Dark and stormy nights, people buried alive in vaults… Why yes, this is another Edgar Allan Poe adaptation, this time from the French Impressionists and featuring some very grim material indeed.Continue reading “Jean Epstein’s The Fall of the House of Usher (1928) A Silent Film Review”
An avant-garde take on Edgar Allan Poe’s famous tale of terror, this short has long been praised as an icon of independent American filmmaking and for its aggressive special effects and cinematography.Continue reading “Watson and Webber’s The Fall of the House of Usher (1928)”
Well, it’s love and steel guitar music in this Technicolor short film designed to show off the latest and greatest in the world of natural color cinema.Continue reading “The Love Charm (1928) A Silent Film Review”
A country girl heads to Moscow with a few possessions and a duck. When she is hired by a couple determined not to pay union wages, the stage is set for a mini revolution.
William Haines is a safecracker who falls in love with a banker’s daughter and leaves the old business but the old business doesn’t want to leave him. The police are tracking him down but can he be saved by a last minute plot twist?
Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy try their hand at grave-robbing when a mad scientist offers them $500 for a fresh corpse. Grim and ghostly mayhem ensues when the pair try to snatch the occupant of a new grave.
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.
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.
Lon Chaney stars as Tito, a clown who finds an orphan girl and raises her as his daughter. He falls in love with her (ew!) but she falls for a debauched count, as one does. Everyone ends up in hysterics and it’s a race to see who can off themselves first. Not my favorite. Is it obvious?
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!
Continue reading “The Cossacks (1928) A Silent Film Review”
Fritz Lang creates a paranoid and deadly world of spy vs. spy in this fun genre picture. Willy Fritsch plays No. 326, an unnamed agent who is charged with bringing down a sophisticated network of spies, assassins and saboteurs led by Rudolf Klein-Rogge.
Josef von Sternberg pairs with Emil Jannings to make a story of fiction overtaking reality. Also, the Russian Revolution. This film was one of the titles that won Jannings the very first Academy Award for best actor.
Continue reading “The Last Command (1928) A Silent Film Review”
Marion Davies’ gift for zaniness and mimicry are put to good use in this family comedy. Davies is Pat, the patsy of her family. Her mother (Marie Dressler) prefers her more sophisticated sister and Pat always has to take second place. But what will happen when both daughters fall for the same man? Zaniness, of course!
There’s a rumble at Hollywood High: George Duryea leading Team Christians vs. Lina Basquette leading Team Atheists. It’s all fun and games until the argument turns into a riot and someone gets killed. Our junior fanatics are sent to reform school. Shocking brutality ensues, as does romance. A genre mashup from Cecil B. DeMille at his mashiest.
Carole Lombard shows her stuff in this late-silent era comedy. She is the titular vamp who is determined to steal her gal pal’s man. Of course, the gal pal has other ideas. Notable for some splendid twenties fashions and a climactic color sequence.
Continue reading “The Campus Vamp (1928) A Silent Film Review”
The chaotic year of 1928 was the last gasp of the silent epic. The film industry was converting to sound but many larger films were already in production during the talkie revolution. Soon the realism and grit of silent epics would be replaced by the glossy sheen of the studio-bound talkies but the silents reigned for one more glorious year.
Continue reading “The Trail of ’98 (1928) A Silent Film Review”
Douglas Fairbanks Jr. in one of his breakout hits– directed by none other than Frank Capra! Doug plays a cub reporter who is desperate for a scoop. He gets it when he manages to implicate a young lady (Jobyna Ralston) in a scandalous murder. Seeing the damage he has done to innocent Jobyna, Doug sets out to catch the real killer.
Marion Davies knocks ’em dead in this witty comedy about showbiz. In a tale that is a combination of Gloria Swanson’s story and Merton of the Movies, Marion plays a newcomer to Hollywood who wants to make her mark in drama. William Haines, a kindly slapstick comedian, takes her under his wing and her career begins to take off but she soon outgrows him. Will her emerging ego destroy her career or will she realize who her real friends are?
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.
Continue reading “West of Zanzibar (1928) A Silent Film Review”
Toni is an innocent Austrian girl who dreams of an operatic career but the only job she can get is as a showgirl in a nightclub. After refusing the advances of a wealthy customer, Toni and the club seamstress are sacked. The unlikely pair make their way to Monte Carlo where Toni gets a chance at real love.
A variation on the popular twenties gold-digger theme in the key of Capra. The delightful Viola Dana dreams of landing a rich husband. Ralph Graves seems to be the man of her dreams but when he is disinherited, it is Viola’s entrepreneurial spirit that saves the day.
Continue reading “That Certain Thing (1928) A Silent Film Review”
Lillian Gish plays an innocent girl thrust into the harsh elements of the American West. The unceasing wind batters the landscape and begins to unravel her sanity. Beautiful direction from Victor Seastrom and intense acting from both Gish and Lars Hanson. Silent cinema at its finest. For goodness sake, see it!
What do you do with a kid who just wants to have fun? Virginia Lee Corbin is a madcap, fast-driving, baseball-playing beauty (complete with bare knees, marcelled hair, makeup and lingerie) who gives her square sister fits with her wild, flapper ways. But which one is really wild? It does not get much more twenties than this!