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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.33:1 Standard
  • English Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • Six scores: one by Robert Israel for each film; two by the Alloy Orchestra, for Underworld and The Last Command; and a piano and voice piece by Donald Sosin for The Docks of New York
  • Two new visual essays: one by UCLA film professor Janet Bergstrom and the other by film scholar Tag Gallagher
  • 1968 Swedish television interview with director Josef von Sternberg, covering his entire career

The Docks of New York


Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Josef von Sternberg
1928 | 75 Minutes | Licensor: Paramount Home Entertainment

Release Information
DVD | MSRP: $79.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #531
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: August 24, 2010
Review Date: August 24, 2010

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SYNOPSIS

Roughneck stoker Bill Roberts (George Bancroft) gets into all sorts of trouble during a brief shore leave when he falls hard for Mae (Betty Compson), a wise and weary dance hall girl, in Josef von Sternbergís evocative portrait of lower-class waterfront folk. Fog-enshrouded cinematography by Harold Rosson (The Wizard of Oz), expressionist set design by Hans Dreier (Sunset Boulevard), and sensual performances make this one of the legendary directorís finest works, and one of the most exquisitely crafted films of its era.

Forum members rate this film 9.2/10

 

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PICTURE

The third film available exclusively in Criterionís von Sternberg box set, The Docks of New York is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this dual-layer disc. Similar to the transfers for the other films found in the set this one has also been window boxed, presenting a black border around the picture.

After the surprising transfers for both Underworld and The Last Command I thought I had a pretty good idea as to what to expect with this one, but Docks still managed to stun me. Itís easily the best looking of the three, and when one considers its age itís in fantastic shape.

There are still scratches to be found, and pulsating is a minor issue, but both are minimal through a majority of the film, the scratches getting really bad only in a few shots, usually following a title card, and there looks to be a tramline present during parts of the last act. The other films in the set could also look a bit fuzzy around the edges, but Docks is surprisingly crisp and sharp, looking to be in focus most of time, with excellent detail and definition. The digital transfer is also free of noise and artifacts, even handling the filmís grain structure superbly. Though Iím sure it still doesnít reach the quality Blu-ray would present, upscaled this transfer still looks sharp.

Considering its age, the problems with the source materials shouldnít be a surprise to anyone, but really, this still looks superb.

7/10

All DVD screen captures are presented in their original size from the source disc. Images have been compressed slightly to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

The Docks of New York is a silent film, but Criterion includes two stereo orchestral tracks to accompany the film. The first one is by Robert Israel who composed the track specifically for this edition (and the other films in the von Sternberg set,) and the second is a score by Donald Sosin, made for a screening at the 2008 Cinema Ritrovato Festival in Bologna, Italy. Israelís score is similar to his tracks for the other films, presenting a booming orchestral score which perfectly suits the film. I actually wasnít all that fond of Sosinís track overall, who inserts some vocals sung by Joanna Seaton, which for me didnít seem to jive with the film. It of course is going to come down to personal preference. Sound quality is excellent for both.

8/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Similarly to the other discs in the set (each disc for each film containing their own supplements,) The Docks of New York only comes with one supplement, but itís a significant and unique one.

Criterion has dug up a rather wonderful interview with Josef von Sternberg, recorded in Sweden in 1969. Running 40-minutes, and presented in a mix of Swedish and English (with optional English subtitles for the Swedish spoken,) itís a fairly candid interview with the director as he talks about his early silent work and Marlene Dietrich to a certain degree. It focuses on a few of his films, primarily The Salvation Hunters, Underworld, the unfinished I, Claudius, and even Anathan (it even has clips from all of the films, including a finished sequence from I, Claudius.) But the interview gets especially good when they start looking at the Swedish posters for his early films with the director recalling the films and the actors he worked with. And similar to a feature found on Criterionís The Scarlet Empress, von Sternberg then gives a demonstration of his lighting technique. In all a great inclusion on Criterionís part and worth viewing.

(This review only refers to the supplements on the disc for The Docks of New York. The other discs for the other films in the set contain their own supplements, and the set comes with a thick 95-page booklet, which does contain essays on the film.)

7/10

CLOSING

Of the three films found in Criterionís von Sternberg box set The Docks of New York looks the best, and itís lone supplement, a great interview with the director, is another strong addition to this wonderful box set. A strong closing disc for what may be one of Criterionís best releases this year.


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