A Cottage on Dartmoor View large image
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Film Details

Directed by: Anthony Asquith

Produced: 1929

Countries & Regions: Sweden, United Kingdom

DVD Details

Certificate: 12

Studio: British Film Institute

Length: 84 mins

Format: DVD

Region: Region 2

Released: 26 May 2008

Cat No: BFIVD779

Extras:
Languages(s): English
Interactive Menu
Screen ratio 1:1.33
Dolby Digital

Moviemail Details

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A Cottage on Dartmoor

Cast: Hans Schlettow , Uno Henning , Norah Baring , Anthony Asquith , Hans Adalbert Schlettow , Judd Green

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This influential silent film from 1929 tells the story of Joe (Uno Henning), a barber’s assistant who becomes infatuated with Sally... Read More

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This influential silent film from 1929 tells the story of Joe (Uno Henning), a barber’s assistant who becomes infatuated with Sally (Norah Baring), the manicurist who works beside him. The film opens with Joe’s escape from Dartmoor prison and uses flashback scenes to show how he ended up there.

The extraordinary A Cottage on Dartmoor (1929) gives the lie to two widely-held suppositions: that British silent films not directed by Alfred Hitchcock are artistically worthless, and that Anthony Asquith only made stuffy, talky literary adaptations. In fact, as this riveting film reveals from the start, Asquith was one of our greatest masters of the silent screen, and arguably ahead of Hitchcock by this stage in his career, the latter's four-year head start notwithstanding. Superficially, the film is a love-triangle melodrama about the jealousy felt by barber's assistant Joe when his attractive colleague Sally finds herself drawn to regular customer Harry. Unsurprisingly, this leads to a passionate and violent conclusion, but although this is signalled from the start (much of the narrative is told in flashback), the complexity of the characters and the unpredictability of their actions makes this one of the most acute psychological studies in all British cinema. It's also an encyclopaedia of silent cinematic technique, with intertitles kept to a Murnauesque minimum (the seven-minute opening sequence set on a desolate Dartmoor has none until the very end, when the single cry of 'Joe!' provides a brilliantly-judged bridge to the first flashback). Wonderfully expressive images combine with cutting that's sometimes so rapid as to make the Soviet masters look like sluggards. Thankfully, the DVD transfer preserves the famous coup de cinéma that interrupts the black and white cinematography with a single flash of red during one of Joe's particularly murderous fantasies, though the brief talkie sequence sadly no longer survives in its original form. The disc also has two delightful extras: Asquith's comic cautionary tale, Rush Hour (1941), a WWII propaganda vehicle about the importance of giving way to essential war workers when using public transport, and a short documentary about the shooting of Libel (1959) that includes fascinating footage of the director in action. His cut-glass accent betrays his aristocratic roots (he was the son of the Liberal prime minster) while his trademark boiler suit reveals his lifelong socialist sympathies – in short, a man as complex and contradictory as his sorely underrated films.

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