Click here to return to the main site.

DVD Review

DVD cover

Sunrise (1927)


Starring: George O'Brien, Janet Gaynor and Margaret Livingston
Eureka Video
RRP: £22.99
Certificate: U
Available 21 September 2009

When a city born femme fatale tempts an honest country dweller, he determines to drown his wife. But, at the last minute, finds himself unable to carry out the deed and so spends the rest of his time trying to reconcile himself with his wife...

Sunrise (1927 - B&W. 1 hr, 34 min, 40 sec) is an important film for a number of reason. First and foremost its innovative cinematography, in this respect, although it is not as well know, to the general public, this film holds a place of importance equivalent to Citizen Kane. Directed by F.W. Murnau (Marizza, Genannt die Schmuggler-Madonna (1922), Nosferatu, Eine Symphonie des Grauens (1922)), the film attempts, through the use of archetypes, to tell a simple yet poignant story. To this end, as the true focus of the film is the story itself, none of the characters have names. That said the film did walk away with three Oscars.

The two set disc contains beautifully restored prints of the film. You get two versions, the American Movietone and the silent Czech version. In both you can seen the innovations used from overhead shots to sound titles which form part of the film, rather than being static they fade in and out taking on a life of their own.

So our hero/antihero is known only as The Man (George O'Brien) who at first seriously considers killing The Wife (Janet Gaynor) following a particularly muddy relationship with The Woman from the City (Margaret Livingston). This is a fable of redemption, so the characters are less important than their actions. The story may seem a bit simplistic for a modern audience, the morality just a little too pat, but then this was made in a different time when silent films would soon lose the battle with talking pictures, a process which is finally happening between the big and small screen where the quality of the new medium finally buries the old.

So, is the film without merit? To be honest if you listen to the full length commentary, by John Bailey, you will be left with a feeling for the importance of this film, in the history of cinema. I can honestly say that the commentary is one of the best I have ever heard. Told with both knowledge and enthusiasm for the art, the commentary is perfectly balanced.

As well as the commentary, disc one also has the original theatrical trailer (1 min, 50 sec ) which only goes to show that trailers are not a new idea. This is followed by Outtakes (9 min, 57 sec) which can be watched with either a commentary or interludes. It’s amazing that any material exists; just don’t expect the usual fluffing line type of stuff. If that wasn’t enough the disc wraps up with Murnau’s Four Devils (40 min, 54 sec) a documentary about his lost film. The final produce come with all sorts of booklets which were not available for review.

So, you’re serious about cinema? If so then you will probably be looking to add this one to your collection.


Charles Packer

Buy this item online

We compare prices online so you get the cheapest deal
Click on the logo of the desired store below to purchase this item.

£11.98 (
£11.99 (
£15.99 (
£22.99 (

All prices correct at time of going to press.