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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documetary > Holocaist > Autobiography > WWII > Facism > Anti-Semitism > Genocide > History > Drama > Silent > After Auschwitz (2018/BCP DVD)/Ancient Law (1923/Flicker Alley Blu-ray w/DVD)/Boxer Of Auschwitz (2018/MVD Visual DVD)/Line 41 (2018/Film Movement DVD)/To Auschwitz & Back: The Joe Engel Story (2017/D

After Auschwitz (2018/BCP DVD)/Ancient Law (1923/Flicker Alley Blu-ray w/DVD)/Boxer Of Auschwitz (2018/MVD Visual DVD)/Line 41 (2018/Film Movement DVD)/To Auschwitz & Back: The Joe Engel Story (2017/Dreamscape DVD)

Picture: C/B & C+/C+/C+/C+ Sound: C+/B- & C+/C+/C+/C+ Extras: B/B-/C-/C/D Main Programs: B

Up next are four incredible documentaries of survival and truths revealed that were never meant to be know, plus a classic silent drama some people wanted to erase forever...

Jon Kean's After Auschwitz (2018) tells the incredible story of how six women barely survived one of the worst of the many horrible death camps (new ones are still being found), tried to go back to where they came from in Europe, et al, but things were still so horrible that they all found their way to the United States and managed to rebuild their lives. The ugliest surprise was in the tales of the survivors coming back, seeing people wearing their clothes, their homes gone and possessing their property, then many being greeted with violence and some being murdered by the people who betrayed them where they lived! A separate documentary on that deserves to be made.

The second surprise is how these women managed to cope, hold in the nightmare until they had to deal with the terror in ways that came out of nowhere, like post-traumatic stress syndrome/disorder and had loved ones who could help them. The other part of the European troubles had to do with how devastated the countries were after WWII and what a huge contrast they were to the United States enjoying the industrial revolution benefits (save the Great Depression) and post-WWII boost. It is a history not to be forgotten.

But then we haver the personal, private stories of the ladies here who faced the worse and somehow fought back, barely made it and integrated just enough to have the lives they were being fought at having any bit of by The Final Solution, success being some of the best revenge and how honest they are in their testimony and interviews throughout this amazing work. This really stood out for me and I strongly recommend it.

Extras include Commercials, Trailers and a Question & Answers session on the film.

E.A. Dupont's The Ancient Law (1923 aka Das alte Gesetz) has the distinction of being made by German Jews and in its story of a young man (Ernst Deutch) in the 1860s wants to be an actor and even falls in love with a woman, but his strict Hasidic father will not hear any of it and believes going secular will be a disaster. Running two hours, it sounds like a forerunner of the 1927 hit The Jazz Singer with Al Jolson, but there is no racist blackface here and the Judaism is even more forward and in front with more screen time, no sound and more to consider. This one works well without even any music.

Flicker Alley has pulled off issuing another priceless gem yet again, issuing this in a solid Blu-ray/DVD set and the extras are a plus (see below), but the film is now 96 years old and counting!!!! That a film was made at that time, survives, is a relevant as ever and represents a priceless piece of German cinema that was nearly lost because the Nazis wanted it erased forever is another reason this resonates beyond anything the makers could have imagined when they were filming it. They were just making an ambitious drama in a country whose cinema was rivaling Hollywood (UFA was the biggest studio around this time before Lang's Metropolis was made a few years later and other changes began), so German Jews (including Lang) made that cinema and industry possible and saving this film is so very important. It is also fine moviemaking.

Extras include an illustrated booklet on the film including informative text and several essays, while both disc versions add a Slideshow, Insights Into The Restoration featurette (15 minutes) on the hard work it took to save this film) and the only surviving piece of Der Film Im Film (1923) documentary showing feature film production behind the scenes at the time in Germany.

Sophie Nahum's Boxer Of Auschwitz (2018) tells the true story of how Victor ''Young'' Perez was the championship boxer of the world and happened to be Jewish, also the youngest to achieve this, only to be rounded up as part of the Nazi campaign against Jews and sent to Auschwitz. Actor Tomer Sisley is a fan, boxer and was so interested in finding out more about Perez, but discovered to his shock that little was actually known about him or his fate, so that is how this new documentary got made.

I won't ruin anything, but he slowly but surely gets his answers, sees some very ugly things, gets priceless testimony and finds out just how great Perez really was. When the Nazis found out who they had, they started holding boxing matches with Perez and unskilled prisoners for their sick amusement, then we learn other sad things. This runs a remarkably rick, strong, intriguing 64 minutes and I wish it were longer. I hope we learn more about Perez and if we do, this will be one of the reasons. Remarkable work here!

Extras include an Original Theatrical Trailer.

Tanja Cumming's Line 41 (2018) is something I was a little familiar with, a passenger trolley route in Poland that continued to run when the Nazis annexed the country and created a jewish ghetto so close to the free populations. The Nazis pushed for Polish people to identify as Germans, save the Jews they were condemning. The trolley system still needed to transport the new free Germans and Polish who 'suddenly' were German, so the only way to get many places were via this route. As a result, the title route was always accompanied by armed Nazis to make sure no Jews escaped the ghetto, but those trapped there could see the trolley and we learn how this played out.

An ugly experience, there were fences and signs that added to the split, segregation and warning to those on all sides to stay separate. To not listen meant warning shots and worse. Amazingly, the route is still running today minus the fences and Nazi propaganda. Anti-semitism is alive and well in Poland, even on the rise of late, which we get to see some of here and that issue is dealt with enough (another separate documentary examining that would be worth making) so the 96 minutes we get here are very thorough on the whole situation. I strongly recommend this as well.

Extras include 25 minutes of bonus footage, from trailers to more interview footage with three of the survivors.

Finally, we have Ron Small's To Auschwitz & Back: The Joe Engel Story (2017) with Mr. Engel telling his story very vividly so many decades later of how he was grabbed in 1927 at age 14 by the Nazis in one of their early purges and how he suffered the unexpected and unthinkable for three years. He barely escaped, became a resistance fighter, then arrived in the United States to rebuild his life, but never forgot and offers more priceless testimony about his experience, those of others, of those he lost and then returns to the scene of the crime against humanity to confront the ugliness and reconfirm the evil.

Despite being 90 years old, his recall is amazing and turns out to be more accurate than he might even suspect, as he is very passionate, believable and some of it so painful, you could not ever forget. There is more, but I'll stop there, just to add that he is extremely well spoken and honest and another hero/survivor telling the truth some hoped to erase forever. This too is a must-see documentary. He is amazing here, like his counterparts in the other documentaries covered here.

There are no extras.

The 1080p 1.33 X 1 sometimes tinted black & white digital High Definition image in 1.78 X 1 framing on Ancient Law is an incredible restoration that took at least five different, incomplete, damaged prints from five countries to reconstruct. Sure, the transfer can show the age of the materials used because this film is lucky to have survived at all, but many sections look in mint condition and are most impressive. The DVD version looks good for the format, but misses the better detail and color of the Blu-ray. The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on the four DVD documentaries look good for the format with hours of footage we are lucky to have, though After Auschwitz is slightly softer a bit more often in its various clips throughout.

The PCM 2.0 Stereo on Ancient Law is the best sonic presentation by default, albeit it is all music, while the DVDs offer lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo and Line 41 actually has lossy Dolby Digital 5.1, though all are interview/talk based save Ancient Law with the same music as the Blu-ray, if not as warm or clear.

- Nicholas Sheffo


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