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Sunrise: Fox Studio Classics

When studio mogul William Fox brought F.W. Murnau — "the German D.W. Griffith" — over to work in Hollywood, then gave the director an enormous production budget, complete creative control, and a promise of no studio interference, it was his intention to have Murnau create a prestige production full of that European aesthetic, not just another "American movie." What the director delivered may have been more than what Fox had bargained for. At the first Academy Awards ceremony it took away a special Best Picture award for "Unique and Artistic Production," plus the first statues for Best Actress and Cinematography. It was quite clearly the most eloquently expressive and visually sophisticated of all American silent films. Of course it died at the box office. Today Sunrise is appreciated, studied, and enjoyed as a masterpiece. This fairy tale-simple story of love, desire, seduction, corruption, and possible murder begins when The Man (George O'Brien) is seduced by The Woman from the City (Margaret Livingston). Literally mesmerized by the vamp's promises of wild times in the City, he sets out to drown his wife (Gaynor). After he can't bring himself to do it, the terrified wife runs away to the City. He follows, and there they reconcile amid one of the most famous sets in silent cinema. But trouble with the temptress, not to mention a potentially lethal storm, only test the couple's renewed love that much further. Well-regarded for its emotive photography and refined use of German Expressionism techniques, Sunrise is still hailed as one of the all-time greats.

On Fox's "Studio Classics" DVD, Sunrise gets transferred with care and affection from a restored print and a new optional orchestration track. The audio commentary is informed and insightful. And the generous array of extras includes an interesting reconstruction of Murnau's lost film, Four Devils.
—Mark Bourne

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