CRITERION: Josef von Sternberg Silent Collection in August


Three Silents by Josef von Sternberg Collection
August 24th
Retail $79.95, Our: $64.99
Underworld (1927), The Last Command (1928), The Docks of New York (1928)
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With news sure to delight silent film fans the world over, Criterion has announced an August 24th release date for Three Silents by Josef von Sternberg Collection.

The 3-disc set includes three new-to-DVD titles (above) with stars such as George Bancroft, Emil Jannings and William Powell.

Bonus features and synopses are below.

Retail will be $79.95, but it's available at for only $64.99.

Vienna-born, New York–raised Josef von Sternberg (Shanghai Express, Morocco) directed some of the most influential, extraordinarily stylish dramas ever to come out of Hollywood. Though best known for his star-making collaborations with Marlene Dietrich, Sternberg began his movie career during the final years of the silent era, dazzling audiences and critics with his films’ dark visions and innovative cinematography.

The titles in this collection, made on the cusp of the sound age, are three of Sternberg’s greatest works, gritty evocations of gangster life (Underworld), the Russian Revolution (The Last Command), and working-class desperation (The Docks of New York) made into shadowy movie spectacle. Criterion is proud to present these long unavailable classics of American cinema, each with two musical scores.

Underworld (1927)
Josef von Sternberg’s riveting breakthrough is widely considered the film that launched the American gangster genre. George Bancroft is the main heavy, “Bull” Weed, an urban criminal kingpin whose jealous devotion to his moll, Feathers (Evelyn Brent), gets him into hot water with a rival hood and, ultimately, the authorities. Further complicating matters is the attraction blossoming between Feathers and an alcoholic former lawyer (Clive Brook). With its supple, endlessly expressive camera work, and a screenplay by legendary scribe Ben Hecht (who won a best original story Oscar the first year the awards were given), Underworld solidified Sternberg’s place as one of Hollywood’s most exciting new talents.

The Last Command (1928)
Emil Jannings won the first best actor Academy Award for his passionate, heartbreaking performance as a sympathetic tyrant, an exiled Russian military officer turned Hollywood actor whose latest part—a czarist general—brings about his emotional downfall.

With its brilliantly realized Russian Revolution sequences, virtuoso camera work, and grandly designed sets and effects, Josef von Sternberg’s The Last Command is a gripping silent melodrama that grapples with tumultuous recent history, as well as a striking portrait of one man’s increasing blurring of the line between fantasy and reality.

The Docks of New York (1928)
Roughneck stoker Bill Roberts (George Bancroft) gets into all sorts of trouble during a brief shore leave when he falls hard for Mae (Betty Compson), a wise and weary dance hall girl, in Josef von Sternberg’s evocative portrait of lower-class waterfront folk.

Fog-enshrouded cinematography by Harold Rosson (The Wizard of Oz), expressionist set design by Hans Dreier (Sunset Boulevard), and sensual performances make this one of the legendary director’s finest works, and one of the most exquisitely crafted films of its era.


  • Six scores: one by Robert Israel for each film; two by the Alloy Orchestra, for Underworld and The Last Command; and a piano and voice piece by Donald Sosin for The Docks of New York
  • Two new visual essays: one by UCLA film professor Janet Bergstrom and the other by film scholar Tag Gallagher
  • 1968 Swedish television interview with director Josef von Sternberg, covering his entire career
  • PLUS: A ninety-six-page booklet featuring essays by film critic Geoffrey O’Brien, film scholar Anton Kaes, and author Luc Sante; the original film treatment for Underworld by Ben Hecht; and an excerpt from Sternberg’s autobiography, Fun in a Chinese Laundry, on Emil Jannings

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