Actually this news about this came out a few weeks ago but it was overlooked, even by me I’m ashamed to say, but it is great news for admirers (like me) of the great Paul Robeson.
Six of Robeson’s films from the 1930’s will be remastered in high definition for release on blu-ray and standard DVD though the Cohen Media Group label.
The films were originally part of the film collection of the Rohauer Library which owned the rights to some 700 films of Hollywood and foreign films as well classic garde classics. The library was acquired the by Cohen Media Group and retitled as the Cohen Collection and they plan to eventually restore all the films for future theatrical, DVD and download release.
Though Cohen Media has not announced all of the Robeson films in the collection except for 1936’s Song of Freedom (pictured above) with Robeson and Elizabeth Welch they no doubt will include the film from Robeson’s “British” period including Sanders of the River, Big Fella, Jericho and Proud Valley.
With the exception of Proud Valley, Robeson was known not to be particularly happy with any of his films especially Sanders which he claimed was seriously altered after finished shooting his scenes turning it an ode to British colonialism. Though several of the most problematic scenes in the film has Robeson in them so he couldn’t exactly claim that he was unaware.
Freedom, was a film produced by then newly formed Hammer Films which, of course, was went on to movie glory for their great horror films of the 1960’s and 70’s with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing.
The film does have, as well, an rather interesting plot in which Robeson plays a dock worker who becomes an opera singer, but who goes back to Africa in other to rescue the tribe of which he finds out he’s the head of. The big problem is that the scenes in Africa aren’t exactly “enlightened” and are extremely stereotypical straight out of a Tarzan movie. Robeson came to realize that the British film industry wasn’t any different than the Hollywood film industry.
Still the Robeson’s films, as a whole, as fascinating to watch and he was a powerful and masculine presence on the screen, along with his magnificent singing voice, which makes any film he made well worth watching..