Thursday, April 29, 2010

30-Second Review: Pandora's Box

Top Star  Louise Brooks     Date 1929      Category  Suspense Drama

The Story
Lulu’s anything a man desires, but she belongs to no one.

The Verdict
Ms. Brooks, you make sex complex. A damn fine piece of art.

Best Scene
His wedding night is the last night of Dr. Schön’s life. Alcohol, and one encounter too many with Lulu’s party guests, convince him the marriage is a mad pursuit. Alone in their bedroom, he forces a gun into her hands, telling her to kill herself before she drives him to murder. Their bodies press the gun between them, and as Lulu shifts, it is Schön who is shot.

For the full-length Silent Volume article, click HERE.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

'The Complete Metropolis' trailer

In case you've missed it, the silent film community's version of a blockbuster is back. Follow this link to a trailer (!) for Kino International's newly restored, 'Complete Metropolis.'

Metropolis holds a special place in my heart, because it was my introduction, as a teen, to the world of silent cinema. I wrote about that experience here.

I don't see a Canadian theatre-date for this thing, but if there is one, it'll be in Toronto. One of the advanatges of living in this city.


Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari isn’t scary. Silent horrors rarely are. But it is incomparably weird; it diffuses strangeness like a bloom does pollen. It clings to you. Watch this film, then take a walk. Why are the buildings you pass all so vertical? Ask yourself how that makes you feel. Before long, you’ll be scaring yourself.

Friday, April 23, 2010

30-Second Review: The Lost World

Top Star Wallace Beery        Date 1925        Category Adventure

The Story
Beefcake, babe, and boorish prof battle an island full of stop-motion prehistoric monsters.

The Verdict
Slower than a triceratops in a tar-pit, but essential viewing for F/X purists.

Best Scene
Captured Brontosaurus Rampaging Through London Streets!

At first, this scene falters like the others before it—we are told, rather than shown, how the huge animal’s cage broke loose over the dock and set it free. But things pick up as the Brontosaurus plows through the urban landscape. While the film still fails to integrate footage of the crowds with footage of the beast, life-scale modelling now brings the two elements together. We see a mother and infant trapped in the dinosaur’s path... then director Harry O. Hoyt cuts from the stop-motion animal to the cowering humans and inserts a shot of a giant, clawed foot bearing down upon them. This technique is used liberally in King Kong, but nowhere else in The Lost World.

For the full-length Silent Volume article, click HERE.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

A Tip of the Hat to Gujarat

Great talent knows no bounds of age, language or nationality. As proof, we present the Charlie Chaplin Society: a club more than 200-members strong, most of them based in Adipur, a town in western India.

From the 'beeb (and courtesy of Jess Todd--thanks pal):

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Temptation of Saint Anthony (1898)

Women, women, everywhere:
spare not a thought for me?
a bit of pity ’tward your friend,
devout old Anthony?

For months on-end I’ve sat and prayed
and starved in this old cell;
pursuing light where none’d shone
against the knights of Hell.

The Devil, he did do his best
to screen me from the Lord,
with violence, hunger, black fatigue
that prince did coat his sword.

But never did his blows so wound
'till fair he made his face.
Since Satan’s angle turned to Curves
I've known my toughest case.

A man of God, long stooped and grey,
gets by on bits of meat;
his sleeps are short, his lodgings plain;
he only needs some heat.

But desert-dwelling man I am,
I nonetheless feel chill;
for now my cell has company,
and threatens to be filled

with several maids, the likes of which
abundant soils grow.
The lush and peaty sort of lass
my farmer-father’d sow.

O lovelies-robed, you’re adding length
to days I’d hoped to spend
in pious contemplation; now
will ever these days end?

’Cause daily now you shut my book,
appearing as you do;
surrounding me with lustful glee,
before a chapter’s through.

And yes, it’s me, but why’d you be
the perky girls you are?
You know how hard I aim for good;
you know I’ve travelled far.

But not so far I’ve ’scaped myself,
your shapely sermons, say,
for ninety days of solitude
but place me more’n your sway.

I kiss my skull, and then it’s you!
My apparitions, please—
when hide I try, you turn to two—
do pity Anthony!

Where to find The Temptation of Saint Anthony:
This film can be found on disc one of Flicker Alley’s magnificent five-disc set, George Méliès: First Wizard of Cinema (1896 – 1913).

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Human Hearts (1922)

I can be a bit judgmental, so I tried to give Tom Logan the benefit of the doubt. I dimmed my cynical eye before this man, a hayseed so dumb that he ploughs a tract of land filled with coal. But Tom doesn’t reward a patient viewer, nor does anything else in Human Hearts. The movie is the fakest of fables, from its first scene of matte-painted, Ozark idyll to its last, arch lines of dime-store dialogue. And Tom (House Peters) is the dullest sort of hero. He’s good not because he chooses to do right, but because he was raised to do it, and since his perspective never develops, he’ll keep on doing it. Tom is immobile between the ears.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

30-Second Review: A Fool There Was

Top Star Theda Bara            Date 1915           Category Melodrama

The Story
Predatory female Theda Bara embarks on a seduce-and-destroy mission against a prominent man.

The Verdict
Try not to root for the villain in this one.

Best Scene
John Schuyler, former lawyer and U.S. diplomat, now a disgraced, debauched shell, crawls down the staircase of his home, headfirst toward the floor. At one point he stops, eyes round and haunted, and pushes his arm through the spindles of the banister, as though they were bars. Soon, we see ‘The Vampire’ looming over him; the woman who compelled him to leave his family and, as her name implies, sucked him dry. She looks ravishing as she sprinkles bits of flower upon him, but it is no gentle gesture—the moment the petals rest on his face, she blows them away.

For the full-length Silent Volume article, click HERE.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Man With A Movie Camera (1929)

Though you won’t know it till the end, all of Man With A Movie Camera is contained in its first big scene, set in a movie theatre. The stagehands are busy, but the theatre itself is motionless until its hinged seats begin moving downward on their own; empty, until an anonymous crowd files in; passive, until its screen comes to life. We settle in to watch this crowd settle in to watch their film, and their film, it turns out, is the one we’re watching, too.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Black Pirate (1926)

All action-movie heroes are superhuman, because they do the impossible, and usually do it alone. The quality of an action movie, then, comes down to how believably these men and women can achieve unbelievable things. By this measure, The Black Pirate is a success. Its star, Douglas Fairbanks, does it all, and because he is Fairbanks: athlete, lover, fighter, thinker, we always buy it. There is, however, one thing even he cannot do, and that’s carry scenes he isn’t in. And unfortunately for us, there’s a few too many of those in The Black Pirate.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Seven Chances (1925)

After a week writing about obscurities, reviewing Buster Keaton feels like a day off. Keaton’s films are, of course, well-known to most readers of this blog, and for those just discovering silent film, there is no body of work better suited to introduce it. Keaton’s comedy is today’s comedy. Its human relationships are awkward, poorly defined and unsentimental; simple misunderstandings carry the seeds of spectacular disaster, often triggered by the star’s efforts to do right; and most notably, his films give the impression of a man lost in a gigantic, impassive, amoral machine, in which his best efforts do not move him forward so much as keep him alive—jumping, ducking and otherwise dodging threats of destruction.

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Doll House Mystery (1915)

I’m no critical theorist, but let me propose this maxim, and see if you agree: A comedy can’t work unless it’s set in a world that viewers or listeners can believe in.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Orchids and Ermine (1927)

‘Pink’ Watson hooked me about three minutes into Orchids and Ermine. It was the scene where she wraps a white cat around her neck like a mink stole. This is a woman who has nothing, but knows exactly what she wants.

Friday, April 2, 2010

What Shall Become of Them?

Buddy of mine calls me with an invitation. "Want to go to a movie?" he asks. He means in two hours, which is typical of his approach to scheduling. I'd complain if I had something better to do, but yesterday I did not. He wanted to see Clash of the Titans, Hollywood's latest 3-D disasterpiece.