I’m not what you would call a film history buff by any stretch of the imagination. I just started collecting Blu-rays early last year and up until recently stayed pretty mainstream. While most of my movie watching is 1970 or later, there was a time in the middle of the DVD craze where public domain films were just being put out left and right, that I did fall in love with some early silent films. While I hit the standards like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and Nosferatu, I also tried out some lesser known ones (at least to me) like The Golem. Since I have boxed up the old DVD’s for the time being, I was intrigued when we received The Captive from Olive Films; I looked forward to checking out this “lost” film.
The Movie Itself (3/5)
The Captive was thought to have been lost before turning up in the Paramount vault in 1970, and now resides in the Library of Congress. The film was directed, written and produced by Cecil B. DeMille, and stars Blanche Sweet as Sonia, a young woman trying to survive during the Balkan War. The year is 1913. Her brother goes to fulfill his military service, but while leading his troops into battle he is mortally wounded. Sonia and her young brother Milo are distraught with grief when hearing the news, and we see Sonia struggling to care for the family farm on her own.
The Mayor then decides that the Turkish prisoners of war will help with the local farms, so the food production does not cease while the men are away. Mahmud Hassan, one of the prisoners captured by her brother’s unit, is tasked with helping Sonia. He has become… The Captive dun dun dun… He is in rather good spirits about it; I suppose that is due to not being stuck in jail any longer. Sonia, still upset about the loss of her brother, does give Mahmud a hard time by making him run along side her wagon even though there is plenty of room for him. Mahmud is also excluded from the dinner table.
As Sonia watches Mahmud work and how he cares for Milo, she starts to fall in love. Will their burgeoning love fully blossom, or will the drums of war stamp it under foot? I’m not going to spoil it, you can find out for yourself. With a run time of just over 50 minutes, it is a quick watch and was very enjoyable. If you are not a fan of silent films then I wonder why you have read up to this point, but if you are like me and have at least a passing interest this is a nice one to start with. Even without audio the actors display nice emotion through their looks and gestures, and it can be quite compelling that you are able to perceive everything the director and actors want you to even without sound.
Visuals/Picture Quality (3/5)
With a film that is over a century old I was expecting the worst. With everything that could have gone wrong with the film, everything surprisingly comes together into a very nice picture. I guess credit goes to whoever stored it away at Paramount, the Library of Congress, and Olive Films that did the transfer. Is this a film that will look amazing, like something made today? Of course not, but I would easily say it has better picture quality than some Blu-rays I have seen of films made in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s. The detail and clarity are fantastic for its age. There are many less noticeable pops and artifacts that I would have thought. Besides the traditional black and white, the film also utilizes a yellow or red tint at times to give different effects. It’s safe to say the plain black and white looks the best, but no part of the movie is unwatchable by any means. There are some spots that are fuzzy and you lose some detail, but I was constantly amazed at what I could pick out. I’m sure this is the best the film has looked in years and anyone interested will be much better off watching it on Blu-ray than a poor streaming site.
Score/Audio Quality (4/5)
My disc must have a defect! I can’t hear what the people are saying… their mouths are moving… I’ll have to send this disc back to Olive and complain. All joking aside, Olive Films didn’t want to have just a completely silent disc so they included a new musical score. It was composed by Lucy Duke, a violinist from Chicago. I could have just muted the track and watched the film as intended but decided to give it a whirl. I was pleasantly surprised by the orchestration and composition. Just about everything fit the scenes perfectly, and Ms. Duke obviously has some talent to know what kind of emotion she wants to get out of the listener for the scene. So my score only reflects her work, which I thought was well done.
Special Features (0/5)
Nothing, zilch, nada. Not sure what Olive could have put in here. The only things that come to mind is a historical bio/short documentary on either Cecil Demille or Blanche Sweet. I suppose by not doing too much that is part of the reason they kept the MSRP so low for this release, so with that I can let it slide.
- Disc Art
- Non Eco-Case
- Aspect ratio: 1.37:1
Runtime 51 Mins
This is your basic standard release with no frills, but solid all around. Nothing crazy in the way of packaging or special features, which is understandable since there is most likely not a giant market for The Captive. Olive did produce a nice picture, and the simple score was wonderfully done and should be listened to while watching. I would say if you have any interest in early silent films that this one would be a nice place to start and add to your collection, especially for the price point. I would like to see even more silent works make it to Blu-ray because I think it could be a wonderful medium that can capture what these films meant to cinema.
Note: This Blu-ray was sent to us for review. This has not affected our judgement or editorial process in any way. Please contact us if you have any questions regarding this process.