Douglas Fairbanks plays a vengeful nobleman who disguises himself as a pirate in order to take down bad guys and save a princess. It’s Swashbuckling 101 stuff but Fairbanks has a secret weapon: Technicolor!
When a baby is kidnapped, it’s up to the family dog to save the day! An early entry in the Heroic Dog genre of motion pictures, this British production has charm to spare.
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.
William S. Hart plays a native Mesoamerican who falls for an Aztec princess. This goes over about as well as you can imagine and our hero soon finds himself marked for sacrifice. A change of pace (obviously) for western star Hart.
Harry Houdini attempted to parlay his legendary career as an illusionist into a film career and this was his final effort. (He also directs.) Playing the titular secret service agent, Houdini must track down some counterfeiters and rescue a young lady tangled in their web. Par for the pulp course.
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.
Two-fisted Mountie Rance Raine’s brother has been murdered and this means that the culprit must pay. He has a very specific set of skills, a smart dog called Rex and a horse named Starlight. Those flannel-clad baddies are going to wish they were never born.
A mine owner finally discovers a vein of gold—and then promptly dies of fever. His foreman is determined to claim the strike for himself but there is the pesky widow to deal with. Obviously, he has no choice but to lock her in a cottage with a hungry leopard.
Continue reading “Under the Claw (1912) A Silent Film Review”
Wallace Reid and Harrison Ford team up as a pair of buddies trying to cross Central Europe with a satchel full of cash and a revolution brewing. Considerably less fun than it sounds, thanks to the protagonist’s xenophobia and a script peppered with morons.
Continue reading “Hawthorne of the U.S.A. (1919) A Silent Film Review”
A real forgotten gem of an adventure film! Rod La Rocque plays a Napoleonic swashbuckler who acts as the muscle for Phyllis Haver’s clever spy as she attempts to protect the emperor from a scheming Sam De Grasse. Look up the word “rollicking” in the dictionary and this movie will appear as the first example.
Continue reading “The Fighting Eagle (1927) A Silent Film Review”
When an English lord and lady find themselves stranded in the jungle, it’s only a matter of time before they die off and their infant son is raised by apes. The very first screen adaptation of the famous vine swinger stars Elmo Lincoln as Tarzan and Enid Markey as Jane.
Continue reading “Tarzan of the Apes (1918) 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.
Continue reading “Michael Strogoff (1926) A Silent Film Review”
Nell Shipman, one of the creative powerhouses of the silent era, stars in this rugged tale of the frozen north. She plays a nice wilderness gal with a rather disturbing stalker. With her husband out of commission, she has to take on the baddie herself. Girl power!
Douglas Fairbanks is a nice Kansan who, through a the odd combination of his mother’s prenatal Dumas reading and a cyclone ravaging town as he was born, is a little hyper. All right, a lot hyper. He is also chivalrous to the point of madness (Dumas again). Setting out to find adventure, he happens upon a true damsel in distress. Is this the mission he has been waiting for?
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.
Continue reading “Scaramouche (1923) 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!
Continue reading “The Mark of Zorro (1920) 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…
Continue reading “The Sea Hawk (1924) 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.
I am pretty sure we all know the famous Alexandre Duman tale. Nice guy gets framed, finds buried treasure and then he is off for revenge. Tralalala! A very young John Gilbert stars as the vengeful count, determined to destroy the men who sent him to prison on false charges. Gilbert buckles swash (or is it swashes his buckle?) in admirable style.
John Barrymore plays Francois Villon, the medieval French poet/thief who runs afoul of the eccentric King Louis XI (Conrad Veidt). But when the kingdom is threatened by the Duke of Burgundy, it is up to Villon to save the day. Oh, and there is naturally a lovely damsel. The most fun you can have in the Douglas Fairbanks manner without actually having Douglas Fairbanks participating.
Continue reading “The Beloved Rogue (1927) A Silent Film Review”
Douglas Fairbanks is the titular thief who uses his burglaring ways to win a princess, defeat the Mongols and generally save the day. Scenery, sets and costumes? Gorgeous. Pace? One may safely describe it as, er, stately. Pluses: An early appearance from Anna May Wong and much Fairbanksian leaping.
Buddy comedies do not come better. During the Great War, two squabbling soldiers are captured by the Germans. They escape, rescuing an Arabian princess in the process. Cute film with a strong cast and a lively pace. One of the early silents produced by Howard Hughes.
The Maharajah of Bengal wants his wife to have the most fabulous tomb in the world. He hires an English architect to design and constructs it. There’s just one little problem. His wife is not dead. Yet. This is a classy adventure yarn with a strong Teutonic flavor. Well worth obtaining.
Continue reading “The Indian Tomb (1921) A Silent Film Review”
He’s a Bolshevik. She’s a princess. Can they find love? Of course they will! Riding roughshod over historical accuracy and narrative logic, The Volga Boatman still manages to be a rollicking (if air-headed) good time.