The Jazz Singer Starring: Al Jolson, May McAvoy, Warner Oland Director: Alan Crosland The film: With silent films close to achieving structural perfection, many cinema critics predicted that the arrival of 'talkies' would mean the end of cinema as an art form, while others doubted that the new technology would catch on. A Hong Kong critic writing in The China Mail in November 1929 after seeing a preview of The Singing Fool - the first sound film to be shown in the colony - was at first similarly sceptical. 'Five minutes after the opening of the film, however,' he wrote, 'I became an enthusiast, and can definitely inform the public of Hong Kong that this form of entertainment is more human than any other.' There was one criticism of the sound, but it was cultural rather than technical. 'Of course, the voices are 'American',' cautioned the reviewer, 'and it may require with some people a certain amount of usage before they can reconcile themselves to the 'twang'.' The arrival of sound-projecting equipment at the 1,400-seat Queen's Theatre on Queen's Road Central had been anticipated in the local press for many months. The demise of cinema orchestras (many of which were from the Philippines) was widely predicted, but denied by theatre owners, who pointed out that the overtures and exit music was still needed, and musical accompaniment would be required for silent comedies. Within two years, such orchestras were all but extinct. Al Jolson (above with May McAvoy) went on to star in The Singing Fool - follow-up to The Jazz Singer - which was presented to the world as the first feature-length talkie, although it was essentially just a silent film with some mediocre songs and a few minutes of spoken dialogue. Warner Brother's three-disc special edition is of interest mainly for the extra features - an in-depth look at the creation of sound films and their impact on the lives of actors and filmmakers. The extras: Highlights include a feature-length documentary, The Dawn of Sound: How the Movies Learned to Talk, an interesting commentary over The Jazz Singer, and almost four hours of short sound films - a mix of comedy and musical - made by the Vitaphone company, which produced the most successful early sound system. Inside the case there's a Vitaphone programme, a reproduction premiere programme for The Jazz Singer, 10 photo cards, and some other historical materials. The main feature looks quite clean and the sound quality is, of course, somewhat less than perfect.