Lon Chaney and Leatrice Joy are members of a secret society that likes to blow people to tiny little pieces. It’s all well and good until she gets married to another member and discovers that she’d rather give peace a chance. Yes, Lon’s heart gets broken. Yes, again.
Ostensibly designed to protect innocents from falling victim to traffickers, this film caused scandal and invited lawsuits and arrests wherever it was shown. The innocent days of classic film? Not so much.
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?
Murder most theatrical! A major star dies a mysterious death on the stage but when his body is stolen, the case goes cold. Years later, his best friend gathers the entire cast to restage the play in order to unmask the killer but someone wants to make darn sure that the show never goes on and their methods are rather… permanent…
A group of conspirators plan to rob a bank. (I am told that their plan is bold.) They succeed but can they escape the long arm of the law? Sleazy entertainment from the pioneering Lubin studio.
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.
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.
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!
Raoul Walsh remains one of the most influential directors of the gangster film genre and he was already practicing his craft back in 1915. This is a film about the then-hot topic of poverty cycles and the redemption of career criminals. Walsh filmed on location to ensure that his picture had the proper amount of grit.
Continue reading “Regeneration (1915) A Silent Film Review”
The long-lost screen appearance of the original stage Sherlock Holmes, this 1916 film re-emerged in France after being thought lost for nearly a century. Will William Gillette’s take on Sherlock Holmes live up to its reputation? We’re about to find out!
Continue reading “Sherlock Holmes (1916) A Silent Film Review”
Eille Norwood’s acclaimed take on Sherlock Holmes is the subject of today’s review. The mystery? A well-to-do businessman is seemingly murdered by a beggar and Sherlock Holmes is called in to discover the truth. In spite of its dark premise, this is one of the lighter stories in the Holmes canon.
He’s a naïve Berlin cop. She’s a streetwise thief. Yup. Romance. But we’re in this for the Weimar gutter glamor and this film delivers in spades. One of the last great silent films to come out of the German industry, Asphalt is also a revelation for anyone who has not seen the work of director Joe May.
Continue reading “Asphalt (1929) A Silent Film Review”
The citizens are terrified! The police are baffled! A costumed criminal known as The Bat has been stalking the city, stealing and murdering with impunity. And a now missing suitcase of money is said to be hidden in an isolated manor house. Do I even need to add that it is a dark and stormy night? This looks like a job for… Jack Pickford?
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.
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.
The tale of an emotionally unstable barber who allows his romantic jealousy to consume him and… Advice to fellas: Don’t let the weird guy who is pining after your girlfriend give you a shave with a straight razor. Just saying. One of Anthony Asquith’s earliest films and one of Britain’s last silents. A suspenseful tale with atmosphere to burn and some very powerful performances in the mix.
Sessue Hayakawa heads up this tale of Chinatown, opium smuggling and the Tong. He is a gangland assassin who is sent to kill a rival drug dealer. But wouldn’t you know it? His target has a beautiful daughter and Hayakawa has fallen head over heels. I smell a gang war…
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.
Lon Chaney as we know him really arrived with the release of this movie. It has everything we love about him: impressive makeup, criminal mischief, madness, murder and scenery chewed with rare abandon. Who wouldn’t want to see a movie about a double amputee criminal mastermind who plans to take over San Francisco with a gang of anarchists wearing stylish straw hats?
Continue reading “The Penalty (1920) A Silent Film Review”
Professor Moriarty is up to his usual wicked tactics. This looks like a job for Sherlock Holmes! You know, that well-known college student. Wait, what? John Barrymore takes an unorthodox, romantic approach toward the famous sleuth in this long-lost silent film.
Continue reading “Sherlock Holmes (1922) A Silent Film Review”
Priscilla Dean stars as Mary, aka the Gutter Rose. Pickpocket, purse snatcher and general shady lady, Mary’s world changes when she encounters a real gentleman for the first time. This does not sit well with her partner in crime and would-be lover, Stoop (Lon Chaney). This film is the very first collaboration between Chaney and director Tod Browning.
Jimmy Valentine (Robert Warwick) belongs to a gang of bank-robbers– his job is to crack safes and he is the best in the business. After a stint in Sing Sing, however, Jimmy sees the error of his ways and decides to live an honest life. However, his old nemesis Doyle (Robert Cummings), a surly detective, has a chance to haul Jimmy in on an old charge. Will Jimmy’s life of honesty go to waste? Or will he be able to bluff his way to freedom?
William S. Hart trades his Stetson for a blue policeman’s hat in this gangland drama. Hart is a safecracker-turned-cop who finds himself at odds with his larcenous family and targeted by a former business partner. But, as we all know, Hart is not someone to be trifled with.
Continue reading “The Cradle of Courage (1920) A Silent Film Review”
Director D.W. Griffith attempts to showcase his protegee, Carol Dempster, in this ocean-themed crime drama. An accused murderer is hiding out on a South Sea island with his daughter. The long arm of the law is closing in. How far will she go to make sure that her dear old dad stays free?
Continue reading “The Love Flower (1920) A Silent Film Review”
John Barrymore lends his talents to this tale of a cricket player who has found a more lucrative occupation: cat burglary. Barrymore is supported by Frank “Oz” Morgan hut can the film survive all the changes that are made to the iconic character of A.J. Raffles? Looks like we are going to find out.
Continue reading “Raffles the Amateur Cracksman (1917) A Silent Film Review”
Holmes Herbert stars as Count Merlin, a faux-mystic with a painful past. His wife left him for another man and took their daughter with her. Now, decades later, he has caught up with her. When the unfaithful wife turns up dead, Merlin is the prime suspect. He must use his gifts of disguise and deception to clear his name.
Continue reading “The Charlatan (1929) A Silent Film Review”
Why do eccentric millionaires always do this? Die and leave strange wills, that is. This time around, a group of would-be heirs gather to see who gets the cash. Murder ensues. Laura La Plante is the heiress who must solve the mystery before she is permanently eliminated from the succession.