Blu-ray Release: The Birth of a Nation

Blu-ray Release Date: May 22, 2018
Price: Blu-ray $29.95
Studio: Twilight Time

The Birth of a Nation (1915) is writer-producer-director D.W. Griffith’s groundbreaking silent epic, a work of egregious racism (it was originally titled The Clansman, which is certainly significant) that also, tragically, was perhaps the most original and influential work of art produced by the still-nascent movie industry.

It’s been called both “savage” and “the most influential film in history”; now – via this splendid preservation/reconstruction from Patrick Stanbury and Kevin Brownlow, the latter of whom has declared that “we can never censor the past” – modern audiences can see and judge for themselves.

Here’s the breakdown of what can be found on Twilght Time’s two-disc edition:

Disc 1
The Feature Film (191 Minutes) Restored by Patrick Stanbury
With the Original Joseph Carl Briel Score
Conducted by John Lanchbery in Both 5.1 and 2.0 Audio
1930 Sound Reissue Prologue
D.W. Griffith in conversation with Walter Huston, star of his 1930 sound film Abraham Lincoln.
1930 Sound Reissue Intermission and Introduction to Act 2
Huston recites sections from Woodrow Wilson’s A History of the American People.

Disc 2
Outtakes and Original Camera Tests
Stills and Collections Gallery
Silent Feature: The Coward
(1915 ~ Produced by Thomas H. Ince, Directed by Reginald Barker)
Released nine months after The Birth of a Nation premiered, this Civil War drama concerns the weak-willed son (Charles Ray) of a Southern officer (Frank Keenan), forced to enlist at gunpoint, and coming to terms with cowardice.
Silent Short: The Rose of Kentucky
(1911 ~ Directed by D.W. Griffith)
Three years before shooting on Birth began, Griffith made his only other film featuring the Klan, in this case labeled the Night Riders, and cast as the villains.
Silent Short: Stolen Glory
(1912 ~ Directed by Mack Sennett)
Sennett, who had worked under Griffith at Biograph, had a great fondness for improvising comedy shorts around actual events, in this case a parade of the Grand Army of the Republic, the principal veterans organization for those who served in the Union Army during the Civil War.
Silent Short: The Drummer of the 8th Original Edit
The Drummer of the 8th 2015 Re-Edit
(1913 ~ Produced by Thomas H. Ince, Directed by Jay Hunt)
Presented in two versions. The Re-Edit shifts the position of later, seemingly out-of-order sequences encountered in the Library of Congress original negative holdings. Both cuts use all existing footage.
The Birth of a Nation Score Recording Sessions in 5.1 Audio
D.W. Griffith on Lux Radio Theater with Cecil B. DeMille
The Birth of a Nation: The Legacy Directed, Written and Edited by John McCarty
The Clansman: From Stage to Screen Directed and Edited by Daniel Griffith
Text Essay: We Can Never Censor the Past by Kevin Brownlow
Text Essay The Birth of a Nation: The 2015 Restoration by Patrick Stanbury
Text Essay Fighting Back: Responding to The Birth of a Nation by Ashley Clark

As supplier Twilight Time prints up only 3,000 copies of each title, be sure to head over to the Twilight Time site or that of distributor Screen Archives NOW so you can put in your prebook order!

About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.