The Romanovs had been in power for three centuries and motion picture cameras captured the family and the Russian people on the eve of the First World War and the Ten Days That Shook the World.
A mysterious message from outer space captures the imagination of a Russian scientist. He has other problems, though, as he suspects that his wife is stepping out on him with a petty official who moonlights as a black-market dealer. Oh yes, and there are scenes on Mars.
Ivan Mosjoukine wrote, directed and starred in this dramedy about a wealthy playboy whose life is turned upside-down when he discovers a baby boy on his doorstep. We all know where this is going but getting there is all the fun.
Ivan Mosjoukine takes the title role in this biopic of legendary English Shakespearean actor Edmund Kean, whose brilliance on the stage was undercut by his eccentric and self-destructive personal life. Yet another example of the astonishing films being made by the Russian emigres who fled their country’s political turmoil for the relative safety of Paris.
Housing shortages, wage theft, tax evasion… are these really subjects for comedy? They are to director Boris Barnet! Anna Sten plays a mischievous milliner who enters into a marriage of convenience with a homeless college student so that he can use her Moscow apartment. Of course, nothing works out the way they planned and matters are further complicated when Miss Sten becomes the proud owner of a winning lottery ticket.
Continue reading “The Girl with the Hat Box (1927) A Silent Film Review”
Before Ernst Lubitsch and Cecil B. DeMille poked their heads into the bedroom, Ladislas Starevich directed this clever marital comedy about a wayward husband, a temperamental wife, a lovely dancer and a jilted cameraman. Of course, what really sets Starevich apart is his cast. You see… the parts are all played by dead insects.
Continue reading “The Cameraman’s Revenge (1912) A Silent Film Review”
Ivan Mosjoukine plays a dashing officer who wants to make time with his girlfriend. Her strict mother will not hear of it and so the young lovers come up with a plan. Mosjoukine shaves his mustache, slips into a dress and gets hired as the family’s new cook. A delightfully zany farce based on a poem by Pushkin.
Continue reading “The House in Kolomna (1913) A Silent Film Review”
We’re heading back to Russia, kids! Specifically, we are going to be enjoying some good belly laughs, courtesy of the sparkling Russian wit.
Antosha (Antoni Fertner) takes his wife’s absence as an opportunity to throw a wild party. How wild is it? Well, at the end, one of the guests leaves behind her corset. The rest of the short concerns Antosha’s attempts to rid himself of the incriminating undergarment before his wife comes home.
One of my favorite love stories! (What does this say about me?) She’s a sniper with forty kills to her name. He’s an enemy officer who is targeted as her forty-first. One missed shot later, the officer is not dead but a prisoner. Do I even need to say that a dark romance is in the offing? A gritty tale of revolution and class divide, this is a lesser-known picture from the legendary Yakov Protazanov, best remembered today for the pioneering Aelita, Queen of Mars.
Continue reading “The Forty-First (1927) A Silent Film Review”
One of the most famous silent films ever made, one that gets shown time and again in art history classes. Yet, most of us have never seen it in its original form. Decades of censorship, re-editing and other tinkering have resulted in a slow, disjointed motion picture. Now that it has been restored, prepare yourself for a revelation.
Continue reading “Battleship Potemkin (1925) 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”
Moscow is in the grips of highly contagious disease: Chess Fever! An ongoing chess tournament has turned Russia’s addiction to the game into a frenzy. One young man in particular has a dire case. In fact, it’s so bad that he forgets little things like his appointment to get married. Will chess fever ruin his romance or can he kick the habit in time?
Concerning the lives and loves of a small Russian village, this little gem has been all but forgotten. Gorgeous scenery, heartfelt performances and an intriguing look at a time and place that were about to disappear forever, this movie deserves rediscovery.
Continue reading “The Peasants’ Lot (1912) A Silent Film Review”
I don’t generally cover unfinished films but here is a major exception. Que Viva Mexico! is one of the most frustrating unrealized projects. The work of a brilliant director who was forced to abandon it for reasons both financial and political, Que Viva Mexico! is an essential component of movie history.
A historic curio from a strange time when Soviet filmmakers actively sought to create American-style films. This serial, which owes as much to Germany as it does to the U.S.A., involves a plot by capitalists to poison all of Russia. The titular heroine must save the day. Sly commentary is hidden among the action and stunts.
Continue reading “Miss Mend (1926) A Silent Film Review”