The Mystery of the Leaping Fish (1916) A Silent Film Review

Douglas Fairbanks stars as a dope-addled detective named Coke Ennyday (Get it? Get it?) who must uncover who is smuggling opium into the country. Seems like a conflict of interest but there you have it. Bessie Love co-stars as the young woman in charge of inflating those famous leaping fish. No, none of this makes any more sense in the film itself.
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“Thou liest!” Animated GIF

thief-of-bagdad-thou-liest

Probably the best title card in The Thief of Bagdad and certainly made all the better by Douglas Fairbanks’ rambunctious delivery. In GIF form it also has infinite usefulness for online commentary.

Douglas Fairbanks had specialized in breezy adventure-comedies (often westerns) since his 1915 film debut but one taste of pure costumed swashbuckling (1920’s The Mark of Zorro) and he didn’t look back until the talkies. All his costume pictures were big. And I mean big. The Thief of Bagdad was the biggest one yet and its sets and costumes are still breathtaking. That being said, it does suffer from a flabby mid-section obviously meant to show off more of those amazing sets.

The best part of the film is the best part of any Douglas Fairbanks film: Douglas Fairbanks himself. All pep and personality and decked out solely in chiffon harem pants, a headband and a smile. Nice if you go for that sort of thing. I’m sure Mary Pickford approved.

You can read my full-length review here.

Availability: There are lots of versions available but the one to get is the Cohen release, available on DVD and Blu-ray. The print is spectacular and it features a score arranged by the always-excellent Carl Davis, which makes use of Rimsky-Korsakov’s famous symphonic poem. It’s the only way to see this film. Well, outside a theater, that is.

While you’re at it, check out the talkie remake, which is equally beautiful and features Conrad Veidt in color as the dreamiest villain of the sound era. Swoon!

Silent Movie Rule #10: It pays to have a calling card, especially one that inflicts grievous bodily harm.

Mark of Zorro Animated GIF

Douglas Fairbanks had a lot of fun with Zorro’s dual identity in The Mark of Zorro. No one believed that the sleepy Don Diego was really the fearless Zorro. Robert McKim’s villain certainly had no idea who he was dealing with until Don Diego carved Zorro’s trademark. Into his face. Yeah, movie heroes didn’t mess around in the silents.

Disclaimer: Don’t actually do this, you will be arrested.

(You can read my full-length review of the film here.)

Availability: The Mark of Zorro is widely available on DVD and via online streaming, including budget editions but remember that you get what you pay for. Kino sells it as a double feature with its sequel, Don Q Son of Zorro. I love the version included in the Douglas Fairbanks: A Modern Musketeer box set from Flicker Alley. The print is pristine, the best available on the market by far, and the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra score in first rate. The whole box is absolutely worth the investment. You get a beautiful Zorro print and a large selection of Fairbanks’ rare early work. Good stuff.

Silent Movie Trivia Card #6: The Mark of Zorro (1920)

click to see in lightbox.
click to see in lightbox.

This Silent Movie Trivia Card is about the movie that changed Douglas Fairbanks’ career. He had been charming audiences with his modern adventure comedies but this was the first time he had stepped out in a full-costume picture. The choice was excellent. His take on the character remains iconic and invented much of what we now consider to be essential components for any Zorro film.

(You can read my review here.)

Availability: The Mark of Zorro is widely available on DVD and via online streaming, including budget editions but remember that you get what you pay for. Kino sells it as a double feature with its sequel, Don Q Son of Zorro. I love the version included in the Douglas Fairbanks: A Modern Musketeer box set from Flicker Alley. The print is pristine, the best available on the market by far, and the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra score in first rate. The whole box is absolutely worth the investment. You get a beautiful Zorro print and a large selection of Fairbanks’ rare early work. Good stuff.

Fun Size Review: A Modern Musketeer (1917)

modern-musketeer

Douglas Fairbanks is a human hurricane in this action-comedy. Obsessed with adventure novels and too wild for his home in Kansas, he finds adventure and romance in Arizona. Villain to vanquish? Check! Damsel in distress? Check! Things to leap from? Check and check! Fairbanks’ stunts are fun and his personality is first rate! The Grand Canyon scenery is an added bonus. Lightweight but well worth the view.

If it were a dessert it would be:

(via ghirardelli.com)

Chocolate Covered Espresso Beans. A bundle of energy wrapped in a sweet package.

Read my full-length review here.

Fun Size Review: The Mark of Zorro (1920)

mark of zorro poster

Zorro slashes his Z onto the silver screen for the first time and Douglas Fairbanks is the man who created the role. Funny, energetic and jam-packed with clever stunts. An ideal lightweight action/comedy and a perfect introduction to Fairbanks.

If it were a dessert it would be:

(via bhg.com)

Mocha Tres Leches Cake. Caffeinated, wildly popular and with a somewhat complicated pedigree. But nothing can change the fact that it is delicious!

Read my full-length review here.

Fun Size Review: The Thief of Bagdad (1924)

Douglas Fairbanks is a thief but what he really wants is to marry a princess (Julanne Johnston) and so he sets off on a treasure hunt that will win her hand. But wouldn’t you know it, those dadblasted villains take over Bagdad and it’s up to our thief to take it back. Meltingly gorgeous to behold with stunning sets and splendid effects but the pace slows to a crawl after the first half-hour.

thief-of-bagdad-doug-laughs

How does it end? Hover or tap below for a spoiler.

Our thief reforms, gets a few magical artifacts, saves the day and wins his princess.

If it were a dessert it would be:

Patience cake. Full of tasty ingredients but a little too elaborate for its own good.

Read my full-length review here.

Availability:
Released on DVD and Blu-ray. Get the Cohen release, it has a wonderful orchestral score from Carl Davis. So, so good.

A Modern Musketeer (1917) A Silent Film Review

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?

Home Media Availability: Released on DVD.

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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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