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Found 7 results

  1. Let me get this out the way: I don't care how important, influential, or historic "Nosferatu" is - it's boring as *hell*. Before you commit to watching this legendary 1922 German horror classic, be aware that the original soundtrack has been lost, and that there are several different versions out there. Also, there is enormous variation in quality between prints - I watched one that was in extremely poor condition; some of them are digitized and even partly colorized, and I'm pretty sure watching a better print will help to ease the pain. Rather than throw grenades at this undeniably important work, I'll just say that it is a "must" for serious students of film, particularly German Expressionism (see also the thread about "From Caligari to Hitler"). In terms of entertainment value, it's akin to reading "Gulliver's Travels" or "The Prince." One thing I learned was just how much homage was paid to "Nosferatu" in the 1985 vampire film, "Fright Night." I could rattle off no less than a half-dozen direct parallels between the two seemingly distantly related films, from the way the vampire rose straight up from his coffin, to him ultimately being slain by the powers of a pure woman at dawn - there is no question that the creators of "Fright Night" were paying clear and direct tribute to "Nosferatu." Also no question that watching "Nosferatu" (I recommend afterwards) will give you both greater respect for "Fright Night," and a better awareness of the importance of "Nosferatu." It is late in the evening, and I am so utterly *sick* of this 90-minute film that I'm going to cut this posting short, but for the three members of this website that might have seen it sometime in the past, I'd be delighted to discuss this influential classic with you. I can't recommend it as "a good time," but I can recommend it as "an educational experience." Here is a much, *much* more valuable and thoughtful review by the great Roger Ebert, much of which I'll agree with ... tomorrow: Sep 28, 1997 - "Nosferatu" by Roger Ebert on rogerebert.com Aug 18, 2016 - "11 Nightmarish Facts about Nosferatu" by Mark Mancini on mentalfloss.com
  2. If you've ever wondered what the oldest film in the world is, as far as anyone knows, it's the two-second clip known as "Roundhay Garden Scene," filmed by French inventor Louis Le Prince. Click on the title, and the film - which you'll miss if you blink - is on the top-right of the Wikipedia page. There's also a wealth of information there - the film was shot in Leeds, in the West Riding of Yorkshire, England.
  3. There are three versions to the 1895 documentary, "La Sortie de l'Usine Lumière à Lyon," which has a running time of about one minute: The versions are referred to as, "One Horse," "Two Horses," and "No Horse" - it will be obvious why when you see them. All three can be viewed right here on Vimeo. Admittedly not much of a plot. It is not impossible that, if Jeanne Calment was born on the day this film was released, she still might have been alive this very day (Jeanne Calment remembered meeting Vincent Van Gogh!)
  4. I have such mixed feelings about this film. I am glad I watched it. "The Birth of a Nation" is a well made, sweeping tale of the Civil War and the Reconstruction era that followed. It is beautfully shot and well acted. The battle scenes are compelling and well constructed. It is also the most racist thing I have ever seen. No book, film, television show or any other form of entertainment I have witnessed comes close to this level of racism. The film is three hours long, and it is divided into two sections. The first part ends with the assasination of President Lincoln. There is racism in the first half, including white actors in blackface portraying black characters, but it is the second half that takes the film's racism to unbelievable levels. I think it is important to see this film to realize how far America has come in race relations, and to contemplate how far we still need to go. Simply refusing to see a film such as this because of the blatant racism is denying this part of our history. Yes, it is an ugly part of American history, but racism existed, and still exists, and this movie brings home that message in a way that will make comtemporary viewers squirm. Roger Ebert wrote an excellent review of the film. In it, he compares "The Birth of a Nation," to another D.W. Griffith film, also starring Lillian Gish, called "Broken Blossoms." Ebert prefers the latter, which prompted me to watch two silent films from the early 1900s on the same night. I also preferred "Broken Blossoms," and highly recommend seeing it. And I recommend watching "The Birth of a Nation" as well. It was the first film screened at the White House, by President Woodrow Wilson. It is historically significant. It is also downright difficult to watch at times, particularly because D.W. Griffith did not see himself as a racist, and sadly, neither did the American moviegoers who embraced this film and its message in 1915.
  5. "The Lodger - a Story of the London Fog" (1927) is the first silent Hitchcock I've seen - I saw it because I heard him describing some of his techniques in an interview. I've read that Hitchcock had a "thing" for blondes, and was sort of (I don't want to misquote, because I don't exactly remember) "kinky-dominant" - if true, that trait comes right out at the beginning of "The Lodger," as a murderer known as "The Avenger" kills only young blondes, and only on Tuesday evenings. At around the 4:27 mark, when the word "MUR DER" is alternating in color between blue and white (I'm watching the film on YouTube, as shown below), the piercing music sounds very related to the opening theme of "Psycho" - clearly it was influenced by this, at least partially, although I have *no* idea if this is the original score - it sounds awfully modern. As a side note, it's remarkable how modern silent films can seem when they've been digitally renovated - with the use of color filters, and modern music (this may or may not be modern music), it's not much more of a "foreign experience" than watching a "foreign film with subtitles," and (as you'll see if you watch the film below) really feels almost contemporary to today. If this is the original score, then it's really compelling - the part where the lodger asks to have the photos removed is accompanied by a sort-of hybrid between Ravel's Bolero and Rimsky-Korsakov's Scherazade - it's definitely an "Arabian" theme, and seems to get more intense as time goes by. However, at the 23-minute mark, it becomes acutely, painfully obvious that this is a modern score, and while this score may appeal to a younger generation, opening up access to this classic suspense-thriller to a certain segment of a younger audience who might not finish it otherwise, it probably repels more viewers than it reels in. The comments in the YouTube video (below) reveal a depth of scorn for this particular moment that is almost universal. The score was okay, even powerful and very good, up until this point; but this is where it really jumped the shark. And my goodness, 27-minutes into the movie, and we're suffering through the same music. Let it end, please. One night, near midnight, the landlord, Mrs Bunting, is awakened by the sound of the lodger descending the stairs, and it's a Tuesday night. I saw an interview with Hitchcock where he said he used the lodger's hand on the rail to show that he was descending the staircase (it's shot from a high, top angle), and with sound, he would have probably chosen to use the sounds of footsteps instead. He went on to say that he favored color over black and white - this was a confident director who did not resist change; he embraced it, and went with it. There was one scene, lasting only a few seconds, that showed the lodger pacing back-and-forth, and the landlords down below, looking up at the ceiling, hearing the pacing. Hitchcock had a glass floor constructed so the viewer can "see" what they were "hearing." This near-obsessive level to detail is the difference between good and great. The landlord family begins to strongly suspect - and for good reason - that the lodger is The Avenger, and is terrified that he is forming a romance with their daughter, Daisy. The next Tuesday night, the lodger and Daisy sneak away on an unannounced date - of course, this *had* to be on a Tuesday. The entire family is thrown into a panic. Joe, Daisy's ex-boyfriend who cared for her *much* more than she cared for him, hunted them down, and confronted the lodger. This backfired in more ways than one, as we would soon find out. Joe, officially assigned to investigate The Avenger, shows up with two police officers and a search warrant, and goes through the lodger's room, including a locked cabinet. When they find a bag, filled with incriminating evidence, things go from bad to worse, and the lodger escapes, with handcuffs on. He ominously tells Daisy to meet him under "the lamp." Several minutes later, Daisy sneaks out to meet him, and the terrified family realizes she's gone. The lodger had an alibi, but people refused to believe it, and he was in big, big trouble - especially as a mob of people went after him, and he became stuck on an iron fence in his handcuffs, getting beaten. For the proper ending, it's best if you watch the film for yourself. I loved this movie, and in many ways it showed an immature Hitchcock, who, in my eyes, is an immature genius. Why this film isn't more famous is beyond me, and I'm *so* glad I saw it. Yes, it's somewhat straightforward, in Hitchcock terms, but it's still a great movie. I would *love* to hear some opinions of others who have seen this film. It's probably available with the original score, but if you can tolerate the periods of modern music, this version is not bad at all. And it's free!
  6. I always had a crush on Clara Bow (until I saw her first "talkie"), the "It" Girl, who starred in a film pretty much named after her: "It", a silent film from 1927 (note that Bow also starred in the very 1st Academy Award Winner for Best Picture: "Wings" (also from 1927) - which I've seen twice now, and highly recommend despite its length) - the action scenes in the air are really quite something, and not just for students of film. One funny thing I noticed this evening was in a clip from "It": and I wonder if it's possible that this is the first time anyone ever cursed on the big screen. I'm not sure, but I think maybe. In the very good article, "Scandals of Hollywood: Clara Bow, "˜It' Girl" by Anne Helen Peterson on thehairpin.com, there's a clip about 25% of the way down the page entitled "Clara Bow Dresses For Dinner." At exactly 3:15 in the clip, she gets poked in the shoulder with a pair of scissors, and then, after bouncing up and down a couple times, turns to her right, and seems to say, "Shit!" to the girl who poked her. It's subtle, and you have to watch it a few times in slow motion, but if true (and I think it is), it makes cinematic history for the first time a curse word was captured on screen. At the very least, it makes for a good urban legend. Not to mention that Clara could then be (amiably) called the "Shit Girl." (Readers: I don't care if you reproduce this little mini-scandal - just please link to this post and give me credit for finding it. And if you want to know how I did ... it's probably exactly what I would have said, so that's why I noticed! Cheers, Don Rockwell). Update: I also found the use of profanity in "Wings" (also from 1927). So, whichever one was released first takes home the prize!
  7. The reviews I've read about "Wings" (1927) justifiably rave about the air sequences, many of which were filmed from *above*. I've now seen this film three times, and I just cannot agree with the critics who dismiss the "land plot" as being maudlin - critics are looking at this groundbreaking motion picture through a modern lens. Yes, it's all been done now thousands of times, but I'd love to transport myself back, 87 years ago, and view the thrill of the audiences watching this motion picture marvel. See the restored 2012 version if you can, unless you're an absolute purist who must listen to Bach's keyboard works only on harpsichord. There are two reasons I've seen this three times: one is my OCD which compels me to watch, in sequence, every single Academy Award winning film (even though the awards themselves mean virtually nothing to me now); the other is that it's just a great movie. A true epic that has it all, and despite its nearly two-and-a-half-hour length, isn't the least bit boring despite being silent - I would advise making it a two-day project unless you're known for patience. It's a misprint to say this movie "stars" Gary Cooper, as he appears on screen for less than three minutes, but you can tell that he has quite a screen presence, even from this tiny sample. Despite Clara Bow's fame, she adds very little to this film except for star power (she was the biggest star in Hollywood at the time), and in fact, my favorite character is a relatively minor contra-antagonist: the German flying ace Count von Kellerman, who only appears in two extremely short scenes - less than a minute each - and yet embodies everything about human decency, chivalry, and respect - this, despite him being a portrait of Manfred von Richthofen (the Red Baron). It was an incredibly bold, sympathetic portrayal of a man many Americans at the time still detested (after all, the war ended less than ten years before, and von Richthofen registered over eighty (!) kills). Watch it and you'll see what I mean (and if anyone wants to make a case for Richard Arlen being the true star of the movie, you'll get absolutely no argument from me).
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