A Cottage on Dartmoor
Out on 26 May is the latest silent DVD release from the BFI, Anthony Asquith’s A Cottage on Dartmoor (1929). This intense melodrama about an escapee from Dartmoor prison was Asquith’s last silent, indeed one of the last silents to be made in Britain. A notable scene in the film is the pit orchestra for a part-silent, part-talkie movie having to sit around doing nothing while the sound passage plays. The film stars Norah Baring and Uno Henning, and has gained a modest reputation of late, thanks not least to Stephen Horne’s fine piano accompaniment at many screenings. Stephen provides the music here, while the extras include Insight (1960), a study of Anthony Asquith at work featuring on set footage and interviews, and Rush Hour (1941), a comedy film directed by Asquith about Britain’s workers coping with the transport system during the Second World War.
This is the film’s first DVD release in the UK – it’s already available on Region 1 in the USA, issued by Kino, with Stephen’s score, and the extra being Matthew Sweet’s commendable documentary Silent Britain (2006).
It wasn’t so long ago when your average film afficionado would have known nothing of British silents except Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lodger, and would probably have been proud to admit the fact. Now, thanks very much to the work of the BFI, the annual British Silent Cinema Festival, and above all to the quality of the best of the films themselves, a good selection is available on DVD and overturning prejudices. Here’s a round up of what currently exists of British silents on DVD, so far as I know (this list will get added to as new DVDs appear):
- Blackmail (1929, d. Alfred Hitchcock) [Arthaus] (silent and sound versions)
- A Cottage on Dartmoor (1929, d. Anthony Asquith) [BFI] [Kino]
- David Copperfield (1913, d. Thomas Bentley) [Grapevine]
- The Early Hitchcock Collection (includes Champagne , The Ring , The Farmer’s Wife , The Manxman) ) [Optimum] [Delta]
- Easy Virtue (1927, d. Alfred Hitchcock) [WHE]
- Hindle Wakes (1927, d. Maurice Elvey) [Milestone]
- Hitchcock – The British Years (includes The Pleasure Garden , The Lodger  and Downhill ) [Network]
- The Informer (1929, d. Arthur Robison) [Grapevine]
- Lady Windermere’s Fan (1916, d. Fred Paul) (VHS) [BFI]
- Livingstone (1925, d. M.A. Wetherell) [Grapevine]
- The Lodger (1926, d. Alfred Hitchcock) [Whirlwind]
- Moulin Rouge (1928, d. E.A. Dupont) [Grapevine]
- The Open Road (1924-1926, d. Claude Friese-Greene)[BFI]
- Piccadilly (1929, d. E.A. Dupont) [BFI] [Milestone] [Sunrise Silents]
- The Return of the Rat (1929, d. Graham Cutts) [Grapevine]
- The Ring (1927, d. Alfred Hitchcock) (VHS) [BFI]
- She (1925, d. Leander de Cordova) [Sunrise Silents]
- South (1919, d. Frank Hurley) [BFI] [Milestone]
- A Throw of Dice (1929, d. Franz Osten) [BFI]
- Trapped by the Mormons (1922, d. Harry B. Parkinson) [Grapevine]
- The Vortex (1928, d. Adrian Brunel) [Sunrise Silents]
- The Woman He Scorned (1929, d. Paul Czinner) [Grapevine]
- Dickens before Sound (compilation of UK and USA titles) [BFI]
- Early Cinema: Primitives and Pioneers (compilation of UK, USA and French titles) [BFI]
- Electric Edwardians: The Films of Mitchell and Kenyon [BFI] [Milestone]
- Mitchell & Kenyon: Edwardian Sports [BFI]
- Mitchell & Kenyon in Ireland [BFI]
- R.W. Paul: The Collected Films, 1895-1908 [BFI]
- Silent Shakespeare (compilation of UK, USA and Italian titles) [BFI] [Milestone]
- The Lost World of Friese Greene [BFI]
- The Lost World of Mitchell and Kenyon [BFI]
- Silent Britain [BFI] [Kino]
OK, it’s not a vast number (I’ve been selective over the Hitchcocks – there’s a fair amount of dross out there), but look at the quality (mostly). And there’s bound to be others (do let me know what I’ve missed). And let’s ponder what’s not on DVD but ought to be: Shooting Stars, The Rat, The Informer, The Battle of the Somme, East is East, The Life Story of David Lloyd George, The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Lure of Crooning Water, The Flag Lieutenant, The First Born…
The silent version of Hitchcock’s Blackmail is available on the Kinowelt/Arthaus DVD of the sound version (published under it’s German title Erpressung)
Thanks for letting me know – I’ve added it to the list, plus another Hitchcock set which includes The Pleasure Garden, The Lodger and Downhill.
Pingback: Blackmail with strings « The Bioscope
A new British title has just been released on DVD by Sunrise Silents – Adrian Brunel’s 1928 film of the Noel Coward play, The Vortex, starring Ivor Novello.
I’ve also added Piccadilly and She to the list, which are also released on DVD by Sunrise Silents.
I’ve now added David Copperfield, The Informer, The Return of the Rat and The Woman He Scorned, all on Grapevine (lurking under ‘Foreign Films’).
The latest British silent on DVD is The Wrecker (1928)
Add The Life Story of David Lloyd George (1918):
and The Battle of the Somme (1916):