Cossacks and Crinoline: Creating the perfect opening scene

The time has come, the walrus said, to talk about opening scenes, those iconic moments that kicked off great films. Star Wars (1977) started things off with a literal bang, its heroes on the run from a gargantuan, relentless enemy. Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) kept its bangs in check until the end of the scene and contented itself with a rusty windmill and three bored killers. Yojimbo (1961) set the stage with Masaru Sato’s cocky score and a shot of Toshiro Mifune’s shoulders swinging as he walked down a dusty road.

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Fun Size Review: Surrender (1927)

I hate this movie so much that I almost can’t write about it. I hate it because the love story is creepy and horrible. I hate it because the hero of the tale is a genocidal rapist and that is portrayed as a-okay in the story. Most of all, I hate it because the talent of Ivan Mosjoukine is wasted on utter dreck. (This was his only American film.) It’s about a Cossack who falls for the rabbi’s daughter (Mary Philbin, hoo boy) and threatens to burn the local Jewish populace alive if she doesn’t sleep with him. Excuse me while I go punch something.

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Unboxing the Silents: The House of Mystery

The House of Mystery is one of the most exciting silent film releases to come along in ages. This serial has been knocking ’em dead on the film festival circuit for a while but this is the first time it has been available to the general public since its release over ninety years ago. And don’t let the word “serial” put you off. Instead, think of The House of Mystery as a very fine miniseries, the kind that sweeps award shows.

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The House of Mystery (1923) A Silent Film Review

Framed for murder! Sentenced to a penal colony! Some guys can’t catch a break. This smart serial was made in France by Russian expats and the blending of the national styles produces some very fine entertainment. Pull up a bowl of popcorn, maybe some candy and get ready. It’s a long motion picture but I guarantee a rousing good time.
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Michael Strogoff (1926) 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.
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Surrender (1927) A Silent Film Review

He’s a Cossack prince. She’s the rabbi’s daughter. Can they find love? Also, the hero is a tad bit genocidal. Yes, that is the plot. The unusual duo of Mary Philbin and Ivan Mosjoukine (in his only Hollywood appearance) are star-crossed lovers in this Great War romance. It boasts superb cinematography but the story? Oh my. The main conflict: You always blackmail the one you love.

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The Burning Crucible (1923) A Silent Film Review

What a dramatic title! Is it about Salem witch trials? The horrors of war? Terrors unknown? Nope! It is the wacky tale of a wandering wife called Elle and the mysterious detective known only as Z, who has been charged with returning her affections to her husband. One of the oddest and most stylish films of the silent era and pretty funny to boot.
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Unboxing the Silents: French Masterworks | Russian Emigres in Paris 1923-1928

This is an overview of the box set itself. I will be reviewing the films in the set individually at a later date.

What is it?: A box set of five film created by talented Russians who fled the revolution and settled in France. It features three films that star Ivan Mosjoukine, who was enormously popular in Europe and whose French work has never before been widely available to US audiences. (Mosjoukine’s first and only American film, Surrender, was not really the best showcase for his talents.)

Who released it? Flicker Alley

The Films:

Le Brasier Ardent (The Burning Crucible), 1923

Kean, 1923

Feu Mathias Pascal (The Late Mathias Pascal), 1925

Gribiche, 1925

Les Nouveaux Messieurs, 1928

Packaging: The discs are held in a plastic multi-disc case inside a cardboard slipcover. The set also includes a 28-page color booklet detailing the films and featuring vintage stills and marketing materials. I should note that the discs were loose in their case when they arrived but they were not scratched.

Navigation: Each disc has a simple, easy-to-navigate menu. Nothing fancy (thank goodness!) just functionality.

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Music: Each film is scored by a different accompanist. The Burning Crucible by Neil Brand, Kean by Robert Israel, The Late Mathias Pascal by Timothy Brock, Gribiche by The Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra and The New Gentlemen by Antonio Coppola.

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Notes: The films are presented with original French intertitles and optional English subtitles.

This box set contains films that have been on the wishlists of movie buffs for some time. I am looking forward to reviewing them.

Availability: Currently available on DVD.