Svengali (Archie Mayo, 1931)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents Svengali.

criterion logoBased on George du Maurier’s novel Trilby, the great John Barrymore stars as the manipulative but charming music tutor Svengali, who uses his hypnotic powers to entrance a young artist’s model named Trilby (Marian Marsh) and transform her into a European singing sensation.  Archie Mayo’s film reverses the book’s focus, emphasizing the sinister Svengali over his attractive victim, resulting in one of Barrymore’s most critically acclaimed performances.  Anton Grot’s art direction and Barney McGill’s cinematography were each nominated for Academy Awards and are as baroque and creepy as Barrymore’s portrayal of the mesmeric maestro.  Svengali is an under-appreciated classic of Hollywood’s early sound horror films and a tragically tantalizing Pre-Code masterpiece.

Disc Features:

  • High definition digital transfer with uncompressed monaural soundtrack
  • Audio commentary featuring film historian Gregory Mank
  • From Trilby to Today, an interview with scholar Gayle Wald on the Svengali figure
  • The Look of Svengali, an interview with designer and journalist Cathy Whitlock
  • PLUS: A new essay by filmmaker Guy Maddin

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The Barrymore Trilogy Blogathon!

Barrymore Trilogy BlogathonBig thanks to In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood for the invitation to participate in The Barrymore Trilogy Blogathon!  It already looks great with scheduled postings on MMC! favourites like The Mysterious Island (Lucien Hubbard, Maurice Tourneur, Benjamin Christensen, 1929), Svengali (Archie Mayo, 1931), Grand Hotel (Edmund Goulding, 1932), The Devil Doll (Tod Browning, 1936), It’s a Wonderful Life (Frank Capra, 1946), Key Largo (John Huston, 1948), Portrait of Jennie (William Dieterle, 1948), Pinky (Elia Kazan, John Ford, 1949), and The Wedding Singer (Frank Coraci, 1998).

MMC! will be taking its own crack at John Barrymore and the pre-code treat Svengali, wherein the now-sober Barrymore keenly plays a malevolent hypnotist with darkly sexual designs.  Until then, you’re becoming sleepy … all you want is to watch great movies … and read about their fake special editions … sleepy … slee— …