Sunday, November 26, 2023



If you have read this blog for any amount of time, you are well aware of the fact that Peter Cushing is my favorite actor of all time. It shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that when Severin Films announced a six-disc Blu-ray set based around Cushing, I pre-ordered it as quickly as possible. 

The CUSHING CURIOSITIES Blu-ray box set contains five rare films featuring Peter Cushing, and the six surviving episodes of the 1968 Sherlock Holmes BBC TV series in which Cushing played the title role. Each disc is filled with extras, audio commentaries, and vintage interviews with Cushing. 

The set also contains a heavily illustrated 200 page booklet on the actor, written by ENGLISH GOTHIC author Jonathan Rigby. This is a fantastic volume, worthy of purchase on its own (Severin should seriously consider releasing a larger, hardcover version of this booklet). The booklet is almost a mini-biography of Cushing, with Rigby providing perceptive analysis on the man's personal life and professional career. 

Among the films in the set are three black & white contemporary dramas made in the early 1960s. CONE OF SILENCE has Cushing as an officious airline pilot in a story about problems concerning a new jet airliner. In SUSPECT Cushing plays a scientist who has his findings suppressed by the British government. THE MAN WHO FINALLY DIED, a noirish tale set in post WWII Germany, has Cushing as the suspicious key to a Cold War mystery. 

BLOODSUCKERS, a film made in 1969, and known by other titles and versions, is a very strange vampire story with Cushing in a small role as an Oxford don. 

The final film in the set is TENDER DRACULA, a 1974 French farce that might be the worst feature Cushing appeared in (depending on your point of view). In the past I tried to watch TENDER DRACULA a couple times on YouTube, but it was so outlandish and ridiculous I couldn't get through it. The version of it on this box set is supposed to be fully restored, but I'll still be saving it for last. 

The six episodes of the 1968 Sherlock Holmes TV series are making their Blu-ray debut on this set, and each episode gets an audio commentary. 

I've read some internet remarks mentioning how obscure the five feature films in this set are, and how Peter Cushing isn't the main star in any of them, except for TENDER DRACULA. I admit that is true....but these are a collection of films that have never gotten a proper home video release (at least in North America). I realize this set doesn't have any of Cushing's famous Hammer or Amicus appearances, but those films have gotten multiple releases already in most cases. If you are a hardcore Peter Cushing fan, wouldn't you want to spend money on something brand new? 

I heard the same type of complaints about the choice of movies when Severin's wonderful EUROCRYPT OF CHRISTOPHER LEE sets were released. I believe Severin should be given thanks for releasing such material in high-end editions with important extras. The home video market shouldn't be just about re-releasing the same clickbait titles over and over again. 

I'm far from getting through the entire CUSHING CURIOSITIES set--with all the material it's going to take me a while. The films that I have viewed in the set so far have excellent picture & sound quality. I intend to write blog posts on some of the individual titles themselves eventually. 

Obviously the CUSHING CURIOSITIES set is a must for major fans of Peter Cushing. I would recommend this set to anyone in any event--but I do need to point out that the titles here are somewhat obscure, and you are not going to see Cushing as Dr. Van Helsing or Baron Frankenstein. As for me, I'm sincerely hoping Severin has plans for a CUSHING CURIOSITIES Volume 2. 

Saturday, November 25, 2023



Ridley Scott's NAPOLEON makes the mistake of trying to tell the entire story of Napoleon Bonaparte's mammoth life and conquests in a single film, and even at 158 minutes, it just isn't long enough to properly do so. 

The result is the movie feels like a list of Napoleon's Greatest Hits, with plenty of famous incidents that could have filled out a 158 minute running time all by themselves. You don't have to be a history major to watch Scott's NAPOLEON, but if your life revolves around trending topics this isn't the film for you. 

The major problem I had with NAPOLEON was Joaquin Phoenix in the title role. Phoenix gives his usual off-kilter performance, and I just didn't buy him as Napoleon at all. (Some of Phoenix's acting choices caused chuckles among the audience at the screening I attended.) One of the main elements of the film is that Napoleon's drive and determination spring from his obsession with Josephine (Vanessa Kirby). Because of this, Josephine winds up being a stronger and more charismatic figure than Napoleon--something I don't think Ridley Scott meant to happen. (Vanessa Kirby is the best thing in this production.) 

NAPOLEON is also hampered by some very ripe dialogue (which also got an audience reaction). The battle sequences and costumes are well done, and there's plenty of big screen spectacle....but for me the movie didn't show what made Napoleon such a titan upon the world stage. 

Apparently there's a four-hour cut of this film that may be shown later on AppleTV, and that might fill in some of the gaps the theatrical version has. Judging from what I saw in the theater, Ridley Scott's NAPOLEON doesn't reach a David Lean-Stanley Kurbrick epic level--it's more like a Cecil B. DeMille show. 

Friday, November 24, 2023

RAWHIDE--"Incident Of The Dowery Dundee"


Earlier this year I wrote a blog post on an episode of the 1960s American TV series 12 O'CLOCK HIGH, which featured Hammer horror stars Barbara Shelley and Hazel Court as guest stars. Hazel Court appeared on a number of classic TV shows in the sixties after she married actor-director Don Taylor and moved to the United States. Court was a guest star in such shows as THE TWILIGHT ZONE, BONANZA, and THE WILD, WILD WEST. I didn't know until recently, however, that Court appeared in an episode of RAWHIDE. 

That particular episode was titled "Incident of the Dowery Dundee". It begins with trail hands Rowdy Yates (Clint Eastwood) and Quince (Steve Raines) discovering a Scottish woman named Kathleen Dundee (Hazel Court) traveling by all be herself on the prairie, along with her four bulls. Kathleen tells Rowdy that a man she was engaged to be married to treated her badly, and is now after her and her dowry. Rowdy, feeling bad for her, invites her to tag along with the cattle drive, much to the consternation of trail boss Gil Favor (Eric Fleming). It turns out that Kathleen is actually married to the man she said she's running from--and she's pregnant. 

"Incident of the Dowery Dundee" is one of the more lighthearted episodes of RAWHIDE. Kathleen Dundee isn't just Scottish--she's really Scottish, in a way that would give James Doohan's Montgomery Scott from STAR TREK a run for his money. Kathleen is feisty and spunky, and Court plays her in a broad but entertaining manner. The idea of Kathleen Dundee and her obsession over her dowry is basically a variation on THE QUIET MAN, and that movie's Mary Kate, played by Maureen O'Hara. (Many of the plots for episodes of classic American TV series were influenced by famous films). 

Hazel Court in the RAWHIDE episode "Incident of the Dowery Dundee"

It's fun to see Hazel Court show some comedic chops, and it appears she enjoyed playing this character. Kathleen Dundee is a far cry from most of the Gothic ladies Court typically portrayed, and while the actress isn't as dolled up as usual, she still looks quite fetching in her plaid outfit. The rough-and-ready cattle drive hands are charmed by Kathleen, but she does nothing but annoy Gil Favor, what with her bulls constantly spooking the herd. (Eric Fleming is very sarcastic and dour in this episode.)

"Incident of the Dowery Dundee" premiered about halfway through RAWHIDE's sixth season, in early 1964. It's a decent enough episode, but there really isn't much to it, other than Hazel Court's performance. Kathleen's husband doesn't show up until the latter part of the show, and he's played by long-time bad guy Lyle Bettger. As soon as the husband does show up, it's easy to predict that Kathleen will start to go into labor, and she and her husband will make up after the baby is born. (It needs to be pointed out that Court is one of the most un-pregnant looking pregnant women in the history of television.) The comedy in the story is more silly than amusing--even Clint Eastwood winds up taking a pratfall. 

What "Incident of the Dowery Dundee" does do is show how talented Hazel Court was. She gives a performance way beyond the English Gothic roles she's best known for. I've long believed that classic American television gave many notable actors much more of a chance to be versatile than the theatrical films that made them famous. The various TV series appearances of several great stars are almost ignored, and that's a slight that needs to be rectified. I've tried to do that a few times with this blog. 

Saturday, November 18, 2023



I didn't get a chance to see THE LAST VOYAGE OF THE DEMETER on the big screen--it didn't stick around too long in the theaters in my area. I did finally catch up to it this week. 

LAST VOYAGE has the ultimate horror high concept--it's based on the chapter in Bram Stoker's novel of DRACULA that deals with how the Count, along with his numerous boxes of native soil, was transported to England from Transylvania on the merchant ship DEMETER

The movie injects some modern elements into the chapter, such as a black man (Corey Hawkins) who studied medicine at Cambridge being part of the crew, the ship captain's 9 year old grandson, the boy's dog, and a young woman discovered inside one of Dracula's boxes of earth. 

One of the creepiest things about the chapter in DRACULA dealing with the DEMETER is that the crew has absolutely no idea why they are being killed off by a mysterious force. In LAST VOYAGE, the young woman serves as a sort of "cheat sheet" to the crew in their travails, but she doesn't really wind up helping them all that much. A major plot point is that Hawkins' character considers himself a rational man of science, who has to face a totally irrational threat (despite all his learning, he doesn't contribute much to the situation either). 

LAST VOYAGE basically winds up being another multiple characters being stalked and killed in a closed-off locale scenario. Director Andre Ovredal provides a few effective moments, but there's a lot of talk in between the many sequences where the characters (and the camera) prowl about the ship, and the jump-scare moments are easy to anticipate. The design of the DEMETER is well done, although I must say the vessel is far larger than the ship I pictured when reading Stoker's novel. 

The Dracula presented here is a foul, unearthly being--the best way I can describe him is that he's a supercharged version of Nosferatu. Dracula's appearances are kept to a minimum, and they have an impact, but I still felt the creature was too CGI-ish for my tastes. 

THE LAST VOYAGE OF THE DEMETER should get some credit for putting a twist on a famed Gothic tale that has been adapted innumerable times. The ship's crew, however, are not interesting enough to sustain a nearly two-hour running time. The film's premise would have worked much better as a 70-minute black & white B movie made decades ago. 

Sunday, November 12, 2023

A Douglas Fairbanks Musketeer Double Feature On Blu-ray


The Cohen Media Group and Kino Lorber have released a magnificent silent movie double feature on Blu-ray, featuring the legendary Douglas Fairbanks. THE THREE MUSKETEERS (1921) and THE IRON MASK (1929) are on this Region A disc, and the sources for both films are from recent major restorations. 

Alexandre Dumas' D'Artagnan was made to order for Douglas Fairbanks. The character's earnestness, swagger, and overall bravado perfectly matched Fairbanks's screen persona. But these Musketeer films are much more than just Fairbanks. These were major productions in every way, with opulent sets, settings, and costumes. In all the historical adventures he was involved with, Douglas Fairbanks made sure to give audiences a fantastic experience. 

These restorations of the silent THE THREE MUSKETEERS and THE IRON MASK show how much money, time and effort were spent on each production. Both films look amazing on this Blu-ray--I'd say THE IRON MASK looks a bit better, but one has to remember that THE THREE MUSKETEERS is over a hundred years old. 

This disc also provides great music scores for each film by esteemed composers--THE THREE MUSKETEERS has music by Robert Israel, and THE IRON MASK has a score by Carl Davis. The scores are presented in 5.1 and 2.0 DTS, and they fit the tone of the films like a glove. 

If you have never seen these films, and are wondering how they hold up today, I'd say they hold up very well. Both films are presented at the proper frame speed, and they are both wonderful classic adventures that can be enjoyed by anyone. The action sequences are still impressive, and you can't help but be energized by Fairbanks--he has so much vitality that he can barely keep still. 

THE THREE MUSKETEERS is a very close adaptation of Dumas' story, and it has Adolphe Menjou as King Louis XIII and Eugene Pallette of all people as Aramis. THE IRON MASK was made 8 years later, and it was the last silent feature to star Fairbanks. THE IRON MASK, while still fun, is a darker, more expressionistic film, and it's also moving at times, with several major characters meeting tragic fates. The poignant climax has Fairbanks saying farewell to his brand of derring-do in his own particular way. 

A few actors other than Fairbanks appeared in both of the features on this disc, including Marguerite De La Motte as Constance, Nigel De Brulier as the scheming Cardinal Richelieu, and Leon Bary as Athos. 

This is a great double feature from Cohen and Kino--my only quibble is that there are no extras or audio commentaries to give background and info on these films. Any silent film fanatic or lover of grand adventure will want this disc in order to see these films given the best presentation possible. This disc and these movies are a tribute to the star quality and the film making talents of Douglas Fairbanks. The large-scale adventures Fairbanks made in the 1920s are the equivalent of Marvel movies today. 

Saturday, November 11, 2023



THE DISEMBODIED (1957) is another film in which its characters are referenced in my friend Frank Dello Stritto's latest book PATRON SAINTS OF THE LIVING DEAD. There's only one real reason to watch THE DISEMBODIED, and that's Allison Hayes, the sultry femme fatale of 1950s low budget sci-fi/horror films. 

Somewhere in the jungles of Africa (I think), lives a middle-aged European scientist named Dr. Metz (John Wengraf). Metz is (improbably) married to a gorgeous younger woman named Tonda (Allison Hayes). Tonda happens to be the local voodoo queen. Three American men--Tom (Paul Burke), Norm (Joel Marston), and Joe (Robert Christopher) show up at Metz's compound seeking help. Joe has been mauled by a lion, but Tonda uses her voodoo powers to heal and revive him. Joe is now in the thrall of Tonda, but the conniving woman has her devious sights set on Tom, hoping to force him to kill her husband and take her back to civilization. The voodoo queen winds up getting her just desserts. 

THE DISEMBODIED is a very cheap black & white jungle tale filmed entirely on indoor sets. It comes off as a trashy soap opera instead of a voodoo-influenced thriller. The film's best special effect is Allison Hayes, a woman who was built like the Great Wall of China. Despite living in a remote jungle location, her Tonda manages to have perfect hair and makeup at all times, and she also has a different outfit for nearly every scene she's in. Hayes' acting here is about as subtle as a slap to the face--Tonda goes out of her way to seduce every male within her vicinity--but she's fun to watch, and there's nothing wrong with a generous serving of eye candy. (Hayes also gets to do some bumping & grinding during a couple of voodoo ceremonies.) 

There isn't much to say about the rest of the cast. For whatever reason, in her films Allison Hayes was usually paired with men who were as boring as dry toast. What makes THE DISEMBODIED worthy of discussion is the numerous plot points that are not explained. What, exactly, is Dr. Metz doing in the middle of the jungle? How did he wind up meeting--and marrying--the younger and statuesque Tonda? The three American men who stumble upon Metz's camp say they were shooting film footage in the jungle--but why do they not have any camera equipment? Why do the "natives" appear to be a mixture of several different nationalities? 

The very character of Tonda deserves some kind of backstory. Despite her exotic name, she's obviously a white American. How in the heck did she become a voodoo queen, and with her looks, why couldn't she have found a better situation for herself?? Trying to come up with answers to all these dangling plot threads may be a waste of time, but it's something film geeks like me love to do. Frank Dello Stritto's PATRON SAINTS OF THE LIVING DEAD gives a much better background on the characters of THE DISEMBODIED than the actual movie does. 

THE DISEMBODIED was made by Allied Artists, and it was directed by Walter Grauman. It was Grauman's directorial debut, and it shows--even at only 66 minutes, the movie drags and lacks style. Grauman did later on direct the fine WWII film 633 SQUADRON. 

Fans of Allison Hayes will love THE DISEMBODIED, but there isn't much else to it. 

Monday, November 6, 2023



Director Martin Scorsese's latest film, KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON, is based upon an historical incident, a series of murders which took place in 1920's northern Oklahoma. 

What makes these murders particularly stand out is that most of the victims were members of the Native American Osage Nation, a tribe which had become rich due to the oil deposits found on their land. KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON may not be a gangster story in the traditional sense, but it certainly deals with a form of organized crime (although disorganized might be the more proper term for the lowlife perpetrators in this tale). 

Leonardo DiCaprio plays Ernest Burkhart, a WWI veteran who goes to his uncle's ranch in Oklahoma looking for work. Ernest soon begins to woo Molly (Lily Gladstone), an Osage woman who, along with her sisters, has a share of the local oil riches. Ernest and Molly get married, while members of her family and other Native Americans are being murdered. Ernest supposedly loves Molly, but he's really in the thrall of his uncle, William "King" Hale (Robert De Niro). Hale is a local bigwig and a presumed "friend" of the Osage, but he's really out to get their oil rights by any means necessary. 

KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON is about three and a half hours long, the same approximate length as THE IRISHMAN. KILLERS, in my opinion, isn't as energetic as THE IRISHMAN, and the pace starts to lag at times. It doesn't help that the major character in the story is Ernest, a guy who is basically a dim-witted redneck who is Hale's henchman, and isn't the type of person one wants to spend over three hours watching. Leo gets plenty of chances to do his now-patented "Look how intense I am" routine, but I thought Lily Gladstone as Molly gave the better performance (this is really Molly's story, after all). 

Robert De Niro, as expected, makes the most out of the role of William Hale, a man who puts on a beneficent facade behind his spectacles while using his cunning and guile to orchestrate a number of heinous events. (De Niro's eyeware deserves a chance at a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award nomination.) 

Despite the fact that the movie could use some tighter editing, there's plenty of notable shots due to Rodrigo Prieto's expert cinematography, and there is some dark humor sprinkled in. (As a matter of fact, Hale and Ernest have an almost Abbott & Costello-type of relationship at times.) 

Overall, I'd rate KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON as very good Scorsese instead of great. The director has made a number of acclaimed lengthy films, but this one, for me anyway, didn't seem to have enough in it to fill out the time. There's also the way that Scorsese chose to wrap up the story, a way which struck me as....unusual, to say the least. Still, very good Scorsese is much better than just about anything else that's been put out in the theaters recently. 

Sunday, November 5, 2023



VERTIGO is one of my favorite films of all time. You could say that I'm as obsessed with it as James Stewart was obsessed with Kim Novak in the actual film. It wasn't until recently, however, that I read the original novel upon which Hitchcock's classic work was based upon. 

The novel D'ENTRE LES MORTS (translated to English as FROM AMONG THE DEAD) was written in the mid-1950s by two Frenchmen, Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac. The duo had already written the novel which was the basis for the internationally acclaimed film LES DIABOLIQUES, and this had brought them to the attention of Alfred Hitchcock. 

Contrary to popular legend, D'ENTRE LES MORTS was not written specifically in hopes that it would be made as a Hitchcock movie. One can certainly see why Hitchcock was taken by the novel. I always assumed that Hitchcock and the writers he worked with made major changes to the story when adapting D'ENTRE LES MORTS to the screen, but most of the basic plot elements are in the novel. 

D'ENTRE LES MORTS begins in France, during the spring of 1940. A former detective named Roger Flavieres is asked by an old schoolmate named Gevigne to keep an eye on his wife, Madeleine. The woman has been showing signs of odd behavior, and Gevigne is worried some harm may come to her. Roger starts to secretly observe Madeleine, and starts to become infatuated with her. Roger winds up saving Madeleine after she throws herself into the Seine River, and the two fall in love. Due to a past incident in which Roger saw a fellow police officer fall from a rooftop, he is unable to stop Madeleine from going to the top of an old church tower and throwing herself off of it. Roger is absolutely distraught, and leaves Paris just as the Nazis invade. After the liberation of France, Roger returns from abroad, and while viewing a newsreel in the cinema, sees what he is convinced is Madeleine. Roger eventually tracks down and finds the woman, who says she knows nothing about him or Madeleine. The woman calls herself Renee Sourange, and Roger contrives to get her to go away with him. Roger persists in trying to get Renee to admit she is Madeleine, and even tries to make her over in the supposedly dead woman's image. Finally, Renee admits the truth--the woman who died at the church tower was the real Madeline, killed by Gevigne. Renee posed as Madeleine in order to fool Roger into being a convenient witness. This information causes Roger to snap, and he loses his "Madeleine" once again. 

As anyone with a fair knowledge of VERTIGO can see, the story structure of the film is all there in the novel. The major difference of course is that the novel is set in 1940s Paris, while the film is set in 1958 San Francisco. WWII also plays a part in the novel, though not a major one. 

The novel's Roger Flavieres is no Scotty Ferguson. Roger has a lot in common with the Scotty character in the film, but Flavieres is much more of a dreary loner, a man who doesn't even have a Midge character (the role played by Barbara Bel Geddes in the film) to confide in. Roger's obsession over the book's Madeleine seems to stem from the fact that he is at loose ends--he's now a not very successful lawyer, and he feels guilty over the fact that he's no longer able to be a detective. 

The novel's Madeleine, while described as attractive, isn't the dreamlike version played by Kim Novak in the film. (The novel does mention her at one point wearing a gray suit.) Roger and Madeleine are much more ordinary people in the novel, and after reading the book one can see how much Hitchcock and his writers changed the two main characters to suit the star personas of James Stewart and Kim Novak. 

Nevertheless, many of the important ideas in the movie can be found in the book--such as an explanation for Roger/Scotty's quitting the police force and suffering from vertigo, Madeleine falling from a church tower, Roger/Scotty's overwhelming obsession over a woman he thinks is dead, and a antique necklace giving away Renee/Judy. 

The revelation of the murder plot and the fake Madeleine is not revealed until the very last pages of the book. Hitchcock chose to reveal the truth in about the middle of the film--a decision that is constantly debated and analyzed to this day. Is one choice better than the other?? Due to my bias towards the film, I can't really say. I do think having the revelation in the middle of the film makes all the scenes after it much more intriguing, because every interaction between Scotty and Judy takes on a double meaning. (The ending of the film is also much more fitting than the ending of the novel.) 

The copy of the novel (which I recently purchased from the Edward R. Hamilton discount book catalog) is translated into English from the original French, and is only 189 pages long....and, as you can see from the picture above, has been re-titled to match the movie. The book is a quick read--there's no flab in it--and I think if the novel itself was accurately filmed, it would only be about an hour long story. 

Still, it would be interesting to view a faithfully adapted filmed version of the novel. It would have to be set in 1940s France, with native actors, and, I think, it would be much more fitting if this version were to be in black & white. (The novel reads more like a film noir than a Hitchcock story). It wouldn't have much suspense to it, since just about everyone knows what the story's main twist is. But it would certainly be a challenge to any creative filmmaker. (And it would be much more fitting to do a true adaptation of the source novel instead of remaking the film--remember that ridiculous PSYCHO remake a few years ago??)

For me always the movie VERTIGO will be much, much better than the novel it was based on. D'ENTRE LES MORTS is still a worthy read, especially if you have an obsession with VERTIGO, and a fascination with how the scripts of classic films are shaped and adapted from the source material. 


Saturday, November 4, 2023

THE UNKNOWN On Blu-ray From Criterion


A major highlight of Criterion's TOD BROWNING'S SIDESHOW SHOCKERS Blu-ray set is a restored version of the 1927 MGM film THE UNKNOWN. 

THE UNKNOWN is also a major highlight of the careers of director Tod Browning and actor Lon Chaney. It's a disconcerting, memorable tale that is one of the most unusual productions ever released by a major American movie studio--although that could also be said about any film directed by Browning. 

Set in "Old Madrid", the story concerns a circus performer billed as Alonzo the Armless (Lon Chaney of course). Alonzo's gimmick is that he performs all sorts of feats with his feet....but the man really does have arms. He pretends he doesn't because he's wanted by the police, and his double thumb would give him away. 

If you think that strapping yourself into a tight corset and pretending to be an armless circus entertainer to avoid the law is a bit extreme, that's nothing compared to what Alonzo does for love. The man is smitten with the gorgeous assistant in his act, Nanon (a very young Joan Crawford). The thing is, Nanon has a phobia against being touched by men....and the reason she treats Alonzo kindly is that she believes he can't touch her. Alonzo decides to take the incredible step of having his arms amputated....only to later find that while he was away recuperating from the operation, Nanon has lost her phobia due to the attentions of circus strongman Malabar (Norman Kerry). After finding out about this situation, the stunned Alonzo plots his ultimate revenge. 

Needless to say, this scenario conjures up all sorts of intriguing insights. especially about Browning, Chaney, and their onscreen work. Contrary to popular belief, Chaney did not perform any tricks with his feet (a double who actually was armless did these), but this is still one of the most important roles of his career, due to the amazing (and at times feral) intensity he brings to the part of Alonzo. Chaney's reaction when Alonzo finds out that Nanon and Malabar are planning to be married is a disturbing wonder to behold. 

As with most silent features directed by Tod Browning, THE UNKNOWN has a simple narrative, without any visual flourishes. But this is a story that doesn't need any unnecessary complications. There's a sense of dread throughout the running time, and Alonzo's line about having "lost some flesh" is more skin-crawling than anything shown in a modern horror film. 

The version of THE UNKNOWN that is presented on this Criterion set is one that was recently restored by the George Eastman Museum. This version is about ten minutes longer than the one most widely available. The added footage doesn't significantly change the storyline--the main difference is that the circus sequence at the beginning of the film is longer. The restored version does have a better flow to it, and it appears that the camera lingers a bit longer on some close-ups. The visual quality isn't brilliant, but the main thing is that this version exists at all, and is now available on a major home video release. 

A new music score by Philip Carli accompanies this restored version of THE UNKNOWN, and it's an excellent one. The score works with the movie instead of trying to overshadow it. There's also a new audio commentary by Tod Browning biographer David J. Skal. Skal goes into the backgrounds of both Browning and Chaney, and he also spends a lot of time on the Freudian aspects of the story (as well he should). 

THE UNKNOWN is a must for fans of Tod Browning, Lon Chaney, and unusual cinema. It's more proof that the silent era was far more provocative and perverse than one usually believes. The fact that the restored version of this film is on the Criterion Tod Browning Blu-ray set makes that release an even more enticing purchase.