Body and Soul (1925) A Silent Film Review

Paul Robeson makes his film debut in this Oscar Micheaux melodrama. Robeson plays dual roles: a horrible convict posing as a preacher and his sweet twin brother, a would be inventor. Micheaux’s signature pointed social commentary is on display in this rare surviving film from his silent career.

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Eleven P.M. (1928) A Silent Film Review

An oddball melodrama shot on location in Detroit, Eleven P.M. is a rare surviving film from mysterious indie director Richard Maurice. It weaves a tale of gangsters, street musicians, dogs with human heads… Well, you can’t accuse it of being boring.

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The Flying Ace (1926) A Silent Film Review

When a railroad paymaster and the $25,000 in cash he was carrying disappear, returning WWI ace Billy Stokes is put on the case. This independent feature has an all African-American cast and is the only complete surviving feature of the Norman Film Manufacturing Company, a Florida-based studio that specialized in so-called race films.

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Two Knights of Vaudeville (1915) A Silent Film Review

When a well-to-do man drops his theater tickets, they are retrieved by a trio from the wrong side of the tracks. Once admitted into the swanky theater, the trio causes chaos and has an uproarious time. This picture was released by the controversial Ebony Film Corporation and was partially responsible for its downfall.

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Tiger Rose (1923) A Silent Film Review

Stage star Lenore Ulric brings her signature role to the screen in this melodrama set in Canada. We have Mounties, trees and bloody revenge. The usual Hollywood Canadian wilderness picture, in other words, but we have the added bonus of a super Mountie and a location shoot in Yosemite.

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Bug Vaudeville (1921) A Silent Film Review

Legendary comic artist Winsor McCay takes control of his Rarebit Fiend stories with this imagining of an all-insect vaudeville. (Actually, the result of a beggar’s overindulgence in cheesecake.) McCay’s signature beauty is on display but the pacing…

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Aelita: Queen of Mars (1924) A Silent Film Review

A mysterious message from outer space captures the imagination of a Russian scientist. He has other problems, though, as he suspects that his wife is stepping out on him with a petty official who moonlights as a black-market dealer. Oh yes, and there are scenes on Mars.

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An Unsullied Shield (1913) A Silent Film Review

A wastrel son uses up his own money and so he forges his mother’s signature to get more. However, the family portrait gallery comes to life and the figures take turns berating their descendant for sullying the clan crest.

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Dream of a Rarebit Fiend (1906) A Silent Film Review

Psychedelic half a century before the word was coined, this film is a cautionary tale that warns against overindulgence in cheese toast. The film’s nightmarish and zany special effects hold up rather well and this proved to be another smash hit for the dominant Edison film company.

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Blackmail (1929) A Silent Film Review

Alfred Hitchcock’s triumphant return to murder and mayhem is both his final silent film and his first talkie. Anny Ondra plays a nice kid who stabs a guy to death in his bed. These things happen. Originally conceived as a silent film, Hitchcock made it a talkie with reshoots and a new voice for his Czech leading lady.

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Nursery Favorites (1913) A Silent Era Talkie Review

The Edison film company took a stab at talking pictures pre-WWI and we are going to be looking at one of the most famous Kinetophone production. One of over 200 sound films released in 1913 and 1914, Nursery Favorites brings everyone’s favorite Mother Goose characters to life.

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The Man and the Moment (1929) A Part-Talkie Review

Rod La Rocque is a playboy who falls for a winsome aviatrix (Billie Dove) in this part-talkie romantic comedy. Based on a story by Elinor Glyn, the film gives us a contract marriage, a saucy dance sequence with a giant swimming tank on the ballroom floor and some very wild flying. Roaring twenties indeed.

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The Artist (2011) A Silent Film Review

This controversial Best Picture winner is a silent movie about the transition to sound. Jean Dujardin is on top of the world as a Valentino/Fairbanks/Gilbert type (with cute dog) but talkies send him into a downward spiral. Can he recover?

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’49 – ’17 (1917) A Silent Film Review

An eccentric millionaire decides he wants to spend his golden years reliving his youth as a gold miner in California and so he sends his secretary out west to set things up. This is the only known surviving film directed by Ruth Ann Baldwin.

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Manslaughter (1922) A Silent Film Review

Leatrice Joy is hell on wheels and in a designer gown. She plays a wild heiress whose naughty ways catch up with her when she accidentally kills a police officer with her reckless driving. Her prosecutor boyfriend throws the book at her and she ends up in prison. Also, Roman orgies. Why yes, Cecil B. DeMille did direct!

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A Little Princess (1917) A Silent Film Review

Mary Pickford returns to child roles as the princess of the title, a sweet young heiress whose sunny disposition is threatened when she loses her family and is forced to work as a maid. ZaSu Pitts nearly walks off with the picture as Pickford’s slavey pal.

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The Colleen Bawn (1911) A Silent Film Review

A real murder in nineteenth century Ireland formed the basis for a novel, a play and this motion picture. It’s a darker, more twisted Cinderella variation with the poor girl marrying the rich boy but finding herself caught in a whirlwind of love, lust, ambition and greed. Prime melodrama, in other words.

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Circus Clowns (1922) A Silent Film Review

Baby Peggy stars as a kidnapped tot who ends up performing at the circus. There’s a goofy detective, an ineffectual father, a cute dog and all the other expected silent kiddie comedy tropes.

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The Beloved Blackmailer (1918) A Silent Film Review

What do you do if your boyfriend is a hopeless hypochondriac and his father is trying to bankrupt your family’s railroad? Well, you could hire pugilists to kidnap said boyfriend to get him into shape and then blackmail his dad into submission. Yeah, that sounds like a perfect plan for killing two birds with one stone and only a few felonies to commit!

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The Old Oregon Trail (1928) A Silent Film Review

This movie is not actually about the Oregon Trail but a later wave of settlers. Hey, never let accuracy interfere with a great title! The picture stars Art Mix and concerns his attempts to woo a pretty young lady in a covered wagon.

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L’Enfant du carnaval (1921) A Silent Film Review

Ivan Mosjoukine wrote, directed and starred in this dramedy about a wealthy playboy whose life is turned upside-down when he discovers a baby boy on his doorstep. We all know where this is going but getting there is all the fun.

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Behind the Screen (1916) A Silent Film Review

Charlie Chaplin, Edna Purviance and company have a grand time in this behind-the-scenes spoof of slapstick comedy. There’s a mad bit of business with a trap door, a gang of arsonists try to blow up the studio and we get a rarity of rarities: a real pie fight!

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The Vagabond Prince (1916) A Silent Film Review

The prince of a Balkan kingdom decides that royalty is for the birds and so he runs away to San Francisco and falls in love with a barroom singer named Fluffy. As one does. Basically a gender-reversed Roman Holiday, if that’s your cup of tea.

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The Heart of a Hero (1916) A Silent Film Review

Robert Warwick stars in this biopic of Nathan Hale, which boasts a screenplay by a very young Frances Marion. There are powdered wigs and heroic poses in abundance but, lest things get too stodgy, there are also a surprising number of spicy title cards. Oo-la-la!

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The Devil’s Needle (1916) A Silent Film Review

Drugs! Norma Talmadge and Tully Marshall star as artistic types who find their best inspiration with a little chemical assistance. This ham-fisted cautionary tale features splendidly over-the-top intertitles and a charming performance from Talmadge.

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Flirting with Fate (1916) A Silent Film Review

Douglas Fairbanks plays an artist with more enthusiasm than talent and more charm than cash. When the love of his life dumps him for another, he feels he has nothing left to live for and so he hires the best assassin in New York, Automatic Joe, to help him end it all. But then Doug changes his mind and that’s where the trouble begins.

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The Crazy Ray (1923) A Silent Film Review

René Clair’s first film as director, this is a quirky little science fiction comedy about a mad scientist and a special ray that freezes the entire city of Paris. All of it except for the very top of the Eiffel Tower and the night watchman sleeping there. What will he do now that he is the king of a frozen city?

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The Captive (1915) A Silent Film Review

Thought lost for decades, this romantic melodrama of the Balkan Wars is the second and final collaboration between leading lady Blanche Sweet and director Cecil B. DeMille. The production was marred by personality conflicts, illness and a tragic accidental death but the film itself is a scrumptiously sleazy little slice of hokum.

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Himmelskibet (1918) A Silent Film Review

A band of intrepid dreamers design and build a spaceship with the goal of an exploratory mission to Mars. What they discover is a shockingly peaceful culture for a planet named after the god of war. This pacifist film is often called the first space opera.

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An Excursion to the Moon (1908)

A group of intrepid explorers blast off for an anthropomorphized moon but find more than they bargained for when they meet the moon’s residents, acrobats and ballerinas. If all of this sounds suspiciously close to Méliès, that’s because it is a ripoff of same by Pathé.
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