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

Hell Bent
(1918)

 

This western feature film from Universal, directed by John Ford, stars Harry Carey and Neva Gerber, with support from Duke R. Lee, Vester Pegg, Joseph Harris, M.K. Wilson and Steve Clemento. This may be misinterpreted as Ford’s first film version of the novel The Three Bad Men. Instead, the film story was written by Carey and Ford.

Silent Hall of Fame Enterprises
2016 DVD edition

Hell Bent (1918), black & white, 50 minutes, not rated.

Silent Hall of Fame Enterprises, 60, no UPC number.
One single-sided, single-layered, Region 0 NTSC DVD+R disc, 1.33:1 aspect ratio in full-frame 4:3 (720 x 480 pixels) interlaced scan MPEG-2 format, 8 Mbps average video bit rate, 256 kbps audio bit rate, PCM 2.0 stereo sound, German language intertitles, permanent English language subtitles, 12 chapter stops; clamshell CD case, $24.99.
Release date: 1 January 2016.
Country of origin: USA

Ratings (1-10): video: 4 / audio: 4 / additional content: 2 / overall: 4.

This DVD+R edition has been mastered from a very-good 16mm reduction print of a German language release version of the film. The print flickers in places with exposure fluctuations, and is flecked with quite a bit of dust, light speckling, the occasional blotch of schmutz and a bit or two of misplaced editing tape. Some sections of the print are distractingly jittery, others are reasonably stable, but it is also notably free of large vertical print scratches. The greyscale range is reasonably balanced, with the occasional blasted-out highlight and plugged-up shadows, making for a passable viewing experience. The slightly letterboxed video transfer has been made at or near 24 frames per second, rendering a picture that runs at a faster-than-natural playback speed. Some shots, which may have been shortened over time to trims or print breaks, flash by in an instant and make following the shot sequences a challenge from time to time. At a natural pace, the print may have run about an hour instead of 50 minutes.

It needs to be noted that a faint “SHF-E” digital watermark appears in the lower right-hand corner of the picture to discourage pirating of this edition, but another watermark just to the upper left of the existing mark has been digitally smeared away, which leads us to ask just where this video transfer originated. Was it pirated?

The film is presented with a music score compiled from preexisting orchestral recordings, which is inconsistent with the setting and action of the film.

The edition’s supplemental features include a preface by edition producer Alex Staykov, with excerpts from the Silent Hall of Fame documentary “Breaking the Silence” (2015); and a short text introduction to the film. The film’s chapter stops are available within playback of the film but not from the disc’s menus, which is limited to starting playback of the main feature and the three supplemental items.

We think that this bare bones DVD+R edition is indefensibly overpriced for its quality but we are happy to own it for our John Ford collection as it appears to be the only home video edition currently available. Is it watchable? Yes. Could it have been better? Yes. The disc’s shortcomings are forgivable only until a higher-quality edition of the film is released.

 
USA: Click the logomark to purchase a Region 0 NTSC DVD+R of this edition from Amazon.com. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
Other silent era JOHN FORD films available on home video.

Other WESTERN FILMS of the silent era available on home video.

 
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