General Custer makes his last stand in this dramatization of the Battle of Little Bighorn. The word of the day was authenticity, even if California stands in for Montana and a romanticized vision of Custer is presented.Continue reading “Custer’s Last Fight (1912) A Silent Film Review”
A Civil War tale about a little boy who runs away from home to join the Union army. This picture sets itself apart from other Civil War pictures with talented performers and intense battle scenes that lend a sense of authenticity to this short film.Continue reading “The Drummer of the 8th (1913) A Silent Film Review”
The mutiny on the Potemkin is dramatized for the screen nearly two decades before the famous Eisenstein picture. The production is French and what it lacks in authentic detail, it more than makes up for with enthusiasm.Continue reading “Revolution in Russia (1905) A Silent Film Review”
A U.S. Army lieutenant stationed at a frontier fort decides to battle his boredom constructively by holding up the stagecoach for a giggle. Things take a serious turn when the stage is held up for real. That’ll teach him.Continue reading “Ranson’s Folly (1926) A Silent Film Review”
Captain Oscar Krug is a German-American taxidermist who has a secret behind his door and the whole gruesome story unspools in this post-WWI film. Nobody involved in the production seemed to understand that the war was over but the shocking content has made this picture a festival staple and a tidy way to prove that the silent era was not all innocence, light and naïve melodrama.Continue reading “Behind the Door (1919) A Silent Film Review”
A group of real soldiers reprise their part in the famous Lost Battalion incident. Added to the mix are fictional characters played by professional actors and together, they try to survive when their battalion is surrounded completely during the First World War.Continue reading “The Lost Battalion (1919) A Silent Film Review”
Mary Pickford plays an Italian woman whose brothers have gone off to fight in World War One. Alone and worries, she discovers a sailor washed up on the shore. He tells her that he is an American and they secretly marry but is her husband really who he claims to be?
Anna Q. Nilsson plays a Northern spy who has been sent to discover the location of the South’s ironclad battleship. Miriam Cooper is the Southern railroad engineer’s daughter who must race to save the ship. Oh, yeah, there’s a guy in it too but he doesn’t do much. American Civil War adventure from Kalem.
Alice Guy directs an espionage romance set and made during the start of the Mexican Revolution. Frances Gibson plays a Mexican woman sent to spy on an American military officer. Will love conquer politics?
Vera Reynolds and Julia Faye are a couple of manicurists who end up going “over there” during the First World War. Naturally, army life is more dangerous than either of them imagined.
We’re back to Ireland but the sweet and innocent romances have been replaced with calls for armed uprising. This mini feature is almost as notable for its backstage drama as it is for its somewhat threadbare story. This was the last stand of the filmmaking team affectionately nicknamed The O’Kalems.
Continue reading “For Ireland’s Sake (1914) A Silent Film Review”
Eleanor Boardman plays a spoiled socialite who volunteers to assist the troops in war torn France. The rigors of war soon toughen her up but there are bigger challenges ahead. When her fiancé turns coward and gets drunk before a big operation, she puts on a uniform and takes his place on the battlefield. Can the society girl survive the horrors or war—or the attentions of Al St. John? Wait, Al St. John?
Continue reading “She Goes to War (1929) A Silent Film Review”
Cecil B. DeMille’s first historical epic takes on the life of Joan of Arc. An intriguing, uneven and thoroughly entertaining spectacle, the films stars operatic soprano Geraldine Farrar as the doomed Maid of Orleans and the tragic Wallace Reid as her chief antagonist and romancer-in-chief. What’s that? The real Joan didn’t have a romancer-in-chief? La la la la, not listening!
Continue reading “Joan the Woman (1916) A Silent Film Review”
Villainy is afoot in ancient Israel, the Assyrians have laid siege to a little mountain town. All seems to be lost. But the Assyrians didn’t count on a young widow named Judith (Blanche Sweet), who wields a mean saber. Will the charms of the enemy general (Henry B. Walthall) derail her plans? Or will our Assyrian lose his head over the comely widow? This is an early feature film and the start of director D.W. Griffith’s big, Big, BIG! period.
Continue reading “Judith of Bethulia (1914) A Silent Film Review”
The oft-filmed tale of an Englishman who is branded a coward and spends the rest of the film proving that he most assuredly is not. This version (released at the height of the sound transition) was one of the very last silent movie hits. It also features William Powell and Fay Wray before they hit the big time and it is directed by a couple of guys mostly known for making a film about a really big ape…
Continue reading “The Four Feathers (1929) A Silent Film Review”
This is the story of five brothers and the woman they… Oh, who am I kidding? There is only one reason people watch this movie and it can be summed up in this little list: Erich von Stroheim + tall window + baby. You do the math. This propaganda rip-off was a smash hit when first released and may or may not have been what launched von Stroheim’s career as a director.
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.
Pola Negri plays a hotel chambermaid who finds herself the accomplice of an Austrian officer trapped behind enemy lines. There are spies, an assassination and much skulking about the corridors of the titular hotel. This was one of the biggest Hollywood hits for both Negri and director Mauritz Stiller.
Continue reading “Hotel Imperial (1927) A Silent Film Review”
Still in his second year of directing, D.W. Griffith delves into the American Revolution in this early Biograph adventure film. An American courier is trying to deliver an important message to General Washington. He seeks refuge with his family but is soon found out and shot. His family must try to deliver his message and save themselves from the licentious Hessians, who include… Mack Sennett?
Continue reading “The Hessian Renegades (1909) A Silent Film Review”
Pola Negri hits it out of the park in this late silent war drama. She is a French farmer whose land is converted into a POW camp during WWI. Her hatred of Germans is slowly melted away by her discovery of common humanity… and by Clive Brook, a handsome prisoner. First class story of love and tolerance.
Continue reading “Barbed Wire (1927) A Silent Film Review”
Mary Pickford joins the war effort in this collaboration with director Cecil B. DeMille. One woman, two armies, oh dear. Pickford plays Angela, an American girl so patriotic that she contrived to be born on Independence Day. However, she is in favor of outsourcing her love life: her two suitors are French and German respectively. But then that pesky war starts, both men are called up to serve and Angela must choose her side.