Luigi Maggi takes on the decline and fall of Emperor Nero, famed for his inappropriate love of music and his propensity to play with matches. This film was made in 1909 and looks it but it has what the Italians call oomph.
Harry Houdini made his final fiction film appearance in this pulpy little adventure. As the title indicates, he’s a Secret Service agent and is, naturally, on the tail of a gang of international baddies.
Well, this is interesting! A rare surviving example of a “home talent” film from the silent era. Basically, itinerant filmmakers would show up in a town, make a quickie film with an all-local cast, make some money at screenings and then move onto the next town.
Breathtaking undersea photography is merged with overwrought acting and a screenplay that tries to do too many things at once. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is frustrating but ultimately worth the watch for the cinematography.
Mabel Normand directs and stars in this peppy bit of race car comedy fun. A very green Charlie Chaplin is on hand as her jilted suitor and when he tries to sabotage her current boyfriend’s auto race, Mabel, well, takes the wheel.
Fast-paced, quirky and slightly kinky, this early Cecil B. DeMille film deals with a noble Turkish POW and a Montenegrin peasant women on whose farm he works. House Peters is so-so but Blanche Sweet is marvelous.
There are cases where a movie that was rejected by audiences of its day is embraced by modern viewers. This is not one of those cases. Goodness gracious, this Mary Pickford vehicle is so bad that it’s, well, bad.
Readers of this site know that I love me some Ivan Mosjoukine and I think he was a pretty talented fellow. But even the best of us make mistakes and Mosjoukine made a big one with this pretentious mess.
Lon Chaney, Loretta Young and Nils Asther play three corners of a love triangle made pretty disturbing by the leading lady’s youth and the general squickiness of the plot.
William S. Hart plays an outlaw who, gosh darn it, ends up being hired as the marshal of a small, crime-infested town. Will he find redemption? Oh, come on. Do cops like donuts? Of course he will but getting there is all the fun.
If I had to pick one silent comedy series that deserves to be brought back to the public eye, my answer would be the Onésime films. Directed by Jean Durand and starring Ernest Bourbon, the series is strange, twisted and surreal.
Russia has rumblings in the interior and it’s not because of that questionable lunch. Director John Collins and leading lady Viola Dana create a revolutionary bit of entertainment torn from the headlines.
Real-life outlaw Al Jennings wasn’t a very good bandit but he found success in the movies as a consultant and star. This picture claims to be based on real events (grain of salt) and is a slow-moving but interesting film.
Comedic dynamic duo Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Drew poke fun at the then-current fox trot craze and their own May-December marriage in this absolutely delightful little comedy.
One of THE most iconic cliffhanger serials (never mind that it contains no cliffhangers) starring one of the most important serial queens is… not that good.
No profession is more cinematic than an agent of espionage and Fritz Lang’s stylish thriller has never been surpassed in flash, dash and sneaky doings. Grand fun, especially if you are a devotee of modern spy pictures and want to see one of the great building blocks of the genre.
Cowboys and vamps? Guys, I think we have hit peak 1915! William S. Hart plays a saloon proprietor who shoots a no-good skunk of a thief. But guess who has a pretty sister? Go on, guess!
Russian cinema didn’t start with the Soviets and this little melodrama from forgotten pioneer Vasily Goncharov is a hidden gem. It’s the story of a young peasant and the perils she encounters in the city; a familiar silent era tale but with a distinct Russian flavor.
A lurid combination of Madame Butterfly and a natural disaster torn from the headlines, The Wrath of the Gods is mostly notable as an early collaboration between Sessue Hayakawa and Tsuru Aoki.
Movie flapper Vera Reynolds joins the army during WWI as an entertainer. She’s joined by BFF Julia Faye and together, they try to cheer up doughboys stationed in France. Naturally, romance and danger are in the cards.
Lois Weber directed and starred in this story of a woman staying by herself in an isolated house when a vagrant attempts to break in. She calls for help on the telephone just before the wires are cut. Will help arrive in time?
Did you know that the moon is covered in cotton wool and breathes fire? If you didn’t then you probably haven’t seen An Excursion to the Moon, a charming little ripoff from the underrated Segundo de Chomon.
Lupino Lane plays a dapper young gentleman whose father has fallen in love. Since dear old dad doesn’t want look old, he persuades Lane to disguise himself as a child. Need I say that chaos ensues?
Director Maurice Tourneur’s technical virtuosity has never had a better showcase… it’s a shame that the story is trite, twee and basically advocates death before upward mobility. Oh well, we can’t have everything.
Harry Langdon plays a doughboy who escapes a POW camp while the Germans are “celebrating something or other” and finds himself the last American soldier in Europe. Oh, and he is also the perfect doppelgänger of the nearest king. I smell a Prisoner of Zenda spoof!
Lon Chaney plays a two-thumbed criminal on the lam who poses as an armless knife-thrower to deflect suspicion. (As one does.) He’s in love with Joan Crawford, who is afraid of men’s arms encircling her. Lon knows a surgeon who can… Yes, the movie goes there.
Sherlock Holmes made his (legal) feature film debut in 1916. William Gillette, who wrote and starred in the popular stage Sherlock, reprises his legendary role here.
Ivan Mosjoukine, one of the greatest actors in silent film, plays Edmund Kean, one of the greatest actors of Regency England. It’s all very stylish and European but perhaps a bit much for first-time silent viewers.
I feel nothing but contempt and disgust for this film. Not only does it lift its finale from my favorite silent film (Michael Strogoff) but people dash around squeaking about how AMAAAAAZING and creative that Cossacks finale is. No, I will not calm down.
This twee early Colleen Moore picture is about an orphan who faws in wuv and tonstant weader fwowed up.