1911-1920

Antoni Bednarczyk – Dla ciebie, Polsko aka For You, Poland (1920)

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The film’s plot is set during the war between Poland and the Soviet Russia (1919 – 1921). Wartime brutally encroaches on the life of a couple in love – Franek and Hanka. The Bolshevik troops cause damage to Polish villages and manor houses, and in one of the manor houses the invaders have a carousel. Luckily, the Polish cavalry comes to the relief just in time. Unable to wait passively, Hanka becomes a sister of mercy in one of the field hospitals near Vilnius, while Franek gains wide recognition after capturing a Russian spy. The significant documents found on the spy contributed to the capture of Vilnius. The bloody battles end with the Polish troops entering the town, and Hanka and Franek finally find each other again, although in quite surprising circumstances. The film ends with the documentary recording of the ceremony of incorporating Vilnius into the Polish borders, with the participation of Marshal Piłsudski, the highest commanders of the Polish army and some foreign guests. Read More »

Lois Weber & Phillips Smalley – The Dumb Girl of Portici (1916)

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from the Milestone Films website:

“Pavlova’s artistry is something that we are often asked to take on faith, something where you had to be there. Watching The Dumb Girl, you are there!” — Joan Acocella, The New Yorker

In the early 20th century, when few stars were known by name, no woman had greater worldwide fame than ballet dancer and choreographer Anna Pavlova. Unlike movie actresses, whose celebrity spread with the international distribution of their films, Pavlova’s renown had to be earned theater by theater, performance by performance. Her legendary art was, by its nature, ephemeral. Still, no one traveled farther or worked harder than this slight daughter of a Russian laundress. Read More »

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. Read More »

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. Read More »

Arvid E. Gillstrom – The Hero (1917)

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Plot: Another silent comedy with Billy aka Charley and very young Oliver Hardy. Rare movie! Read More »

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 Read More »

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. Read More »