indians, 'Sauerkraut westerns' in general, Karl Friedrich May's novels set on one hand in the American Old West and much more. I found it essential in helping me appreciate the film, it's Nazi-centric history and the genre.

Luis Trenker's The Kaiser of California is  unique as the first western film made in Nazi Germany. Some exterior scenes were shot on location in the U.S.; Arizona, the Grand Canyon and Death Valley with the final shots showing parts of Washington, D.C. The film's deep-rooted history is fascinating and I'm very glad to have seen it as both a western adventure and with the educational commentary found on the Kino Blu-ray. There is a lot here to appreciate - to both history buffs and fans of the vintage western genre.

Gary Tooze

 


Menus / Extras

 


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Box Cover

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Distribution Kino - Region 'A' - Blu-ray


 


 

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