Silent Films

JunkMonkey

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Not seen it but according to Witchcraft Through the Ages
The Story of Häxan, the World's Strangest Film, and the Man Who Made It
(http://www.fabpress.com/perl/search.pl?CO=FAB078) the film was considered lost but turned up in the 60s and "...still holds up well today. It's extremely entertaining and much more than just another run-of-the-mill haunted house comedy..."
 

Foxbat

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Not seen it but according to Witchcraft Through the Ages
The Story of Häxan, the World's Strangest Film, and the Man Who Made It (http://www.fabpress.com/perl/search.pl?CO=FAB078) the film was considered lost but turned up in the 60s and "...still holds up well today. It's extremely entertaining and much more than just another run-of-the-mill haunted house comedy..."
I have a copy of Haxan and, to be honest, I wasn't all that impressed with it. Granted, I don't have any interest in witchcraft so that may be why I didn't find it as 'epic' as some critics. Others with a particular interest may find it more appealing than I did.

For the the record, I only bought the film partly out of curiousity and partly because it seemed to have some historical significance in silent films.
 

clovis-man

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Thanks for responding guys. But the movie I'm interested in is Seven Footprints To Satan, an adaptation of the novel by A. Merritt. The link in my earlier post was to an eBay auction for a DVD of the film with English subtitles. I believe the original was in Italian. I'm unclear re the actual film makers.
 

Foxbat

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Ah, sorry Clovis. Thought we were talking about Haxan.:eek:
Haven't seen Seven Footprints To Satan so can't help you there.

Edit: I see why Junkmonkey mentioned Haxan. It's by the same director.
 

JunkMonkey

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Sorry for not making myself clear either. The film I was talking about: "turned up in the 60s and ...still holds up well today..." was 7 Footprints to Satan, which was directed by Christensen for First National in the USA - the sixth of seven films he directed (or part directed) in Hollywood.
 

clovis-man

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Sorry for not making myself clear either. The film I was talking about: "turned up in the 60s and ...still holds up well today..." was 7 Footprints to Satan, which was directed by Christensen for First National in the USA - the sixth of seven films he directed (or part directed) in Hollywood.
Okay, JM. Thanks for clearing that up. So it looks like I have at least one indication that it might not stink. :D Wonder if I should PM J.D. about this.
 

j d worthington

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M by Fritz Lang same director as Metropolis.

Fantastic film, while watching it I thought wow! this is the origin of so many tropes.
I agree that M is a fine film (with a superb performance by Peter Lorre)... but it isn't a silent film, which is what the thread is set up to discuss.

C-M: As you know from my response, I've been aware of the film, but never seen it... though I have seen a few of Christensen's other films, and in fact own the silent version of The Mysterious Island (which he partially directed, apparently, though he is uncredited). An odd director, but quite brilliant in his way....

Haxan, by the way, is a film I have mixed feelings about. I liked it better a second time around than the first, but it still seems not quite finished. Some fine stuff there, though....
 

clovis-man

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C-M: As you know from my response, I've been aware of the film, but never seen it... though I have seen a few of Christensen's other films, and in fact own the silent version of The Mysterious Island (which he partially directed, apparently, though he is uncredited). An odd director, but quite brilliant in his way....
Thanks, J.D. I went ahead and ordered a copy of Seven Footprints To Satan. I just hope the transfer is good enough that I can get some sense of how the film really is.
 

Jeffbert

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Haxan, by the way, is a film I have mixed feelings about. I liked it better a second time around than the first, but it still seems not quite finished. Some fine stuff there, though....
I saw HAXAN, interesting stuff. I believe they added sound to it; that is, a version with sound. I had the DVD a while ago, & it had both versions.
 

sooC

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]The Golem[/B], and one of three (if memory serves... the second, I think) which Wegener did on the subject....
I hadn't realised there was more than one. I've seen the one with the Golem and little girl on the cover, loved it, esp the wonky buildings. Think Gaudi must've been a fan too. I'll be looking out some of the films mentioned on this thread. Metropolis left me cold, I'm glad I've seen it for the spectacle of the sets but otherwise not my cup of tea. I enjoyed the last half of Verdens Undergang. I know this might not strictly belong in this thread (apologies for going off-topic earlier) but Un Chien Andalou sticks in my mind. Bunuel is David Lynch's grandpa imo.
 

j d worthington

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Un Chien Andalou... now, it has been a loooong time since I saw that film. A classic example of the importance of how to stage and shot and how editing can completely misdirect an audience.....
 

clovis-man

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Got my DVD copy of Seven Footprints To Satan yesterday and promptly watched it via my PC monitor. That seemed to be the best option since the picture quality was not advertised as all that great (which turned out to be true). So the big screen TV wasn't a good choice. But it was watchable and I could get the flavor of the piece.

Ostensibly a filmic version of A. Merritt's novel of the same name, there are radical departures from the original story, e.g., the character of Satan was mostly absent from the script until the very last scenes. The things that were the same were the confusing intrigues and unfathomable loyalties and vendettas, the plethora of secret passages and locked rooms. Characters (some of which are pretty bizarre) and creatures were popping out of every crevice and alcove of Satan's "house". But in the end, the murderous intent of Satan becomes trivialized. Perhaps that was in tune with the "protestant ethic" message that was perhaps seen as fashionable in 1929, just before the crash. I won't say any more to avoid spoilers.

On the one hand, Creighton Hale, the male lead looked disturbingly like Ralphie from A Christmas Story. On the plus side, I thought the use of disembodied shadows throughout the film was effective and added a degree of menace (like in Bram Stoker's Dracula, decades later). Many shots were of feet and hands so that one has to guess at the identity of their owners. Scene changes were often accomplished by panning upward, revealing an altogether different room/venue. This is another device used by many contemporary filmmakers. An interesting film. Worth it for the A. Merritt completist or student of cinema technique.
 

Foxbat

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A while ago, I picked up a collection of avant garde short films from the twenties and early thirties. I have finally started to watch some of them.

One in particular that I enjoyed was Emak Bakia (apparently Basque for leave me alone). A lot of folk across the web have commented on the artistic merits (or lack of) but, for me, it came across simply as an experiment in different techniques. As an example, one critic claimed that Man Ray (the creator) must have had a foot fetish because of a particular scene - whereas I saw that same scene as simply an exercise in multiple exposures.

Overall, I found it quite hypnotic and (considering the time period when made) often had me asking the question - how the hell did he do that?
 

Ulrich

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"Wunder der Schöpfung" (1925) by Hanns Walter Kornblum and with a lot of special effects. A "documentation" about the natural sciences, mostly about astronomy (comets, the sun and the planets ...). Finally, a starship starts from earth and is flying faster than light. Nebulas and other things are explained. In one scene the crew is visiting a planet with reduced gravity, where they can easily jump around.

The film was released on dvd in 2009.
 

Jeffbert

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WEARY RIVER is a hybrid, with silent parts mixed together with sound parts. It is about a gangster who, after going to prison, becomes a conductor & is pardoned. After his new found career sours when people learn he is a con, he decides to seek his old gang. :cool: It started silent, & continued as such for about 20 minutes. I paused it, went to the kitchen for lunch, & returned, only to find myself confused when it ran with sound. :p
 

Foxbat

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Watched F. W. Murnau's The Haunted Castle last night.
Whilst not spectacular, it is worthy of a viewing and (I believe) is the earliest surviving Murnau film. Also worth noting is that I thought the restoration on this movie was excellent (Kino DVD):)
 

Jesse412

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Recently caught Sparrows on TCM Silent Sunday Night and really enjoyed it. I think William Beaudine did a great job identifying Mr. Grimes as a scoundrel in the first scene and the shots of the swamp were really creepy. While the opening card almost sets the tone of horror and the orphans' situation is certainly dire there's also a lot of genuinely funny scenes. Mary Pickford is immediately endearing. Molly's dream sequence the night the baby died in her arms and the symbolism of Christ taking the child away was both brilliant and touching. The whole escape through the swamp and boat chase sequence is one of the most suspenseful scenes in any silent movie I've ever watched. Right up there with the climax of Metropolis.
 

Jeffbert

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:eek: Where are those other paragraphs, the ones in the email?

Anyway, I agree, Sparrows was very suspenseful. One of my old childhood fears is quicksand, & that film combined quicksand and kids. I found it most unnerving, & even after having viewed it once, I found a second viewing so affected me with tightening stomach muscles, that I just deleted it instead. Oh how I wanted the brat kid to sink! I would have laughed at that! :D
 

Jesse412

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Possibly my favorite silent movie is Fritz Lang's Metropolis. The production quality of this movie is amazing and there is a newly restored version with footage thought lost for decades. Every science fiction fan needs to see this film at least once in their life time.

As a Batman fan naturally I was curious so I decided to watch the silent version of The Mark of Zorro. Its a really fun swashbuckler adventure and I highly recommend checking it out. I also recommend checking out The Dragon Painter. I had a lot of fun watching comedies starring Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin and Laurel & Hardy.

My preference is more the macabre and I think some of the best horror films of all time come from this era. Films like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, F. W. Murnau's Nosferatu, The Hands of Orlac, Haxan, The Phantom Carriage, etc. really capture the mood and atmosphere that is necessary to tell a good scary story. Something many more modern films completely lack.

Way-back in school we were forced to watch Lon Chaney, Sr. in The Hunchback of Notre-Dame by our English professor and at the time I never gave it much thought. In fact I kind of prefer the Charles Laughton version. I still love the way he delivered the line "Sanctuary! Sanctuary!"

It wasn't until I saw Chaney in The Phantom of the Opera that I really started to appreciate these films for great works of art. There is this scene at the masked-ball where the Phantom shows up disguised as Poe's Red-Death. It changes to mostly color and it really blew me away. Since then I've checked out many other Chaney works including The Ace of Hearts, Tod Browning's The Unknown as-well-as going back to re-watch The Huntchback.

In The Unknown Chaney plays a murderer who has two thumbs on one hand. He poses as a man with no arms, joins a carnival as a knife thrower and falls in love with a girl there. Its really creepy and easily one of my top 3 favorite Tod Browning films.

The Monster has everything a B-movie should have including a charismatic villain with creepy henchmen and an atmospheric setting. I especially love the fact that the lead character is not a typical hero type. Instead he is a bumbling detective who literally gets his badge, gun and diploma through the mail at the beginning of the film. Chaney plays Dr. Ziska a mad scientist who performs ghastly experiments at an abandoned sanitarium and it's up to our would-be detective Johnny Goodlittle to stop him. It is fun, suspenseful, with a great use of mood and irony.

The Black Bird features the combination of Tod Browning and Lon Chaney and is not to be missed. Chaney's character is a notorious thief called The Blackbird who pretends to be his twin, a crippled missionary known as The Bishop. Not the first time I've seen him play a character with a secondary identity, which he does brilliantly in this film. The supporting cast really shine in this movie especially Renée Adorée and Owen Moore who play The Blackbird's love interest and rival, respectively. Great ending and a really beautiful score by Robert Israel.

The Unholy Three not only stars Chaney but it also features Harry Earles from Tod Browning's Freaks. Seeing one dressed in drag and the other dressed up as a baby is pretty funny. I nearly died of laughter seeing Earles with a cigar in his mouth wearing a toy fireman's helmet. I swear he had to be the inspiration for the Baby Herman character from Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Browning really nails the suspense throughout the movie especially in the toy elephant scene. The camera trick used during the "ape" scene at the end seems almost revolutionary for the time period. Great reveal during the courtroom confession and a happy ending of sorts. While it's not my favorite Browning film it's certainly an entertaining story and worth checking out if you're a fan of either Chaney or Browning.
 
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