DVD of the Week – “3 Silent Classics by Josef von Sternberg” Box Set


It’s a happy day for silent film lovers. Criterion has released director Josef von Sternberg’s Underworld (1927), The Last Command and The Docks of New York (both 1928) in a new three film DVD box set. This a terrifically exciting and long-overdue DVD release.

Each film presents a choice of two scores.* The ever-reliable Robert Israel composed a new orchestral score for each film, and there is a second original score by the Alloy Orchestra (a personal favorite in the world of silent film accompaniment) for Underworld and The Last Command and by Donald Sosin and Joanna Seaton for The Docks of New York.

The set is a must-have for the films alone, which are presented in new and restored digital transfers. This being a Criterion release, there are also… extras, of course! These include “visual essays” by Janet Bergstrom on Underworld and by Tag Gallagher on The Last Command. The Docks DVD includes a 1968 interview for Swedish television with von Sternberg. There is also a booklet featuring: multiple essays on the films; composers’ notes on the scores; Ben Hecht’s original story for Underworld; and an excerpt from von Sternberg’s autobiography on Emil Jannings, star of The Last Command.

*I’ve started seeing multiple scores on silent film DVDs more often recently. Is this an industry trend? If so, it’s a most welcome one.

Original Commentary Track review of Underworld by Helen Geib.

Other new releases this week: The Back-up Plan, Survival of the Dead, Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg

2 responses to “DVD of the Week – “3 Silent Classics by Josef von Sternberg” Box Set

  1. Good to know that these are out there. I tried to reserve a copy on the library’s system today, and found that I couldn’t do so, yet. But I will keep trying, until they do become available.

    • Good to know these are in the library’s collection. My only criticism of the release would be that the films are only available as a set (although perhaps that will change in the future; Criterion sometimes issues single DVD releases of films previously included in box sets). Underworld would make a great introduction to silent films and I’d like to see it given an individual release for that reason.


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