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Kino on Video presents
The Ocean Waif/49-17 (1916)

"Born and bred in the West, Judge Brand had never quite reconciled himself to the East."
- Intertitle card in 49-17

Review By: Jeff Wilson   
Published: January 09, 2009

Stars: Doris Kenyon, Carlyle Blackwell, Joseph Girard, Donna Drew
Director: Alice Guy-Blache

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for nothing objectionable
Run Time: 01h:42m:58s
Release Date: April 22, 2008
UPC: 738329060329
Genre: drama


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
C+ C+C+B F

DVD Review

This disc comprises the third entry in Kinoís ďFirst Ladies: Early Women FilmmakersĒ series, and it gathers two films, Alice Guy-Blacheís The Ocean Waif and Ruth-Ann Baldwinís 49-17. This series transitioned from VHS to DVD, so if you own the previous tapes and want to upgrade, hereís your chance; likewise, those who want to see some unheralded filmmakers from cinemaís early days may wish to take a look.

French director Alice Guy-Blache got her start in her homeland working for the Gaumont studio, where she made numerous works; one source lists her as being involved in some capacity in more than 700 films. Those interested in her work can find a French R2 box set of early Gaumont silents which dedicates an entire disc to her work. Marriage brought her to America, where she began working for Gaumontís American branch, before leaving to form her own filmmaking company, the first woman to do so. Largely forgotten since her heyday, Guy-Blache was obviously a trailblazer among women in the cinema.

All that said, itís unfortunate that the work presented here is so uneven and awkward. The Ocean Waif survives only in what is a fairly brutalized print, shorn of several scenes and suffering from decomposition damage to boot. The story is a fairly mundane melodrama about the title character, Millie (Doris Kenyon), who flees from her brutal father and meets Ronald (Carlyle Blackwell), a famous writer who has arrived in the area to hammer out his next opus. Complications ensue, but true love, such as it is, triumphs. Given the filmís incomplete state, itís difficult to say what is simply bad writing and what fails due to footage long missing. Itís a pleasant enough film, though nothing ground-breaking. To be honest, I was more interested in Guy-Blache herself than her work after sitting through this, and a documentary about her would have sweetened this package considerably.

The other item here is 49-17, which is not a football score, but instead an oddball Western comedy of sorts. Wealthy judge Brand (Joseph Girard) yearns for the days of his youth back in the gold rush period, so he sends a man out West to purchase a ghost town and populate it with people willing to act as they did in the olden days. Itís just the sort of thing rich folk do. Anyway, a Wild West troupe agree to live in the town, and hijinks ensue, with an unexpected twist thrown in. This is more entertaining than Guy-Blacheís film, but only due to the relatively weakness of the latter than the strength of the former. Itís a diverting piece though, and demonstrates how ingrained the idea of the West was and how it was portrayed.



Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: C+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: The transfers themselves are fine enough, but it is the condition of the prints that present real problems here. Certainly it isn't Kino's fault that The Ocean Waif had fallen into a state of near total loss in spots, but it does make the film difficult to watch, given the numerous faults present. Again, as with many films of this period, we're just lucky to have them at all. 49-17 fared much better against the ravages of time and decomposition, with fairly minor damage to go with its nicely tinted print.

Image Transfer Grade: C+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0music onlyno


Audio Transfer Review: The piano scores by Jon Mirsalis are pleasing and well-recorded, accentuating the films nicely.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 10 cues and remote access
Packaging: unmarked keepcase
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: None, which in the case of such an interesting figure as Guy-Blache, is too bad.

Extras Grade: F

 

Final Comments

Of interest primarily to silent fans and scholars of women in film, the two films here are no great shakes but provide reasonable entertainment value. The presentation is bare bones.

 


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