The Unknown (1927) A Silent Film Review

Lon Chaney plays a serial killer with two thumbs on one hand who hides out from the cops by posing as an armless knife-thrower in a traveling circus. He falls in love with Joan Crawford, who is afraid of men’s hands. After strangling her father, Chaney decides to cut off his own arms for real in order to win Crawford’s love, as one does. Chaos ensues. I did not make any of that up.
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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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Missing the Silents: London After Midnight and Mark of the Vampire

Hello and welcome to a new series! As you may already know, a good number of silent films have been lost, some of them quite famous. However, many of these films were remade as talkies. Some of the remakes even used the original silent as reference material before it was lost. Missing the Silents is going to focus on these remakes and examine how they can help us imagine what the original might have been like.

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Fun Size Review: The Wicked Darling (1919)

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Lon Chaney and Tod Browning made evil music together in ten films. This was the first. Chaney’s not the star but he pretty much steals the show. The story is about Priscilla Dean’s soiled dove trying to go straight and marry a gentleman. Chaney is her nasty partner in crime who is determined to keep her in the underworld. As grimy as you could wish. Not a masterpiece in itself but a glimpse of things to come.

You can read my full-length review here.

[toggler title=”How does it end? (click here for a spoiler)” ]Chaney tries to gut Priscilla’s gentleman but she arrives in time to save the day. She gets her man, Chaney gets 20 to life.[/toggler]

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If it were a desert it would be:

(via irecipesz.com)
(via irecipesz.com)

Deep Fried Twinkies. Plebeian, streetwise and probably not all that good for you but just try turning one down.

Availability: The Wicked Darling is available as an out-of-print DVD and as an in-print digital copy.

Lost Film Files #21: London After Midnight (1927)

London After Midnight Lon Chaney
Now let’s not get carried away… (via Tumblr)

London After Midnight (1927)

Status: Missing and presumed lost. The only known copy was destroyed in the 1967 MGM vault fire.

One of the most sought-after lost silent films, Lon Chaney and Tod Browning combined forces once again to create a tale of murder and… vampires?

Marceline Day and co. move into a house with a history: the last tenant committed suicide. But was it suicide or… murder? And then Miss Day spots what look like vampires! Oh my! What is afoot in the old dark house?

Photoplay thought that the film was excellent, though the creepy bits worked better than the normal bits:

Lon Chaney has the stellar role in this mystery drama and the disguise he uses while ferreting out the murder is as gruesome as any he has ever worn. The story attempts to prove that a murderer, when hypnotized, will enact again every detail of his crime. The suspense is marvelously sustained. Chaney plays a dual role, and, when conventionally clad, is a little less convincing than usual. In the other role, perfect.

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Variety found the whole affair to be decidedly meh:

Will add nothing to Chaney’s prestige as a trouper, nor increase the star’s box office value. With Chaney’s name in lights, however, this picture, any picture with Chaney, means a strong box office draw. Young, Browning and Chaney have made a good combination in the past but the story on which this production is based is not of the quality that results in broken house records.

London After Midnight does have one advantage over other lost films: It’s absence is noted and lamented. Because of this, TCM aired a 2002 reconstruction of the film. While nothing can compare to the real film, this reconstruction gave audiences a taste of what they were missing.

Ahem. Boo! (via Doctor Macro)
Ahem. Boo! (via Doctor Macro)

Director Tod Browning remade the film in 1935 as The Mark of the Vampire with Bela Lugosi (of course) as the is-he-or-isn’t-he bloodsucker. This version is widely available on DVD and currently may be streamed from Warner Archive’s instant service.

The interest in London After Midnight is easy to understand. Lon Chaney is one of the few dramatic silent film stars who still enjoys mainstream popularity. And his tragic death in 1930 meant that he just missed the release of some of the greatest horror classics: Frankenstein, Dracula, The Mummy… Seeing him play a horror creature as iconic as a vampire (spoiler: it’s all just a disguise to trap a murderer) would be a rare treat. Plus, is not this makeup awesome?

Ooooo, creepy! (via Silent Hollywood)
Ooooo, creepy! (via Silent Hollywood)

So, enjoy the reconstruction and the remake and hope that someone has a print stashed in their secret lair.

This post was part of the Chaney Blogathon, hosted by The Last Drive In and myself.

The Wicked Darling (1919) 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.

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Fun Size Review: West of Zanzibar (1928)

West of Zanzibar, Lon Chaney, Mary Nolan, Lionel Barrymore, Warner Baxter, Tod Browning This movie is sick. I’m just getting that out of the way now. Lon Chaney stars, Tod Browning directs. Could it be any other way? Lionel Barrymore steals Chaney’s wife and breaks his back. So Chaney drags himself off to Africa where he plans his revenge for eighteen years or so. It’s a sweaty, grimy and totally un-PC. Chaney is a deranged villain but he also gives one of his most heart-breaking performances. Seek out this twisted little gem if you have the stomach for it. If it were a dessert it would be:

(finecooking.com)

Bittersweet Chocolate Bourbon Ice Pop. Dark, dripping, bitter and most definitely for grown-ups. Read my full-length review.

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