The Phantom Carriage (1921)

Discussion in 'Classic' started by dwatts, Aug 31, 2008.

  1. dwatts

    dwatts Active Member

    May 13, 2002
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    After much waiting, I finally stumped up the 15 quid required to bring this to my home theater. If I'd known it was this good I'd never have waited so long.

    Okay, so I'm often heaping praise on silent movies, I'm a fan - what can I say? But even among the classics, this one stands out as rather extraordinary. Its dark foreboding story of consumption and alcoholism feels rather contemporary, and the FX are extraordinary.

    But it's in the complex narrative, and the wonderful performances - which feel less like silent performances as ones performed much later - which really sets this film apart.

    This is the one that inspired Ingmar Bergman to get into film, and he took some of the images for use in movies such as The Seventh Seal. Comparisons are obvious when you see The Phantom Carriage.

    Tartan, annoyingly, put out two discs of this. One has a soundtrack by KTL - a band I'm not aware of. There's an example of this cut on the discs I have, and it does sound interesting to a certain extent. The music they've made is Klaus Schulze circa mid-70's (or early Tangerine Dream, if you prefer). However, that soundtrack is only available for an additional purchase - and it's not something I'm willing to fork out for. Had it been on the double-disc set I bought, I'd certainly have given it a try though.

    The set I own is the two disc edition, with a superb (traditional) orchestral score. Disc two is a film Ingmar Bergman made about - curiously - the making of The Phantom Carriage. Not gotten around to watching that yet, it runs around 100 minutes.

    The print utilized is.... astounding. Even by other silent restorations I own, this one measures up. In fact, it's probably the best looking silent movie I've seen on DVD. Scratches are few, and the contrast levels are perfect all bar a scene or two. Wonderful to see.

    The story is dark - heavy. There is some real tension at the end, and I felt a little sad once it was over. There are some spooky moments too, MR James would have loved this.

    All in all another ESSENTIAL purchase. Lovers of the horror genre need to snap this up, it's a key foundational block from earlier days (check out the Axe attack on a door that is revisited by Kubrick in The Shining!).

    11 out of 10.

  2. cazzasguy

    cazzasguy Member

    Apr 30, 2004
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    Couldn't agree with you more dwatts! This has appealed to me for quite a while and was one of very few 'oldies' I hadn't seen. When I saw your review, ordered it immediately from amazon and it's already one of the most valued discs in my collection.

    I too chose the 2-disc version, preferring an orchestral score over the KTL soundtrack. Popped the film in my player and sat back, whilst rain and gale-force winds battered against the windows (yes it's summertime in England again).

    What I found ironic was the depiction of the all-pervading influences of alcohol, and over-indulgence. The film is nearly 90 years old yet modern day English society is far worse in these respects. The classic graveyard scene could be replicated in any town or city here on most days of the year, with a different backdrop of park, bus stop or underpass.

    Rarely have 107 minutes flown by so quickly. Recommended without hesitation to anyone, even those who have convinced themselves that they don't like silents. :D
  3. Yowie

    Yowie Hologram

    Jun 25, 2001
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    One of my fave silents, highly recommended purchase, remade 37 years later in 'Scope. Also seek out Sjostrom's Monastery of Sendomir (1920).

  4. jefff

    jefff Guest

    Thanks for the review dwatts, it sounds great and I'm definitely gonna check it out. I hadn't heard of it before, but it sounds like a must see.

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