1001 Flicks

Regularly updated blog charting the most important films of the last 104 years.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

30. Metropolis (1927)

Directed By Fritz Lang


I am frankly tired of writing these synopsis, I should really start just copy/pasting them of the net. I spend half the fucking post describing a film that honestly some one has described better than me. So I'll change the format to the following: Describe the film in the space of a paragraph. Here we go, if you need more info there's Wikipedia, AllMovies.com and IMDB who do it very well.

Future. Big City. Class segregation. Metropolis' Boss' son "slums it". Mad Scientist, makes robot. Robot looks like worker's leader who son of big cheese loves. Robot create big mess by dancing naked in clubs. Worker revolt, big boom on machines. Big Bad Flood. Problem solved, robot burned at stake. Workers solve problem with employer/slaver. A triumph of Status Quo, but not the band.


This is one of the best films ever made if you hate acting or plots. The acting is crap, mainly Freder Frederson's (Big Cheese's Kid) acting which is appaling. The plot is also a bit terrible, supposedly supporting a kind of "Christian Socialism" but in the end supporting the idea of upholding the status quo.

With that out of the way, what a great film it is! The sceneries and special effects are above and beyond anything done at the time, the imagery is extremely powerful, the camera setups are astonishing and there's a lady dancing with only panties and shiny nipple covers. Some of the imagery works extremely well, like the vision of the workers being eaten by a machine which has transformed into Moloch the ancient god as if they were sacrifices for the rich people who benefit from their work in the city of Metropolis above.

Another astonishing thing is just how influential this film is visually. Nowhere is this more apparent than on Fifth Element, the city images and even Milla Jovovich's clothing in that film derive clearly from Metropolis. But that is not the only place, the cities in films like the new Star Wars films where the "Jedi Council" looks suspiciously like the New Babel tower from Lang's film. So if you ever though, "Wow, what a cool art deco look they gave to this city", be it Gotham or whatever this is where it came from. And that is where this film really shines.

Essential viewing, no matter how shit the plot and some of the acting is. Buy it at Amazon UK or US.

Final Grade



Cool film, shit film.

From Wiki:

This film has influenced many science fiction movies to the present day, including Blade Runner, Dark City, Brazil, the Star Wars series, and The Matrix. The "Tower of Babel" structure is a key element in several films; in turn, Metropolis's tower appears to derive from Hans Poelzig's stocky, polygonal, modernistic water tower built in Posen (Poznań) in 1911. But the earliest films to be influenced were Just Imagine of 1930, which also featured a city with much air transport among and between skyscrapers connected by bridges, and Vultan's city in the first Flash Gordon serial of 1936, which had a sweatshop controlled by an operator who moved the needle of a huge dial while standing up.

* Rotwang, the film's mad scientist, has lost his right hand and has replaced it with a black prosthesis. In the film Dr. Strangelove, directed by Stanley Kubrick and first released on January 29, 1964, the German mad scientist Dr. Strangelove wears a black glove on his right hand, which he cannot consciously control. This is considered to be a tribute to the earlier film.

* A similar theme shows up in George Lucas' famous Star Wars films, in which the heroes, Anakin Skywalker and later his son Luke Skywalker, lose their right hands in combat and each has it replaced with a prosthesis, wearing a black glove over the robotic hand. The city-planet Coruscant looks like a more complex Metropolis. According to the Star Wars documentary Empire of Dreams, C-3PO was modeled after the Maria robot.

* Yet another example of the missing right hand archetype is Philip K. Dick's masterpiece, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch. An important element of the story is that Palmer Eldritch, the antagonist, possesses a robotic right arm, as well as artificial eyes, and a deformed jaw.

* A poster of the original movie shows up in the movie Hackers.

* Many of the scenes involving Rotwang seem to echo (or prophesy; it is not entirely clear) the many film adaptations of Mary Shelley's science-ficton novel Frankenstein, particularly the part where the Machine-Man is created.

* The ending of the film likewise is a piece of much imitated classic cinema. The climactic struggle between Rotwang and Freder over the life of Maria is strikingly similar to the many early film adaptations of Victor Hugo's novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame, as well as the climatic scene in Tim Burton's Batman.

* A musical theater adaptation was staged in London in 1989. Another musical adaptation was created in Italy in 2004 called "Metropolis Il Musical".

* An anime adaptation of Osamu Tezuka's manga Metropolis was released in the U.S. in 2002. See Metropolis (2001 movie). The anime series Big O seems to draw inspiration from Metropolis as well.

* Thomas Pynchon's novel Gravity's Rainbow contains several references to Fritz Lang's film, mostly voiced through the German rocket scientists and engineers who comprise a large part of its cast.

* The film has inspired or been included in several music videos, including Madonna's "Express Yourself", Spanish band Mecano's "7 de septiembre", System of a Down's "Sugar", Haddaway's "Life" and Queen's "Radio Ga Ga".

* Jeff Mills released an album named Metropolis inspired by the film in 2001.

* Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster decided to name Superman's base of operations after the Metropolis of the film.

* In 1997, Jean-Marc Lofficier and Roy Thomas and edgy expressionist artist Ted McKeever present an "Elseworlds" story in which Clark Kent and Superman inhabit the world of Lang's Metropolis in DC Comic's book Superman's Metropolis.

* Kraftwerk recorded a song named "Metropolis" for their 1978 album, Die Mensch Maschine. They were later offered the opportunity of scoring the 1984 restoration of the film, which eventually deferred to Giorgio Moroder.

* The 1994 full speech computer game Beneath a Steel Sky is set in a similar dystopian Metropolis. Its soundtrack is similar to Metropolis.

* Images from the film were used for the cover of the Be Bop Deluxe album Live in the Air Age

* In episode "Flame Street" from Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future TV series, members of the Resistance are cornered by the evil robot Blastaar and his troopers. During the laser fight, several posters of Maria can be easily spotted on the wall of their shelter.

* The film fell into public domain in the United States, but was restored to copyright in 1998. The lawsuit Golan v. Gonzalez unsuccessfully attempted to block its copyright restoration.

* On November 15, 2005, an original poster from 1927 (one of only four known in existence) was sold for a world record price of $690,000 by the Reel Poster Gallery in London

Thursday, July 27, 2006

29. The Big Parade (1925)

Directed By King Vidor


The war film to start all war films, Jimmy is a well off boy in the US. WWI starts and due mainly to family and the pressure of his fiancee, he enlists in the army. Of course he is not the only one and bartender Bull and construction worker Slim also join in. Jimmy, Bull and Slim are sent to France where Jimmy develops a relationship with Melisande, a pretty French farm girl. All the while Jimmy keeps receiving leters from his fiancee Justyn, and feels torn between family obligations and his true love, the French girl. Eventually Jimmy is called to the front with his friends Bull and Slim. As soon as he arrives at the front his division is sent to scour a wood full of German snipers and artillery. Jimmy and the two others eventually get stuck in a shell hole in the middle of No Man's Land just out of range of a German mortar canon. The orders come for them to disable that mortar and Slim takes the initiative.

Slim obviously gets shot and killed. Jimmy and Bull, enraged charge the German position and Bull also gets shot. Eventually Jimmy gets shot in the leg but manages to shoot a German soldier who doesn't die immediately but accompanies Jimmy in a trench smoking his last cigarette until he dies from his wounds next to Jimmy. Jimmy eventually wakes up in a hospital and discovering that his love's farm has changed hands repeatedly and her village has been attacked runs away from the hospital with his leg still in a cast. Jimmy eventually arrives at the farm but it is destroyed and he gets hit by a German artillery shell.

Meanwhile Jimmy's mother has discovered that Justyn and Jimmy's brother have been seeing each other but Justyn is still disposed to take Jimmy because he has been in the war. Jimmy is eventually returned to the States where he shows up at home with a leg amputated and in a very emotional scene is reunited with his family, he tells his mother about the Melisande and she sends him to France where Jimmy eventually find his love. The End.


Ok, this film contains most of the cliches of modern War films, but it invented it and therefore has the best of all excuses. Even Shakespere invented cliches. This film has many plus points to it, and few negatives. Firstly it is a very honest film, it is not pretentious, it doesn't try to be artsy, and all the effects used in it do much to contribute both to the story and the emotional impact, such as the scene where his mother remembers the scenes of her sons life in a flashback superimposed on her face while hugging her recently amputated son.

In the last review I said that the Gold Rush doesn't manage to have the right mix of comedy and drama, this film on the other hand does it, and does it very well. The first half of the film, before Jimmy is sent to the front is a very funny and light prelude to the horrors of war. And this is pretty much the first anti-war film reviewed here, Birth of A Nation doesn't really count as it is only partially about war.

The horror of war is very well captured here, particularly in the way that it completely breaks the comedic first half into a story of death, mutilation and despair to meet your loved ones. Again a bit like La Vita E Bella by Roberto Begnini where the drama is reinforced by the comedy by making you sympathise with the characters only to have them suffer terribly. Here also there are comic reliefs in the persons of Bull and Slim who get summarilly dispatched by German bullets in the second half. It's a bit like Scar killing Timon and Pumba from the Lion King.

So definitely a film to watch, if you like war films or just plain good cinema. Buy it at Amazon UK or US.

Final Grade



I cried a bit.

From Wiki:

Vidor entered in the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest career as a film director: beginning in 1913 with Hurricane in Galveston and ending in 1980 with a documentary called The Metaphor.

The Big Parade was one of the greatest hits of the 1920s, and made Gilbert and Adorée major stars. Tragically, Renée Adorée would soon be diagnosed with tuberculosis and die only a few years later. The film is the second-highest grossing silent film in cinema history (after Birth of a Nation), taking in $6,400,000 at the box office.

After the film's producers found a clause in Vidor's contract, entitling the director to 20% of the net profits, studio lawyers called for a meeting with him. At this meeting, accountants played up the costs of the picture while downgrading their forecast of its potential success. King Vidor was thusly persuaded to sell his stake in the film before receiving his percentage.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

28. The Gold Rush (1925)

Directed By Charlie Chaplin


The Tramp goes to Alaska during the gold rush to prospect gold. While there he meets Big Jim and a wanted criminal and gets stuck with him in a cabin during a storm. The Tramp and Jim almost starve and are forced to eat one of the Tramp's shoes, soon Big Jim starts allucinating that the Tramp is actually a chicken and tries to eat him. Meanwhile the criminal has left to go look for food and has discovered Big Jim's claim. Back at the cabin the Tramp and Jim get attacked by a bear and kill him, getting meat and being able to leave the cabin. The tramp goes back to town and Jim goes to his claim where the criminal expects him, Jim gets hit over the head and collapses, the criminal leaves and falls off a mountain by accident.

In town the Tramp falls in love with a girl called Georgia and even manages to set up a New Year's eve dinner with her and her friends but they never show up. Big Jim arrives in town suffering from amnesia remembering only that there was a cabin near his claim. He recognises the Tramp and demands that he takes him to the cabin and they will split the money. The tramp and Jim become millionaires and the tramp gets the girl on the boat out of Alaska.


Don't get me wrong, this was a good film and at times even great. Maybe the problem here is that Chaplin was too influential on mediocre comedians who have ruined the quality of his work. However, he is not nearly as funny as Keaton. On the other hand his films has a much more bittersweet quality to them and you spend more time pitying Chaplin than actually laughing at him. This is the interesting bit of the film, unfortunately it has very few laugh out loud moments if you compare it to the relentless pace of the Keaton films.

There are some classic scenes in this film which deserve their classic status. The bread roll dance is beautifully executed and so are the allucination scenes with Chaplin as a chick and the scene with the tilted cabin at the edge of the precipice. But frankly Chaplin has not developed the comic timing of Keaton, he has a much more slow style of film, it gets boring at times.

Again the positive aspect of the style of Chaplin when compared with Keaton is the fact that you feel deeply sad with his character, but you don't necessarily root for him like you do for the stone faced Keaton. Chaplin becomes in this film over dramatic at times. In some scenes this really works, and the heartache of the Tramp after he is stood up in New Year's Eve is deeply shown and it makes for a great scene. In balance the problem is that the film is not dramatic enough to be a drama or funny enough to be a comedy and the plot isn't good enough to make the mix work like it does in films like the much later La Vita E Bella (It's a Beautiful Life).

Buy it at Amazon UK or US.

Final Grade



From Wiki:

The "roll dance" the tramp character performs in the film is considered one of the most memorable scenes in film history. It was replicated by Johnny Depp's character in the 1993 film Benny and Joon and by Grampa Simpson in the 1994 episode of The Simpsons entitled "Lady Bouvier's Lover".

The Gold Rush was a huge success in the US and worldwide. It is the 5th highest grossing silent film in cinema history, taking in more than $4,250,000 at the box office in 1925. It is in fact the highest grossing silent comedy film.

Chaplin proclaimed at the time of its release that this was the film for which he wanted to be remembered.

The movie was originally released before the invention of sound film. For the 1942 re-release Chaplin composed and recorded a musical score, added a narration (his own voice) and tightened the editing.

Since the film was originally shot at 18 frames per second, the sound version, shown at 24 frames per second, is both shorter and faster than the original silent screenings. This has the side effect of making Chaplin's slapstick routines appear more frantic than before, a fact that had probably influenced Chaplin's decision to shoot Modern Times at silent speed.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

27. Battleship Potemkin (1925)

Directed By Sergei Eisenstein


There is a mutiny on a Battleship, called the Potemkin. The sailors are tired of eating maggoty meat everyday and when the captain gets ready to make a mass execution in order to stop a possible mutiny the sailors rise up and take control of the boat. This is happening near Odessa, and the corpse of the leader of the mutineers who was killed by one of the officers is left in the Odessa pier with a note attached to him saying that he was killed because of a bowl of soup (the sailors had refused to eat the soup with the maggoty meat in it). The people of Odessa sympathise with the sailors and with their desire for a broader revolution and help supply the Potemkin. The guard is brought in to stop the revolutionary crowding in the streets of Odessa and they do it in the most brutal way in the famous staircase scene. In retaliation the Potemkin destroys the Odessa Opera House with their cannons. A boat is sent to destroy the Potemkin at sea, but they join it in the revolution instead of destroying it.


As per usual the plots of agitprop films are quite simplistic, and this is no exception. The objective of the film is to be understood by the greatest number of people possible and to easily make them empathise with the revolutionary side of the thing. Therefore the evil tsarists are obviously evil, there is no third dimension to it. That is however one of the constraints of film making in a particular political regime.

That said, it is a stupendous (great word) film. Eisentein is only 27 when he did this, remember, and he has completely mastered the technique of montage. The way he gives pace and movement to the whole film by simply being extremely smart with editing is a great, great thing.

There can be no review of Potemkin without mentioning the steps scene. Again this is where Eisenstein shows his "montagical" prowess. The sense of urgency, of cruelty and of a horrible force of tsarism coming down those stairs as a steamroller of death that can't be stopped is amazingly well achieved. Even the way in which Eisenstein makes a lion come to life when the Opera is attacked, simply be making three shots in fast sequence of statues of a sleeping lion, a lion in repose and a standing one is an amazing tribute to the imagination and skill of this man.

As I had said before in the review of Strike!, Eisenstein seems to me to be the person who understands the possibilities of cinema better at this time, Murnau is the only other director which is at the same level as him. Well, watch it, buy it at Amazon UK or US

Final Grade



It's one of those films you really need to watch.

From Wiki:

The most famous scene from the film is the massacre on the Odessa Steps (Primorsky (Potemkin) Stairs), where the Tsar's cossacks in their white summer tunics march down a seemingly endless flight of stairs in a rhythmic, machine-like fashion, slaughtering a crowd of civilians as they attempt to flee down the stairs before the troops reach them.

The scene was perhaps the best example of Eisenstein's theory on montage, and ironically may have influenced many of Leni Riefenstahl's similar images in Triumph of the Will. It has been endlessly referenced in many motion pictures, with famous homages occurring in Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather, Brian De Palma's version of The Untouchables, and Star Wars Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (except the troopers marched up the stairs). It was also spoofed in Woody Allen's Bananas, Terry Gilliam's Brazil, Naked Gun: 33 1/3 and the anime series Ergo Proxy.

Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels called Potemkin "a marvellous film without equal in the cinema ... anyone who had no firm political conviction could become a Bolshevik after seeing the film."

Thursday, July 20, 2006

26. The Phantom of the Opera (1925)

Directed by Rupert Julian (also Lon Chaney in a couple of parts)


Come on, you know the story. It's Phantom of the Opera, and it is quite faithful to the novel. There's this Phantom guy in the Paris Opera who falls in love with a young opera singer who is herself in love with a guy called Raoul. The Phantom kidnaps her, Raoul tries to save her with the help of the secret police. Meanwhile the rabble is roused by one of the workers at the Opera, Phantom gets killed by the rabble while trying to escape. Singer marries Raoul. It's shit, really.


The Phantom of the Opera! In Magnificent Technicolor! Well, five minutes of it at least. There is colour going on during the ball scene, which is quite a novel thing for the films I've been reviewing. It's used more as a gimmick than as a useful artistic tool, but it lets you see Lon Chaney prancing around danced as the Red Death from the Poe story.

This is quite a crappy film honestly. Rupert Julian does fuck all with his camera, it's just stationary all the time, the acting is terrible except by Lon Chaney who is the big star here. There are redeeming factors to it, like the Technicolor scene, or the amazing sets or even the innovative use of opera arias during their respective scenes on stage. Giving you an almost ilusion of talkie, which it ain't and it won't be stealing Jazz Singer's thunder anytime soon, it also has amazing makeup particularly in the quite ugly face of the revealed Phantom.

This makes this version of the Phantom the best one put to screen. It at least has some redeeming features and more importantly is missing an Andrew Lloyd Weber soundtrack. Praise the Lord! Hallelujah! So, yeah it's better than the other crap versions of it. That isn't saying much.

So, poor direction, poor acting, good sets, good technical innovation, even though it serves no good purpose, makes this an all-round poor film. The pacing is also a bit slow, and when you compare it to a Murnau, a Lang, an Eisenstein or a Keaton it is just poor cinema in the context of the time. Watch it for Lon Chaney and the Technicolor scene, forget about the rest. If you really need to buy it you can get it at Amazon UK or US.

Final Grade



The film can be downloaded from the Internet Archive

From Wiki

Universal Studios' soundstage #23, where the movie was filmed, is said to be haunted. Some people believe that Lon Chaney, Sr.'s ghost haunts the soundstage.

* A long standing urban legend has that the Opera House set from the 1925 film has never been torn down and still stands, and is used today. This is partially true. On Set 28 part of the opera house set continues to stand to the side where it was used some 8 decades ago, although time has taken its toll so it is no longer used. Another urban legend says that the set remains because when workers have attempted to take it down in the past there have been fatal accidents, said to be caused by the ghost of Lon Chaney.

When the film was originally released, all of the opera scenes of Faust, as well as the "Bal Masque" scene were in an early, two-color form of Technicolor. Only the latter survives in color. Contrary to the popular rumor instigated by Phillip J. Riley's 1999 book, "MagicImage: The Phantom of the Opera" (Magic Image, 1999), the famous unmasking scene was not shot in Technicolor (Riley's book is a good picture reference, but is riddled with errors). In one scene, the Phantom's cape on the rooftop of the opera was colored red using the Handschiegl Color Process. This effect has been replicated in Photoplay Production/Kevin Brownlow's 1996 restoration by computer colorization. As with most films of the time, black and white footage was tinted various colors to give moods. These included amber for interiors, blue for night scenes, green for mysterious moods, red for fire and sunshine (yellow) for daylight exteriors.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

25. Seven Chances (1925)

Directed By Buster Keaton


A man (Keaton) is facing bankruptcy in his company and needs a fast cash injection. Meanwhile his grandfather dies and he inherits 7 million dollars. A respectable amount. The catch is that he needs to be married by 7 o'clock of his 27th birthday. This happens to be the day he receives the news! Keaton is actually in love with a girl called Mary. With typical male tact Keaton proposes marriage by saying that he has to marry some girl by seven. Mary tells him to shove it, although she does love him. Mary's mother convinces her to give Keaton a chance to explain, and calls him at work. Due to a connection problem she can hear him in the office saying that he won't marry any other girl and she realises that he wants to marry her because he loves her. She sends her servant to give Keaton a message telling him that she'll marry him. Meanwhile Keaton, after being convinced by his buisness associate, is attempting to get married to whomever he can. Eventually his friend posts an advert in the evening newspaper.Hilarity ensues.

At 5 o'clock the church chosen for the ceremony is filled with brides, the message from Mary never arrives. The priest comes out looks at the church and thinks this is a joke. The brides turn on Keaton for having fooled them, and Hell Hath No Fury Like 500 Women Scorned. Keaton runs away in a characteristicly complex fashion and manages to get to Mary just before 7 and get married! All's well that ends well.


Another very fun Buster Keaton film. This one is more plot oriented than the previous films reviewed here. This is at the same time a good and a bad thing. It is good, because let's face it plots are useful in films. It's bad because it leaves less time for Keaton's amazing stuntwork, which is really what you want to see in his films. No one watches Jackie Chan films for their depth.

Still Keaton manages to save the film with an amazing sequence towards the end, which really tops off the film. The plot itself isn't bad at all, it's not the most original thing obviously, but it's not badly executed. Keaton is an excelent actor as well as choreographer and stuntman. Some things about the film were not that good however, but that is more from an ideological point of view (there's some light racism and blacked up actors around, as well as one anti-semitic depiction) than from a filmmaking point of view.

Keaton is as close as you can get to perfect comedic directing, acting, choreography and timing in the film medium. He is simply amazing and there isn't much more I can say about this film that I haven't already said about his previous films. Let me state again that this guy has the most physical stamina I've ever seen on screen. If you get this film look for the part in which he is running down a hill trying to escape rocks in a landslide (yes, Indiana Jones Style) and see how the guy runs. And those are wide shots. They're not shooting his face to show fright while he's a studio and then changing it to a rock. It's all real, man!

Buy it at Amazon UK or US.

Final Grade



There was a terrible remake of this with Chris O'Donnel, Rene Zellweger, Brooke Shields and Mariah Carey... called The Bachelor. That's not on my list.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

24. The Last Laugh (Der Letzte Mann) 1924

Directed by F. W. Murnau


This is a simple tale. A hotel porter is old and therefore can't carry luggage like younger people. He is stripped of his beautiful uniform which made him the most distinguished person in his poor neighbourhood and demoted to lavatory assistant. The man gets desperate and that night steals the uniform in order to be albe to go back home where the party of his niece's wedding is taking place, without losing face. The porter returns, but next day his wife/sister (i don't know, the woman he lives with, IMDB lists her as the bridegroom's aunt! What now?) goes to his work to bring him some food and she discovers his demotion. When the porter returns home that night in his uniform the whole neighbouhood already knows of his disgrace and he is laughed at as he arrives home. The porter can't stand the way his family looks at him and therefore takes refuge at the hotel, where he returns his uniform and spends the night sitting in the lavatory chair. Whithering away to the inevitable point of death. THE END.

Or not really! At great expense an epilogue is added where the porter gets an inheritance left to him by a mexican millionaire who died in his arms while taking a slash. During the last 10 minutes of the film the porter gorges himself and dispenses tips generously!


Ok, so the last 14 minutes of the film are completely absurd. I am not sure that is such a bad thing. Carl Meyer, the screenwriter, was forced to have a happy ending and he decided "Oh yeah? I'll give you a fucking happy ending!". The ending is so absurd that it is completely tacked on at the end, making it a kind of middle finger to studio demands.

If we ignore that ending it is a great and truly touching film, that manages to be that without the use of a single intertitle! We read what's written on the niece's cake and on his demotion letter, but that is it. Silent film has graduated from a literary means to a truly visual thing. This idea is reinforced by Karl Freunde's amazing camera work, the fluid mobility of the camera was something completely unseen before this film. In fact this is what sold the film abroad.

Karl Freunde moves the camera around as if it was a steadycam. He creates special effects in the lenses, we see blurred images due to the drunkeness of the porter after the marriage and we see a strange dreamlike effect when he is sleeping etc. It is very impressive and new, and again it makes the film seem much more modern that you would imagine.

I have seen criticism of the film claiming that its subject is too small for the message, personally I call bollocks on that argument. Through the great acting of Emil Jannings the human drama of the porter is as deep as if he was anything else. The idea of the importance of uniform and social standing created by outward appearences is just as relevant done by a porter as it would be by a general or whatever. It is a beautiful film, made less powerful by studio demands.

Buy it at Amazon UK or US

Final Grade

8/10 (stop it at the end of scene 16 on your dvd and you'll be fine. It would have been such a great film).


I almost cried near the real end of the film (scene 16 for Region 2 DVD) ... sniff.

From Wiki :

Often translated as The Last Laugh, the German gives a slighly more sinister title: The Last Man. Janning's character, the doorman for a famous hotel, loses his job as he is considered too old and infirm. He tries to conceal this fact from his friends and family, but to his shame, he is discovered. In the end, the doorman inherits a fortune and is able to dine happily at the same hotel he used to work for. Carl Mayer (the sceenwriter) was forced into this happy ending in order to help the film appeal to a mass audience. The intended ending by Mayer was the death of the doorman in the bathroom (supposedly suicide) after his humilation as he sees no point in living.

The special effects displayed in this film are outstanding for the time (1924). The use of models and moving scenery implies depth in a small studio, leading the viewer to believe that each shot is actually within a large and imposing cityscape. One of the remarkable characteristics of this film is the fact of not using titles to explain history, but depends only on the cinematografic resources

Thursday, July 13, 2006

23. Sherlock Jr. (1924)

Directed By Buster Keaton (and allegedly "Fatty" Arbuckle)


A film projectionist (Keaton) is in love with a girl, and is falsely accused of stealing her father's watch. Later on while projecting a film he falls asleep and is transported into the world of the film where he solves "the case of the missing pearls". Meanwhile in the real world his girfriend discovers he is not the one who stole her father's watch and when Keaton wakes up in the real world all is solved.


As you can see there isn't much to the plot of this film. It is also exceedingly short at 44 minutes. This is actually an unfortunate thing because it is such a great film, it just leaves you wanting more. If that was the objective than it is very well achieved. I am looking forward to my next Buster Keaton film.

Firstly, it's a funny film. Although many of the jokes depend on slapstick, a number of them are so surreal that they are amazingly original. Even the slapstick jokes are so perfectly executed that you have your mouth gaping wide at "how the fuck did he do that?" more than actually laughing. This is not a bad thing. The technical execution of all the gags is so perfect than you really can't understand it. If it was today you could explain many away with blue screens but there was no such thing in 1924.

Again Keaton repeats his death defying choreographies, again they involve trains (he had some kind of obssession)and he is amazing at it. Again there isn't much of a plot, but it's a very entertaining 44 minutes, which leave you much more astonished than all the CGI stuff today, because you just know that it can't be CGI, this shit is all real!

A very impressive sequence happens when Keaton's Dream Self steps into the silver screen, finds himself in the middle of the action and in a sequence of events that action changes from a parlour room to a mountain, to the sea, to a busy road, to snow and you can't understand where the cuts were made as Buster interacts extremely fluidly with his environment. The only explanaition is blue screen, which is clearly impossible. 'Tis Witchcraft I tell Thee!

Buy it at Amazon UK or US

Final Grade

9/10 (no real plot)


He's a witch! Burn him!

From Wiki:

During the railroad watertank scene in Sherlock Jr. Keaton broke his neck and did not realize it until years afterwards.

In 1933, Buster married Mae Scriven - his nurse, during an alcoholic binge that he claimed to remember nothing about afterwards (Keaton himself later called that period an "alcoholic blackout"). When they divorced in 1936, she took half of everything they owned — half of their diningroom set, half of each table and chair set, half of their books - and Buster's favorite St. Bernard, Elmer.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

22. Greed (1924)

Directed by Erich Von Stroheim


There's this guy McTeague, who is essentially a good man, but a bit simple in the head. He learns the "profession" of dentist through the aid of a quack doctor. He opens his office in San Francisco and one day Trina comes in with her boyfriend Marcus. Trina buys a lottery ticket while waiting for the dentist. McTeague starts treating Trina through the course of several days. At one point he anestethises her with Ether and takes advantage.

Marcus is a good friend of Mac and Mac tells him he is in love with Trina. Marcus gives Trina up for his friend and McTeague and Trina get married. The lottery result comes up and Trina has won 5,000 dollars. Trina begins to obssess about her money and wont spend one dime of it. Marcus becomes seriouslty jealous and eventually leaves town, but not before denouncing McTeague for practising dentistry without a license. McTeague and Trina become extremely poor, and Trina keeps hiding her 5,000 bucks inside her chest. Mac becomes more and more disaffected with Trina who takes all his money. Eventually he leaves home. Trina takes a job cleaning a kindergarten and sleeps in between her gold coins at night. MacTeague eventually finds her, kills her and takes the money.

Mac flees town for Death Valley. Marcus is now living in a Cowboy town near Death Valley and decides to chase McTeague and get the money that he feels belongs to him. After a long chase in Death Valley Mac kills Marcus while handcuffed to him. The camera pans out of the desert with no escape for MacTeague who will eventually die with his 5,000 dollars.


This is one of the most famous "lost-films". The film was originally 9 hours long, the only version I managed to get was 2 hours and 15 minutes long - a commercial cut demanded by the studios. The original no longer exists and that must surely be one of the greatest losses in cinema history. Even in it's slaughtered version this is one of the best silent films I've seen. Stroheim has a love for the grotesque that is rare in most directors and even rarer in 1924. He makes the whole film feel extremely uneasy even when nothing special is happening, you just know from moment one that it will go wrong. During the marriage scene, for example, there is a funeral cortege happening just outside the window behind the priest. All the sexuality in the film seems to be tinged with rape fantasies. No only when McTeague kisses the anaestethised Trina, but always. Even when Trina kisses McTeague she pulls his hair. There is Greed of more than one kind in this film.

The acting is also great, Zasu Pitts as Trina is adequately freaky and the actor playing McTeague also manages to express a range of feelings from tenderness to brutality. And that is another thing about the film, you don't empathise with anyone, if you would it would be McTeague who ends up as ravaged by Greed as all the other characters and is led to a double murder by it.

And that is the great moral point of the film, although it was described as filth when it came out (and it is hard to imagine what audiences thought even of the severely truncated version) it is a very rich examination of human motivations. Ostentatiously the Greed is for the 5,000 dollars, but greed is also for sex and power. McTeague seems more motivated to leave and kill Trina because of the power she exerts over him than because of the money.

A truly great film, I wish they find a full set of reels one day. Buy it at Amazon UK or US (if you have the money buy the US version seeing as it is a much more complete one than the one sold in the UK).

Final Grade



I was just discussing with a friend of mine how I would love to see a deleted scene of David Bowie getting it on with Ryuichi Sakamoto in Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence.

From Wiki:

The story of the making of the movie has become a Hollywood legend. Under the aegis of the Goldwyn studio, Von Stroheim attempted to film a version of the book complete in every detail. To capture the authentic spirit of the story, he insisted on the filming on location in San Francisco, the Sierra Nevada mountains, and Death Valley, despite harsh conditions. The result was a final print of the film that was over eight hours in length, produced at a cost of over $500,000--an unheard of sum at that time. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the studio that acquired Goldwyn during production, forced him to edit the film to a more manageable length, and he reluctantly delivered a print with a running time of just over four hours with the assistance of fellow director Rex Ingram and editor Grant Whytock. The film was then removed from his control and cut further, despite his protests. Even key characters were removed from the final version so that it could be screened in a reasonable timeframe. Existing prints of Greed run at about two hours and twenty minutes. The hours of cut film were destroyed (although it appears that much of it survived until at least the late 1950s), and this film is known as one of the most famous "lost" films in cinema history. The released version of the film was a box-office failure, and was fiercely panned by critics. In later years, even in its shortened form, it was recognized as one of the great realistic films. Rare behind-the-scenes footage of Greed can be seen in the Goldwyn Pictures film Souls for Sale.

In 1999, Turner Entertainment (the film's current rights holder) decided to "recreate," as close as possible, the original version by combining the existing footage with still photographs of the lost scenes, in accordance with an original continuity outline written by director Erich von Stroheim. This restoration (such as it is) runs almost four-and-a-half hours. (Other classic films with missing footage include Orson Welles's The Magnificent Ambersons, Frank Capra's Lost Horizon and von Stroheim's Queen Kelly.)

Friday, July 07, 2006

21. Stachka (Strike) 1924

Directed By Sergei Eisenstein


Some workers decide to go on a strike. They start organising and the last drop comes when one of their coleagues commits suicide after being falsely accused of theft by the factory manager. The workers go on strike and conjure up a list of demands. Meanwhile a group of "private agents" are sent out by the powers that be in order to check on the workers.

The strike drags on until the workers are penniless and hungry. "Agents Provocateurs" are sent in in order to make the workers make a false move. They succed in making the workers participate in an attack to a liquor factory. The workers are brutally dispersed by the firemen with water-hoses. Following this the higher-ups send in the troops and it all ends in a brutal massacre of the workers.


Ok, there is not much to be said about the plot. The workers don't come across as well as they could seeing as it seems that the demands made to the bosses are more of an afterthought to the strike instead of a motivation. So it is a case of strike first demand after. Theoretically you could be on the side of the employers here. It is however all changed by the terribly brutal and underhand methods that the employers use to solve the situation.

One thing can be said of Eisenstein, even with the crappiest of plots he can make the best of movies. Eisentein understands the film media like no other director before him. Unlike most other films it doesn't look like he is enacting a theatre play for a camera. Eisentein has discovered that film has very little limitations, so, for example, he has plans where he sees the factory by putting his camera upside down on a puddle; you only realise it is a puddle when someone treads on it, it is not only pretty, it is a completely different way to look at cinema.

In another scene one of the powerful people is looking at the pictures of the agents. There are four passport pictures in a page, the guy decides to hire them and instead of cutting somewhere else the people in the pictures start to move, Amelie style, but in 1924. In the final scene where everyone is massacred Eisenstein intercuts the killing of people with the even more brutal slaying of a cow. People are killed while the cow twitches and gushes blood from her throat. He enhances an idea with an image of something completely different.

And lets not start talking of his editing and cutting skills. This is a giant leap for cinema. It is as if Eisenstein had been born for this. Unfortunately the film's plot never rises above agitprop. But what agitprop!

Buy it at Amazon UK or US.

Final Grade

8/10 (crap plot!)


It's revolutionary and Revolutionary!

From Wiki:

Eisenstein suffered a hemorrhage and died at the age of 50. An unconfirmed legend in film history states that Russian scientists preserved his brain and it supposedly was much larger than a normal human brain, which the scientists took as a sign of genius.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

20. The Thief Of Bagdad (1924)

Directed by Raoul Walsh


Typical Arabian Nights fantasia thing. There a thief in Bagdad (Douglas Fairbanks), a princess in the palace and an evil Mongol Khan who wants to marry her. But ha! The thief falls in love with the princess while trying to steal from the palace! He disguises himself as a prince in order to court the princess along with the other princes which have come to court her. Weirdly enough, the princess falls in love with the thief! The thief is discovered and kicked out of the palace. As the princess didn't want to choose between the other suitors (a Persian prince, the Mongol Khan and the King of the Indies) she orders her suitors to go find the most precious treasure on earth and whoever gets it will marry her!

The Persian prince finds a flying carpet, the Indian finds a Crystal Ball and the Mongol Khan finds a golden apple, which although at first sight pretty damn crappy can cure any illness and revive the dead, being therefore nifty! At the same time the thief is on a quest to find a gift as well so he might marry the princess. After fighting dragons and giant bats, and flying in a horse with crappy wing-like appendages he discovers a box full of coke or somesuch white power capable of many wonders. He just has to throw it on the floor and whatever he wants appears.

The Mongol meanwhile has a cunning plan. He has been amassing an army within the city walls of Bagdad, seeing as 20,000 Mongols dressed in full Japanese samurai armour walking about town won't make anyone bat an eyelid. This way even if the princess chooses another of the suitors he can kill everyone, keep the city and get some nookie, which as he is missing one of front teeth has been a life long ambition. While the Mongol takes over the city the Thief arrives and with his power makes a 100,000 strong army which takes back the city and the Mongol king is left with his calloused right hand.


Ok, the plot isn't the best. Blame Douglas Fairbanks, he wrote it and that is probably why he did it under an assumed name. He also produced, acted, was a stuntman and distributed tea and cookies. Amazing though this is, most of the credit of this film goes to William Cameron Menzies, the set designer. The city of Bagdad was built in 6 acres of land, an unheard of size for a set.

The sets are simply amazing. The sheer scale of the main door of Bagdad for example, or in the final shots where Douglas and the princess fly through Bagdad in a "Whole New World" Disney kind of thing the scale of the scenery is unbelievable. And there was no fucking CGI then! Eat your heart out Peter Jackson (if you can find it among the blubber).

Ok the acting isn't the best, Fairbanks never keeps still and is a bit over theatrical, possibly an early incarnation of William Shatner (love you Bill, don't take this wrong). Still, he does look very sprightly and he does all his own stunts (the same can't be said about The Shat). Overall it's a very fun film to watch, a precurssor to the big special effects blockbuster of our time, but more interesting. Definitely one to watch. Buy it at Amazon UK or US.

Final Grade



The dragon look so amazingly real that I gave a wet-fart.

From Wiki:

By 1920, Fairbanks had completed twenty-nine comedies, mostly with the same theme. The public wanted something new. He then had the inspiration of doing a costume picture, which were not popular with the public up to that point. He went ahead and took the chance, making The Mark of Zorro. It was a smash success and parlayed the actor into the rank of superstar. He made swashbuckling costume movies throughout the 1920s.

In 1921, he, Pickford, friend Chaplin, and others, helped organize the Motion Picture Fund to assist those in the industry who could not work, or were unable to meet their bills.

During the first ceremony of its type, he and Pickford placed their hand and foot prints in wet cement at the newly opened Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood on April 30, 1927. Fairbanks was elected first President of the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences that same year, and he hosted the first Academy Awards ceremony.

His last silent movie was The Iron Mask (1929). He and Pickford then made their first talkie, playing Petruchio and Kate in Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew (1929). The last movie he acted in was The Private Life of Don Juan (1934).

There is a witty reference to him in the David Lean film 'A Passage to India' (set in Edwardian India) in which one of the characters performs acrobatic feats on the side of a train calling, "I am Douglas Fairbanks!"

After he began an affair with Sylvia Ashley, Fairbanks and Pickford separated in 1933. Fairbanks, Sr. and Pickford divorced in 1936, with her keeping Pickfair. On March 7, 1936, in Paris, France, he and Ashley were married. He lived in retirement with her at 705 Ocean Front (now Pacific Coast Highway) in Santa Monica, California.

At the age of 56, Fairbanks died of a heart attack in his sleep, at his home in Santa Monica. His funeral service was held at the Wee Kirk o' the Heather Church at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, where he was placed in a crypt in the Great Mausoleum. He was subsequently removed from Forest Lawn by his widow, who commissioned an elaborate monument for him, with long rectangular reflecting pool, raised tomb, and classic Greek architecture, at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

He deserved it!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

19. La Roue (1923)

Directed By Abel Gance

Well, here you go another impossible to find film. Not ebay, nor Amazon.com, .co.uk. or even .fr. I am miffed! Meanwhile I've updated Within Our Gates with a review (finally got a VHS player as well as a the tape.)

So here's a place holder. Leave me a comment if you can find it. Thanks!

It's not even a pic of the fucking film! It's a pic of Abel Gance the director.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

18. Our Hospitality (1923)

Directed By John G. Blystone and Buster Keaton


There's a long running feud between two families. Keaton is Willie McKay, who after the killing of his father by a member of the Canfield family is taken to New York to be raised away from the feud. One day Willie receives a letter saying that he has to go take care of the McKay "estate". On the most wonderful train journey he falls in love with one of the passengers, who unbeknownst to him is actually Virginia Canfield.

Buster eventually arrives in his hometown where the Canfields constantly try to kill him. Virginia invites him for supper at the Canfield house, where he is safe from the Canfields themselves due to hospitality rules (i.e. they can't kill their guest). Eventually Willie engenders a way to become an almost permanent guest. In the end, however, Virginia kicks him out when she discovers he is a McKay. While running away from the Canfields, who are now trying to kill him, Willie saves Virginia's life in an amazing waterfall scene, they get married and all ends well.


Wow, just wow. And I don't mean World of Warcraft. We have changed year from 1922 to 23, but we haven't stopped the roll of excellent films. Ok, for a 1923 film to still be laugh out loud funny 83 years later is quite a feat. And this is that. It's not only the physical gags as well, which are pretty amazing, but the whole plot is so ludicrous that it is very funny.

The visual gags here are not the typical slapstick, slipping on banana peel type thing, they actually are pretty surreal at times. It is actually very hard to relate them without ruining them, that being the point of them being VISUAL gags. So you really need to see them. And it definitely is not wasted time.

You see the origin of a lot of what we find funny or impressive today. From Monty Python to Jackie Chan, Keaton has influenced them all. And it is a lost art, no one would insure Keaton today, he does all his stunts and for some of them death defying is an understatement. This is all tempered however with very intelligent surrealism. The whole train ride from New York to the South is the most charming, weird and wonderful trip that I've ever seen. You can't help but watch it with a smile in your face.

Not much more that I can say except that you NEED to see it. So buy it at Amazon UK or US.

Final Grade

9/10 (I can't seem to give anything else lately, silent films are growing on me like a bad case of athlete's foot)


The film is based on a real life feud.

From Wiki:

The Hatfield-McCoy feud (1878–1891) is an account of American lore that has become a metaphor for bitterly feuding rival parties, something like an Appalachian Capulet-Montague rivalry, involving two warring families of the West Virginia-Kentucky backcountry along the Tug Fork River, off the Big Sandy River. However, unlike the fictional Romeo and Juliet, this feud was violently real.

As legends go, the first recorded instance of violence in the feud occurred after an 1878 dispute about the ownership of a hog: Floyd Hatfield had it, and Randolph McCoy said it was his. But in truth, it was over land or property lines and the ownership of that land. The pig was only in dispute because one family believed that the pig was theirs because it was on their property. The matter was taken to court, and the McCoys lost because of the testimony of Bill Staton, a relative of both families. In June 1880, Staton was killed by two McCoy brothers, Sam and Paris, who were later acquitted on the grounds of self-defense.

The feud escalated after Roseanna McCoy began an affair with Johnse Hatfield, leaving her family to live with the Hatfields in West Virginia. Roseanna eventually returned to the McCoys, but when the couple tried to resume their relationship, Johnse Hatfield was kidnapped by the McCoys, and was saved only when Roseanna made a desperate ride to alert Devil Anse Hatfield, who organized a rescue party.

Despite what was seen as a betrayal of her family on his behalf, Johnse thereafter abandoned the pregnant Roseanna, marrying instead her cousin Nancy McCoy in 1881.

The feud burst into full fury in 1882, when Ellison Hatfield, brother of "Devil Anse" Hatfield, was brutally murdered by three of Roseanna McCoy's brothers, stabbed 26 times and finished off with a shot. The brothers were themselves murdered in turn as the vendetta escalated.

Between 1880 and 1891, the feud claimed more than a dozen members of these families, becoming headline news around the country and compelling the governors of both Kentucky and West Virginia to call up the National Guard to restore order after the disappearance of dozens of bounty hunters sent to calm the bloodlust. The Hatfields claimed more lives than the McCoy's did by the time order had been restored.

Eight Hatfields were kidnapped and brought to Kentucky to stand trial for the murder of a female member of the McCoy clan, Alifair. She had been shot after exiting a burning building that had been set aflame by a group of Hatfields. Because of issues of due process and illegal extradition, the U.S. Supreme Court became involved. Eventually, the eight men were tried in Kentucky, and all eight were found guilty. Seven received life imprisonment, and the eighth was executed in a public hanging (even though it was prohibited by law), probably as a warning to end the violence. Thousands of spectators attended the hanging in Pikeville, Kentucky. The families finally agreed to disagree in 1891.

In the popular imagination, the Hatfield-McCoy feud became a curiosity, a proverb, and even a joke. In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain's description of a feud between the Grangerford and Shepherdson families fits this pattern, as does the Harkness-Folwell vendetta (set in the Cumberland Mountains) from O Henry's "Squaring The Circle". Buster Keaton portrayed a similar feud in his 1923 comedy Our Hospitality. Many cartoon characters, from Bugs Bunny to Ren and Stimpy and the Flintstones, have exploited the notorious feud with the feature character caught literally in the crossfire. In the 1970s, the popular television game show Family Feud reunited descendants of the two families for a week of competition with the overall winning family (the one winning 3 out of 5 games) taking home a pig representative of the original creature at the center of the initial dispute. (Of course, the winning family each day played "Fast Money" under normal rules.)