The Lodger on HD

The Lodger

The opening images from The Lodger (1927), from 1000 Frames of Hitchcock

This Friday sees what I think is a first for a silent film – exhibition in HD format. The US channel MGMHD is showing Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lodger (1927) at 4.20am on February 1st. It is, I believe, derived from the BFI National Archive’s restored print, and was transferred in the UK by Granada International. I have seen a bit of it, on a non-HD screen alas, but even so the image quality looks quite stunning.

The image above of the opening frames of the film comes from 1000 Frames of Hitchcock, “an attempt to reduce each of the 52 available major Hitchcock films down to just 1000 frames”. It’s an offshoot of the remarkable HitchcockWiki, which I commend to you. 1000 Frames of Hitchcock provides the same service for The Pleasure Garden (1925), Downhill (1927), The Ring (1927), Champagne (1928), Easy Virtue (1928), The Farmer’s Wife (1928), The Manxman (1929) and Blackmail (1929, but the sound version only). And all the others, of course.

5 responses

  1. What’s your feeling about HD frame rates and preserving the original fps projection speed? I think I see some confusion out there on sites like DVD Beaver where there is some negative visual transfer effect in conforming a silent film of an unusual fps speed to DVD frame rates and now presumably HD also. (David Bordwell has an article on this for sound films, where he explains how frames are either re-used or interpolated or something just to go from sound 24 fps to 30 (or 25 for PAL) standard definition video formats.) My feeling is that the correct projection/display speed is paramount, and tough nookie if it is not optimum for the HD pic quality. My fear is there’ll be a temptation to run them at 24 with one frame for one frame, but that trade-off is unacceptable to me if you’ve got beautiful picture quality but the acting is ruined by being unnaturally sped-up (not to mention the negative effect on the film’s intended pacing). Anyway, I figured you might know more. I just take wild paranoid stabs at the matter. The Lodger’s a bad example to start with since, being from ’27, the frame rates were up to about 24 by then anyway. Personally I’d be irritated even by 22 fps being displayed at 24 fps. Even more egregious of course would be earlier silents like Intolerance where the difference would be horrendous. A topic for another time would be all those Chaplin films he scored himself later in life. I think those run too fast, I’m not sure if he reprinted frames, but it seems like he didn’t, so he’s running his 1918 films at sound 24 fps to accommodate the score. Current distributors and programmers of course want to project with Chaplin’s own scores, in which case they’re stuck with his sound re-release prints. I personally find the speeding up pretty irritating though and would prefer to see them at natural speed.
    -Editor A

  2. I didn’t refer to the projection speed, as I happen to be judging the restoration (which I’ve seen on DVD) for an archival award, so I wanted to be circumspect. Let’s just say that I was a little surprised to see the film run at clearly too fast an fps, and wondered how on earth this was accepted. I don’t know what the fps for The Lodger should be, but it’s not a hard and fast rule that all films were up to 24fps by 1927, and I’d have said that 20 or 21 fps would have worked here. I’m not in the Bordwell class on this issue (or any other, for that matter), but I’d said natural speed wins out over any fine point of DVD or now HD frame rates. That’s putting the technology over the film that it’s meant to be presenting. I shall look out for future HD silents with interest, and concern.

    All that said, the image quality itself is stunning…

  3. With this news on The Lodger presentation speed, sadly my paranoia about silents in HD congeals into concrete form. :(

    My impression was the U.S. was up to nearly 24 fps by ’27, but other countries (Germany especially) lagged behind our fps rates significantly. So it wouldn’t be surprising for this British film to be around 20 or 21 fps.

    In any case, natural speed all the way!!!

    -Editor A

  4. Was The Lodger actually shown on MGMHD? Word is that it was replaced by Paul Morrisey’s The Hound of the Baskervilles (one of my top ten worst films ever, by the way). Did anyone see it, or not see it, as it were?

  5. Pingback: And the first silent on Blu-Ray is… « The Bioscope

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