What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

Open, general discussion of silent films, personalities and history.
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Mike Gebert

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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostThu Oct 12, 2017 2:58 pm

Another treasure from YT


It's really kind of awful to hear Milestone's edition, for which they paid Robert Israel to do that score, referred to as "another treasure from YouTube."

I know sometimes it's the only way to see things, or to see them without great effort. But there are real producers, some of whom participate here, behind these releases. And none of them are YouTube.
“Sentimentality is when it doesn't come off—when it does, you get a true expression of life's sorrows.” —Alain-Fournier
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earlytalkiebuffRob

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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostFri Oct 13, 2017 1:57 pm

THE TANGO CAVALIER (1923) is an inexpensive-looking movie about a mysterious Spaniard (George Larkin) who turns up at an out-of-the-way place on Mardi Gras night near the Mexican border and is almost immediately called in to replace a sick dancer. His new dancing partner is also involved with a band of crooks who aim to use Larkin's flying skills for smuggling mysterious packages across the border. At the same time a romance develops between him and the daughter (Dorris Dare, who died shockingly young four years later) of a rancher. Throw in a couple of dashes of jealousy and there you have it, more or less.

The film-making here is very rough-and-ready, as is the print. However, a lively accompaniment and a reasonable pace makes the whole thing quite an agreeable way of spending an hour or so, if one doesn't object to the film being rather daffy.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostFri Oct 13, 2017 2:32 pm

It is not too often that one sees a film that is near to being perfect but that is the impression I took away with me after viewing "Underground" (1928).

In a beautifully restored print, "Underground" tells, essentially, the story of two men in love with the same girl. One would think a rather simple tale, but it is embellished by its setting, because the director, Anthony Asquith, has used the crowded metropolis of London as the background. The first scene shows the girl meeting one of her suitors on a London Underground train. This is a remarkable study in people's reactions to each other. Asquith was as astute an observer of everyday life as was Jacques Tati.

As the story progresses we are treated to some wonderful cinematography, much attention to detail, clever use of shadows, interesting camera angles, skilfull editing, peerless acting and subtle insertions of humour in an overall dramatic story. Another interesting point is that intertitles are used sparingly, Asquith essentially uses the camera to tell the story.

As the love story progresses, it becomes more and more dramatic and overtones of the sinister slowly manifest themselves. The climax builds gradually and takes its audience with it on the edge of their seats. It is quite powerful stuff. Finally, we are back on a tube train again in a beautifully choreographed ending which is a cinematic highlight.

The list of players is small and they contrast well against the teaming multitudes. The men are played by Brian Aherne and Cyril McLaglen (Brother to Victor) and the girls are played by Elissa Landi and Norah Baring. I should also give a commendation to the young girl who plays a barmaid in a couple of the scenes. She is able to convey indifference and boredom in her job with absolute realism. Her small role is one of the many highlights in this film where nothing much has been overlooked.

Half of the appreciation of a silent picture is the music that goes with it and I must say that the accompaniment scored by Neil Brand and provided by the B.B.C. Symphony orchestra is a superb achievement. It is delicate where it needs to be and raises itself to stirring crescendos during the dramatic scenes - but no-where is it ever intrusive.

I could not recommend this picture more highly. It should be on any list of classic film.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostFri Oct 13, 2017 3:03 pm

Svärmor på vift (1916), which is to say Mother-in-Law Whirls About, more or less, or maybe Mother-in-Law Blows In, but also translated as Mother-in-Law on the Loose. Charming Swedish short directed by Georg af Klercker depicting stresses on a doctor's household when the in-laws come to visit. The relationship between the doctor (a zesty Nils Chrisander) and his wife (a beautiful Maja Cassel) is delightfully sexy and sweet--we first meet them in pajamas in their bedroom (um, they are in pjs, not us). Matters come to a head at a costume party. All actors inhabit their roles, the acting is refreshingly naturalistic rather than "theatrical," and this unpretentious show really is a delight to see.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostSat Oct 14, 2017 12:48 pm

I had come across the Italian movie ROTAIE / RAILS (1929) in one of my reference books, but had no idea of its availability. Despite the odd difficulty with the titles, it is indeed a remarkable and intense piece of film making. It opens with a young couple entering a run-down hotel. There is clearly something wrong, and the man puts something in a glass of water (abortion? suicide?). The vibrations from a passing train knocks the glass off the table and they leave, heading to the station. A man drops his bulging wallet and the young fellow picks it up, but is too slow to return it. What to do? Off to the Riviera / Monte Carlo and the 'high life'...

Simply told, and engrossing, this is a story of disillusionment, with ironic commentary on the 'high life' some of the characters lead and others aspire to. Non-familiarity with the leading players helps, and we are shown the attraction and falsity of what the Riviera has to offer as well as a positive attitude to the honest working man as opposed to the parasites and lounge lizards who take advantage of the vulnerable. Silent with an added music and effects track.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostMon Oct 16, 2017 1:45 pm

The Japanese were still making silents as late as the mid-1930s, and TOKYO HERO (1935) is a very good one indeed. It tells of a young lad brought up by his father and his maid until the father decides to marry a lady with two children. There are difficulties at first, then there are problems with the father's business which has left many people hard up and his family in the lurch, as they have no idea where he has gone.

The wife brings up all three children, but the only work she can get is in a bar catering to businessmen. She keeps this a secret from the children, but the truth starts to leak out, causing all kinds of upset and the splitting up of the family owing to Society's prejudices and hypocrisies. The adopted son stays loyal, understanding why his mother took such drastic and unpleasant steps to keep the family together.

Silent, with a music track, TOKYO HERO has enough plot for a much longer film, and is continuously interesting and moving at times. The disappearance of the father early on is rather a shock, and it is only later that we find out what lies beneath the veneer of a hardworking businessman, although there is a brief clue at the beginning.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostMon Oct 16, 2017 7:58 pm

What a marvelous adventure "Peter Pan" (1924) is! I can imagine that children today would still find it completely enchanting and captivating. It is also good that Paramount accepted Sir James Barrie's conditions regarding having his successful stage play photographed. The only thing that was changed was that the Darling family are now situated in the United States - which is I suppose understandable even though it looks rather incongruous. All the intertitles are from the original play - and further it was Sir James who chose Betty Bronson to play the lead. He noted that she had had a background in ballet with the Fokine company and thought it would be of some assistance.

The presentation of the film lends a lot to the tradition of pantomime as performed in English theatres from Christmas through to Easter, although it is not strictly so. Perhaps the pretend dog is what got me thinking in that direction? "Nana" is quite convincingly played by George Ali who made a career out of acting as animals in stage productions and later in films.

Gladly the film does not go overboard on special effects and thus uses them sparingly. The "flying" of the children is restrained and we only get glimpses of them doing so. Enough to cover the effect. "Tinkerbell" (Virginia Brown Faire) too is effectively presented.

Who else should have played that arch-villain, Captain Hook, other than Ernest Torrence? His villain is all manner of personalities. He is malevolent to men, but courtly to women. He struts with magnificent arrogance and threatening gestures - yet he is a whimpering wreck of a man at times - particularly when he thinks crocodiles may be in his vicinity. Mr. Torrence is elegant and obviously relishing every moment of his performance.

Betty Bronson is captivatingly convincing as Peter Pan. She displays at times a little naivety and certainly adds a great deal of sparkle in her performance overall.

A lot of the beginning of the picture is given over to scenes in the Darling nursery and it is only towards the middle of the picture that we are transported to the Never Never land. Esther Ralston plays Mrs. Darling even though she would probably have only been a few years older than Betty Bronson; and Cyril Chadwick is Mr. Darling. (He seems to have slowly drifted out of pictures, making a couple in 1933 then his last in 1938). The children are Mary Brian as Wendy, Jack Murphy as John and Philippe De Lacy as Michael. The younger ones display the necessary level of cuteness.

Edward Smith in his capacity as Settings Director has contrasted the near realism of the nursery setting to the make believe of the Never Never land scenes which look more akin to stage sets than they do to a degree of reality. However in the way of "The Wizard of Oz's" "Land of Oz" - it is all appropriate.

The print I looked at was in pristine condition. I believe the film was thought lost for many years and it was therefore a terrific stroke of luck that what was eventually found was in such good condition. The enjoyment of the picture was also made that much more so by the carefully composed accompaniment Philip Carli gives leading an orchestra of twenty players.

This is a charming entertainment. Adults can let go of being adult for an hour and a half and give sway to the child within them. Finally, there is another harkening towards a pantomime performance in that Peter Pan approaches the audience at a time when poor Tinkerbell is in a parlous state and needs help. He appeals to the audience that they can help her recover by signifying their belief in faeries by clapping their hands. I did - very loudly.
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Donald Binks

"I was in love with a beautiful blonde one time. She led me to drink. It's the only thing I'm thankful to her for."
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostMon Oct 16, 2017 9:05 pm

It is indeed a charming film, and one dear to me.

I have to admit, though, that I disagree about the Stage feeling, and lack of utilization of the best Film effects of the time.

I believe it is in one of Ivan Butler's books (or perhaps Kevin Brownlow's?) that the author begins a chapter describing this Silent PETER PAN as if it had been done with THIEF OF BAGDAD-level expertise...

... and then tells us that, alas, that wasn't done in actuality!

By this point in movie history, the camera could have done MORE justice to Barrie's fantasy, than any play. I still love the film, but I think that on that level, it was a missed bet.

-Craig
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Javier

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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostMon Oct 16, 2017 10:51 pm

Peter Pan is a wonderful film.
In the Book, Seductive Cinema:The Art Of Silent Film by James Card, he describes in detail about how he came to rediscover a print of Peter Pan.
Very charming film indeed, and I too still clap for Tinker Bell every time I watch it.
"it's a Kafka high, you feel like a bug"
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