? – The Thieving Hand (1908)


THE THIEVING HAND is one of the cleverest combinations of silent comedy and vaudeville-style talent Savant has seen. It’s the simple tale of a magic ‘artificial’ arm that, once in place in a host socket, begins stealing incessantly. Made probably only to provoke laughter, this weirdness might have something to say about the concept of charity. 1908. Continue reading

Bryony Dixon, Jane Giles, Becci Jones – Play On! Shakespeare in Silent Film (2016)


From King John in 1899, film adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays proved popular with early filmmakers and audiences. By the end of the silent era, around 300 films had been produced. This feature-length celebration draws together a delightful selection of thrilling, dramatic, iconic and humorous scenes from two dozen different titles, many of which have been unseen for decades.

See Hamlet addressing Yorick’s skull, King Lear battling a raging storm at Stonehenge, The Merchant of Venice in vibrant stencil colour, the fairy magic of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and what was probably John Gielgud’s first appearance on film, in the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet. These treasures from the BFI National Archive have been newly digitised and are brought to life by the composers and musicians of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. Continue reading

D.W. Griffith – The Painted Lady (1912)


A lonely young woman lives with her strict father who forbids her to wear make-up. One day at an ice cream social, she meets a young man you seems interested in her. However, unknown to her, he is a burglar who is only interested in breaking into her father’s house. One night she is awakened by a noise. Grabbing a pistol, she enters her father’s downstairs office where she confronts a masked intruder . . . Continue reading

Luis Buñuel – Un chien andalou (1929)


In a dream-like sequence, a woman’s eye is slit open–juxtaposed with a similarly shaped cloud obsucuring the moon moving in the same direction as the knife through the eye–to grab the audience’s attention. The French phrase “ants in the palms,” (which means that someone is “itching” to kill) is shown literally. A man pulls a piano along with the tablets of the Ten Commandments and a dead donkey towards the woman he’s itching to kill. A shot of differently striped objects is repeatedly used to connect scenes. Written by Ryan T. Casey Continue reading

Louis Feuillade – Pierrot, Pierrette (1924)


Pierrot et Pierrette, brother and sister, live in a caravan with their grandfather, the former ringmaster of a circus. To earn a living, they sing in the streets, and their lives are happy. But a charitable lady interferes, determined to put grandfather in an old folks’ home and the children in an orphanage. Pierrot and Pierrette run away, and fall into the hands of a travelling vendor who wants to use them for burglaries. Continue reading

? – 1925 Studio Tour (1925)

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Untitled and without any crew credits, this 32-minute silent documentary takes you on a tour of MGM in 1925, meeting the people who create the movies, and watching some of them do it. I found it fascinating, especially when some of the moviemakers were identified by the inter-titles. It was nice to be able finally to attach a face to some familiar names such as writers Agnes Christine Johnston, Jane Murfin, Waldemar Young and others who are identified and shown in closeups. I noted that Howard Hawks was included as a writer – he didn’t start directing until later. Less interesting were the showing of groups of unidentified crew members: about 50 cameramen lined up in a row, each hand cranking their cameras, seemed to serve no useful purpose. Unlike the writers, who were identified individually, the directors were all identified first in an inter-title, and the camera then panned across them standing in a row, but you could not tell which name belonged to which director. I did recognize Erich von Stroheim, but only because he was also a famous actor. When the actors and actresses were introduced as a group by inter-titles, it was much more fun, because identifying them became a game. I also saw three unlisted actors: Ford Sterling, William Haines and Sojin, and there are probably others. Continue reading