- This essay will inevitably contain spoilers!
For the modern 21st Century audience, silent films must seem a thing
not only of the past, but of another era- a totally different timeframe
in a world very different from that of today. It is worth noting,
however, that its era ended actually not that long ago- silent films
were still being made as late as 1929, within living memory for today's
older pensioners. One of the likely reasons for silent films seeming so
antiquated is their lack of sound (including the absence of the
seemingly obligatory big song soundtrack found on today's big budget
releases), but the battered, poorly mastered black and white prints
that circulate so widely are also to blame. Thus, the MTV generation
could well be forgiven for thinking, mistakenly, that silent films were
always in jumpy monochrome, feature people moving at breakneck speed
and were generally like looking through a fuzzy mesh of lines and
scratches. In fact, although some do exist in this form, many more have
been restored to their former glory, like a run-down old house that is
transformed back into what it once was- an object of intense beauty.
- A review by Richard Harrison (2006)
She is just one of the growing number of titles from Sunrise
Silents to undergo such a radical revamp, the company working hard to
present the film as it should have been seen. Thus, the film print on
this particular DVD release is tinted in spectacular fashion, revealing
an appropriately rich array of colours which make it an entrancing and
On a textual level, the fact that the film's sub-titles were written by
She author H. Rider Haggard himself is noteworthy (his Victorian
origins in its use of language at times are certainly very
old-fashioned but actually quite endearing too), but the novel still
had to be translated into visual terms. By 1925, the mid.-point in that
creative epoch of silent cinema, film was approaching its zenith of
artistic intensity, and there are hints at what was to come later
throughout the mise-en-scene and variation in shots in She.
There are several impressive set pieces, such as the cooking pot scene,
which features well choreographed chaos, the frame filled with action.
Throughout the film the mise-en-scene is equally impressive, with Betty
Blythe making a regal and Cleopatra-esque Ayesha, and often framed with
the backdrop of Oriental drapes and exotic furnishings.
One of the key sequences in the film is that which features our
protagonists crossing the chasm, the director Leander De Cordova
shooting the tricky practicalities of the journey extremely well by
oscillating long shots of the party's task with distant ,extreme long
shots to show the scale of risk involved. This cutting between
character and setting establishes a panoramic backdrop for the action
and sets up tension, building as it does on spectator fear of what
usually happens on such occasions with great success.
Overall, She is a creditable addition to any silent film
collection, but, as an overall package from Sunset Silents,
indispensable for two reasons. Firstly, as I have said, the standard of
the restoration is first class- the print, although evidently damaged
over the years, is beautifully tinted and of high quality. Secondly,
the extras provided on the disc set up a typical cinema programme of
the pre-Blockbuster era, and include another film (the Mack Sennett
production Lizzies Of The Field), some serial episodes, an
animation, an advertising film and some promotional material including
glass slides. The care and attention Sunrise have displayed in putting
this wonderful package together (the care even extends to the stunning
cover) makes their presentation of She a must, not only for the
silent film fan but for anyone hoping to understand the allure of the
silent film per se.
She(1925), directed by Leander De Cordova, is available on DVD
from Sunrise Silents.