DVD review: All by its 'Lonesome'
Barbara Kent as Mary and Glenn Tryon as Jim in "Lonesome." (Courtesy of the Criterion Collection / August 31, 2012)
Fejos' U.S. career coincides exactly with the period depicted in “Singin' in the Rain” and “The Artist” — the chaotic transition from silents to sound. Universal decided that “Lonesome,” shot silent, needed three gratuitous dialogue sequences, awkwardly shoehorned into the story. The film also has a few color scenes, which required frame-by-frame inking directly on the celluloid, done by hand on each individual print. Yoicks.
The story — about two blue-collar workers, a boy and a girl, who meet and fall in love at Coney Island, only to lose each other again — feels like a cross between King Vidor's “The Crowd” and F.W. Murnau's “Sunrise.” It doesn't rival those two, but almost no dramas in the '20s did. There is probably nothing that can be done about the scratchy soundtrack; and the video, while clean, is far grainier than other silents on Blu-ray. Richard Koszarski provides a lively commentary track.
Criterion's release has a 20-minute photomontage, accompanying audio of Fejos reminiscing. But the real attraction in the extras is the presence of both “The Last Performance” and “Broadway,” so that all three of Fejos' surviving American features are here. Neither has undergone restoration, and both are far more ragged and faded than “Lonesome” — which is probably why Criterion isn't marketing this as a multi-film package. As a pair of extras on a regular-price release, they're great to have.
"Lonesome" (Criterion, Blu-ray, $39.95; DVD, two discs, $29.95)
ANDY KLEIN is the film critic for Marquee. He can also be heard on “FilmWeek” on KPCC-FM (89.3).