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

Open, general discussion of silent films, personalities and history.
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Big Silent Fan

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

PostThu Mar 16, 2017 1:24 pm

wich2 wrote:I'd never seen von Sternberg's DOCKS OF NEW YORK, though I recall it being highly spoken of...


A few years back, composer Robert Israel declared "Docks of New York" a "Masterpiece" after he created a new score for the latest release.

I've only seen it with the organ score, but remember thinking it was a worthwhile film. A bit too gritty for me, but I still enjoyed it.
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Danny Burk

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

PostThu Mar 16, 2017 2:44 pm

wich2 wrote:Now, to catch up with THE DRAG NET and UNDERWORLD.

-Craig


I'm afraid you'll have a hard time catching up with THE DRAG NET, since it's one of the lost von Sternbergs.

DOCKS is a masterpiece, however. If only CASE OF LENA SMITH had survived beyond the 3-minute fragment...
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostThu Mar 16, 2017 3:23 pm

wich2 wrote:I'd never seen von Sternberg's DOCKS OF NEW YORK, though I recall it being highly spoken of as far back as in the estimable TWENTIES installment of the pb "International Film Guide Series." This weekend, I came it across by accident on one of the NYC Digital channels.

The Wife and I both liked it very much. Beautifully shot - but not in a way that undercut the grit of the setting & story. Well acted, especially by Compson and Baclanova (Bancroft teetered on the edge of Popeye...) A moving, memorable tale, well told.

Now, to catch up with THE DRAG NET and UNDERWORLD.

-Craig


In 'Seductive Cinema' James Card describes accompanying the sole surviving copy of DOCKS to Paris. This seems a trifle risky, to say the least, unless there was a negative still at Eastman House. Even so, it still seems a bit unlikely that he would chance it to the hazards of a sea voyage...
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Donald Binks

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

PostThu Mar 16, 2017 4:48 pm

I had seen "Champagne" (1928) about 10-15 years back in a rather murky, battered old print and this condition probably influenced my opinion of the picture. I re-visited it yesterday and even though I had a vague recollection here and there of some scenes, there was a sufficient time interval intervening for me to be able to look at it again without total recall. I must say that I witnessed a beautifully restored and pristine print and I quite enjoyed the re-acquaintance.

There's nothing much to the story; it is the embellishment by way of photography and treatment that broadens out what little there is. Alfred Hitchcock was the director and he made use of some interesting camera angles and was also already showing signs of menace in the way he photographed the "Boulevardier", evidenced by those looks of nefarious intention.

The cast is interesting in that only the four main players were given any credits in the titles. Two of them were English - Betty Balfour and Gordon Hawker. The other two were foreign - Jean Bradin, French, and Ferdinand, Baron von Lamezan auf Altenhofen, German, born in Russia.

Image

Betty Balfour was certainly no glamour puss, but she had a grounding in the Music Halls and was more of a comedienne, thus she was able to bring a certain vitality to the film in her portrayal of a rich feminine flapper, a Queen of the Jazz Age, shimmering in a shimmy and able to show off a frock. Jean Bradin was apparently a French matinee idol and Ferdinand von Alten (as he was billed) made a presence in German cinema before pneumonia whisked him off at an early age in 1933. Gordon Hawker seemed to me to pop up in nearly every British picture of the 1930's, so much so, that one became sick of seeing him.

In brief, the story revolves around a spoiled little rich girl, whose father plays a trick on her to bring her to her senses.

We open with one of her extravagances - taking a seaplane out to land on the ocean next to an ocean liner which she is to board as a passenger. With such a flawless copy, one was able to notice some things that perhaps one was not supposed to notice – such as the painted backdrop representing the ocean on scenes at sea. The fact too that the aeroplane landed on the water and the boat meeting it - were obviously a scenes photographed in the studio. One could sense that there was a man just out of frame throwing water out of a bucket now and then for added authenticity. That is not to spoil the enjoyment though.

My friend in America said that when he looked at this picture he could sense that some of the scenes were running too fast and that the movement appeared unnatural and at times blurred. Maybe it's me and my shoddy eyesight, but I didn’t notice anything wrong with the speed. It all looked natural to me – except perhaps for just a few brief scenes when the camera was under-cranked for effect. (I suppose directors did this on some scenes such as people walking across railway concourses or on busy streets in order to emphasis the hurly-burly)?

There is a wonder art-deco night club scene in the picture, lorded over by a Maitre d'Hotel beautifully played by Marcel Vibert (but un-credited). I liked all the scenes depicted here – particularly those showing couples on the dance floor jigging about. There wasn’t much room to maneuver and I found it all quite hilarious.

What one can say in summing up this picture is that in the hands of someone other than a director of the calibre of Hitchcock, the film would have ended up as a forgettable bit of tripe on a par with a lot of those drawing room romance type things that flounder about. Hitchcock has managed to get good performances out of everybody, present us with some novel photographic effects and to also sweep the camera through some interesting panoramas.

If I only have one complaint it would be that the titles were not afforded the same restoration as the rest of the film, which I must say is in absolute pristine condition and a pleasure to look at.

The accompaniment was by way of a solo piano - and I don;t know who the pianist was - but he /she has done a sterling job.
Regards from
Donald Binks

"I tawt I taw a Pooty Tat. I did! I did taw a Pooty Tat!
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostThu Mar 16, 2017 5:27 pm

Danny Burk wrote:I'm afraid you'll have a hard time catching up with THE DRAG NET, since it's one of the lost von Sternbergs.


Alas, yes.

I wondered who'd be the first to cite that - and MAYBE, to announce that some material on it had recently turned up!

(We live in hope. And having lived to see Edison's FRANKENSTEIN and Gillette's HOLMES, I still have some...)

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

PostThu Mar 16, 2017 6:40 pm

When a crowdfunding campaign opened for Frank Borzage's The Pride of Palomar (1922) under the aegis of Truefilm, I was very happy to kick my money in for a dvd. Borzage's work can be described as Magical Realism, a special world in which nothing is impossible, especially in the face of love.

The dvd just arrived. I wasted no time in watching it. There is nothing in it, alas, that smacked of Borzage's great works, but it proved to be a fine A Western with a lovely score compiled, orchestrated and conducted by David L. Gill.

Forrest Stanley returns to his family's ranch at El Palomar. His father has died and there is a huge mortgage on the land, held by Eastern banker Alfred Allen, who intends to improve the land and sell it to Warner Oland -- playing a Japanese agent -- who will sell it to Japanese farmers. Because Stanley is a returning veteran, he has a year to pay off the mortgage. Allen and Oland fight him: Allen fairly, Oland vilely. Stanley has the support of all the locals and Allen's daughter, Marjorie Daw.

The movie is full of exciting scenes, great photography and much good humor. It is blighted to the modern viewer because of its racism. Four years earlier, Japan was an ally during the First World War and many a spy thriller had a Japanese agent fighting the good fight, but times had changed, and this movie reflects that the Yellow Peril was again something to be feared.

Even if this is not a perfect film, it is a very good one and an important revival in the works of an important director. It is worth the time of anyone who wishes to see as much of Borzage's work as possible.

Let's hope that the next time the folks at Truefilm run a campaign to restore a film, they remember to let us know at Nitrateville. They certainly have expressed their thanks, both here and in the credits section at the end of the movie.

Bob
Film is not the art of scholars, but of illiterates.

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

PostFri Mar 17, 2017 7:08 pm

Donald Binks wrote:Betty Balfour was certainly no glamour puss, but she had a grounding in the Music Halls and was more of a comedienne, thus she was able to bring a certain vitality to the film in her portrayal of a rich feminine flapper, a Queen of the Jazz Age, shimmering in a shimmy and able to show off a frock.


Hitchcock's Champagne.
What made Betty Balfour a perfect choice was her eyes. I think it's the vitality she brought to the part.
Somehow, she could make them look larger than life (think 'Betty Boop' eyes"), yet other times, they seemed normal size.

You cannot help noticing since her face appears throughout the entire film.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostFri Mar 17, 2017 7:54 pm

boblipton wrote:When a crowdfunding campaign opened for Frank Borzage's The Pride of Palomar (1922) under the aegis of Truefilm, I was very happy to kick my money in for a dvd. Borzage's work can be described as Magical Realism, a special world in which nothing is impossible, especially in the face of love.

The dvd just arrived. I wasted no time in watching it. There is nothing in it, alas, that smacked of Borzage's great works, but it proved to be a fine A Western with a lovely score compiled, orchestrated and conducted by David L. Gill.


My copy arrived as well. The wife and I went out tonight to Bible Study but I'm hoping this weekend I'll get a chance to watch it. I did spot check it and it looks and sounds great!
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostFri Mar 17, 2017 8:06 pm

ALL DOLLED UP (1921)

Restored, trying to reconstruct lost scenes, by myself.

https://mega.nz/#!BYoWCZRY!0euYUV0Lb4_y ... yb8fqmDhmA
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostSun Mar 19, 2017 6:36 pm

Recovering from a 10 hour drive yesterday I knew it was going to be heavy on the couch time today so I decided it was finally the moment to have a go at the new Napoleon BFI restoration. I hadn't seen it since the original Coppola screening at the LA Shrine and I realize now that all I remember was the overall experience and not a frame of the movie. Needless to say, it's magnificent. My only confusion was about the Violine subplot that seemed undeveloped - I suspect the issue is my lack of familiarity with the underlying story or maybe those are parts that are still missing. Hardly a quibble though.

One thought did occur to me - some of the fancier editing sequences reminded me of some scenes in A Clockwork Orange. I wonder if Kubrick, who reportedly had worked on his own Napoleon film for years, had any exposure to Gance's film or if it was more rooted in the underlying Eisenstein?

An astonishing achievement from the original production to the restoration and score.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostSat Mar 25, 2017 5:41 pm

The first time I saw Flesh and the Devil was a memorable experience. The screening took place thirty years ago at Radio City Music Hall, part of a program of four silent features shown over a period of four days, accompanied by an orchestra conducted by Carl Davis. (The other films were The Wind, The Big Parade, and The Thief of Bagdad, not a half bad lineup!) But although I’ve revisited the other three films occasionally in the years since, somehow I didn’t take another look at the first Gilbert-Garbo collaboration until one evening last week. There was a late winter snowstorm here, and it seemed like just the thing to watch with the Missus. And besides, she’d never seen it.

I’d forgotten how good it is. The basic romantic triangle story-line is simple, and not especially memorable—well, except for the shock ending—but the cinematography of William Daniels is exceptional, and the intense performances of the two leads elevate the material into something special. Clarence Brown’s direction is also more stylized than I’d remembered. There are moments, especially the duel sequence early on, that look like something out of the German Expressionist classics. And there are a number of scenes which use the familiar “glass shot” device, where the actors play a scene in long-shot under a mask across the top of the image, illustrated with an elaborate design; a castle for instance, or a village, or heavy storm clouds. To our eyes the effect is obvious, but charming. (At one point my wife said: “This is almost like watching an animated film!”)

It’s well known that Gilbert and Garbo were in the midst of a heated affair when this movie was made, and their genuine fondness for one another certainly shows. (Sad how it all turned out, of course.) No one else in the cast makes much of an impression. Lars Hansen comes off better elsewhere, and while Barbara Kent is cute, she doesn’t stand much of a chance alongside Garbo at her peak. My only criticism is that, considering the slightness of the story, Flesh and the Devil is quite long. We were never bored, yet towards the end we began to wonder out loud when they were going to wrap it up. But needless to add—and I won’t commit a “spoiler” here for anyone who hasn’t seen it—that bizarre finale is unforgettable.
-- Charlie Morrow
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostSat Mar 25, 2017 6:06 pm

Wm. Charles Morrow wrote:The first time I saw Flesh and the Devil was a memorable experience.

I’d forgotten how good it is. The basic romantic triangle story-line is simple, and not especially memorable—well, except for the shock ending— Clarence Brown’s direction is also more stylized than I’d remembered.
But needless to add—and I won’t commit a “spoiler” here for anyone who hasn’t seen it—that bizarre finale is unforgettable.


No 'spoiler' here too.
Like you, I thought the shocking ending was pure genius, and imagined to myself what it was like watching in a theatre back when all films were Silent. Yes, it was a long running film and I imagine they were thinking the film will soon end. Everyone surely thought they knew how the film would end. What a surprise it must have been.

An even bigger surprise for me was to read Clarence Brown talking about the ending in Kevin Brownlow's "The Parade's Gone By..."

Not what I expected.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostSun Mar 26, 2017 7:57 pm

As we're nearing the centennial of the US entry into the Great War, I've been on a sort of kick with learning about it. On YouTube there is a fantastic channel which chronicles the Great War week by week 100 years after it happened. I've actually been following it since the beginning and let me tell you; it's highly polished stuff.

Anyway, a lot of silent films were made about the War so I decided to choose one of the more overlooked ones (at least by modern audiences.) Thomas Ince's Civilization.

The film came out in 1916 so it was when America was still a neutral nation (though that was strained at times.) Ince took the moral high ground and raised it even higher than one could imagine. When you have Jesus Christ Himself as a character in your film to show a thinly veiled caricature of the Kaiser the evils of the way he started (there's that "neutrality" again) you can't get much higher than that. The film supposedly helped WIlson's reelection though those claims don't show up in any military history book I've read; just in Kevin Brownlow's Hollywood documentary.

It was an interesting time capsule and honestly, with all the religious aspects of it, I'm curious what my pastor would think of it. I thought it was worth seeing once; I'm not in a hurry to see it again.
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