The movie POET AND THE PUBLISHER is made up of two films: ROBERT FROST and A PUBLISHER IS KNOWN BY THE COMPANY HE KEEPS; both from 1961.
The release is one of Flicker Alley’s Manufactured on Demand (MOD) films. Check out the Bonus Features for a detailed explanation of the program.
The film ROBERT FROST is a documentary about the American poet. It was filmed over the course of a year while Frost stayed in his cabin in Vermont. It is a narration about the life of the poet. Mixed in are Frost’s poems, read by the man himself, with the filmed imagery. There are also a few scenes of him sitting and answering questions with some of his students. The New England setting for the film compliments the works of Frost so well. I know that there are a lot of different interpretations when it comes to literature and poetry so to see the Robert Frost involved in recreating the most literal view on film feels like it makes sense. It is also nice to see Frost in his natural element and being funny with the students that he would have discussions with anything that comes to his mind.
A PUBLISHER IS KNOWN BY THE COMPANY HE KEEPS
The film has been pieced together from the home movies of Alfred A. Knopf. He was a book publisher who “never published an unworthy book”. His achievements include 17 winners of the Nobel Prize for Literature and 47 Pulitzer Prize winners.
Knopf himself does the narration for the film to get the first-hand descriptions of what’s is happening on film. In 1926, he bought a Bell & Howell 16mm camera to capture these memories forever. They were filmed from 1927 – 1932 in several locations. He recalls some of the time the he spent with authors such as Thomas Mann, Willa Cather, H. L. Mencken, Max Beerbohm, Sigrid Undset, Walter de la Mare, Rebecca West, Kahlil Gibraan, Eleanor Wylie, and Emma Goldman. It really is a stroke of luck that Knopf recorded so much of his life and now they can be shared. I also enjoyed learning a bit about his professional career. To be that brilliant and pick so many authors’ work to be published is incredible. He brought so much to literature during his career before he passed and to have some personal time with so many people shows how much respect the man had.
Both films are 1080p AVC trasnfers.
The video will be reviewed separately due to the films being very different from each other.
The transfer for this movie looks really good to be from 1961. As I mentioned earlier, it was a different change to see Robert Frost on film and not just in still pictures. With the many shots of the settings around the cabin, the foliage in the fall have bright oranges and reds. They’re not bold to the point where they’re too much or overwhelming. The film itself has a nice grain on it to keep the vintage feel of the film. With the flickers and sporadic speckling, the film reminds me of the old films from school about a particular subject. The transfer to Blu-ray has brought out a lot of the details that may have been lost over the years, especially before the HD format.
A PUBLISHER IS KNOWN BY THE COMPANY HE KEEPS
The video for the film is a mix of film of Alfred Knopf talking about the books and the actual footage from 1929. The negatives look like they went through the ringer and have stains and spots on each frame. The images are softer than the other film and that looks like it is the camera and the technology that was available at the time. The film is more a monochrome with lighter greys rather than deep blacks.
The details are also softer in the majority of the home films but not in the footage of Alfred Knopf for the film. It looks good for archival footage but some of the frames could be cleaner.
ROBERT FROST and A PUBLISHER IS KNOWN BY THE COMPANY HE KEEPS have the same audio mixes. They have been restored to an English Dolby Digital 2.0 48k mix.
Both of the films are primarily narratives but in ROBERT FROST, he also reads his poetry throughout the film. This has the front speakers doing all of the work with treble and some mids with no real bass. The audio is a little tinny but this feels like it was the way it was recorded rather than it happening in the transfer to Blu-ray.
There are no bonus features included with the release. However, I will talk about the Manufactured On Demand (MOD) program that Flicker Alley has started. This is something the company has begun to do when people purchase movies included with the program. When you order a disc, Flicker Alley has a high quality BD-R made with a professional disc cover like any of their other releases. This is then put in a case with the professional case art and sealed like you would purchase in a store. You wouldn’t even know unless you turned the disc over. This is a smart idea because rather than make 1000 units of a movie that will sit in a warehouse as they’re shipped, you can have a fresh release made whenever it is ordered.
1 single BD-R disc from Flicker Alley’s MOD program
ROBERT FROST – 27 mins
A PUBLISHER IS KNOWN BY THE COMPANY HE KEEPS – 25 min
1080p AVC MPEG-4
English Dolby Digital 2.0 48k
These films have a common theme of literature and it was smart putting them in the same release. I really did like both movies but I definitely enjoyed ROBERT FROST a little more but that has to do with me being a fan of his work. It was also really great to see the locations where Frost spent the most time writing his poems and why he was inspired by a beautiful part of the country. With A POET IS KNOWN BY THE COMPANY HE KEEPS, it was interesting learn about Knopf and how incredible he was at his job. The restorations of both films have made the films look better than ever. Fans of either of the two professional’s works would really enjoy this release and Flicker Alley’s MOD program is a great idea. I recommend checking this out.