Carl Boese & Paul Wegener – Der Golem, wie er in die Welt kam aka The Golem: How He Came Into the World [+Extras] (1920)

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Classic Horror Review :

Emanating from Jewish folklore, the legend of the “golem” has transfixed audiences for centuries. Although when used pejoratively the word “golem” describes a moronic person easily manipulated, the word often refers to any mythical creature animated from inanimate materials such as clay, sand, or stone.

One of the most popular “golems” appears in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Spelled “Gollum,” Tolkien’s character shares similarities with creatures that haunted Jewish legends, particularly the golem featured in director Paul Wegener’s 1920 silent classic, The Golem. Both suffer from split personalities and possess hybrid traits: Gollum is part human, part frog, fish, etc.; many Jewish golems, including Wegener’s, are monsters made of inanimate objects that carry human traits. Both have been damned or punished, and in both instances, the creatures start well intentioned but transform into evil beings, usually due to gluttony, greed, wrath, envy, or pride. Thus, they are morally “gray,” and like Wegener’s monster, Tolkien’s has often been depicted as gray in color to symbolize this amorality, most notably in Peter Jackson’s recent films. Continue reading

Louis Feuillade – Judex (1916)

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Occupying a delicious place between Victorian melodrama and superhero comic books, Judex is one of the great serials from the career of French movie pioneer Louis Feuillade. From his castle lair high above the countryside, mystery man Judex (granite-faced Rene Creste) seeks to protect the lovely Jacqueline, while nursing a secret hatred for her fatcat father. Multiple kidnappings, assassination attempts, and narrow escapes follow; much of the mischief is orchestrated by wicked temptress Diana Monti (Musidora, the star of Feuillade’s Les Vampires). There’s also a delightfully overwhelmed detective (Marcel Levesque), who’s a sort of prototype of Monsieur Clouseau, and a streetwise Artful Dodger known as the Licorice Kid. Continue reading

Allan Dwan – The Ranchman’s Vengeance (1911)

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Lorenz Pedro, a Mexican half-breed, owns a small sheep ranch, and lives happily with his wife Marie and little daughter Lois. One exceedingly hot afternoon, Tom Flint, riding across the ranch looking for work is overcome by the heat, and Pedro, acting the part of a good Samaritan, takes him to his home, where Marie, through careful nursing, soon has him quite himself again. Pedro is out daily with his flock, leaving Marie and Flint together, offering an opportunity which Flint ungratefully takes advantage of, resulting in his completely winning Marie’s love. Manuelito, Marie’s father, is suspicious and comes upon them while Flint is declaring his love. He goes to Pedro in the field and tells what he has seen and heard. Hastening home he finds his wife in Flint’s embrace, and in his great love for Marie bids Flint take her, but warns him his life shall pay the penalty should he ever find him shamefully abusing both mother and child. Manuelito sends a telegram to Pedro, who is working …

Written by Moving Picture World Continue reading

A.E. Coleby – Mysteries of London (1915)

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After her father is falsely jailed for embezzlement and her mother dies of grief, Louise is adopted by a kindly stockbroker. 15 years later, she falls in love with his dissolute son Frank, a mistake that nearly proves fatal to her. The film’s main historical point of interest, though, lies in the still highly recognisable central London locations – but Dutch intertitles and copious print damage suggest that we’re lucky that this lively three-part melodrama survives at all.

Active in films from 1907, and making features as early as 1912, London-born AE Coleby (1876-1930) was a prolific silent-era director. Specialising in thrillers and melodramas, he was among the first to tackle such horror staples as Egyptian curses (The Mummy, 1912) and the perennial Chinese villain Fu Manchu (The Mystery of Fu Manchu, 1923). In the 1920s, he returned to making mainly short films, including a couple of early sync-sound experiments, but he died shortly after Britain’s talkie era began in earnest. Sadly, as with many silent filmmakers, most of his output no longer survives. Continue reading

Ernst Lubitsch – Ich möchte kein Mann sein AKA I Don’t Want to Be a Man (1918)

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A teenaged tomboy, tired of being bossed around by her strict guardian, impersonates a man so she can have more fun, but discovers that being the opposite sex isn’t as easy as she had hoped.

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I Don’t Want To Be A Man is like The Oyster Princess an early example of Ernst Lubitsch’s comic skills, and it also shares The Oyster Princess’ star, the irrepressible comedienne Ossi Oswalda, who in both films lends her name to the characters she plays. Here she plays a wild, rambunctious late teen barely under the control of her guardian/uncle and governess. (In reality it takes a while to work out that this middle-aged couple glaring disapprovingly out the window at Ossi’s mild antics outside are not her parents; they seemed rather coded as such.) Continue reading

Segundo de Chomón & Giovanni Pastrone – La guerra ed il sogno di Momi (1917)

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Little Momi’s father has left to be a soldier and his letters are eagerly anticipated by his family at home. In one of them he recounts the adventure of little highlander Berto, who saved his mother from an attack by the Austrians by running to warn the Italian troops. Momi is impressed by the tale and falls asleep on the sofa, hugging his favourite toys, agile Trick and violent Track; as soon as the child is sleeping Trick, Track and their troops unleash a battle with a vengeance, featuring heavy artillery, chemical weapons and air attacks. Finally, in the vehemence of their clash, Momi is involved as well and prodded with bayonets. Nevertheless… it is only a rose thorn and the battle was only a dream. Momi confidently keeps looking forward to the return of his father from the front, together with his mother and grandfather. This masterpiece by the wizard of “special effects” Segundo de Chomón is a war story, divided into a first live-action part and a second animated one in stop-motion, with a skill that still leaves one gaping even today. Visual inventions and sophisticated technical solutions follow each other: from the bellows sucking in the fumes of the chemical attack to the soda bottle used to extinguish fires in the city of Lilliput after the air incursion. Continue reading