SCREEN-L Archives

January 1999, Week 4


Options: Use Monospaced Font
Show Text Part by Default
Show All Mail Headers

Message: [<< First] [< Prev] [Next >] [Last >>]
Topic: [<< First] [< Prev] [Next >] [Last >>]
Author: [<< First] [< Prev] [Next >] [Last >>]

Print Reply
paul_m_malone <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 25 Jan 1999 09:49:50 -0500
text/plain (40 lines)
Please excuse any cross-postings of this message.
For a German film class I'm teaching, I picked up a copy of Leni
Riefenstahl's early film _The Blue Light_ at the local art video store
because the copy I had ordered through my university was blocked by our
recent Canadian blizzards.
I was shocked to discover that the version I rented was _not_, as I had
expected, a 70-min. long sound film with English subtitles (the print Facets
offers is 77 mins., if I recall correctly), but rather a 40-min. long silent
film with English intertitles and the most god-awful unsynchronized and
out-of-tune generic silent-movie piano score.
The sheer length of a couple of the intertitles (more than screen-filling,
they spilled out of view on two sides) made it quite clear that a few long
speeches had been unwisely transcribed for them (and poorly translated as
well). All in all, it gave the impression that an early distributor had seen
an easy way to cheaply convert a foreign film into an English-language one:
wipe the soundtrack, cut out anything that wasn't more visually than
verbally oriented, and slap in some title cards. This must have been done
almost immediately on the film's release, since I can't imagine anyone in
1937, say, seeing a silent film as a big audience draw--except perhaps in
the utter boondocks. (The cheesy piano soundtrack, I think, is on the other
hand an addition by the present video distributor.)
The film ends with a Pathescope logo, so I assume that British Pathe may
have been the culprit (the dialogue in some of the titles seems more British
than American, though it may be the American of the period). Does anyone out
there know anything about the provenance or history of this short silent
version of _Blue Light_? Was this repackaging done frequently in the
transition period from silent film to sound? Are there better-known or more
egregious examples that I'm ignorant of?
Curiously yours,
Paul M. Malone
Visiting Assistant Professor
Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literatures
University of Waterloo
Waterloo, Ontario, N2L 3G1

Online resources for film/TV studies may be found at ScreenSite