For those of you who don’t know, Warner Archive is in the business of releasing older, obscure and cult films on DVD-R. What does this mean? Films that may not have been popular enough to enjoy a pressed DVD release can be purchased legally by the general public. Hurrah! And the silent films have the excellent musical scores that they deserve. Hurrah again!
Here are five films released on DVD-R that I consider essential viewing.
Marion Davies charms in this showbiz comedy. The art of moviemaking is well and truly spoofed.
Why is it essential? For the chance to see Davies show off those famous– but rarely seen– comedy chops. To enjoy the many, many, many superstar cameos.
West of Zanzibar
Lon Chaney and Tod Browning give us the creeps in this sick little jungle melodrama.
Why is it essential? Lon Chaney’s stunning performance. The sticky jungle atmosphere. For one more trip into the twisted (silent) mind of Tod Browning.
The Sea Hawk
Milton Sills drops the whole Elizabethan gentleman thing in favor of good old-fashioned Barbary piracy.
Why is it essential? The magnificent-yet-battered full-size ships. The grimy action. The manly-man adventure. (Contrast that to the plasticky sheen of 50’s and 60’s mega-epics.)
John Gilbert’s farewell to the silents is also a tidy little desert proto-noir. Diamond thieves vs a cunning hero.
Why is it essential? To see Gilbert as more than just a lover boy. For the suspenseful plot and psychological drama that ensues.
King Vidor directs this southern gothic suspense flick. Decaying homes, decaying minds. Oh, and Sennett funnyman Ford Sterling in a supporting role.
Why is it essential? To see a young Vidor work successfully with challenging material. For the dark premise and darker events.
(My selections seem to be on the gloomy end of the spectrum but I hope you enjoy!)