Generally speaking, I aim for about 1,000 to 2,000 words with most film reviews but there are times when I like to take things to the next level. Today, I’ll be sharing five reviews that involved hitting the books, busting some myths and generally going above and beyond.
Michael Strogoff (1926)
Burning Question: What’s Michael Stroganoff?
One of the best silent epics that nobody’s ever heard of, this 1926 French production borrowed the army of Latvia to replicate Russia. The adaptation of the original Jules Verne novel was so good that scenes were lifted wholesale for MGM’s The Cossacks (1928). I dig into the film to explain its history and appeal as a buried treasure of the silent era.
(The film does not yet have an official home video release.)
The Captive (1915)
Burning Question: Did Cecil B. DeMille order his extras to use live ammunition? Did someone really die on the set of this movie?
I unravel a semi-scholarly game of telephone to discover what really happened on that fateful day in 1915 when an on-set accident led to a fatality. The story of DeMille substituting live bullets for blanks has been repeated and repeated (including this ridiculous listicle and, no I did not give them permission to use the screenshot). I dig for the truth.
Mabel at the Wheel (1914)
Burning Question: Was Mabel Normand really a rotten director who was put in her place by Charlie Chaplin?
The 1992 Chaplin biopic treats Mabel Normand like a talentless loser who dares to direct the great Chaplin and is put in her place. The source for this is Chaplin’s own autobiography but hardly anybody bothered to think about Normand’s side of the story. I don’t think it ever occurred to them that she HAD a side. Well, I take up the cause and mount a spirited defense.
The Forty-First (1927)
Burning Question: Why would a Soviet film be about Soviet things?
People writing about Soviet films are often just shocked, shocked I tell you, to discover that they reflect Russian attitudes and are quite un-American. This mid-century naivete has marred many a film review so I set out to explore a double bill of Russian woman sniper films with an open mind.
(No official home video release yet.)
Burning Question: HOW????
The deepest of all my deep dives, thousands and thousands of words covering the behind-the-scenes drama of the most epic epic film of the entire silent era. It took months to research but I’m pretty proud of it.
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