DVDFr | The Teutonic Knights: The Complete Blu-ray Review

The first big-spectacle Polish film, the work of an unfairly misunderstood filmmaker, too absent from our catalogues. To discover !

Poland, early 15th century. Originally a religious order intended to protect pilgrims traveling to the Holy Land, the Teutonic Knights created their own all-powerful state, establishing their commanderies all over Europe. Lord Jurand of Spychów one day comes across a troop of Teutonic knights leading off unjustly captured merchants. He puts them to rout and the sole survivor, Commander Siegfried von Löwe, takes revenge by burning down his fortified village and murdering his wife. The tension will rise with the emergence of the Polish kingdom, wanting to get rid of the grip of the knights. Until the famous battle of Tannenberg, which will be fatal to the Order.

The Teutonic Knights (Krzyżacy) was released in 1960. Born in Łódź in 1908 under the name of Mosze Lifszyc, Aleksander Ford made his first short film in 1929, the beginnings of a series of fiction and social documentaries. He joined the USSR in 1939, commanded an army film team, directed Film Polski after the war before being ousted, was appointed artistic director of the Łódź film school where he had Roman Polanski among his students , before falling into disgrace and having to leave the anti-Semitic Poland of Gomulka in 1969 and eventually settling in the USA where they committed suicide in 1980.

The Teutonic Knights

The Teutonic Knights is an adaptation of the novel published in 1900 by Henryk Sienkiewicz (1848-1916), known worldwide since the publication of What’s up?
in 1896, Nobel Prize for Literature in 1906. The first Polish blockbuster film, it has attracted 33 million viewers worldwide since its release.

The Teutonic Knights benefits from great resources: an impressive number of extras, huge sets, successful costumes and a solid selection of actors renowned in their country, including, in the role of Wladyslaw II, King of Poland, Emil Karewicz who held a hundred of roles until his death in 2020, at the age of 97.

While it doesn’t avoid a few cliches or exert the spellbinding spell of another great Teutonic Knights movie, Alexander Nevsky by Sergei M. Eisenstein and Dmitri Vasilyev, a universal masterpiece (reissued in high definition in 2019), The Teutonic Knights remains a great film, especially for its impressive recreation of the Battle of Tannenberg. Its long-awaited edition gives legitimate recognition to Aleksander Ford.

The Teutonic Knights

It was, in fact, until now present in the French video catalogs only by a documentary on the sanatorium of Medem which welcomed young Jewish children,
We arrive (Mir kumen on1938), released in a single edition and in the box set
Treasures of Yiddish cinema. However, he has directed around twenty feature films, including The Youth of Chopin
(Mlodosc Chopina), selected in Venice in 1952 for the
Golden Lion, The Barska Street Five (Piatka z ulicy Barskiej), hailed at Cannes in 1954 by a international price, The Eighth Day of the Week (Osmy dzien tygodnia), appointed in 1958 in Venice for the Golden Lionand The First Day of Freedom (Pierwszy dzien wolnosci), selected in 1965 at Cannes for the
Palme d’Or.

The Teutonic Knights comes to enrich the Collection
History and legends of Europe. Launched by Artus Films in 2019, it now offers three other titles, all reviewed by DVDFR,
Guillaume Tell (Wilhelm TellMichel Dickoff & Karl Hartl, 1961),
Siegfried’s Revenge (Die Nibelungen: SiegfriedHarald Reinl, 1966) and
Jeanne D’Arc (Das Mädchen JohannaGustav Ucicky, 1935).

The Teutonic Knights

The Teutonic Knights (172 minutes) fits on a Blu-ray BD-50 and on a DVD-9 housed in the covers of a Digibook.

The fixed and musical menu offers the film in its original version, in Polish, with optional subtitles, and in a French dubbing, both in Linear PCM 2.0 mono audio format.

the 80 page bookentitled The Teutonic Orderwritten by Sylvain Gougenheim, medieval historian, author of several books, including The Teutonic Knights (Tallandier, 2013), opens with a biography and a review of the work of Aleksander Ford in which Krzyżacy holds “a place apart”, for its content, its form, the means invested in the production: construction of a small town (which can accommodate 1,000 inhabitants), 10,000 extras, 470 horses… The chapter
Krzyżacy, a Polish western includes a summary of the screenplay, its comparison to the novel and a note on Henryk Sienkiewicz, his novels and their adaptation to the cinema. The book continues with a detailed historical review of The Teutonic Order and Polandthe legends he sparked and the marks left in Poland and Germany by the Battle of Grunwald (or Tannenberg) which resulted in 13,000 deaths.

A useful and interesting complement to the film.

The Teutonic Knights

Slideshow of posters and photos (2′): seven reproductions of posters, eleven cropped photos and two lobby cards (on the Blu-ray and the DVD).

The image (2.35:1, 1080p, AVC) has been carefully freed from any signs of degradation of the film by a restoration which has smoothed the grain to the point of erasing it, with a gain in sharpness whose price is paid by a waxy rendering of faces in close-ups. This confirms that the transfer from film to high definition remains a very delicate operation, on the razor’s edge. The image is bright, pleasingly contrasty, with dense blacks and beautiful low-saturated colors from the well-graded Eastmancolor palette.

The Teutonic Knights

The original mono sound, remixed in the uncompressed Linear PCM format, also very clean, breathless, with astonishing dynamics, guarantees the clarity of the dialogues and gives a good presence to the atmosphere and the musical accompaniment, to hardly affected by some occasional saturations.

These remarks apply to dubbing, at too high a volume. A less good balance is obtained between the atmosphere and dialogues that lack naturalness. It was not taken into account for the attribution of the note.

Image credits: © Zespól Filmowy “Studio”

We wish to thank the writer of this write-up for this outstanding material

DVDFr | The Teutonic Knights: The Complete Blu-ray Review