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Reviews of silent film releases on home video.
Copyright © 1999-2017 by Carl Bennett
and the Silent Era Company.
All Rights Reserved.

The Great
Train Robbery

(1903)

 

Edwin S. Porter’s production of this early Edison western, The Great Train Robbery (1903), has become essential viewing for the student of cinema and the collecting enthusiast. For its time, the film was a prime example of the greater attention being paid by filmmakers to story, film structure, and editing.

Kino on Video
2005 DVD edition

Edison: The Invention of the Movies (1891-1918), black & white, 14 hours total (approximate), not rated,
including The Great Train Robbery (1903), black & white, 12 minutes, not rated.

Kino International, K383, UPC 7-38329-03832-8.
Full-frame 4:3 NTSC, four single-sided?, dual-layered? DVD discs, Region 1, ? Mbps average video bit rate, ? kbps audio bit rate, Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo? sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, chapter stops, four plastic trays in roll-fold cardboard wrap in cardboard slipcase, $99.95.
Release date: 22 February 2005.
Country of origin: USA
We have not viewed this edition of the film, but expect it to be the best presentation since it is the most-recent edition of what may be the same video transfer as the Kino and Image editions below.

Also included are more than 130 other films produced by the Edison company, from early experimental films from 1891 through a full feature film produced in 1918, the collection runs the gamut of cinematic primitives shot in the Black Maria studio at Edison’s laboratories in West Orange, New Jersey, through actualities, to short dramas and comedies.

 
USA: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 1 NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.com. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
 
Canada: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 1 NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.ca. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
Kino on Video
2002 DVD edition

The Movies Begin (1894-1913), black & white and color-tinted black & white, 414 minutes total, not rated,
including The Great Train Robbery (1903), black & white and color-tinted and color-toned black & white, 12 minutes, not rated.

Kino International, K236A-E, UPC 7-38329-02362-1.
Full-frame 4:3 NTSC, five single-sided, single-layered DVD discs, Region 1, 5.5 Mbps average video bit rate, 192 kbps audio bit rate, Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, no chapter stops (within the film), five standard DVD keepcases in cardboard slipcase, $99.95.
Release date: 19 February 2002.
Country of origin: USA

Ratings (1-10): video: 8 / audio: 8 / additional content: 8 / overall: 8.

This slightly windowboxed video transfer has apparently been made from surviving hand-tinted 35mm print elements, since there are few signs of paper-print artifacts in the picture (one shot contains a persistent white strand of lint that may be on the glass frame of a copy camera). Mere conjecture suggests that the source material may be the preservation print prepared for the “Before Hollywood” touring exhibition of the late 1980s. Some shots are marked with some fine vertical print scratches, the majority of the others are only slightly peppered with dust. After years of viewing Library of Congress preservation prints copied from surviving paper prints, the clarity in this surviving hand-tinted film print is exceptional.

The film is accompanied by a fine music score arranged and composed by Robert Israel, and performed by an ensemble with piano.

This is currently our suggested edition of The Great Train Robbery. Read also our full review of this boxset.

 
USA: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 1 NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.com. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
 
Canada: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 1 NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.ca. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
Image Entertainment
1998 DVD edition

Landmarks of Early Film (1894-1913), black & white and hand-tinted color, 117 minutes total, not rated,
including The Great Train Robbery (1903), black & white and hand color-tinted black & white, 12 minutes, not rated.

Film Preservation Associates, distributed by Image Entertainment,
ID4103DSDVD, UPC 0-14381-41032-7.
Full-frame 4:3 NTSC, one single-sided, single-layered DVD disc, Region 0, 4.5 Mbps average video bit rate, 192 kbps audio bit rate, Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, no chapter stops (within the film), snapper DVD case, $29.99.
Release date: 21 July 1998.
Country of origin: USA

Ratings (1-10): video: 8 / audio: 8 / additional content: 7 / overall: 8.

Essentially identical to the Kino edition above, since the program material for both editions was prepared by David Shepard for the original 1994 The Movies Begin videotape boxset, this slightly-windowboxed video transfer has apparently been made from surviving hand-tinted 35mm print elements. The image clarity of this preservation print is exceptional for a film of this age.

Along with the Kino edition, we recommend this edition for its image clarity and fine music score. Read also our full review of this collection.

 
USA: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 0 NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.com. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
 
Canada: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 0 NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.ca. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
VCI Entertainment
2003 DVD edition

The Great Train Robbery 100th Anniversary Special Edition (1903-1925), black & white and color-tinted and color-toned black & white, ? minutes total, not rated,
including The Great Train Robbery (1903), black & white and color-tinted and color-toned black & white, 12 minutes, not rated.

VCI Entertainment, 8297, UPC 0-89859-82972-7.
Full-frame 4:3 NTSC, one single-sided, dual-layered DVD disc, Region 0, 5 Mbps average video bit rate, 192 kbps audio bit rate, Dolby Digital 2.0 mono sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, no chapter stops (within the film), standard DVD keepcase, $19.99.
Release date: 16 December 2003.
Country of origin: USA

Ratings (1-10): video: 6 / audio: 5 / additional content: 6 / overall: 6.

This midline edition reveals a reasonably-detailed video transfer of a 35mm preservation print from the Library of Congress, apparently copied in whole or part from a paper print. The film is simply clearer and more detailed in other DVD editions than it is here, with (for example) what appears to be paper-print artifacts prominently seen in the watertower sequence. Shadow areas are darker in this edition than in others.

The film is available here in two versions, one a straight (and without musical accompaniment) presentation of the black & white transfer provided by LoC, the other a digitally color-toned version with a canned orchestral music.

 
USA: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 0 NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.com. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
 
Canada: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 0 NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.ca. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
 
United Kingdom: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 0 NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.co.uk. Your purchase supports Silent Era.
Other WESTERN FILMS of the silent era available on home video.
 
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