Announcing the 2nd Annual "Watch That Movie" Night

Post news stories and home video release announcements here.
  • Author
  • Message
Offline

R Michael Pyle

  • Posts: 1678
  • Joined: Wed May 27, 2009 1:10 pm

PostFri Jan 29, 2010 2:02 pm

rudyfan wrote:See? Fred would not steer you wrong, Rex was and IS a S-T-A-R


Be still, my heaving, hooving heart! :)
Offline
User avatar

Frederica

  • Posts: 4852
  • Joined: Wed Dec 19, 2007 1:00 pm
  • Location: Kowea Town, Los Angeles

PostFri Jan 29, 2010 2:07 pm

R Michael Pyle wrote:I also noticed in a couple of scenes that Rex was sweating far too much, building up a slather, indeed, way, way too much. They must have worked him like a dog, if you'll pardon the expression! He was so slathered in one scene that he looked like a different horse because of the color of his sweat in the sun, filmed by an antique camera.


Horses will sweat like that when they're nervous, too. Remember, Rex was the King of the Wild Horses, (not Prince, not Duke, not Earl). Uneasy lies the head that wears the bridle.
Fred
"Screw the men. I've got the horse."
Helen B. (Penny) Chenery
http://www.nitanaldi.com"
http://www.facebook.com/NitaNaldiSilentVamp"
Offline
User avatar

Mike Gebert

Site Admin

  • Posts: 5954
  • Joined: Sat Dec 15, 2007 3:23 pm
  • Location: Chicago

PostFri Jan 29, 2010 10:22 pm

Miss Lulu Bett

The usual line is-- Cecil B., spectacle, William deMille, subtlety. I think this understates the similarities between them-- especially when Cecil is directing a story by William, as he is in the case of the other film on this DVD, Why Change Your Wife? In both films family life is caricatured to make a point about how people take one another for granted in a family, and to a certain extent, the caricatures are drawn to the same degree of exaggeration-- at which point Cecil wins, his caricatures making their point more sharply and to some extent more drolly. Gloria Swanson aggravating Thomas Meighan step by thoughtless step during his morning shave is more humorous and clever-- and, yes, subtle-- than Lois Wilson being the Cinderella to a family of outright ogres.

But then there comes the point where Swanson and Bebe Daniels are having a catfight in a locked room after one of them has tried to poison Meighan... and okay, maybe the thing about William being subtler than Cecil has some validity after all.

Once you accept one nearly jawdropping early plot contrivance (necessary to maneuver Miss Lulu Bett into the position of being sort of married and sort of unmarried and generally hopeless in either case), Miss Lulu Bett is a charming, yet psychologically perceptive, romantic comedy about a spinster sister-in-law treated as a drudge by her family and beaten down by the needling of the sarcastic patriarch, her brother-in-law. She winds up briefly married, then in a marital limbo when it turns out he had a first wife who may or may not be dead; but as grievous a mistake and scandal as this is treated by the family, a week of being treated like something other than a scullery maid is enough to start her demanding her place in the world, and if you can't tell where she's going to end up from the first frame in which Milton Sills appears as a kindly, attentive, goodhearted, good-looking, gentle, sweet, helpful, sympathetic, solicitous local teacher, well, you need to go back to movie school.

Checking her credits it appears I've seen Lois Wilson in four or five things, but I have no particular memory of her before this; she seems a sort of Lillian Gish Lite, which is fine by me, since Lillian Gish Heavy is something that takes a certain steeling of the nerves to take on. Obviously a story like this depends greatly on our interest in seeing the drab female at the start of the story blossom into a romantically desirable butterfly by the end, and Wilson gives an excellent picture of her gradual increase in will, steely determination and the conviction that she too ought to have a chance at happiness. (She also manages one of the few examples of that old movie cliche, the woman letting her hair down and revealing that she's actually beautiful, which really works— when Wilson releases two feet of flowing Gibson Girl locks from the bun on her head, it's breathtaking.)

As absurd as Cecil's films sometimes get, there's an electricity to his filmmaking that makes you pay attention, even if you can't believe what you're seeing. William doesn't light up the screen like that, but the pacing of the story is surefooted all the same, and it flows by in a way that seems far more modern than 1921. Given that its attitude toward the sexes is likewise far more modern than the standard movie treatment of sex at the time, this is a movie whose subject matter and playing would appeal even to the non-silent fan, and it deserves to be better known to those with an interest in the mores of the period.

Print quality is very good, with only one section of moderate splotchiness, and the score by Mont Alto is very well suited to the film's tone of melodrama tinged with both sympathy for Lulu's plight and wry humor.
“I'm in favor of plagiarism. If we are to create a new Renaissance, the government should encourage plagiarism. When convinced that someone is a true plagiarist, we should immediately award them the Legion of Honor.” —Jean Renoir
Offline

Derwiddian

  • Posts: 128
  • Joined: Mon May 19, 2008 4:43 pm
  • Location: Maryland

PostSat Jan 30, 2010 8:33 am

I have been immersing myself in early sound films in recent months (generally 1929-32 vintage) and have pretty much exhausted Facets' supply of rentals from that period. That is, except for the obvious chaff--I do have some standards!. But one I did not rent was Trouble in Paradise (1932), which I had never seen. The reason simply was that I knew I had it on DVD somewhere and that I would get around to it eventually. And last night I finally did.

Quite simply, this is a great film. Lubitsch's witty take on crime in the boudoir remains fresh and appealing. Seldom have crooks been as open, sophisticated, and charming as Herbert Marshall, or victims as consensual (and as alluring, I might add) as Kay Francis. Further, the early byplay between Marshall and his sidekick Miriam Hopkins has to be among the greatest scenes ever filmed.

To me, except for a couple of youthful and dreary costume dramas from his Berlin period, Lubitsch was consistently the best and most inventive director of his time. He seems among the first to understand how to integrate the new sound technology into his visuals to create a comprehensive artistic medium. In Trouble in Paradise Lubitsch brought it all together, and with the necessary advantage of a terrific screenplay made what I think was the industry's first truly outstanding sound film.
Offline
User avatar

Salty Dog

  • Posts: 352
  • Joined: Sat Jan 12, 2008 12:43 pm

PostSat Jan 30, 2010 9:55 am

Well, watched Three’s a Crowd tonight finally. I’ve had it since it came out from Kino in a double bill with The Chaser in 2008, as part of a mini-Harry Langdon revival, along with the great collection of shorts from All Day Entertainment. Actually, watched it twice, first with the Lee Erwin score, then again with the David Kalat commentary.

The typical line on this film is that after firing Frank Capra, Langdon’s bloated ego caused him to mimic Chaplin’s pathos in a misunderstanding of his own character. I don’t really see it. There are elements of the plot, where Langdon takes in a pregnant woman and helps take care of her child, which sound, well, pathetic. But the scenes are not really played for emotional impact, they all seem fairly distanced. The woman and her child enter Langdon’s life, and eventually leave it, with not much impression on him (aside from a striking dream sequence) or much effort. It’s not totally clearly whether this perfunctory quality is intentional or due to difficulties with budget and time that Langdon was experiencing by this time in his career at First National.

There also are not a lot of gags in the film. As David Kalat describes in his very enthusiastic and informative commentary, Langdon was definitely going for a minimalist effect. Many scenes of Langdon’s pantomime are stretched to extreme, but not with lots of gags, just extreme pauses and reactions and re-reactions from Langdon. These scenes are only tangentially connected to what is happening in the plot at the moment, such as a bit of absentminded laundering that becomes piemaking, and a great moment where Langdon’s eyes get stuck cross-eyed.

Is this bad directing on the part of Langdon, as Leonard Maltin complained, not knowing when to cut a scene? I will have to disagree, and side with David Kalat here, and think Langdon knew exactly what he was doing. Probably the best moments of the film are these scenes. (Anyway, complaining that Langdon is too slowly paced is like complaining Laurel and Hardy are too slowly paced; you’re missing the point to do so-and it seems pretty clear at this point that pacing and characterization is what Laurel picked up from Langdon that finally allowed him to create his classic character after years of not quite reaching his potential in films.)

The film is also very striking visually, especially the often mentioned stairway on the outside of the apartment Langdon lives in.

The Kino edition looks great for the most part, from a 35 mm negative, except for some moments which are decomposed. The music track is an organ score by Lee Erwin, which is well enough played, but not really very appropriate for the film, it’s a hard instrument to play without sounding melodramatic, certainly not the right mode for Langdon.

I did enjoy again experiencing the peculiar world of Harry Langdon. Will probably check out The Chaser later this weekend.
Bill Coleman
Offline
User avatar

greta de groat

  • Posts: 2100
  • Joined: Sun Jan 20, 2008 1:06 am
  • Location: California

PostSat Jan 30, 2010 2:20 pm

There are 4 films on the Houdini set, and i don't think i'll get through all of them this weekend (I've seen The Man from Beyond but don't remember much about it). But my husband and I did start on THe Master Mystery.

This was a 15 episode serial, but quite a bit is missing. Still, there are 4 hours of footage and we only got up through episode 12 last night and will continue tonight.

First of all, i love the artwork for the film with the blue robot. I had no idea this film had sci-fi elements (mental note, put this on the Christmas list for someone i know ...). Tthe plot elements come fast and furious in the first episode, and i was grateful for the recap in Episode 2. Briefly, there is a business firm that is operated by two partners and whose business is to get control of peoples' patents and then not release them. One partner starts to be troubled by this unethical business. He has a pretty daughter (Marguerite Marsh), and a secretary who is secretly in league with the other evil partner (Ruth Stonehouse). Harry Houdini is an employee of the firm, though it wasn't clear to me what he does aside from listen to their conversations. Anyway, he and the daughter are in love and the secretary is in love with him. And the evil partner has a son who he want's to marry Marguerite Marsh so he can control the business, but the son has a girlfriend named Deluxe Dora who apparently is also a bad sort.

Marsh's father gets a mysterious note threatening him with "Madagascar Madness." He meets with a man from Madagascar who is carrying what looks like a big doll, and explains to him that you can have a robot and put a human brain in it. Then we see flashes to a full-sized robot and a bunch of henchmen. The robot is a hoot! Big goggly eyes and an oil drum butt. Instead of walking in the straight-limbed way movie robots usually walk, he uses exaggerated leg and arm movements, more like a march. Somehow i thought that was a flashback to Madagascar, but i find later that it's taking place in a cave under the house because suddenly the robot is in the house. While the father and the other man talk, they are breathing poisoned fumes from a candle and get the "Madagascar Madness." So the father is basically laid up for the rest of the film, and Marsh and Houdini try to get an antidote for him while avoiding various pitfalls for the rest of the serial. They are pretty gullible, because the bad partner, the sneaky secretary, the feckless son, Deluxe Dora, and the robot and his henchmen continuously lure one or the other to various out of the way places so they can fight with Houdini and knock him out and handcuff him, put him in a straight jacket, tie him up in barbed wire with acid leaking nearby, put him under a falling elevator, hang him on the wall, hang him over a vat of acid, put him in a box and throw him off a dock, put a rope around his neck through a wall and twist it, and various other minor inconveniences. Houdini thrashes about wildly and the bonds mysteriously fall off. It's pretty repetitious, but i guess you're not supposed to watch it all at once, and it is entertaining

Houdini can't act, but he has an interesting face and i enjoy watching him. Marguerite Marsh is ok, more animated than i've seen her in other films. Former Essanay actress Ruth Stonehouse has an expressive and intelligent face and is the best actor of the lot. Her character is the most complicated and she plays it well. Missing episodes are bridged with titles (which also detail what nefarious thing was done to Houdini in the meantime), and picture quality varies, with one scene with severe decomp.

I also took at look at the extras, and found the New York censorship board requests quite amusing--they basically want to remove all the Houdini escapes because they might encourage crime. Wouldn't have left much point to the movie!

I haven't really figured out what connection the robot has with the evil partner, and i'm not sure whether that's due to be explained or not. Anyway, we left Houdini and Marsh tied up at a hypnotist's office, so stay tuned for the next episode ....

greta
Greta de Groat
Unsung Divas of the Silent Screen
http://www.stanford.edu/~gdegroat
Offline

MikeH0714

  • Posts: 123
  • Joined: Mon May 18, 2009 1:13 pm

PostSat Jan 30, 2010 5:25 pm

Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1917)

"A Superb Production of the Quaint Story of New England Life and Manners. The Old Home Town Atmosphere of the Picture will make You Live With the Characters. Delightfully Pleasing."

So said the advert for the Strand Theatre in September 1917, and who am I to disagree? I've never read the book, and haven't seen the Shirley Temple version since I was ten, so I had no expectations whatsoever. Furthermore, this was my first Pickford feature.

I'm not all that knowledgable about the woman who, along with Chaplin, was the movies' greatest star at the time, but on the basis of this picture, it's easy to see why this was so. If there was a "Little Mary" formula, "Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm" made full and impressive use of it. The "Old Home Town" characters were well fleshed out, except perhaps for Rebecca's mother, who disappears after her eldest daughter heads to her aunts' home, and returns very briefly for two quick - and not terribly compelling - vignettes. The mother's plight is the impetus for the story, but the character is less than a plot device here.

Rebecca, on the other hand, is a feisty little fireball, and I'm guessing Pickford had her shtick down to a science by then. I knew I was being manipulated, but didn't care, such was the charm of Pickford's performance. I was also quite impressed with the level of physical comedy in this picture, especially Rebecca's makeshift circus. And who can hate a picture where the only romance comes during the final two minutes? Not me!

The scenes during a major storm were difficult to follow, as the cuts came fast and furious while picture quality suffered during the darkness. It was near impossible to discern which characters were doing what. A few titles told me what was happening (or had happened), but it's not as much fun as seeing the action.

All-in-all, it was a pleasant picture. As a curtain raiser I ran Roscoe Arbuckle's "Coney Island," also in distribution at the time, although it's not likely they actually ran together. Based on the newspapers I scrolled through, "Rebecca" was paired with some Sennett comedy or another, while "Coney Island" supported lesser pictures, usually scoring top billing in the ads.

Michael
Last edited by MikeH0714 on Sat Jan 30, 2010 7:19 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Offline

Kevin2

  • Posts: 192
  • Joined: Tue Jun 23, 2009 1:37 pm

PostSat Jan 30, 2010 5:26 pm

Salty Dog wrote:Well, watched Three’s a Crowd tonight finally. I’ve had it since it came out from Kino in a double bill with The Chaser in 2008, as part of a mini-Harry Langdon revival, along with the great collection of shorts from All Day Entertainment. Actually, watched it twice, first with the Lee Erwin score, then again with the David Kalat commentary.

The typical line on this film is that after firing Frank Capra, Langdon’s bloated ego caused him to mimic Chaplin’s pathos in a misunderstanding of his own character. I don’t really see it. There are elements of the plot, where Langdon takes in a pregnant woman and helps take care of her child, which sound, well, pathetic. But the scenes are not really played for emotional impact, they all seem fairly distanced. The woman and her child enter Langdon’s life, and eventually leave it, with not much impression on him (aside from a striking dream sequence) or much effort. It’s not totally clearly whether this perfunctory quality is intentional or due to difficulties with budget and time that Langdon was experiencing by this time in his career at First National.

There also are not a lot of gags in the film. As David Kalat describes in his very enthusiastic and informative commentary, Langdon was definitely going for a minimalist effect. Many scenes of Langdon’s pantomime are stretched to extreme, but not with lots of gags, just extreme pauses and reactions and re-reactions from Langdon. These scenes are only tangentially connected to what is happening in the plot at the moment, such as a bit of absentminded laundering that becomes piemaking, and a great moment where Langdon’s eyes get stuck cross-eyed.

Is this bad directing on the part of Langdon, as Leonard Maltin complained, not knowing when to cut a scene? I will have to disagree, and side with David Kalat here, and think Langdon knew exactly what he was doing. Probably the best moments of the film are these scenes. (Anyway, complaining that Langdon is too slowly paced is like complaining Laurel and Hardy are too slowly paced; you’re missing the point to do so-and it seems pretty clear at this point that pacing and characterization is what Laurel picked up from Langdon that finally allowed him to create his classic character after years of not quite reaching his potential in films.)

The film is also very striking visually, especially the often mentioned stairway on the outside of the apartment Langdon lives in.

The Kino edition looks great for the most part, from a 35 mm negative, except for some moments which are decomposed. The music track is an organ score by Lee Erwin, which is well enough played, but not really very appropriate for the film, it’s a hard instrument to play without sounding melodramatic, certainly not the right mode for Langdon.

I did enjoy again experiencing the peculiar world of Harry Langdon. Will probably check out The Chaser later this weekend.

Very interesting thoughts on Three's a Crowd. Like you, I watched it twice in a row. The first time through had me pretty confused, and Kalat's commentary helped to point things out and generally cleared things up a bit.

I still don't find it particularly funny. As you mentioned, it is light on the gags (I do like the ending bit quite a lot, though), but this is a film that has stayed with me longer than others I thought I liked better.

I really like The Chaser. It's gag-filled but also has plenty of Langdon's minimalism. It's probably my favorite of his features, or, at the very least, the one I revisit most.
Offline
User avatar

Stacia

  • Posts: 32
  • Joined: Sat Aug 16, 2008 3:35 pm

PostSun Jan 31, 2010 5:52 am

White Shadows in the South Seas

I had no idea what to expect with this film. I recorded it off TCM during one of their 28 Days of Oscar, so it's been sitting around since last March.

The sound on this film is synched rather than recorded directly, which worked very well in some scenes. One scene where the doctor is teaching the island girl to do bird calls features a lovely score with the dubbed-in whistling at a volume just under the music, resulting in one of the nicest auditory effects I've ever heard in a film of this era.

The scenery was beautiful, the acting solid, and I think I have a crush on Monte Blue. I'm ashamed to admit it, but I had no idea he was in small parts in some of my favorite films: The Horn Blows at Midnight, Saratoga Trunk, Stallion Road, A Stolen Life, plus he's in about a dozen movies I have sitting around ready to watch, mostly Marie Prevost films. NEAT. I love discovering this kind of thing.

The film was intensely anti-Colonialist, which warmed my cold, leftist heart, and the bitter ending appealed to my artistically depressed soul. I snark a bit, but I really enjoyed this film and wish I'd seen it sooner.
Offline
User avatar

Rob Farr

  • Posts: 539
  • Joined: Wed Dec 19, 2007 9:10 pm
  • Location: Washington DC

PostSun Jan 31, 2010 7:29 am

I went into SUMURUN anticipating the famed Lubitsch touch married to Max Reinhardt's fantastic expressionism and came out with this: Pola Negri is smokin' hot! That's Smokin' with a capital S and Hot with a capital H, folks.

Whether she's dancing, running, hanging from a bridge, writhing, swooning or just vamping, Negri justifies the existence of the entire German film industry. And she isn't even playing the film's title character: that honor belongs to Jenny Hasselquist, who is so blown away by Negri that I wouldn't recognize her if she walked into this room, sat down next to me and finished writing this review.

Negri plays a dancing girl who just wants to be part of the Sheik's harem. There are two sheiks: one old and creepy and one young and creepy. But Pola doesn't care...she just wants in. At one point it looks like she's thinking about seducing a fussy old eunuch and for a moment you think she might damn well pull it off.

There's no way I can recount all the intertwined plots, just suffice it to say there is much lusting and unrequited love amongst all concerned, with one of Lubitsch's trademarked (in Germany at least) geometrical chase sequences thrown in. Lubitsch plays his final leading role as a hunchback clown in love with...you know who. But then as now, women like Pola don't care a fig about hunchbacked clowns, not when there are sheiks to be had. Ernst spends most of the film either moping or unconscious, so anyone looking for a reason why he was one of the most popular German comic actors of the teens should scout around for a grey market copy of Meyer in Berlin.

Oh, and the sets are terrific. You might catch a glimpse of them whenever Pola is off-screen.
Rob Farr
"If it's not comedy, I fall asleep." - Harpo Marx
Offline

gjohnson

  • Posts: 653
  • Joined: Tue Jan 15, 2008 4:56 pm

PostSun Jan 31, 2010 8:34 am

Good reviews by everyone so far.

Rob, stop lusting!!

Gary J.
Offline
User avatar

Nancy Lorraine

  • Posts: 54
  • Joined: Fri Feb 08, 2008 7:17 pm

PostSun Jan 31, 2010 12:54 pm

I watched Lubitsch’s LADY WINDEMERE’S FAN (1925), and did so without knowing anything about it except that Ronald Colman was in it and that it was based on an Oscar Wilde play. Being only a little familiar with Wilde, and because it was Lubitsch, I guess I expected it to be more of a light witty comedy, and was slightly thrown by the melodrama-tinged plot of a mother’s sacrifices.

I appreciated that Lubitsch didn’t rely on witty wordy intertitles straight from Wilde, and thought that this was adaped into a silent film very nicely in this way. His use of small gestures and behaviors to define the characters and tell the story went a long way in illustrating “the Lubitsch touch” for me. I realized afterward that I’ve seen a handful (or more) of Lubitsch films, but never really looked at them – and his “touch” – altogether as a style. I think this film helped me be more aware of that.

I enjoyed seeing a more interesting and sophisticated Irene Rich – I’d only seen her on the more matronly side of roles, as Will Rogers’ wife in THEY HAD TO SEE PARIS and as Jackie Cooper’s mother in THE CHAMP. I liked Rich’s scenes and relationship with Edward Martindel – especially how she wraps things up at the end with him. I was ready to hate the ending, the way it looked like it was going, but the last-minute switch won me over. About 30 minutes into it, I was wanting more of Ronald Colman, but realized his character was more peripheral to the others. May McAvoy was fairly inconsequential – I felt the role likely could have been played by most any actress of her type – nothing about her stood out to me (except for all that gorgeous jewelry she got for her birthday!)

I can definitely see myself revisiting this one in the future. I keep thinking about certain scenes and character motivations, so I think there’s much more to it than I may have been getting out of it on this first viewing.
Offline
User avatar

Rodney

  • Posts: 2342
  • Joined: Mon Jan 07, 2008 11:09 am
  • Location: Louisville, Colorado

PostSun Jan 31, 2010 1:12 pm

Well, I had a change of plans -- couldn't watch The Sea Hawk with the rest of my family as planned, and decided to save it for when I could. I watched Monte Cristo, instead, which, though I was intimately involved with the other film on the 2-disc John Gilbert set, I hadn't watched yet. A search at imdb for the character "Edmond Dantes" reveals that this story has been filmed for movies or TV at least 27 times, including a U.K. production in 1918 told across 15 episodes.

It's an early-ish film (1922), and suffers from some storytelling problems of the era in places. Every time I see films made before about 1924, I'm more impressed with The Mark of Zorro (1920) for its comparatively flawless modern story-telling. For instance, in Monte Cristo, a character appears to be stabbed to death in one scene, yet appears live and whole later in the film with no explanation. The sole-surviving source print is damaged, more in some places than in others, which leads occasional very rapid shots, and some odd Melies-like moments, such as one where a woman slowly walking across a room instantaneously jumps forward a few feet not once but several times. But the original film was obviously quite lavish, with massive castle sets, caves, prisons, and Parisian palaces. I particularly liked the wall of the Chateau D'If, built out into the ocean, approachable only by boat.

I really thought John Gilbert was quite powerful in this film. He suffers a bit from careless makeup with a few of the shaggy beards, but still acts convincingly underneath it. Though he overdoes it once (with the discovery of the Monte Cristo treasure), as his revenge plots proceed, you often see him thinking over whether he might be going too far -- something you don't see in less-subtle versions of the tale. Just 25 years old at the time, he does best as the mid-forties-ish older Edmond Dantes, bringing a seriousness and gravitas that is quite convincing. For instance, when it looks as if he needs to extend his revenge to the next generation of his enemies, he effectively conveys being troubled and wondering if he should reveal all the truth prematurely to avoid dragging innocents to their ruin. (His old girlfriend does it for him, relieving him of making the final decision.)

The other characters are also well played, so that each of the enemies is quite distinct and have separate character flaws that Dantes exploits during his revenge. There's never any confusion about which guy he's working over at any point.

The somewhat wistful but overall happy ending of the film seemed to be different from what I remember, so it may well have been Hollywood-ized... it's been a while since I read the novel.

All in all, a more enjoyable film than I thought it was going to be, and well worth watching. Neal Kurz's piano score is quite effective, evoking not only the emotions on the screen, but also the mid-classical style of music in the post-Napoleonic era when the action takes place. Using historic music is often an either-or proposition in costume pictures (either you get the music right or you get the emotional support right), and Kurz pulls it off nicely.
Rodney Sauer
The Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra
www.mont-alto.com
"Let the Music do the Talking!"
Offline
User avatar

greta de groat

  • Posts: 2100
  • Joined: Sun Jan 20, 2008 1:06 am
  • Location: California

PostSun Jan 31, 2010 2:18 pm

Well, i had to tear myself away from that endless box of stills of Augustus Carney and John Steppling last night to eat dinner and finish up The Master Mystery. I also watched Terror Island.

Most of the good stuff happened in the previous episodes, so 13-15 were mainly wrapping up. I'd forgotten Dr. Q with the big fake beard, mainly because i couldn't figure out what relation he had to the plot, but he's important to the final episodes. Anyway, it was one of the better silent serials i've seen and i quite enjoyed it.

Terror Island wasn't up to that level, though half a bottle of wine at dinner and two missing reels didn't help my concentration. I ended up having to back it up and rewatch parts after falling asleep. I never did really grasp the plot. Uber-cutie Lila Lee had people after her for some reason, and Houdini had a submarine. Bad guy Eugene Pallette, his wife, and a bunch of other folks had a boat, and they all ended up on some island with natives on it. Houdini's best surviving stunt was hanging by his neck and somehow getting his feet above his head to untie himself. But mostly he swam a lot, and rescued Lila Lee who spent most of the film in pajamas. This would probably play better with an audience than on a TV when you're sleepy, but given that the middle of the film is missing, i can't imagine that happening often.

I'd seen The Man From Beyond and quite enjoyed it. I ran through it on fast forward to refresh my memory and figure out why i had no recollection of Nita Naldi being in it. Sure enough, she didn't have much to do so i'd totally forgotten it.

So far all have had excellent piano or organ scores.


greta
Greta de Groat
Unsung Divas of the Silent Screen
http://www.stanford.edu/~gdegroat
Offline
User avatar

Christopher Jacobs

Moderator

  • Posts: 2287
  • Joined: Tue Jan 22, 2008 12:53 pm
  • Location: Grand Forks, North Dakota

PostSun Jan 31, 2010 8:46 pm

Okay, here are my reports on the January 2010 "Watch That Movie" project.

With temperatures below zero, it was an ideal weekend to spend in my basement home theatre (see http://www.und.nodak.edu/instruct/cjaco ... Photos.htm if you happen to be curious) for this year's "watch that movie" event with movies all set in substantially warmer climates -- from a southern cotton farm to the Louisiana bayous to Mexico City. I was able to get through three of the many movies I've had sitting on the shelf for years and should have watched long ago. All three were from the 1940s; while two were shot in the U.S., all three were from directors born outside the U.S.; and all three happened to exemplify the theme of "the dignity of the poor," albeit with very different approaches.


Thursday night, Jan. 28, I started with Jean Renoir's THE SOUTHERNER (1945). This was a 1991 United American Video VHS recorded in the SLP mode, which may be why I kept putting off watching it. A good VHS in SP mode can actually look surprisingly good, and even LP can look adequate, but anything in SLP is better kept for sub-19" TV monitors. The print was a decent old TV print with scratched-in commercial cues and a typical 1980s PD video transfer that certainly wasn't helped by the SLP speed. Seeing it projected four feet tall, I almost decided to eject it and go on to the next title, but instead I moved to the back row of my screening room and as it got more interesting after the first several minutes (and much better about halfway through), I stuck with it to the end.

Zachary Scott, Betty Field, Beulah Bondi, Percy Kilbride, J. Carrol Naish star in the story of a young cotton sharecropper and his family struggling to be independent against overwhelming odds. The film is an ode to American individualism, with a heavy emphasis on the value of the small farmer who does what he does because he loves the land and outdoors, rather than a desire for riches. About everything that can go wrong for the young family does, and just as it seems things will work out, another disaster will strike.

Performances seem a bit forced at times and often perhaps too overearnest, but are generally okay to pretty good. The most distracting parts are the voiceovers, giving it the feeling of a really low budget besides a more didactic docudrama flavor. The cinematography is quite good, and if a restored print ever comes out on BluRay, I'd probably watch it again. Otherwise, it's worth seeing once.


To get that soft and fuzzy picture quality out of my mind, I popped in my previously unopened DVD of Robert Flaherty's LOUISIANA STORY (1948), a 2003 release of the LoC/MoMA/UCLA restoration from Home Vision Entertainment. Its lush, beautiful image was marred by some electronic edge enhancement, mainly at the start (looking good enough to sit in the second row instead of the last, but not the front row where I usually sit for BluRays and most modern DVD transfers). Richard Leacock's cinematography was simply gorgeous to look at, like seeing classic LIFE magazine photos brought to life, set to atmospheric Virgil Thompson music that sometimes calls to mind his PLOW THAT BROKE THE PLAINS score.

The film lyrically chronicles a few months in a Cajun boy's leisurely paced life in the swamp while a derrick drills for oil on his family's property. I'd forgotten that this had been commissioned by the Standard Oil Company, and it's likely the most beautiful and visually poetic industrial film ever made. That said, the stiff acting and routine intonation of the narration often jerk it back to the typical industrial/educational film feeling. While not structured like a standard fact-oriented informational film (and it never really does get into any specific details about either oil drilling or swamp life), it doesn't have enough drama or plot to hold the interest of most mainstream audiences. Nevertheless, it's well above average and well worth seeing, a memorable addition to Flaherty's vivid anthropological observations on film. The disc's bonus features are also worth checking out, especially two half-hour filmed interviews with Frances Flaherty.


Friday night, Jan 29th, I finally opened the shrink-wrap on my DVD of NOSOTROS LOS POBRES (We the Poor) (1948), a Mexican film directed by Ismael Rodriguez. Interestingly it was released by Warner Home Video in 2007, for the 50th anniversary of the star's untimely death at age 39 and is one of 23 titles in a Pedro Infante colecciona de todas las 23 películas! I found it languishing with a couple other Infante titles in a short-lived Spanish-language section at our local Best Buy, and luckily I got them before they and the section disappeared. Apparently Infante, a singer as well as an actor, is still a well-known star in Mexico due to 50 years of TV showings and radio broadcasts.

The picture on this disc, unfortunately, is a bit soft but certainly watchable (another second- or third-row movie, rather than front-row), looking like an old tape master transferred to DVD. There's a remixed simulated stereo soundtrack that's just awful, but at least the original mono track is also an option, and there are subtitles available in Spanish, English, French, and Portugese.

Pedro Infante stars as a humble carpenter in a Mexico City slum, who is also a bit of a ladies' man, and while prone to a violent temper has an honest and loving heart, and lives with his little girl, whom he lets run his shop. Eventually he is unjustly accused first of theft, then of murder, and the situation becomes even more complicated. Co-starring are child star Evita "Chachita" Muñoz, Blanca Estela Pavon, and a young Katy Jurado, among others. NOSOTROS LOS POBRES came in about the middle of Infante's abbreviated career, and is credited with making him a star. It's the first of a trilogy with the same characters (the other two films of which I'd bought at the same time, and now really want to watch). This is the movie I'm really glad I picked to see. I'll probably try to see its sequels, USTEDES LOS RICOS (1948) and PEPE EL TORO (1951), within the next week or so.

NOSOTROS LOS POBRES has an impressively involved plot that's a blend of a sort of Mexican Damon Runyon, Italian neo-realism, Precode melodrama, raw soap opera, and prison picture, with hints of The Beggars' Opera, The Telltale Heart, Stella Dallas, and heartwarming tear-jerking Frank Capra mixed in for good measure, plus it's a musical! It's packed with comedy, drama, romance, tragedy, and song, all dramatizing the individuality, pride, family loyalty, and resiliance of the lower classes in Mexico City. There's even some interesting references to illegal green cards for potential work in the U.S., a good half-century before that theme became "fashionable." It's a controlled, but gritty slice of life that is also an unexpectedly complex narrative with well-defined characters and generous helpings of sardonic comic relief and genuine sentiment rather than cheap sentimentality.

This was easily the best of the three movies I watched for this project, and it's a film that really deserves the care of a hi-def transfer if not a full restoration, not to mention much wider awareness outside of Mexico. At least this is not a bare-bones disc of just the movie. There's a documentary about the director as a bonus, but it's in Spanish only with no subtitles (and I had only one year of Spanish in the eighth grade). There's a feature that lets you play only the musical numbers (without subtitles), plus a photo gallery, a filmography, and a trailer.

I'll report back whenever I get through both USTEDES LOS RICOS and PEPE EL TORO.

--Christopher Jacobs
http://hpr1.com/film
http://www.und.edu/instruct/cjacobs
Last edited by Christopher Jacobs on Wed Feb 03, 2010 4:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Offline
User avatar

rudyfan

  • Posts: 1840
  • Joined: Wed Dec 19, 2007 11:48 am
  • Location: San Fwancisco

PostSun Jan 31, 2010 9:39 pm

Gretchen the Greenhorn (Triangle 1916)

Having developed a desire in seeing some Dorothy Gish films not directed by D.W. Griffith, well, the pickings are mighty slim for the home viewer. Happily, The Film Preservation Foundation included the UCLA restored 1916 Triangle picture Gretchen the Greenhorn in the second Trteasures set. The film stars Dorothy Gish, Ralph Lewis, Frank Bennett and a very nearly svelte Eugene Pallette.

The story begins with Dutch immigrant John Van Houck having saved enough to send for his daughter Gretchen to emigrate to the United States from Holland. Ralph Lewis does pretty well with warm and fuzzy here (very unlike his role as the greedy and nasty father to Alice Terry in The Conquering Power). Gretchen arrives in Dutch wooden clogs and carrying a duck, of all things. No customs, no Ellis Island, she come right off the boat and after a few tense moments of not finding one another, Gretchen and her adoring paper are reunited. Funnily, the shots of the reunion begin with the two of them in medium closeup and as they run to one another, we are treated to the intimate reunion from the distance of a rooftop rather far away.

Gretchen is introduced to the neighborhood and meets Pietro (Frank Bennett) and the Widow Garrity (the always wonderful Kate Bruce). Papa is an engraver by profession and Gretchen takes over the daughterly duties of cooking, cleaning and making friends with all the neighbors. She also falls in love with Pietro who also is living in their tenement. Enter bad guy Rodgers, who has moved into the tenement to scope out the engraving skills of Papa. He soon tricks him into engraving a plate from which counterfeit money indistinguishable from the real thing can be made. In the meantime, kindly widow Garrity dies and leaves a brood of children and asks Gretchen on her deathbed to watch over them.

The creation of a test plate is used so he can get a commission to work for the government. This is, of course, bogus. To test out the phony bill, he gives one to Gretchen to buy groceries, and return with the change. The ruse works and the phony baloney bill is accepted as genuine. When Gretchen and John realize how they have been used, they make plans to expose Rodgers, but when he finds out, he drags them to his hideout and locks them in.

Enter the Garrity children, who witness the abduction and so alert Pietro. With the help of the police, he captures Rodgers and then frees his sweetheart and her father, after which he and Gretchen get married. Happy days!

The 35mm print was in very good shape with some original tints. I have to say, I want to see more of Dorothy Gish, she was fun and much more subtle than what would have been a much more fluttery heroine than under Griffith’s direction at this point. The direction of the Franklin brothers was pretty intimate. Kate Bruce’s death scene was handled beautifully. It was enormous fun to see Eugene Pallette in such an early role, not quite padded out for his turn in The Three Musketeers.

As an aside, I also watched The Man From Beyond and did not enjoy it as much as Greta did. I thought not enough Houdini stunts and Houdini was a dreadful actor. The plot was pretty clunky, though the premise was cool, I think it would have worked better as a serial. The few scenes Nita Naldi had were the highlight for me, she did not have much to do, but vamped as well as she could with the little bit of screen time she had.
Offline
User avatar

Frederica

  • Posts: 4852
  • Joined: Wed Dec 19, 2007 1:00 pm
  • Location: Kowea Town, Los Angeles

PostSun Jan 31, 2010 10:55 pm

BURNING DAYLIGHT, 1928

Better late than never, I had finally a chance to sit down and watch Milton Sills and Doris Kenyon in the rip-snorting Jack London adventure story, Burning Daylight. It's a film that doesn't require a lot of critical scrutiny, just ladle up the popcorn and enjoy the heck out of it.

Sills plays the eponymous hero of the story, a rootin' tootin' tough-as-nails Alaska...mail carrier. Clearly this was back when mail-carryin' meant something, pardner. He's manly and he's good looking as all heck, but he's also blind as a bat; he doesn't notice that Virgie, the Dance Hall Girl With the Heart of Gold (Doris Kenyon) is crazy in love with him. He also apparently doesn't notice that she's a knockout. Too much time with the sled dogs, I guess.

Daylight, Virgie, and his entourage of Yukon characters take off for the Klondike, where Daylight makes a load of money off the gold strike. He meets up with City Gal Jane Winton and is entranced (not noticing that Kenyon blows Winton off the screen). At City Gal's urging he sets off for San Francisco to conquer that Big Business Game.

Needless to say, the Big Business Game cleans him out, both financially and physically (we can tell he's degenerated because of his heavy eye shadow). Because underneath the eye-shadow he's tough and rootin' tootin', he wins out in the end. And he finally notices how smoking hot Doris Kenyon is.

The quality of the print I saw could be improved but it was acceptable. The score could really be improved, but it didn't overtly detract from the experience. This one deserves better treatment. Some trivial asides:

1. Damn, I love Milton Sills! According to the imdb he made a gadzillion films, what's his survival rate? Does The Sea Wolf survive?

2. I didn't know Wid Gunning produced films. Just sayin'.

3. Was Doris Kenyon always that beautiful, or did she only get gorgeous when standing next to Sills? I think the only other film I've seen her in was also with Sills. She was gorgeous then, too.

4. The print I saw had some sound at the beginning of the film, crowd noises, etc. Was this film originally a part-talkie, or were these sounds added later?

Those questions aside, I award a big bunch of grapes and a drive in the Isotta Fraschini to Burning Daylight.
Fred
"Screw the men. I've got the horse."
Helen B. (Penny) Chenery
http://www.nitanaldi.com"
http://www.facebook.com/NitaNaldiSilentVamp"
Offline
User avatar

rudyfan

  • Posts: 1840
  • Joined: Wed Dec 19, 2007 11:48 am
  • Location: San Fwancisco

PostSun Jan 31, 2010 11:00 pm

Frederica wrote:BURNING DAYLIGHT, 1928

3. Was Doris Kenyon always that beautiful, or did she only get gorgeous when standing next to Sills? I think the only other film I've seen her in was also with Sills. She was gorgeous then, too.


She's overwigged, overdressed and overly haughty in Monsieur Beaucaire.

She's also in Valley of the Giants with (thump thump) Milton Sills.
Offline
User avatar

Frederica

  • Posts: 4852
  • Joined: Wed Dec 19, 2007 1:00 pm
  • Location: Kowea Town, Los Angeles

PostSun Jan 31, 2010 11:07 pm

rudyfan wrote:
Frederica wrote:BURNING DAYLIGHT, 1928

3. Was Doris Kenyon always that beautiful, or did she only get gorgeous when standing next to Sills? I think the only other film I've seen her in was also with Sills. She was gorgeous then, too.


She's overwigged, overdressed and overly haughty in Monsieur Beaucaire.

She's also in Valley of the Giants with (thump thump) Milton Sills.


Valley of the Giants is the other film I saw her in, with (pit-a-pat) Milton Sills. Odd, I didn't notice her in Monsieur Beaucaire, but that might have been because I was napping. It's really not my favorite Valentino film. Sorry.
Fred
"Screw the men. I've got the horse."
Helen B. (Penny) Chenery
http://www.nitanaldi.com"
http://www.facebook.com/NitaNaldiSilentVamp"
Offline
User avatar

rudyfan

  • Posts: 1840
  • Joined: Wed Dec 19, 2007 11:48 am
  • Location: San Fwancisco

PostSun Jan 31, 2010 11:17 pm

Frederica wrote:
rudyfan wrote:
Frederica wrote:BURNING DAYLIGHT, 1928

3. Was Doris Kenyon always that beautiful, or did she only get gorgeous when standing next to Sills? I think the only other film I've seen her in was also with Sills. She was gorgeous then, too.


She's overwigged, overdressed and overly haughty in Monsieur Beaucaire.

She's also in Valley of the Giants with (thump thump) Milton Sills.


Valley of the Giants is the other film I saw her in, with (pit-a-pat) Milton Sills. Odd, I didn't notice her in Monsieur Beaucaire, but that might have been because I was napping. It's really not my favorite Valentino film. Sorry.


No need to apologize to me!
Offline
User avatar

greta de groat

  • Posts: 2100
  • Joined: Sun Jan 20, 2008 1:06 am
  • Location: California

PostMon Feb 01, 2010 12:26 am

I actually got through the third Houdini DVD. I started this one with some grim-looking airplane stunts from The Grim Game, which were purported to be an accident which Houdini survived--though if this is the case they sure had the cameras in convenient locations.

The main feature of this disc is Haldane of the Secret Service. I always thought Haldane sounded like a mouthwash. I didn't have the excuse of the wine tonight to be confused by this plot. A drugged-out looking white guy in China gets a note from his ward at the convent. Next thing we are in New York where Houdini is innocently walking down the street when a girl in a wedding dress jumps out of a car and asks for his help. Some guys jump out and fight with him while she takes off for a nearby house. THe other guys leave and he finds a bag on the street. Under a streetlight, he opens the bag and discovers money that only the expert eye can see in the tiny details is counterfeit (must have been a bright streetlight). WHile he is examining one bill, he doesn't notice someone switch the bag. He goes in the building where the girl is and puts the bag down and someone switches it again. My this time my husband and I were already snorting (and simultaneously observe how dumb the heroine looked). So, is she or is she not involved in the counterfeit ring? After being thrown in the water he swims out to her ship and goes to Europe, where we see some street scenes, and by this time the plot had completely lost me. There were some real Chinese actors and some fake ones, and they eventually tied Houdini to a water wheel from which he escaped, but there really wasn't much in the way of stunts. So i have to say this film was a dud.

The real treat on the discs, though was a surreal 1910 Zecca comedy called Slippery Jim, which called Terry Gilliam's Monty Python work to mind.

So, i had fun with this Houdini set, but i observe that his talents are best suited to the serial format. When he's not escaping from something, there's not a whole lot of point to watching. Oddly, too, except for Nita Naldi, the serial had the best supporting cast as well. And the robot was great for laughs.

greta
Greta de Groat
Unsung Divas of the Silent Screen
http://www.stanford.edu/~gdegroat
Offline

Richard M Roberts

  • Posts: 1385
  • Joined: Fri Dec 21, 2007 6:56 pm

PostMon Feb 01, 2010 3:03 am

1. Damn, I love Milton Sills! According to the imdb he made a gadzillion films, what's his survival rate? Does The Sea Wolf survive?



Yes, it does, and I've tried to get Bob Birchard to book it for Cinecon for several years. Start bugging him too.

RICHARD M ROBERTS
Offline
User avatar

Mike Gebert

Site Admin

  • Posts: 5954
  • Joined: Sat Dec 15, 2007 3:23 pm
  • Location: Chicago

PostMon Feb 01, 2010 8:15 am

Great reviews so far, everybody! Keep 'em up and everybody who posts about their movie by tonight will be eligible for tomorrow's drawing. Thanks.
“I'm in favor of plagiarism. If we are to create a new Renaissance, the government should encourage plagiarism. When convinced that someone is a true plagiarist, we should immediately award them the Legion of Honor.” —Jean Renoir
Offline
User avatar

Harlett O'Dowd

  • Posts: 2092
  • Joined: Fri Jan 04, 2008 8:57 am

PostMon Feb 01, 2010 10:46 am

The Oyster Princess (Die Austernprinzessin, 1919)

I received the Kino Lubitsch set as a Christmas present two(?) years ago and never removed the shrinkwrap. We started with The Oyster Princess. I hope to get to the companion piece, I Don't Want to Be a Man (Ich möchte kein Mann sein) tonight.

Thank you thank you thank you for prodding me to start on this set. The Oyster Princess is a delight. Harry Liedtke - especially drunk - is absolutely charming.

The plot, a fairytale, is a slightly less sexist revision of Taming of the Shrew. Shrewish, spoiled oyster heiress Ossi Oswalda wants a titled husband the way some spoiled children want a pet and her father, Victor Janson, is only too happy to oblige. Liedtke, as the delightfully named Prince Nucki (does that mean in German what it means in English?) is title rich and cash poor but still vain enough that he sends his valet (Julius Falkenstein) to check Ossi out before he commits to the marriage. Naturally we get the whole mistaken identity ta-do before the happy ending.

But the journey is what is fun. We get treated to a vicious post-WWI satire of american nouveau riche excess, "gentlemen" with their hands out for some cash and a room full of women boxing (yes, with boxing gloves) for the right to take home the delightfully drunk Liedtke (not that I blame any of the women.)

Best of all is an all-stops-out wedding banquet with the most bizarre dance orchestra you will ever see and an evil satire of the avante garde use of non-traditional instruments in orchestras that was in vogue at that time. I almost never laugh out loud at comedies - sound or silent - when I am watching something on the tube, but this sequence was wonderfully bizarre and laugh-out-loud funny.

The Kino set had a very nice restored print and the music by Aljoscha Zimmermann was appropriately quirky for the unreal environment. Happily, the score was particularly appropriate to the wedding sequence and synced up the odd-ball machiantions of the musicians perfectly, which added to the oddity.

This was my first pre-Rosita Lubitsch and my first Oswalda experience. The Lubitsch Touch is clearly in evidence here. It seems a much more advanced film, in terms of sophistication, composition and the size of the production, than what little I know of pre-1920 German cinema (Caligari, Spinnen.)

What I found most interesting is that the drunken Liedtke reminded me a lot of the young Chevalier with the mussed up hair and the playful, innocent leer. I'm no Chevalier/Lubitsch expert but I wonder if Lubitsch molded Chevalier a decade later to bring out some of the qualities he found in Liedtke, or if Lubitsch enjoyed working with Chevalier because the frenchman had already developed that persona.

My only disspointment was is Oswalda. It being such a short film, she had little to do and was so unlikable through most of it I was unable to get a real handle on what made her so popular. Hopefully Ich möchte kein Mann sein and Die Puppe will serve as better vehicles for her.
Offline
User avatar

Jim Reid

  • Posts: 1544
  • Joined: Fri Dec 21, 2007 9:16 am
  • Location: Dallas, Texas

PostMon Feb 01, 2010 6:15 pm

I'm probably the last one on this site to have seen it, but I chose to watch My Best Girl. I'm not usually a big Pickford fan, but had read enough about this to think I might like it.

Mary plays Maggie, a plucky girl in the stock room of the Merrill Dept. Store. She longs for better things and is given a chance to show she can be a sales clerk while sitting in for a co-worker. She gets her first customer and tries hard to sell balloons until she is out of breath. She's disappointed when the potential customer turns out to be her new co-worker in the stockroom played by Buddy Rogers.

Unknown to her, he's actually Joe Merrill, the son of the store's owner. Joe is engaged to a society girl from a good family that we know is toast as soon as he meets Mary.

This a nice little film that is really helped by all the great character actors in the cast. Mary's parents are the great Lucien Littlefield as a terminally flustered mailman and Sunshine Hart as the mother whose hobby is attending funerals and most of the time can't stop crying. Joe's father, the owner of the dept. store is played by Hobart Bosworth, an actor who's really growing on me. Mack Swain has a part as judge in a scene where Mary's n'er do well sister is dragged into court.

It was an enjoyable little film and I'm glad I watched it. Buddy Rogers character, although likeble, was kind of annoying in that all he had to do is speak up once and all the strife could have been avoided....but then you wouldn't have had much of a film, would you? Now I can move on to something a little meatier.
Offline

silent-partner

  • Posts: 168
  • Joined: Sun Oct 05, 2008 7:48 am

PostMon Feb 01, 2010 9:49 pm

THE RED KIMONA (1925)

This Kino has been resting comfortably in my collection for nearly 2 years waiting for the right time for me to crack open the shrink wrap. I dimmed the lights, nuked some Butterlovers and popped the shiny encrypted disc in the player.

I tried, really, I did. Two times. Couldn't get through it.
Anyone want to buy my dvd, cheap?
Offline
User avatar

missdupont

  • Posts: 2402
  • Joined: Mon Sep 07, 2009 9:48 pm
  • Location: California

PostTue Feb 02, 2010 1:39 am

I watched "Movies Dream in Color" from Flicker Alley's Discovering Cinema" DVD. The documentary told the story of how color came to moving images, beginning with tinted magic lantern shows that told interesting stories with beautiful artistic images. Film came along in the late 1890s, and while it revealed an image of life, it wasn't entirely realistic, because it wasn't in color. Color on film was originally a hand tinted affair created print by print by women painting on color and working on a crowded factory floor as early as 1895. Stenciling came along in 1904 with Pathe's introduction of its system, which was applied color by color similar to that in silk screening. Soon, additive processes came along employing filters, mainly red and green, to create color. Eventually Technicolor created what we know as Three Strip Technicolor, blending separate dyed emulsions to create color.

The documentary was informative without getting too technical or long, using nice examples of each process, with commentary by European film archivists and historians like Serge Bromberg (one of the producers of the series). The set also contains nice bonus extras of each step forward in the use of color.
Offline
User avatar

Jim Roots

  • Posts: 2775
  • Joined: Wed Jan 09, 2008 2:45 pm
  • Location: Ottawa, ON

PostTue Feb 02, 2010 8:41 am

Mike Gebert wrote:Great reviews so far, everybody! Keep 'em up and everybody who posts about their movie by tonight will be eligible for tomorrow's drawing. Thanks.


Well, if you're really drawing the line at Monday midnight, take my earlier comments on Bardelys the Magnificent as my official review, please.

I mentioned that I wouldn't be able to post about Becoming Charley Chase until Wednesday, but I'll say something now without having seen the final disc, just in case this has to qualify as my entry in the contest.

The Chase set is a bit of a no-win situation for the compilers/producers. Do you show the evolution of Chase over his long silent career? Or do you try to present a sampling of his most representative works? Or do a career overview that would include stuff where his contributions were off-screen? Or just go for the best-of approach? Whichever you choose, someone will complain!

David Kalat, Richard Roberts, et al went for the overview approach. We get three discs' worth of Chase's development from a Keystone minor player, through his one-reel starring shots as Jimmy Jump, and on to his unveiling as the wonderful two-reel Mr. Chase. We get a fourth disc of films he directed.

A reasonable approach, and a good job overall. There are some films that have been edited -- a whole section of hilarity with a slow car-driver was eliminated except for a single gag shot of an old man lapping him on a bike. And the producers apparently wanted to avoid overlapping the Kino Chase sets, so this set is missing trademark Chase films like Crazy Like A Fox and Mighty Like A Moose, All Wet, Movie Night, and unforgivably Limousine Love. Goddamnit, that's the one Chase classic film I still haven't been able to see in its entirety!

It's really pretty awe-inspiring to watch Chase's development. He starts with the Sennett nonsense of Peanuts and Bullets, a really crude and broad bit of Keystone stuff. And just a few years later he's making Outdoor Pajamas, which manages to juggle not one, not two, not three, but four plotlines in a two-reeler that starts off with a 7-minute distraction about Chase running around downtown in his pajamas. Imagine the confidence involved in throwing away 7 minutes of a 20 minute film on a funny non-sequiter in the knowledge that you have to introduce, develop, and reach a climax with four plots in just 13 minutes!

I haven't seen the Chase-as-director disc yet, but I'm familiar with some of the films on it already. I have to say that while this disc is a good idea, it's got a built-in weakness: there is no context for Chase's contribution to the comedians' oeuvre. What I mean is ... take Snub Pollard for an example. He's a shlub. He lives and dies by audience recognition of his moustache, really. Watching a bunch of his films is an exercise in comedy that fails because there's a vacuum at its centre. But the Pollard films directed by Chase leap out of the rest -- Pollard suddenly seems to have some comic ideas that he's able to get across, the film's editor suddenly seems to have discovered the secret of pacing, the cameraman suddenly knows where to place his box and what kind of lens to use. It's almost surreal in its difference from the usual Pollard film. But you won't get that experience by seeing only the Pollard film that Chase directed.

One last comment. What the heck is it with AllDay Entertainment and DVD menus? Why do they continue to use that crappy underline to highlight items on the menu? And they probably don't know it, but their delusions of recreating Persona in the menu results in a glitch -- if you are unlucky enough to click on anything in the menu at precisely the time they stick a Bergman fragment of leader into the screen, you'll be thrown into the first film of the disc regardless of what you clicked on. I had a really bad sense of timing while trying to access the "main menu" item from the "something" menu on disc 3 -- it took me seven tries to avoid clicking at the same time the leader popped up.

Aside from that annoyance, this set is highly, highly, highly recommended. Just be patient with disc 1 and the first half of disc 2 -- Charley doesn't really get his feet until he starts making two-reelers.

Jim
Offline
User avatar

Mike Gebert

Site Admin

  • Posts: 5954
  • Joined: Sat Dec 15, 2007 3:23 pm
  • Location: Chicago

PostTue Feb 02, 2010 8:52 am

Well, if you're really drawing the line at Monday midnight, take my earlier comments on Bardelys the Magnificent as my official review, please.


I already planned to.
“I'm in favor of plagiarism. If we are to create a new Renaissance, the government should encourage plagiarism. When convinced that someone is a true plagiarist, we should immediately award them the Legion of Honor.” —Jean Renoir
Offline

gjohnson

  • Posts: 653
  • Joined: Tue Jan 15, 2008 4:56 pm

PostTue Feb 02, 2010 10:08 am

Jim Roots wrote:
Just be patient with disc 1 and the first half of disc 2 -- Charley doesn't really get his feet until he starts making two-reelers.

Jim


Nonsense! The one-reelers are microcosms of Charley's world of farce and situation humor. His two-reelers are elaborate extensions of his earlier shorts and would not had been so perfectly concieved without laying the groundwork earlier with his one-reelers. That makes his one-reelers essential viewing historically and the fact that most of them are quite funny to boot.

Just saying...

Gary J.
PreviousNext

Return to Silent News

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 7 guests