‘The Big House’ – the original prison picture on Criterion Channel

The 1930 The Big House, directed by George Hill from a script by France Marion, is the original men-in-prison drama in terms of the way it established the conventions. There’s the pecking order of tough guys behind bars, the culture of loyalty, the sniveling snitches, the prison reform speech from the tough but committed warden […]

Francine Everett is "Dirty Gertie" in the film directed by Spencer Williams

Black Film History Pioneers – The ‘Blood’ of Spencer Williams on Netflix and Criterion Channel

The legacy of films made by and for African-American audiences before Hollywood integrated its casts is largely unknown to even passionate films buffs. They were rarely seen by white audiences in their day and were rarely preserved with the same dedication given to the maverick films of Hollywood. Netflix and Criterion Channel present over 20 […]

Marlene Dietrich in the 1932 classic by Josef von Sternberg

Criterion Blu-ray: Dietrich & Von Sternberg in Hollywood

Dietrich & Von Sternberg in Hollywood (Criterion, Blu-ray, DVD) At the dawn of the sound era, as German movie star Emil Jannings left Hollywood to return to Germany, the actor invited Austrian-born/American-raised director Josef von Sternberg (who directed Jannings in The Last Command, 1928) to Universum Film A.G. to direct him in that studio’s first […]

Paul Whiteman and his Band star in the 1930 musical revue directed by John Murray Anderson

Criterion Blu-ray: ‘King of Jazz’ restored, ‘An Actor’s Revenge,’ and Dreyer’s ‘Passion of Joan of Arc’

King of Jazz (Criterion, Blu-ray, DVD) An Actor’s Revenge (Criterion, Blu-ray, DVD) The Passion of Joan of Arc (Criterion, Blu-ray, DVD) I came to King of Jazz (1930) with low expectations, I confess. I knew that the early sound film is a landmark production but I’m no fan of the stage style revue films and […]

1931 drama by G.W. Pabst from Germany

Blu-ray: G.W. Pabst’s ‘Westfront 1918’ and ‘Kameradschaft’ on Criterion

Westfront 1918 (Criterion, Blu-ray, DVD) Kameradschaft (Criterion, Blu-ray, DVD) Georg Wilhelm Pabst was not only one of the great German directors of the silent film era, he (along with Fritz Lang) explored the expressive possibilities of sound in the early days of sound cinema. Criterion presents two of his earliest sound features, a pair that […]