Capitolfest 2018

Announcements of upcoming theatrical sound film exhibitions.
smokey15
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Capitolfest 2018

Unread post by smokey15 » Mon Aug 13, 2018 3:28 pm

Can any of those who attended Capitolfest in Rome NY last weekend give an overview of some of the films? I was once again unable to attend due to health issues. Was there a nice crowd? How were the films? I had especially wanted to see the restored Mamba, The Mad Game with Spencer Tracy, The Storm with Lupe Velez and Her First Mate with Zasu Pitts.


Did they mention at the end of the festival who the featured star will be for 2019?

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Jack Theakston
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Re: Capitolfest 2018

Unread post by Jack Theakston » Mon Aug 13, 2018 4:11 pm

The featured star(s) for 2019 will be Joel McCrea and Frances Dee.

My quick impressions on everything I saw:

KISS IN THE DARK (1925) Two reels that exist. Quite tantalizing, considering I've never been a huge fan of Frank Tuttle's films. Nice location work. Menjou was charming, and considering the source material, a nice copy.

TOO MANY KISSES (1925) Wasn't in love with this one. Richard Dix is usually far more charismatic, but the story takes too many leaps of faith.

YOUR TECHNOCRACY AND MINE (1933) Seen it already, so I passed. Fun short.

THE MAD GAME (1933) Unfortunately missed this one.

WE FAW DOWN (1928) Very funny L&H. Hearing the original track was a bonus (great transfer of the audio), and the restoration was well-done.

THE HOUSE THAT SHADOWS BUILT (1931) Had seen this already, but enjoyed watching it on the big screen. The audience really ate it up and there were lots of applause for everyone's pet stars.

ON THE BRINK (1911) Competent Rex drama from the Smalleys, thoughfully tinted and well-directed, but otherwise forgettable.

ROMOLA (1924) The weakest entry in the bunch. I really wanted to love this one and its handsome production value, but the story was simply so insipid and the pacing so uneven that it didn't stand a chance.

THE COCOANUTS (1929) Likewise, another one that I want to love, but it always disappoints. Not that there aren't things to admire about this film, but even with a hardcore cinephile audience, the laughs are few and far between. A real product of its time.

MAMBA (1930) Was sorely disappointed by this as both a film and a restoration. The less said, the better.

THE CIRCUS OF LIFE (1917) Passed.

THE STOLEN RANCH (1926) Passed.

PRINCESS LADYBUG (1928) A+ for restoration work. Utterly bizarre short, very stagey. Nice color. Despite the restoration, the soundtrack was mostly unintelligible and subtitles would have helped.

THE STORM (1930) One of my favorites of the weekend. Velez, Boyd and Cavanagh all in top form. Direction by Wyler the usual best. Inventive camerawork throughout. Only deficiency is its abrupt ending.

BRATS (1930) Not one of my favorite L&Hs, but this played well with the audience and, again, was a good restoration.

BULLDOG DRUMMOND STRIKES BACK (1934) Not as rare as most of the offerings, but easily the standout film of the weekend. Charming and fun, through and through.

A DAUGHTER OF THE LAW (1921) Passed.

THE NIGHT OF LOVE (1927) Mostly passed. Saw a couple of reels worth. Seemed like a fun one, but I have to pace myself at fests.

TELEVISION HIGHLIGHTS (1936) Unspectactular Universal musical short, pre-Will Cowan formula with Henny Youngman as the emcee. All of the Universal shorts shown looked and especially sounded spectacularly good.

WHO KILLED GAIL PRESTON? (1938) Had seen this already, so stuck around for the first ten minutes. And, just like the last time I saw it, knew who the killer was in the first ten minutes.

SCHOOL FOR SWING (1937) Another Universal musical short with Russ Brown and Bert "The Mad Russian" Gordon. Light fluff.

IT'S GREAT TO BE ALIVE! (1933) Not as great as I hoped, but not as bad as it could be. Worst offenses were the uninspired songs, Roulien's lack of Chevallier-like charm, and an uninspired screenplay. Still, not too long to be offensive, and peppered with lots of Pre-Code faces and one-liners that made the whole thing enjoyable.

THE COMING OF SUNBEAM (1913) Passed.

TWENTY DOLLARS A WEEK (1924) Passed.

ED SULLIVAN'S HEADLINERS (1934) Despite Sullivan, the weakest of the three Universals, although worth seeing for the restaurant manager's patter.

HER FIRST MATE (1933) Unusually uneven, but overall good Pitts/Summerville comedy. Summerville's character is uncharacteristically curt, but the film has some good laughs and the usual Universal character faces.

CALL OF THE CUMBERLANDS (1916) Strangely tone-deaf film that starts as a mountain western and the ends as a rube-in-the-city melodrama. Not bad, but not great.

THE RESCUE (1929) Very good adventure that is utterly DERAILED by its ending. Colman and Damita are superb, but Bernard Siegel really steals the show as one of Colman's crew. Good character cast, including a young(ish?) John Davidson. Handsome production and good direction by Brennon.
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Brooksie
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Re: Capitolfest 2018

Unread post by Brooksie » Tue Aug 14, 2018 3:45 pm

Thanks for the reviews. I have heard enormously variant accounts of Mamba (1930). Perhaps there's an element of London-After-Midnightitis to perceptions of it - the novelty of the Technicolor and its status as a previously lost film contributing to the feeling that it's something more than it is? I can't speak to the restoration, of course, but I understand it was performed under less-than-ideal circumstances.

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Re: Capitolfest 2018

Unread post by bradleyem » Tue Aug 14, 2018 6:20 pm

I drove from Michigan to attend my first Capitolfest expressly to sit through the 68 minutes of IT'S GREAT TO BE ALIVE, which I am writing about for a book project I am soon to finish.

I would agree with Jack Theakston (who wrote the highly useful program notes) that the songs were unmemorable but the jokes were big fun. Raul Roulien is no Chevalier (to whom he was frequently compared even in 1933), but he was better than I thought he'd be. All in all, that movie alone was worth the trip -- at least if only to hear Edward Van Sloan call screen wife Emma Dunn "Sugar." (And was that Eddie Dillon as the airplane mechanic?)

I missed the Friday night and Sunday afternoon sessions in Rome but was impressed by the theater, which will look even better once the original marquee is installed (apparently that is planned). I was disappointed with MAMBA as a movie (happy to see it's survived, however), and BULLDOG DRUMMOND STRIKES BACK is always a joy. But William Wyler's THE STORM was the great revelation for me; it's a taut, dramatically intimate early talkie. It's astonishing that its director disliked it so.

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Re: Capitolfest 2018

Unread post by boblipton » Tue Aug 14, 2018 6:57 pm

bradleyem wrote:
Tue Aug 14, 2018 6:20 pm
I drove from Michigan to attend my first Capitolfest expressly to sit through the 68 minutes of IT'S GREAT TO BE ALIVE, which I am writing about for a book project I am soon to finish.

I would agree with Jack Theakston (who wrote the highly useful program notes) that the songs were unmemorable but the jokes were big fun. Raul Roulien is no Chevalier (to whom he was frequently compared even in 1933), but he was better than I thought he'd be. All in all, that movie alone was worth the trip -- at least if only to hear Edward Van Sloan call screen wife Emma Dunn "Sugar." (And was that Eddie Dillon as the airplane mechanic?)
The silent version is better.

Bob
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Thad Komorowski
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Re: Capitolfest 2018

Unread post by Thad Komorowski » Wed Aug 15, 2018 6:42 am

Jack Theakston wrote:
Mon Aug 13, 2018 4:11 pm
MAMBA (1930) Was sorely disappointed by this as both a film and a restoration. The less said, the better.
How dare you critique a movie!? CINEWHINER! Bitch bitch bitch! You do nothing and contribute nothing but complaining! Snort!

Oops, what was this blarfing over again? Oh, Mamba? Yeah, it sucks. And agreed on both counts.

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Bob Furmanek
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Re: Capitolfest 2018

Unread post by Bob Furmanek » Wed Aug 15, 2018 7:18 am

UCLA reportedly spent $500K restoring MAMBA?

If true, where did the money go!

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Mike Gebert
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Re: Capitolfest 2018

Unread post by Mike Gebert » Thu Aug 16, 2018 7:41 am

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At one point my son observed about a film of Capitolfest, “It’s weird to see a silent movie that looks as good as a modern movie.” Well, stick around, kid, and it’ll get less weird—there were a number of films at Capitolfest this year that looked straight off the negative and nearly blemish-free, a sign of its connections to the major archives that allow it to present work fresh out of their labs, and taking advantage of the ever-improving digital restoration technology. For me that’s one of the great things about this festival—these (mostly) aren’t collector prints but straight out of the vaults and archives, major rediscoveries no one has seen before, same as at MoMA or the San Francisco Silent Film Festival or Pordenone.

At the same time, this is a small town with a homey festival in an old theater with a vintage organ, and lots of attendees I’ve gotten to know at other such festivals. The kind of festival where people don’t just clap for obscure stars they like—it’s the kind where they clap for William Cameron Menzies’ name on a title card.

So it’s possible to walk up to the guy who did the restoration work, like George Willeman from Library of Congress, and chat with him about it. Capitolfest is lightly themed—Ronald Colman was this year’s major star, and there was also an emphasis on early women filmmakers on anticipation of the Kino set on that theme later this year, which LOC is a big part of it—but it’s a balanced program. Maybe some of it was luck of the draw being especially good this time, but I found it a really enjoyably balanced program, almost nothing that was hard to get through and moving adroitly from pounding silent film drama to sprightly talkie comedy and back again.

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Outstanding accompaniment for the silents throughout the weekend on the Capitol's organ, including by Dr. Philip Carli, Bernie Anderson Jr. and Avery Tunningsley.

Here’s what we saw:

FRIDAY

A KISS IN THE DARK ***
Only the first two reels survive of this 1925 Paramount comedy survive, and they don't include Zeppo Marx in a small role, one reason this has attracted some attention, but at least they constitute a complete first act, so it wasn’t too frustrating to see the story end. Based on a play be Frederick Lonsdale (Dial M For Murder), it wittily sets up Adolphe Menjou as a lothario juggling an overabundance of feminine attention in Havana.

TOO MANY KISSES ***1/2 The title undersells this 1925 Richard Dix adventure—it’s a delightful mock-Fairbanks adventure comedy with Dix more than up to the swashbuckling job. His father sends playboy Dix to the Basque country on business, where he falls in love with Francis Howard and offends jealous local caudillo William Powell, at his silent-villainous best. (Harpo Marx has too small a role as a canny village fool.) I guess this has been around, but a new restoration—I believe from material provided by Stan Taffel and Bob Birchard as part of LOC’s Silent Film Project transferring collector prints—makes it a title other festivals ought to consider for a slot where they need a surefire audience pick-me-up.

YOUR TECHNOCRACY AND MINE *** We saw a number of early talkie shorts transferred to astonishingly clear digital by Universal, starting with one of Robert Benchley’s audience talks, in which he nonsensically explains the early 30s political fad.

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THE MAD GAME *** One of the highlights of the recent Fox retrospective at MoMA, this 1933 gangster drama has too much going on and at least one very bizarre turn (let’s just say the star undergoes a Dark Passage), but it’s tough and has a strong cast including Spencer Tracy, Claire Trevor, J. Carrol Naish (in the Bogart-Roaring Twenties role) and Matt McHugh. Tracy is a publicity-seeking gangster who eventually gets sent away in part due to Naish’s connivance; when Prohibition ends, Naish turns to kidnapping as a racket, and a disgusted Tracy persuades the cops to let him help track him down.

I skipped The House That Shadows Built, the 1932 commemorative film of Paramount’s 20th anniversary, but did manage to learn from Joe Yranski the story behind the never-released Dorothy Arzner film about women in World War I that is among the upcoming product it showcases; apparently it was being made when Paramount was in receivership, and they shut it down when Ruth Chatterton walked off the lot over not getting paid, and headed for Warner Bros.

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ROMOLA *** Lillian and Dorothy Gish are ostensibly the stars (in that order) of George Eliot’s venture into Victor Hugo historical epic territory, and Ronald Colman is the rising newcomer. But the reality is that Dorothy (as the barmy but fun peasant girl) steals it from Lillian as the somewhat tediously high-minded daughter of a Renaissance scholar, and William Powell, as the conniving scoundrel who rises to power in Medici-era Venice, gets his first starring role and plays it to the What-Makes-Savonarola-Run hilt. To be honest, we seemed overdue for a silent that was hard to get through, and Romola seemed the likely candidate, taking half the film to get going. Still, it eventually does kick into high gear, stakes a-burning and Powell seizing power in Venice, and the actual Italian locations and supporting cast feel like money well spent.

The evening ended with The Coconuts, which I’ve seen recently.


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SATURDAY

MAMBA **1/2
I told my son we could bail on Mamba after getting our fill of the 1930 two-strip Technicolor, but I thought it was a decent enough melodrama with surprisingly convincing backlot African sets, and we stayed all the way through. Jean Hersholt has the Noah Beery role as a rotten-hearted colonialist, and Eleanor Boardman is pretty but one-note as the titled wife who is basically sold to him by an indebted father. Dialogue scenes play well enough, an African battle scene at the end is pretty good—the real problem I had is that Hersholt seems more pathetic than monstrous, and when your bad guy is mainly seen in contrast to the German officer corps circa 1914… well, it’s tough to have anyone to root for. It was preceded by a sweet short documentary about the Australian collector couple who found the only surviving copy of this Tiffany production, and how it was rescued for restoration, that undoubtedly made the film itself more interesting than it would have been otherwise.

THE CIRCUS OF LIFE **1/2 George Willeman introduced this 1917 melodrama saying that it had been turned down for the Kino women filmmakers set, but he liked it and thought we would too. Well, it was probably turned down as a work by director-star Elsie Jane Wilson because it strongly resembles the work of her husband, Rupert Julian—Eric Cohen pointed out the underplayed direction of child star Zoe Rae as a particular giveaway—but it was an enjoyable enough drama of the “a smile and a tear” school, about the residents of a boarding house and their soap operatic lives.

THE STOLEN RANCH *** Very early (1926) William Wyler film, his second feature, shows him already bringing a well-observed character-driven approach to a routine western plot (cowboy Fred Humes seeks to help WWI pal William Bailey defeat the bad guys trying to rob him of his uncle’s ranch), and you could make a convincing case that it’s on some of the same genre-debunking themes as The Westerner and The Big Country. One interesting touch involves Bailey having shell shock—a tough break in a genre where everyone is shooting off pistols.

PRINCESS LADY BUG *** A fun one-reel musical short in two-strip Technicolor, reminiscent in its look of (the later) Babes in Toyland. The story told beforehand was that the only surviving disc for the short was cracked and missing a wedge-shaped piece, but a computer program called I.R.E.N.E. was able to interpolate the missing portion based on what was on either side of it, and you couldn't hear the difference.

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THE STORM **1/2 Another early William Wyler film, starring William (Stage) Boyd as a Canadian prospector, Paul Cavanaugh as his (improbably toff-ish) WWI buddy, and Lupe Velez as the woman who comes between them. This starts off as a very well-staged outdoor actioner with a really impressive prisoner escape by canoe, but becomes slow going when it comes down to being a love triangle in a single set (a cabin in winter) between not terribly likable characters.

BRATS ***1/2 Newly restored version of Laurel & Hardy’s special effects comedy, in which they play their own kids on oversized sets; it went over big with the audience.

BULLDOG DRUMMOND STRIKES BACK **** I’ve seen this rights-restricted 1934 Bulldog Drummond sequel with Ronald Colman repeating his 1929 role before, but it really is one of the best thrillers of the 30s, both a strong thriller and a witty sendup of same, the Goldfinger of the pre-Code era. If there’s any 30s director we know nothing about but who is just aces in this era, it’s Roy Del Ruth.

I just got back for the end of a 1921 Grace Cunard two-reeler (she stars and directs) about a lady revenuer, A DAUGHTER OF THE LAW.

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THE NIGHT OF LOVE **** This Ronald Colman starring vehicle from his Goldwyn era (1927) plays on a similar set of themes as Mamba, but schools the early talkie on how to get it done. Colman is a gypsy leader, Montagu Love is the local lord—who’s in the habit of claiming droit du seigneur on new brides. When Colman’s bride commits suicide rather than give in, Colman goes on an epic course of revenge, including kidnapping Love’s own bride (Vilma Banky), who soon falls for her captor. In some ways it plays like the Errol Flynn-Olivia deHavilland romances where she’s won over to his bold piratical manners, but this is the silent era so it’s ten times more intense and florid. Colman gives an energetic and committed performance, the sets are as lavish as Robin Hood or The Beloved Rogue… but most of all, and I do not say this lightly, Montagu Love gives one of the all-time great villain performances, oily, lustful, childish, vicious, clueless in the face of Colman’s cleverness because smart was never in his job description as a local tyrant.


SUNDAY

SCHOOL FOR SWING **1/2
A couple of good dance numbers in this 1937 short, but the comedy, featuring “Mad Russian” Bert Gordon, is pretty dire.

IT’S GREAT TO BE ALIVE *** The sound remake of The Last Man on Earth (actually, the notes point out, the English remake of a film from Fox’s Spanish-language unit which remade the silent) is said to be less sharply satirical (or racy) than the original, but it’s a fun, zany screwball comedy somewhat in the Million Dollar Legs vein with Raul Roulien as the playboy who crash-lands on an island for some years, allowing him to survive the plague that wipes out all the men on earth. Edna May Oliver steals it as the president of Earth—finally, a woman president!

THE COMING OF SUNBEAM *** Some missing footage makes this 1913 Alice Guy-Blache film play more like its own trailer, but it’s an effective Little-Miss-Busybody-Warms-Crusty-Grandpa’s-Heart one-reeler.

TWENTY DOLLARS A WEEK **1/2 George Arliss starrer with Ronald Colman in a supporting role, which takes rather too long to get set up but is effective when it does; the gist of it is that when one rich woman takes in an orphan to try to attract Colman’s attention, her brother retaliates by adopting Arliss as their father, and Arliss soon solves all their problems.

ED SULLIVAN’S HEADLINERS **1/2 No one made more out of a completely awkward on-stage persona than Ed Sullivan, and you can see it in its earliest days in this 1934 vaudeville short featuring Block and Sully (the proto-Burns and Allen), who are pretty good, and other acts that are less so.

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HER FIRST MATE ***1/2 William Wyler directed this situation comedy for Universal because he needed work—his reward was Counsellor at Law and his career zoomed from there. Yet this Slim Summerville-Zasu Pitts starrer is a complete charmer, beautifully played for affecting and effective moments in the lives of simple people, even as it plays out an amusingly convoluted plot. Summerville dreams of being a sea captain like his father, but is reduced to selling peanuts on an overnight boat from “Snag Harbor” to New York; Pitts sees a chance in them using their savings to buy a local ferry, but Summerville is contemptuous of anything that can sail under a bridge. Una Merkel and Warren Hymer are fun as his sister and her lunkhead boyfriend, and it’s amusing that everyone assumed Berton Churchill was out to cheat Summerville and Pitts, even though his crooked banker in Stagecoach is five years in the future.

I started a Dustin Farnum Hatfield & McCoys thing called CALL OF THE CUMBERLANDS (1916), and it seemed well done to a point, but then he goes off to art school in New York (!) and the quality of the print deteriorated badly, so gave up to save myself for the final film.

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THE RESCUE **** You might expect Joseph Conrad to be an author whose darkly ironic tales of colonialism were turned to romantic mush by the silent movies, yet there’s an outstanding Lord Jim from 1924 by Victor Fleming which serves him well, and so does this completely unknown (no IMDB reviews, even) 1929 silent by Herbert Brenon. Colman plays Tom Lingard, a sort of Bogartish, cynical both-sides-of-the-law trader in the South Seas; a yacht run by a rich jerk gets becalmed near a dangerous island, Colman wants to keep the navy out of his territory and sets out to rescue them, falling in love with Lili Damita as the rich jerk’s bored wife. (When Ralph Richardson played Lingard in Outcast of the Islands, he was more Old Testament Patriarch than To Have and Have Not.)

Given the date, I worried this would be the silent version of a sound film, and painfully dull; what it actually looks like is that they wrote a talkie script, then filmed it silently anyway. So there are scenes that are a bit static at first, and overreliant on titles, yet it soon grows more visual and, more importantly, retains Conrad’s sensibility, depicting the blundering, destructive ways of western powers in the east without holding back for the sake of the romance. A mature, well-made film (said to be missing one reel, but unnoticeable to the viewer) that deserves rediscovery as a major late silent.
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Eric Cohen
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Re: Capitolfest 2018

Unread post by Eric Cohen » Thu Aug 16, 2018 5:19 pm

Mike Gebert wrote:
"THE CIRCUS OF LIFE **1/2 George Willeman introduced this 1917 melodrama saying that it had been turned down for the Kino women filmmakers set, but he liked it and thought we would too. Well, it was probably turned down as a work by director-star Elsie Jane Wilson because it strongly resembles the work of her husband, Rupert Julian—Eric Cohen pointed out the underplayed direction of child star Zoe Rae as a particular giveaway—but it was an enjoyable enough drama of the “a smile and a tear” school, about the residents of a boarding house and their soap operatic lives."

Actually, I thought Rupert Julian's usual over-direction of actresses worked well this time with the children in the film, but having done some reading up, I don't know. Before this film, Elsie Jane Wilson had worked more with the natural Zoe Rae, with and without husband Rupert's collab.

A Kiss in the Dark was made at the Paramount Long Island studio, but featured some obvious location work.
The two surviving opening reels are set in Havana, Cuba and Menjou's home has a roof terrace looking out over the city, mainly other roofs and churches. He invites Aileen Pringle and Irene Rich up for a chat about their upcoming trip to NYC. Exhibitor's Trade Review and Motion Picture Magazine both mention Frank Tuttle taking crew and cast down to Cuba for location shooting.

smokey15
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Re: Capitolfest 2018

Unread post by smokey15 » Fri Aug 17, 2018 7:03 am

A sincere thanks to all of you that commented on Capitolfest 2018 and your reviews on the films.

I remember attending a few years ago when Nancy Carroll was the featured star. One of the films shown was "Follow Thru" in two strip color. The film had been recently restored. The print was so clear and pristine that you could see the freckles on Nancy's arms.

I didn't find out about Capitolfest until a few years ago. I wish I would have known about it sooner as I would have loved to have attended when Clara Bow and Janet Gaynor were the featured stars.

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Re: Capitolfest 2018

Unread post by romecapitol » Wed Aug 22, 2018 8:36 pm

If permissible, I will offer my two cents regarding CAPITOLFEST movies this year:

A KISS IN THE DARK (Paramount, 1925) Not bad for two reels of a feature, with a moderately satisfying stopping point. Organ score by Dr. Philip C. Carli. **1/2

TOO MANY KISSES (Paramount, 1925) A pleasant if uninspired adventure comedy; Richard Dix is likable, William Powell always a great villain. Harpo's role was small but noticeable. (And he is very Harpoesque.) Organ score by Dr. Philip C. Carli. ***

YOUR TECHNOCRACY AND MINE (Universal, 1933) In his notes, Ron Hutchinson called this one of Robert Benchley's best shorts, and I have to agree. ***1/2

THE MAD GAME (Fox, 1933) A hard-hitting "snatch" picture; it's true that Spencer Tracy after supposedly going through plastic surgery looks an awful lot like Spencer Tracy (though, surprisingly, nobody recognizes him), but this is a minor flaw in a very compelling melodrama. Claire Trevor practically steals the show as the reporter. ***

WE FAW DOWN (Roach/MGM, 1928) Have seen it before, of course, but it really is a lot more fun with an enthusiastic audience. Silent with original track. ***

THE HOUSE THAT SHADOWS BUILT (Paramount, 1931) There's nothing at all SPECIAL about this compilation film, except the Marx Brothers sequence (which I've seen) and STEPDAUGHTERS OF WAR (which was jarring), but it is entertaining and it gave people the chance to applaud for their favorite stars. ***

ON THE BRINK (Rex, 1911) Not really a great deal to this little one-reeler, but it is a good print and interesting as the earliest movie shown during the weekend. Organ score by Bernie Anderson, Jr. **

ROMOLA (Inspiration/MGM, 1924) The error here was deciding to film a book whose plot is practically incidental to the atmosphere. Henry King directed it in a very detached manner, with few closeups; it really feels like it was made seven or eight years earlier. It does pick up in the second half, but still not an especially entertaining picture. Bernie Anderson Jr.'s excellent organ score came very close to saving it! **

THE COCOANUTS (Paramount, 1929) My favorite of the weekend though, of course, I've seen it a million times. A great example of how a good movie can be great when seen with an enthusiastic crowd. I don't want to start a fight with Mr. Theakston (see his comments above), but I found this picture was a big hit with the audience and the laughs came fast and furious; there were, in fact, laughs where I hadn't realized until then there were even gags. ****

THEATRE OF DREAMS (2018) Good little seven-minute movie about the rediscovery of MAMBA. ***

MAMBA (Tiffany, 1930) There seemed to be a great deal of controversy as to whether this is a good movie or not; some people (see above) were not enthralled with it. I liked it quite a bit, mostly because I felt that Jean Hersholt carried the movie. And, of course, there's the curiosity value. Some objected to Jean Hersholt's racism but, after all, he is SUPPOSED to be a despicable character. ***

THE CIRCUS OF LIFE (Universal, 1917) An 51-minute abridgment (all that survives) of a full-length feature. When it was released the reviews were mixed, but as presented here it is a compelling little movie that does not shirk some sensitive issues. Little Zoe Rae is an especially natural child actress. It's said that Kino is going to leave this off the upcoming Women Pioneers Filmmakers set, which is a shame, as it's a movie that needs to be seen. A first-rate organ score by Bernie Anderson, Jr. ***

THE STOLEN RANCH (Universal, 1926) Just a modest Universal "Blue-Streak Western," but, under William Wyler's direction, it rises above the run-of-the-mill product of the era. Another good organ score by Bernie Anderson, Jr. ***

PRINCESS LADY BUG (Columbia, 1930) This deserves praise if only for the miraculous work LoC did to create a screenable (digital) print! It is nothing if not bizarre. A rare chance to see Kathryn Reese in a starring role. ***

THE STORM (Universal, 1930) William Wyler supposedly judged this his worst film; if that's true, I've got a lot more really terrific Wyler movies to look forward to. The movie is marvelously atmospheric and escapes the stodginess of many early talkies. It's also good to see William ("Stage") Boyd in a starring role. ***

BRATS (Roach/MGM, 1930) Never my favorite L&H (here restored with orig. incidental music and opening title), but I can't deny that the audience ate it up. **1/2

BULLDOG DRUMMOND STRIKES BACK (20th Century, 1934) One of the hits of the weekend, though not THAT rare (I had seen it before). A very tongue-in-check thriller with terrific dialogue; Ronald Colman was seemingly born to play this sort of a role, and Charles Butterworth once again proved himself an audience favorite. ***1/2

A DAUGHTER OF THE LAW (Star Ranch/CBC, 1921) Clearly low-budget, but interesting that the revenue officer around who the story revolves is a woman (serial star Grace Cunard). Organ score by Avery Tunningley. **1/2

THE NIGHT OF LOVE (Goldwyn, 1927) This was an audience favorite, but I found it disappointingly slow at times; Ronald Colman and Vilma Banky are always fun to watch, though, and Montagu Love is a convincingly vile villain. Livened up considerably by Avery Tunningley's organ score. (Which included the theme song, credited to Vilma Banky!) **1/2

TELEVISION HIGHLIGHTS (Universal, 1936) An unrecognizable Henny Youngman introduces some acts via television. OK. **1/2

WHO KILLED GAIL PRESTON? (Columbia, 1938) A really mediocre mystery that's so low-budget there is a poor-man's Wallace Ford AND a poor-man's Edwin Maxwell. The script may very well have been written by a 12-year-old fan of detective novels with little imagination. *1/2

SCHOOL FOR SWING (Universal, 1937) Not inspired, but the cast members seemed to be having a good time. **1/2

IT'S GREAT TO BE ALIVE (RKO, 1932) Another of the hits of the weekend, it started out as a charming if routine musical, seemed to loose steam, and then became quite bizarre (in all the right ways) after all the men (save the hero) have been wiped off the Earth by a strange disease. The Strickfaden creation sequence is a highlight; the songs are pleasant enough, though not especially memorable, but the dialogue is often hilarious. Edna May Oliver steals the show as the President of the World. ***1/2

THE COMING OF SUNBEAM (Solax, 1913) OK. **1/2

TWENTY DOLLARS A WEEK (Distinctive/Selznick, 1924) Another I had seen before (at Cinefest a decade or so ago); I had liked it the first time and, now having mostly forgotten it, liked it again at Capitolfest. George Arliss is in excellent form, Ronald Colman has a very satisfying supporting role, and the story moves at a good clip. Organ score by Dr. Philip C. Carli. ***

ED SULLIVAN'S HEADLINERS (Universal, 1934) Starts out with a Block & Sully comedy routine, then suddenly turns into a 1930's version of the Ed Sullivan Show, with Mr. S. standing in front of a curtain introducing acts. Entertaining, and it went over well with the audience. ***

HER FIRST MATE (Universal, 1933) A William Wyler-directed comedy, based on a stage play (with Una Merkel repeating her Broadway role), it presents a less-slapsticky Summerville and Pitts which, I think, disappointed some people, but that I found rather refreshing. (Even though Slim's character was really not very likable.) ***

CALL OF THE CUMBERLANDS (Pallas, 1916) Some people didn't like this much, but I found it quite interesting, having just read (and much enjoyed) the novel. It is really too ambitious in what it tries to cram into five reels, but has some nice touches. Marred considerably by a much abridged shoot-out finale. Organ score by Dr. Philip C. Carli. **1/2

THE RESCUE (Goldwyn, 1929) Based on the Conrad novel and actually quite faithful to it. Surprisingly, it resists the obvious temptation to become a standard adventure story, and I can't imagine anyone better suited to play Conrad's central character than Ronald Colman. (Missing reel three but plays surprisingly well without it.) Philip Carli made excellent use of the organ's percussion effects in his score. ***

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