Lon Chaney plays a ventriloquist-turned-criminal who joins forces with two other sideshow performers to open a pet shop and steal jewels. Just go with it. Chaney reunited with director Tod Browning for this strange crime drama.
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.
Harry Carey plays a cowpoke who turns to a life of crime after his sister kills herself. His only clue to the identity of the man who drove her to it is a twisted cigar butt so Harry naturally starts holding up saloons and stealing their ashtrays. Wait, what?
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?
Continue reading “Ben-Hur (1925) A Silent Film Review”
Director E.A. Dupont’s flashy tale of revenge, jealousy and murder made the entire world go mad for the unchained camera (courtesy of cinematographer Karl Freund) and the intense performance of Emil Jannings. Sliced to ribbons by the censors upon its initial release, Variety has recently been restored to more or less complete form.
Continue reading “Variety (1925) A Silent Film Review”
Charlie Chaplin’s iconic comedy of the Alaskan Gold Rush has charmed audiences for decades but most people have seen the 1942 recut. How does it measure up to the 1925 original? We’re going to examine the film’s continuing appeal and the differences between the two releases.
Richard Dix stars as a male model who wins a luxury car in a raffle. That’s good! But the car is cursed and will bring nothing but trouble when either police or women are around. That’s bad! Can Dix overcome the car’s “hoodoo” and win the heart of his lady love? An amiable car race comedy from back when that genre was a thing.
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.
Continue reading “Her Sister from Paris (1925) A Silent Film Review”
A Jewish family living in New York must cope with an empty nest when their two sons leave home, one to be a lawyer and the other, much to his father’s chagrin, to be a boxer. A modernized Jacob and Esau tale, this sensitive film is also one of the finest family dramas to come out of the silent era.
Continue reading “His People (1925) A Silent Film Review”
Here’s a movie that no one really wanted to make. Its production was troubled from the very beginning. From professional spats to last-minute recuts and reshoots, it had disaster written across it. So how did this hellish production end up as one of the most iconic and memorable horror films of all time? Does it live up to its reputation? Is it worth seeing for the casual viewer? We are going to engage in a little silent movie archaeology in order to find out.
One of the most famous silent films ever made, one that gets shown time and again in art history classes. Yet, most of us have never seen it in its original form. Decades of censorship, re-editing and other tinkering have resulted in a slow, disjointed motion picture. Now that it has been restored, prepare yourself for a revelation.
Continue reading “Battleship Potemkin (1925) A Silent Film Review”
Mysterious events are afoot in the tiny town of Danburg. Unexplained accidents, missing persons, an abandoned sanitarium… Our nebbish hero is a would-be detective who is determined to get to the bottom of things. He gets more than he bargained for when he runs into Dr. Ziska, played by none other than Lon Chaney.
Continue reading “The Monster (1925) A Silent Film Review”
Mr. A.J. Raffles is a champion cricket player who does the odd burglary on the side. Just for sport, don’t you know, old thing? House Peters takes the lead and is supported by Hedda Hopper, among others. The inferior remake of the 1917 Barrymore version, which itself was not perfect.
A sort of orphanage-western-drama-comedy, Zander the Great was one of Marion Davies’ big hits and her first film for the newly-merged MGM. She is an orphan who takes in a small boy and then sets out for Arizona in search of his father, who may or may not be a bootlegger. On the way, she meets Harrison Ford, who really is a bootlegger. A darling bit of fluff from the pen of Frances Marion.
Moscow is in the grips of highly contagious disease: Chess Fever! An ongoing chess tournament has turned Russia’s addiction to the game into a frenzy. One young man in particular has a dire case. In fact, it’s so bad that he forgets little things like his appointment to get married. Will chess fever ruin his romance or can he kick the habit in time?
A fun little genre mashup that is half-romantic comedy, half-western. You think it’s hard getting people to sit down for a silent movie? Honey, you ain’t seen nothing until you have tried to get them to watch a silent western. This movie is an ideal ambassador. It’s good-natured, fast-paced and leading man Harry Carey is as charming as can be.
Continue reading “Beyond the Border (1925) A Silent Film Review”
Erich von Stroheim turned his singular talents to a classic operetta and the resulting film was the biggest hit of his career. It’s all about central European royalty (natch), an empty treasury and an extremely wealthy widow. I can’t imagine what will come of this.
Continue reading “The Merry Widow (1925) A Silent Film Review”
Cecil B. DeMille’s first feature from his shiny new studio, The Road to Yesterday is the epic tale of two couples, marital strife, a fiery train wreck, flappers, ministers and a touch of time travel. You know, keeping things simple. It is also notable as the film that started William “Hopalong Cassidy” Boyd on his path to stardom.
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.
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?
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.
Clara Bow is a Parisian Apache whose boyfriend is taken away by a do-gooder. Determined to show the goody-two-shoes a lesson, she decides to marry him. Yes, that is the plot they decided to go with. Bow’s frequent co-star, Donald Keith, is the purloined boyfriend.
Rudolph Valentino finally came up with the perfect movie formula in this 1925 hit: Action Lover. Valentino is a fun-loving Cossack who turns down the advances of the Czarina. Forced on the run, he takes the opportunity to seek revenge against his father’s enemy. And wouldntcha know it, that enemy just happens to have a beautiful daughter.
Continue reading “The Eagle (1925) A Silent Film Review”
Mary Pickford is a tenement kid with a cop father and a brother who wants to be a gangster. Mary falls for her brother’s best friend, another would-be gangster, and must clear him of murder. Subtle it ain’t but it still boasts of certain charms, namely a very young Billy Haines as the male lead.
Continue reading “Little Annie Rooney (1925) A Silent Film Review”
A glamorous European countess meets small town America and it’s a novel experience for both. Tongues wag, the gentlemen preen and the town’s moral crusader finds himself unpleasantly in love. This is pretty much the most fun you can have at the movies and not be breaking the law.
Continue reading “A Woman of the World (1925) A Silent Film Review”