Abel Gance's masterpiece, Napoleon, was made in 1927 - towards the end of the silent film era. It is over five hours long, and some sections require three synchronized projectors and three screens for theatrical presentation. I saw it many years ago in the last San Francisco theater equipped to show it as intended, with Paul Honegger's original score played on a giant theater organ which could simulate the sounds of an entire orchestra (including drums). The only videotape edition (which I have), released by Coppola in 1989 with a score by his father, is long out of print, and a DVD issue is reportedly prevented by legal complications. But Gance's 1934 re-edit would make a perfect DVD. It would easily fit on one disk, is designed for a single screen, and has voices dubbed in by the original actors. The lip synch is perfect, because Gance made the actors in the silent version speak their lines (perhaps anticipating the advent of sound). While we can hope that the 1927 version eventually makes it to DVD, the 1934 film stands on its own as one of the greatest historical films ever made.
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