Review: The Seventh Seal (1958)

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DVDscrutiny

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Nov 13, 1999, 3:00:00 AM11/13/99
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The first thing that needs to be said up front: despite the somewhat misleading
title, this is NOT a children's film. You will not find seven seals or, in
fact, any seals at all in "The Seventh Seal," a classic black and white
thriller from Sweden. This was one of the first foreign language movies to get
a big audience in English speaking countries, and now it is available in a
restored edition on Criterion DVD.

The plot concerns the efforts of a 14th century knight (Max von Sydow) and his
friends and traveling companions to evade the villainous Death. The friends
include the knight's longtime male friend (Gunnar Bjornstrand), a mute peasant
girl, and a group of circus acrobats who are traveling the countryside,
including a couple with a small child. Death stalks the little group throughout
the movie; to buy time, the knight challenges Death to a high-stakes game of
chess.

To be completely honest, it is hard to see why this movie made such an
impression in its day. It is really not very scary. Death is a bit frightening
the first two times we see him, with his white face and black robe, but once
you get used to his appearance, he seems too tame a baddie to provide the
requisite jolts and tension. He speaks in an urbane, educated way and makes wry
jokes (perhaps a screen ancestor to Anthony Hopkins' Hannibal Lecter?), and it
is really not made believable by the writer/director that if he were as
powerful as he is made out to be, he would take as long as he does to dispatch
this scrappy little band (the running game of chess with the knight feels like
nothing more than padding to get the movie to feature length). There are also
long stretches where Death is not in the movie at all, and the other characters
begin talking in a pseudo-intellectual way about their philosophy and religious
beliefs. Most viewers will find these parts slow going.

The acting is mostly satisfactory. It is a treat to see horror film legend Max
von Sydow as a very young man, 15 years before "The Exorcist" launched him to
international prominence and acclaim, 35 years before he himself played a
Death-like character in "Needful Things."

To be sure, there are many interesting supplements on this disc. There is a
demonstration of the restoration process, and you can tell that Criterion did a
painstaking job of restoring "The Seventh Seal." Whatever the weaknesses of the
plot and the writing, the pic looks a thousand times better. There is a
theatrical trailer that is very strange and abrupt and yet still gives too much
away. There is also a director commentary track that sheds some light on what
is happening on the screen. The director speaks absolutely flawless English,
but he has apparently let his reputation go to his head, because he refers to
himself in the third person throughout, as "Bergman" or "Ingmar Bergman."

I recommend "The Seventh Seal" for those who saw it when it was new and are
sentimentally attached to it, as well as for those who are patient viewers and
have an interest in films from another time and place. But those in the mood
for the modern brand of chills and thrills would do well to look elsewhere.
(5/10)

Dan Escamilla

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Nov 13, 1999, 3:00:00 AM11/13/99
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This is an absolutely ridiculous review! "The Seventh Seal" is not supposed
to be a horror film, nor is it supposed to be scary. This is a superb,
philosophical film for adults! Max Von Sydow, "horror film legend?" Are
you serious? Have you ever watched a foreign film before?

Stick to reviewing "The Mummy," "Scream 2," and the like.

DVDscrutiny <dvdsc...@aol.com> wrote in message
news:19991113120145...@ng-xa1.aol.com...

SPCullen

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Nov 13, 1999, 3:00:00 AM11/13/99
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You completely missed the point of this movie. It's not a horror movie and
Death isn't supposed to be scary. It's about a soilder's doubts about the
existance of God. Also, the director doesn't do the commentary.

SPCullen

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Nov 13, 1999, 3:00:00 AM11/13/99
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I forget to mention that the title is based on a verse from the Bible.

RAnder3127

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Nov 14, 1999, 3:00:00 AM11/14/99
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Good movie, interesting conversations,
but too long by a small margin.
-Rich


"So the courts found Microsoft guilty of raping consumers by
charging $89 for a Windows 95 upgrade. What will they call
it when Microsoft starts pushing the Windows 2000 upgrade
for in Feb. for $200?!"

Todstrick

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Nov 14, 1999, 3:00:00 AM11/14/99
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Well, given the absence of that goofy emoticon, I'm assuming this was a
'serious' review. Not a children's film? Low on chills and jolts?

This isn't the anal warts guy, is it?

Dennis

DVDscrutiny wrote:

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DVDHowie319

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Nov 14, 1999, 3:00:00 AM11/14/99
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In article <19991113221414...@ng-fz1.aol.com>, rande...@aol.com
(RAnder3127) writes:

>"So the courts found Microsoft guilty of raping consumers by
>charging $89 for a Windows 95 upgrade. What will they call
>it when Microsoft starts pushing the Windows 2000 upgrade
>for in Feb. for $200?!"
>

The more I hear about this crap with Microsoft, the more I'm tempted to look
into Mac. I'm getting tired of paying for upgrades (which of course is just a
better way of saying "correcting our mistakes and fixing our bugs").

Don

Tim Stobbe

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Nov 14, 1999, 3:00:00 AM11/14/99
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I'm curious how the actual transfer is. what does 1.33:1 look like on
my 16:9 TV? The Criterion releases seems to be very nice.


drsd2kill

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Nov 14, 1999, 3:00:00 AM11/14/99
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INGMAR BERGMAN DID NOT DO THE COMMENTARY TRACK - it was a film historian

Colin Chisholm

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Nov 14, 1999, 3:00:00 AM11/14/99
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Tim Stobbe <tim@no_spampower.net> wrote:

> I'm curious how the actual transfer is. what does 1.33:1 look like on
> my 16:9 TV? The Criterion releases seems to be very nice.

The transfer is superb. Criterion used a dual-layer disc for the 74 minute
film which gives it a phenominal average bitrate of 8mbps (or thereabouts).
The quality of this DVD is significantly better than the old Criterion LD
(which is saying a lot).
--
Colin Chisholm
chis...@enteract.com
www.enteract.com/~chisholm

ageorge3

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Nov 15, 1999, 3:00:00 AM11/15/99
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This is a really hilarious review.

Mr. Movielover

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Nov 15, 1999, 3:00:00 AM11/15/99
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DVDscrutiny skrev i meddelandet
<19991113120145...@ng-xa1.aol.com>...
<snip moronic review>

Should one laugh or cry?

Duke Pennyworth

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Nov 16, 1999, 3:00:00 AM11/16/99
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LOL!!!!!!


Randy

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Nov 18, 1999, 3:00:00 AM11/18/99
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In article <80kcj7$nus$1...@news1.tc.umn.edu>,

"Dan Escamilla" <esca...@tc.umn.edu> wrote:
> This is an absolutely ridiculous review! "The Seventh Seal" is not
supposed
> to be a horror film, nor is it supposed to be scary. This is a
superb,
> philosophical film for adults! Max Von Sydow, "horror film legend?"
Are
> you serious? Have you ever watched a foreign film before?
>
> Stick to reviewing "The Mummy," "Scream 2," and the like.
>

No kidding! It's not hard to see that the reviewer is a MAJOR
lightweight, intellectually speaking. Hey, reviewer, go read 1000 books
and get back to us....

--
Cryonics: Gateway to the Future?
http://www.cryonet.org


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Before you buy.

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