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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20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1916) A Silent Film Review

Jules Verne’s legendary nautical science fiction tale was adapted in grand style by Universal, complete with underwater photography and billed as the “First Submarine Photoplay Ever Filmed” by the proud studio.
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The Cossacks (1928) A Silent Film Review

I have a bone to pick with this film but I think I’ll have to get in line behind its star, John Gilbert, its screenwriter, Frances Marion, and one of its ex-directors, Victor Tourjansky. MGM’s attempt to simultaneously film Leo Tolstoy and Jules Verne results in a rather uneven picture that plunges into plagiarism. Wheeee!
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Slipping Wives (1927) A Silent Film Review

Stan Laurel is hired by Priscilla Dean to romance her and make her husband jealous. Stan’s career as a lothario is hampered by the family butler (Oliver Hardy), a violent bully who intends to get rid of the interloper by any means necessary.

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The Blue Bird (1918) A Silent Film Review

A pair of siblings go on a magical journey accompanied by sentient kitchen objects (bread, sugar, milk, etc.) in search of the blue bird of happiness. Director Maurice Tourneur brings his usual visual flair to the proceedings.

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Polly of the Circus (1917) A Silent Film Review

Polly is a spunky circus lass who falls off her horse and into the waiting arms of the local minister. Tongues wag, of course, but can this mismatched couple find true happiness? A heaping helping of nostalgia with Mae Marsh’s winsome orphan routine thrown in.

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Peck’s Bad Boy (1921) A Silent Film Review

Fresh off his wildly successful debut opposite Chaplin in The Kid, Jack Coogan starred in an adaptation of the popular Peck’s Bad Boy stories, which concerns the antics of a child who can charitably be described as the devil’s spawn. If this film proves one thing, it’s that our definition of a “bad boy” has changed enormously since 1921.

I will also be reviewing the 1934 remake starring Jackie Cooper and Thomas Meighan. Click here for the talkie.

This post is part of the They Remade What?! Blogathon. Read the other great posts here.
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Ben-Hur (1925) A Silent Film Review

Religion. Politics. Chariot races. Pirates. Ben-Hur the novel has all the ingredients to make a great film. The 1959 version is the most famous but the 1925 film is the one that got it right. Big, beautiful and an epic’s epic, what’s not to love?
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The Enchanted Cottage (1924) A Silent Film Review

Richard Barthelmess plays Oliver Bashforth, a veteran of the First World War whose body was mangled beyond repair in the conflict. Trying to escape his overbearing and insensitive family, he takes a cottage in the country. In order to create a further buffer, he enters into a marriage of convenience with a homely local woman. But the cottage seems to have something magical about it and soon love and healing are in the air.

I will also be reviewing the 1945 remake starring Robert Young and Dorothy McGuire. Click here to skip to the talkie.
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The White Devil (1930) A Silent Film Review

Ivan Mosjoukine, Betty Amann, and Lil Dagover directed by Alexandre Volkoff in a Tolstoy adaptation? Who do I have to kill? No one, as it turns out. This is the cast and director of The White Devil, one of the last major silent films to be produced in Germany.

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The Forty-First (1927) A Silent Film Review

One of my favorite love stories! (What does this say about me?) She’s a sniper with forty kills to her name. He’s an enemy officer who is targeted as her forty-first. One missed shot later, the officer is not dead but a prisoner. Do I even need to say that a dark romance is in the offing? A gritty tale of revolution and class divide, this is a lesser-known picture from the legendary Yakov Protazanov, best remembered today for the pioneering Aelita, Queen of Mars.
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Her Sister from Paris (1925) A Silent Film Review

Constance Talmadge is married to Ronald Colman. While some women would kill for that problem, Connie is all set to run home to mother. She changes her mind when she has a chance meeting with her identical twin sister, a famous and famously sexy dancer. The women trade places and poor Ronald has no idea what hit him.
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The Four Feathers (1929) A Silent Film Review

The oft-filmed tale of an Englishman who is branded a coward and spends the rest of the film proving that he most assuredly is not. This version (released at the height of the sound transition) was one of the very last silent movie hits. It also features William Powell and Fay Wray before they hit the big time and it is directed by a couple of guys mostly known for making a film about a really big ape…
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Cinderella (1914) A Silent Film Review

An abused waif, a handsome prince and a tiny glass slipper. I think pretty much everyone is familiar with this one. One of the most famous fairy tales of them all is given the Mary Pickford touch in this 1914 fantasy. Her Prince Charming is played by Owen Moore. In real life, he was anything but.
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The Canadian (1926) A Silent Film Review

She’s a sophisticated English girl. He’s a rough-hewn Canadian wheat farmer. She needs a place to go. He needs a wife to help out at the farm. They soon find themselves in a marriage of convenience and then things take a turn for the dark. Underrated upon its initial release, this film has started to build quite a reputation for itself since its rediscovery.
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Seven Keys to Baldpate (1917) A Silent Film Review

George M. Cohan tries his hand at the silent screen in this adaptation of his hit play. He plays a schlock writer who wagers he can create work of literature in 24-hours. Our hero goes to an isolated and deserted inn to work but of course you know he will be interrupted. By a reporter. And criminals. And a crazy hermit. Who steals corpses. Because.

I shall also be covering the 1983 remake, House of the Long Shadows. Click here to skip to the talkie.

Home Media Availability: Released on DVD.

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Michael Strogoff (1926) A Silent Film Review

One of the finest, best-acted and most beautiful mega-epics ever made, Michael Strogoff has catapulted to the top of my favorites list. The compliment is not given lightly. Jules Verne’s red-blooded Siberian adventure comes to life in a lavish screen adaptation. Massive in scale, the film still manages to keep sight of its humanity. It also boasts imaginative editing, skillful performances, innovative camera work and gorgeous tinting and stencil color.
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Surrender (1927) A Silent Film Review

He’s a Cossack prince. She’s the rabbi’s daughter. Can they find love? Also, the hero is a tad bit genocidal. Yes, that is the plot. The unusual duo of Mary Philbin and Ivan Mosjoukine (in his only Hollywood appearance) are star-crossed lovers in this Great War romance. It boasts superb cinematography but the story? Oh my. The main conflict: You always blackmail the one you love.

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Hotel Imperial (1927) A Silent Film Review

Pola Negri plays a hotel chambermaid who finds herself the accomplice of an Austrian officer trapped behind enemy lines. There are spies, an assassination and much skulking about the corridors of the titular hotel. This was one of the biggest Hollywood hits for both Negri and director Mauritz Stiller.
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Chicago (1927) A Silent Film Review

Think Chicago started as a 1970’s musical? Think again! The original play by Maurine Watkins was filmed twice before it was ever a musical, once as a silent and once as a talkie. Juicy though the story of murderesses and corruption was, the behind-the-scenes action was just as intriguing.

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The Squaw Man (1914) A Silent Film Review

An upstart studio arrived in Hollywood and made this 1914 oater. The film is about a British gent who takes the blame for a crime and heads out west. He romances and marries a Native American but finds himself conflicted when an opportunity arises to go back home to England. The film is also notable as the directorial debut of one Cecil B. DeMille.

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The Lost World (1925) A Silent Film Review

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle may be famous for Sherlock but what he really loved writing were rousing adventure tales. The most famous of these concerned Professor Challenger and his intrepid band of explorers who discover dinosaurs in a lost world atop a plateau. Cutting edge stop-motion made the film adaptation one of the most beloved silent films.

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Cyrano de Bergerac (1925) A Silent Film Review

The famous tale of Cyrano de Bergerac is lavishly adapted for the silent screen, complete with stencil color. The story has been lifted so many times for romantic comedies that it almost needs no introduction: Cyrano, brilliant but marred by an outlandishly large nose, loves the beautiful Roxane. She, however, loves the handsome but vapid Christian. Can the two men combine to become the perfect lover?

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The Wizard of Oz (1925) A Silent Movie Review

The Wizard of Oz. A wonderful tale for children. It has everything a parent could wish for. Animal cruelty. Vomit. Sexual harassment. Racial stereotypes. What’s that? You think Oz shouldn’t have any of those things? Well, don’t tell Larry Semon, writer-director-producer-star of this version.

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Lorna Doone (1922) A Silent Film Review

Lorna Doone (Madge Bellamy) is a noblewoman who was kidnapped by bandits as a child. John Ridd (John Bowers) is the big-hearted farmer who rescues her. But the Doones are not about to let Lorna go so easily, especially since she is heiress to an enormous fortune. No cookies are forthcoming.
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Scaramouche (1923) A Silent Film Review

Featuring the famous opening line, “he was born with the gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad,” Scaramouche is the tale of Andre-Louis,  a young lawyer (Ramon Novarro) who seeks to revenge the murder of his best friend at the hands a heartless aristocrat (Lewis Stone). To further his ends, Andre-Louis becomes an actor, a fencing master and, finally, an architect of the French Revolution.
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The Mark of Zorro (1920) A Silent Film Review

Douglas Fairbanks stars in the very first Zorro movie. The tale is familiar: Zorro is a Californian Robin Hood, who robs from the rich, gives to the poor, fights oppression, romances the beautiful Lolita and does battle with the villainous Captain Ramon. And, this being a Fairbanks vehicle, there is quite a lot of leaping about in the bargain!
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The Sea Hawk (1924) A Silent Film Review

Sir Oliver Tressilian (Milton Sills) is a retired Elizabethan privateer whose life suddenly gets shot to pieces. He is framed for murder by his own brother, dumped by his fiancee, kidnapped, sold into slavery… What I’m saying is this guy has a chip on his shoulder. So he joins up with the Barbary corsairs and becomes the dreaded Sea Hawk. Now for that revenge…
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The Prisoner of Zenda (1922) A Silent Film Review

Rudolf (Lewis Stone) is an Englishman on holiday in the unstable European kingdom of Ruritania. It turns out that he is a dead ringer for the soon-to-be-crowned king (also Lewis Stone). This comes in handy when the king is kidnapped by his evil brother and Rudolf must take his place to save the kingdom. A young Ramon Novarro has a star-making turn as the theatrical (and homicidal) Rupert of Hentzau.

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West of Zanzibar (1928) A Silent Film Review

Lon Chaney at his most grotesque. A delightfully slimy jungle picture that involves Chaney’s quest for revenge against the man who stole his wife and crippled him. Mary Nolan and Lionel Barrymore support. Wonderful but not for all tastes. A slightly warped mind is recommended. Maybe even required.
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