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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Silent > It (Milestone/1927)

It (1927/Milestone)


Picture: C+     Sound: B-     Extras: C+     Film: B



Can interest in silent films be rekindled?  Obviously, many of them have been inexcusably lost, even thrown out!  Thanks to collectors and major restoration efforts, more have survived than would have otherwise, but some are so key, they remained well known well into the sound era.  Outside of films from other countries, Hollywood’s best-remembered pictures form the era are either from the Comedy or Horror genre.  Clarence Badger’s It (1927) is a comedy with one of the greatest gimmicks in cinema history, and certainly one of the most influential.


That lies in its title, which began the idea of certain individuals having some one of a kind quality that had to do with sex, but also extended to the kind of star quality that made Tinsel Town the dream factory it developed into.  Clara Bow is one of the big screen’s all-time great stars, even if she did not reap the benefits she should have.  The film was made for Paramount Pictures, the second biggest major studio in those years.  When they sold their catalog to Universal’s TV division in 1948, the studio became divorced from their legacy in ways that was a big mistake, but It is one of the lone shining remains of that legacy still stuck with the town to this day.


The film is fun and has some of the all-time great silent camerawork by cinematographer H. Kinley Martin, with some iconic images that are referenced and remembered often, especially when silent film is discussed in general.  That is also because the story is fun, with department store flapper Betty Lou Spence (Bow) getting the attention of the son of the store’s owner (Antonio Moreno) and the love affair begins.  They have chemistry, but Bow is so loved by the camera, she shines scene after scene after scene.  One story element has the split between the working class gal and the rich guy, the Cinderella factor and male-being-older archetypes being set in the permanency of the Classical Hollywood narrative before the formula wore itself out quickly.  Here, it is gloriously fresh and endured nearly 80 years later, which is reason enough to see the film.  It remains a great picture, despite its short 77 minutes, and like all great silent classics is so involving, you often forget it is silent.


The full frame 1.33 X 1 image was restored in 1991 by Kevin Brownlow, Patrick Stanbury and David Gill, and is terrific for that time.  There is plenty of print damage that was not touched at the time and could not be repaired, including some scratches that could now be wetgated out of the print.  With that said, there are some remarkable shots and scenes that show great depth and detail, especially with their age considered.  This may not be up to the recent restoration of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1926, reviewed elsewhere on this site), but is one of the better, older visual restorations around.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo offers a Carl Davis score that may be repetitious, but does have some Pro Logic surrounds that can only involve the viewer further.  Obviously, the sound fidelity outdoes the picture, as in all these restorations.  At least the score is not from some tired keyboard synthesizer, something that held back the acceptance of many a restoration.  Extras include a DVD-ROM feature that offers the screenplay in the Adobe Acrobat format (rare for a silent film), a stills gallery that offers some fine poster art and another solid audio commentary track by Corwin-Fuller Professor Of Film Studies Jeanine Basinger.  We recently listened to her older commentary on the film Three Coins In The Fountain (on this site) when she was just getting the hang of doing them.  She is better here and adds to the fun and enjoyment of watching this classic.  Cheers to Milestone Films for putting together such a terrific DVD edition of this classic, up to their usual standards.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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