Edward F. Cline & Buster Keaton – Three Ages (1923)

Buster Keaton backed into feature filmmaking with this 1923 effort, which essentially consists of three two-reelers (Keaton’s accustomed format) edited together. The structure is a vague parody of D.W. Griffith’s Intolerance, with Buster fighting to win his woman from a stronger rival in the Stone Age, the Roman Empire, and modern times. It’s good but not great Keaton: the gags are chiefly basic slapstick, with little of the surrealistic refinement and visual sophistication he brought to his later features. Read More »

Jaque Catelain – La galerie des monstres AKA Gallery of Monsters (1924)

Another amazing circus film gets an Alloy Orchestra score. Until its recent restoration by Lobster Films in France, Gallery of Monsters was virtually unknown and unseen. Despite the film’s title, it’s not a horror film. It’s an exciting and sometimes tender love story that follows the lives of circus folk, and particularly the loving relationship of Riquet and his wife, Ralda. The “monsters,” as the intertitles explain, are the evil circus owner and the lion tamer, whose unwanted advances are refused by the beautiful dancer, Ralda. The cast of characters are the staples of a circus side show – a giant, a little person, a bearded lady, a woman with only half a body, and others – who are sympathetically depicted as a supportive family, and come to the aid of the couple. Excellent cinematography, surreal costumes, and a terrifying lion attack bring this intriguing story to life. Read More »

D.W. Griffith – Orphans of the Storm [B&W] (1921)

Just prior to the French Revolution, Henriette takes step-sister Louise to Paris in hopes of curing her blindness. Lustful aristocrat de Praille has virginal Henriette abducted and brought to his estate, leaving Louise helpless in the big city. An honorable aristocrat (Schildkraut) helps Henriette escape from de Praille. Scoundrel Mother Frochard forces Louise to beg in the streets. Unable to find Louise, Henriette gives shelter to admirable politician Danton after he’s attacked, and she also runs afoul of radical revolutionary Robespierre. Read More »

Augusto Genina – Prix de beauté AKA Miss Europe [Silent] (1930)

From IMDb:
Lucienne, typist and gorgeous bathing beauty, decides to enter the ‘Miss Europe’ pageant sponsored by the French newspaper she works for. She finds her jealous lover Andre violently disapproves of such events and tries to withdraw, but it’s too late; she’s even then being named Miss France. The night Andre planned to propose to her, she’s being whisked off to the Miss Europe finals in Spain, where admirers swarm around her. Win or lose, what will the harvest be? Read More »

Jean Epstein – Sa tête (1929)

Jean Bernard, industrial designer, is an only child and has lost his father. He is in love with Blanche Dumas, secretary to a bank manager. One day, he visits his mother who lives in the small village of Livilliers and spends the night there. The next morning, police arrive to arrest him. His mother does not understand what he is accused of and will discover that he would have murdered the banker who was making advances to Blanche. Read More »

Vladimir Barsky – Bela (1927)

A drama based on a chapter of Lermontov’s novel “A Hero of Our Time”.

Pechorin serves in a remote fortress. One day in a neighbouring village he meets Bela, the daughter of a local prince, at a wedding. With the help of her brother Azamat, Pechorin takes the girl to the fortress. In return he gives Azamat a horse, which he steals from the highwayman Kazbich. Pechorin’s infatuation soon subsides, and he now spends more and more time hunting. Read More »

Roy Del Ruth – The Desert Song (1929)

Review Summary
After literally inventing the movie musical with The Jazz Singer, Warner Bros. purchased the motion picture rights to the evergreen Sigmund Romberg/Oscar Hammerstein II 2nd operetta The Desert Song. Although the results looked like a photographed stage play (a common failing of early-talkie songfests), the unforgettable Romberg-Hammerstein tunes ({&The Riff Song}, {&One Alone}, the title number) more than carried the day. John Boles stars as The Red Shadow, the Robin Hood-like leader of the Riffs and the bane of the existence of General Bierbieu (Edward Martindel). The good General has another cross to bear in the form of his nerdish, lily-livered son Pierre, who is likewise despised by heroine Margot (Carlotta King). Read More »