By Richard Moore

One of the greatest of classic movies has finally made it on to DVD and it is a must for not only history buffs, but those interested in watching some utterly stunning and innovative film-making.

Abel Gance's Napoleon was made in 1927 and is a silent movie par excellence.

Before the idea of silence puts anyone off - this version was restored in 1991 and has a beautiful stereo soundtrack.

Napoleon, as you would expect, follows Napoleon Bonaparte, a man who emerged from minor nobility on Corsica and rose to lead France out of revolutionary turmoil.

Bonaparte was the greatest general Europe has ever had and rivals Alexander the Great for all-time honours. His rule of France was both tyrannical and enlightened and the Era that has his name was marked by almost constant warfare against Britain, Austria, Prussia and Russia.

Napoleon covers the childhood and early career of Bonaparte and features historical figures such as Robespierre, Danton, Marat, Barras, Josephine (Napoleon's first wife) and many, many others.

The great moments of the French Revolution and Napoleon's rise include his time at the Brienne College (and the famous snowball fight), his crucial part in the capture of Toulon, his imprisonment and that of Josephine and the assassination of Marat.

It is a true epic and goes for almost four hours, although that time seems to fly by. There will be times when you have to smile about the silent-movie-style melodrama, but overall the acting is very good.

When Gance made Napoleon he used coloured-tinting, split screens and devised a way to film ultra-wide scenes three times and combined them in a wide-screen triptych.

The video transfer of Napoleon is - considering the age of the original - superb and the sound has had the stereo workover.

It is cinematic art at its height although, it has to be said, Napoleon was a commercial disaster - but that shouldn't stop modern viewers enjoying a rich cinematic treat.




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