D. W. Griffith’s Biograph Shorts (1908-1913, 2002)

by popegrutch

DW Griffiths Biograph Shorts

Worldcat Link: http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/51260287

At the beginning of this project, I reviewed two other Griffith collections without spending much time on the specific movies therein. Since this collection largely overlaps with those two, and I’ve given each of the films a review now, I’m fairly well caught up on Griffith and can move on to other things soon. But first, I thought I’d discuss this set as a collection. It’s put out by Kino, who generally hold a high standard for prints and audio, which this collection lives up to. Most of the films are in very good condition, with a few understandably less perfect, but in general the image is better than what you get by following my “free” links. The music has been specifically written and timed to the movies, and there’s quite a bit of variety among them, which I think makes it easier to watch a lengthy collection of silent movies, including solo piano scores, organ, and pieces for several instruments.

The collection was produced and edited by David Shepard, a film preservationist with a strong background in film history, who I know has done several other DVDs I’ve seen, though I can’t recall them offhand. I was a bit disappointed, however, at the lack of commentary and contextual materials. There’s a short essay on the back cover, which gives a tantalizing hint of Shepard’s erudition, but no booklet or other written materials. The formatting of the discs is odd, also. The movies are roughly in chronological order, up to a point, but each disc divides them between two sections, with “Bonus Shorts” tucked in a separate area from the main films, although there’s no apparent reason to divide them. There’s no menu to allow you to navigate all the movies, either, so you have to dial through one at a time if you’re looking for a particular one. Each movie does have a nice “splash page” with a dummied-up poster made to look contemporary and with thumbnail previews – this was nice, but it still would have been nicer to have easier navigation.

On the whole, I think I’d recommend “Years of Discovery” more strongly for someone looking to get a sample of early Griffith, but this collection is a good one for completists or scholars who need to find good quality prints of specific films.