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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.

Three Ages
(1923)

 

Three Ages (1923) was Buster Keaton’s first feature length film for his own production company (he had previously starred in 1920’s The Saphead for Metro Pictures). Buster is supported by Wallace Beery and motion picture contest winner Margaret Leahy.

The film is a loose parody of D.W. Griffith’s historical epic Intolerance (1916), with its multiple era storyline: prehistoric, ancient Rome, and modern day. Three Ages was also planned as a shrewdly careful excursion into feature films. If audiences did not accept Buster in a feature film format, the film could be divided into three two-reel shorts and redistributed. And Buster did not disappoint his fans in this feature film. The prehistoric ‘baseball’ gag is worth seeing. — Carl Bennett

coverKino Classics
2017 Blu-ray Disc edition

The General (1926), black & white, 79 minutes, not rated,
with Three Ages (1923), black & white, 64 minutes, not rated, and Man’s Genesis (1912) [excerpt], black & white, 9 minutes, not rated.

Kino Lorber, K21162, UPC 7-38329-21162-2.
Two single-sided, single-layered, Region A Blu-ray Discs, 1.33:1 aspect ratio image in pillarboxed 16:9 (1920 x 1080 pixels) progressive? scan AVCHD MPEG-4 format, ? Mbps average video bit rate, ? kbps audio bit rate, LPCM 2.0 stereo sound and Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, 8 chapter stops; standard BD keepcase, $34.95.
Release date: 7 February 2017.
Country of origin: USA

Ratings (1-10): video: 8 / audio: 9 / additional content: 7 / overall: 8.
One of the burning questions we asked on the announcement of this Blu-ray Disc edition was, “Since Kino has already released the best-looking edition of Three Ages we know of, why do they need another Blu-ray Disc release?” Perhaps this new edition would be an improvement on their 2009 disc? Well, fortunately, this is the case. The 35mm source print utilized for this release is very-good to excellent but, it needs to be noted, it is a European release print comprised of alternate angles and alternate takes when compared to the American release print utilized for the 2009 Kino Blu-ray Disc noted below. There is some residual print wear but some digital clean-up has been performed to remove speckling with some image flickering still present. The 2K video transfer is made-up more of black pointilistic dots than of continuous greytones. The results can look sharper than the 2009 Kino BD edition when the picture is in motion but it is evident in still frames as overemphasizing film grain for the sake of image sharpness. Also, each film is available on its own disc, which means that there is no compressing the video to fit two films on one disc — a definite plus.

The film is accompanied by two optional music scores: a small emsemble performance by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra (uncompressed LPCM 2.0 stereo), and an older piano, violin and clarinet music score by Robert Israel (Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo) from the 1990s Kino releases. Both scores are entertaining and add to the presentation.

Among the supplementary material is a presentation of an excerpt from D.W. Griffith’s Man’s Genesis (1912) (9 minutes), a 1958 Alka-Seltzer commercial starring Buster Keaton (1 minute), and a 16mm kinescope print of a repeat performance of Buster’s lunch counter segment on the Candid Camera television series as narrated by Arthur Godfrey (6 minutes). We have seen better-looking footage from this Candid Camera performance elsewhere — still hilarious.

We don’t recommend that collectors replace their 2009 Kino Blu-ray Disc edition with this release but, instead, we recommend this as the best home video release of the European release version of Three Ages.

 
USA: Click the logomark to purchase this Region A Blu-ray Disc edition from Amazon.com. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
 
Canada: Click the logomark to purchase this Region A Blu-ray Disc edition from Amazon.ca. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
 
United Kingdom: Click the logomark to purchase this Region A Blu-ray Disc edition from Amazon.co.uk. Your purchase supports Silent Era.
coverKino International
2010 Blu-ray Disc edition

Sherlock Jr. (1924), black & white, 45 minutes, not rated,
with Three Ages (1923), black & white, 63 minutes, not rated, and Man’s Genesis (1912) [excerpt], black & white, 9 minutes, not rated.

Kino International, K679, UPC 7-38329-06792-4.
One single-sided, dual-layered, Region 0 Blu-ray Disc, 1.33:1 aspect ratio image in pillarboxed 16:9 (? x ? pixels) progressive? scan AVCHD MPEG-4 format, LPCM 2.0 stereo sound and Dolby Digital 2.0 mono sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, 12 chapter stops; standard BD keepcase in cardboard slipcover, $34.95.
Release date: 16 November 2010.
Country of origin: USA

Ratings (1-10): video: 7 / audio: 9 / additional content: 8 / overall: 8.
This Blu-ray Disc edition, remastered in high-definition, should be the best available home video edition of Three Ages but is only as good as the very-good 35mm source print. Unfortunately, the source print shows signs of beginning decomposition, flickering, speckling and a number of other flaws, which have not been digitally cleaned. Our best guess is that the source print is a couple of generations away from the negative, which means some contrastiness and softening of image details.

The film is presented with three optional music scores: a piano and violin music score arranged by Robert Israel and presented in uncompressed LPCM 2.0 stereo sound; an electronic organ score performed by Lee Erwin in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono sound; and a 2.0 mono piano score.

The supplementary material includes a video tour of Keaton locations for Three Ages conducted by John Bengtson (8 minutes); an HD excerpt from D.W. Griffith’s Man’s Genesis (1912), which was one of the inspirations for the prehistoric section of Three Ages, transferred from a 35mm print and accompanied by Ben Model; the three stories of Three Ages reedited as they may have been if had been released as separate short comedies and accompanied by portions of the Lee Erwin score; and a Three Ages photo gallery (21 images).

As is noted in the previous review, this is the best home video edition of what turns out to be the American release version of Three Ages — recommended.

 
USA: Click the logomark to purchase this Region-Free Blu-ray Disc edition from Amazon.com. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
 
Canada: Click the logomark to purchase this Region-Free Blu-ray Disc edition from Amazon.ca. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
coverKino International
2010 DVD edition

Sherlock Jr. (1924), black & white, 45 minutes, not rated,
with Three Ages (1923), black & white, 63 minutes, not rated, and Man’s Genesis (1912) [excerpt], black & white, 9 minutes, not rated.

Kino International, K716, UPC 7-38329-07162-2.
Two single-sided, dual-layered, Region 0 NTSC DVD discs, 1.33:1 aspect ratio image in full-frame 4:3 (720 x 480 pixels) interlaced scan MPEG-2 format, Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo and mono sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, chapter stops; standard DVD keepcase in cardboard slipcover, $29.95.
Release date: 16 November 2010.
Country of origin: USA

Ratings (1-10): video: 7 / audio: 9 / additional content: 8 / overall: 8.
This DVD edition, remastered in high-definition, should be the best available home video edition of Three Ages but is only as good as the very-good 35mm source print. Unfortunately, the source print shows signs of beginning decomposition, flickering, speckling and a number of other flaws, which have not been digitally cleaned. Our best guess is that the source print is a couple of generations away from the negative, which means some contrastiness and softening of image details.

The film is presented with three optional music scores: a piano and violin music score arranged by Robert Israel and presented in uncompressed LPCM 2.0 stereo sound; an electronic organ score performed by Lee Erwin in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono sound; and a 2.0 mono piano score.

The supplementary material includes a video tour of Keaton locations for Three Ages conducted by John Bengtson (8 minutes); an HD excerpt from D.W. Griffith’s Man’s Genesis (1912), which was one of the inspirations for the prehistoric section of Three Ages, transferred from a 35mm print and accompanied by Ben Model; the three stories of Three Ages reedited as they may have been if had been released as separate short comedies and accompanied by portions of the Lee Erwin score; and a Three Ages photo gallery (21 images).

As is noted in the previous reviews, this is the best DVD home video edition of what turns out to be the American release version of Three Ages — recommended.

 
USA: Click the logomark to purchase this Region-Free Blu-ray Disc edition from Amazon.com. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
 
Canada: Click the logomark to purchase this Region-Free Blu-ray Disc edition from Amazon.ca. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
coverKino on Video
1999 DVD edition

Three Ages (1923), black & white, 63 minutes, not rated,
with The Goat (1921), black & white, 23 minutes, not rated, and My Wife’s Relations (1922), black & white, 24 minutes, not rated.

Kino International, K136DVD, UPC 7-38329-01362-2.
One single-sided, single-layered, Region 0 NTSC DVD disc, 1.33:1 aspect ratio image in full-frame 4:3 (720 x 480 pixels) interlaced scan MPEG-2 format, ? Mbps average video bit rate, ? kbps audio bit rate, Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, 7 chapter stops; snapper DVD case (reissued in standard DVD keepcase [retail] and in slimline DVD keepcase [boxset]), $29.99 (reduced to $24.95).
Release date: 23 November 1999.
Country of origin: USA

Ratings (1-10): video: 7 / audio: 9 / additional content: 7 / overall: 7.

The film has been transferred from a high-quality 35mm print, with some beginning decomposition in the first reel.

The presentation features the music of a piano and an ensemble, arranged and conducted by Robert Israel.

 
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.
 
This Region 0 NTSC DVD edition is also available directly from KINO LORBER.
Other silent era BUSTER KEATON films available on home video.

Other silent film music scores by ROBERT ISRAEL available on home video.

Buster Keaton filmography in The Progressive Silent Film List
 
 
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