Herzog Kinski Collection Review
Although he was an accomplished and gifted actor long before the films he made with Werner Herzog, appearing internationally in David Lean’s Doctor Zhivago (1965) and in the same year Sergio Leone’s For A Few Dollar’s More, Klaus Kinski’s greatest moments on screen have arguably been the result of his extraordinary extended collaboration with the German director. Famed for his vicious temper, frequent rages and scandalous behaviour, Kinski was a liability on any film he worked on – but despite the difficulties Herzog experienced, he persevered with the actor through five films, knowing that he could bring something out of the man and create an intensity in his films that he could not have achieved with anyone else. All five Herzog/Kinski films are included in the Anchor Bay Region 2 boxset along with a documentary Herzog made about their unusual and turbulent working relationship.
Aguirre, the Wrath of God
A group of Spanish conquistadors in 1560, risk the dangers of the Amazonian jungle in search of El Dorado. Made on a miniscule budget under hazardous conditions, the first and possibly best film of a successful partnership between Herzog and Kinski - Herzog reining-in and exploiting Kinski’s fiery and complex personality to stunning effect.
The DVD is presented in 1.33:1 fullscreen, with German and English soundtracks, a directors commentary, trailers and biographies among the extra features. A full review of the DVD can be read here.
Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht
Nosferatu was the second collaboration between Werner Herzog and Klaus Kinski - a moody, stylised remake of Murnau's silent horror classic.
Nosferatu has been previously released in the UK as a two disc set, which included the alternative (and even slower) English dialogue version of the film, Nosferatu: The Vampire shot simultaneously. As part of the Herzog/Kinski boxset however, only the German version of the film is included on a single disc. The film is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic and the extra features are the same as on the original release – a director commentary, a making of featurette, trailers and biographical notes. A full review of the DVD can be read here.
Filming started on Woyzeck only 5 days after completing Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht and the whole film was shot in seventeen days and edited in four. Based on fragments of an 1836 play by Georg Büchner, Kinski plays a put-upon army private who finally buckles when he finds out that his wife is cheating on him.
The DVD is presented in anamorphic 1.66:1 with the original German soundtrack. There is no commentary on this disc, the extra features consisting of a trailer, a photo gallery, biographies and film notes. A full review of the DVD can be read here.
Despite the enormous production difficulties involved in shooting a major film in the Amazon, Fitzcarraldo stands testament to Herzog’s strength and determination as a director, managing even to coax out an extraordinary and sensitive performance from Kinski, who was at his most explosive off-screen, as the man who has a dream to build an opera house in the Amazonian jungle and drags a steamboat across a mountain to achieve his dream.
The DVD is presented in anamorphic 1.85:1 with German and English soundtracks, commentary, trailer, photo gallery, biographies and film notes. A full review of the DVD can be read here.
Kinski, in an increasingly unstable condition made his final film with Herzog in 1988, playing the outlaw Cobra Verde, who is sent to West Africa to re-establish the lucrative slave trade with a troublesome African king.
The DVD is presented in anamorphic 1.85:1 with German and English soundtracks, commentary, trailer and biographies. A full review of the DVD can be read here.
My Best Fiend
Klaus Kinski died in 1991 and in 1999, Herzog made a documentary, My Best Fiend, narrating the story of his extraordinary and turbulent working relationship and friendship between himself and Kinski, revisiting location where the films were made and interviewing other actors who worked on the films.
The DVD is presented in 1.77:1 anamorphic with the original German soundtrack and an English voiceover track by Herzog. The only extra feature here is the trailer. A full review of the DVD can be read here.
The Herzog Kinski Collectionis released by Anchor Bay as a 6 disc boxset on Region 2 DVD. A 16-page booklet is also included.
All films are shown at the preferred ratios, with anamorphic transfers for all widescreen films. Generally the quality is good – the prints are in good condition and few of the films have any marks or scratches of any kind. Colours are bold and true, with good contrast and black levels. Overall though, the picture isn’t always terribly sharp, looking like hazy NTSC to PAL transfers, exhibiting movement artefacts quite noticeably on some films. Check individual reviews for more details and individual differences.
There is a choice of soundtracks for most of the films. Because of the international casting in his films, English language was often the preferred working language during shooting, but these were often overdubbed at post-production stage. None of the soundtracks therefore are entirely satisfactory in terms of lip-sync and voices matching the characters and what they are saying, but this is a consequence of the nature of the making of the film and not a problem with the DVD soundtracks. Most include the original German and English soundtracks, so you can choose whichever you prefer. Dolby Digital 5.1 remixes are additional for all films except Woyzeck and My Best Fiend and mostly they do not tamper too much with the original soundtrack and are satisfactory, with the exception in my opinion of Aguirre. See individual reviews for specific details.
Each DVD comes with a good selection of extra features, the main one being a Commentary track for each film except Woyzeck and My Best Fiend. Herzog speaks English very well and each one of the commentary tracks is well worth your time, full of interesting facts and anecdotes, the director directed and prompted by interviewer Norman Hill who does a terrific job. Trailers are included for all films and some have Photo Galleries and Film Notes. The Biographical Notes are also well-written and informative, but are the same on each DVD.
As a collection of films this is a mixed bag, but there is certainly something in Kinski’s performances that make each film worth watching and in the very best - Aguirre and Fitzcarraldo - both films and performances are astonishing. The quality of film transfers is not perfect, but certainly more than adequate to be able to fully enjoy the films, accompanied as they are by very good commentary tracks and biographical information. The exceptionally low-price some on-line retailers are selling this set for makes this a very attractive package.