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sabotai 07-30-2006 01:58 PM

A Journey Through Cinema History
It's official, I've run out of movies to watch. Well, not really, but it's come to the point that I'm going to just start over from the very beginning.

My quest is to watch the classics (and not so classics, and some anti-classics) in order of the year that they were released, starting with the dawn of film.

The first movies were made by Eadweard Muybridge in the mid 1880s. His technique was really just a series of photographs that gave a loose appearence of motion. You could say that these movies had a frame rate of 1 frame per second. Among the first movies were of naked women performaing various acts like walking up stairs, putting a vase on the floor and hopping on one foot. Brilliant!

It wasn't until the early 1890s when Edison (or W.K.L. Dickson who worked in Edison's lab) created the kinetoscope that creating movies became practical and profitable. In 1893, Edison built the world's first mvoie studio called The Black Maria. In this studio, W.K.L.Dickson would direct many short films, mostly lasting about 5 or 6 seconds.

These films included a woman performing a belly-dance, Sandow ("The World's Strong Man") posing, Annie Duke demostrating her sharpshooting, various comedy routines, Native Americans performaing dances, boxing matches, etc.

In fact, one of the earliest "scandels" was the fact that boxing was illegal in most states, including New Jersey where the Black Maria was location. The film of Jim Corbett vs. Peter Courtney was documented proof that Edison staged a boxing match. However, he simply claimed that it wasn't really a boxing match and it was just a demostration. Because of Edison's popularity, he got away with it. The first "Hollwood Star" to escape the law.

As you can see, the entire movie industry is founded on the stuff that people complain are happening "now". Sex, violence, people inside the industry breaking laws and the authorites allowing them to get away with it. The early success of the industry was founded on these things. :)

In France, the movie inustry was taking off as well, in a similar mold (shooting shorts). Inspired by Edison's work, the Lumiere Brothers built their own version of the kinetoscope. They called it the cinematographe. Over the next few years, many other people would create their own offshoots of the kinetoscope, but none of them caught on.

It took a magician to really take movies from simply filming people doing various acts to the use of special effects. His name was George Melies, a magician from France. He had seen a demostration of the Lumeire Brothers and wanted to buy one of their cameras, but they refused. So, he had to build his own, a variation of a different camera and projector and created Europe's first movie studio in 1897. He would go on to create over 500 shorts films in this studio that he would show in his magic theater. Very few of the films have survived, unfortunately.

In the early 1900s, a director in the US named Edward S. Porter, and the French magician George Melies, would start creating longer stories. The public was growing bored with the shorts and wanted more in ways of story telling, and both Porter and Melies predicted that it would happen. Exhibitors in the US would oftan take shorts and put them together to try and tell a story. So Porter decided to do that from the start, and in France, Melies did the same.

And that is where our journey begins...

sabotai 07-30-2006 02:17 PM

Jack And The Beastalk (1902)
Director: Edward S. Porter
Length: 10 Minutes

One of the very first films that told a story, Porter took the well known story of Jack and the Beanstalk. It's a simple retelling fo the story, and very straightforward. Jack sells his donkey for some magic beans. His mother, in a fit of rage, throws the beans on the ground. Overnight, they grow into a giant beanstalk that Jack climbs. There, he finds a house where there lived a giant. (spoiler warning!) He then grabs the goose that lays the golden eggs, climbs down the stalk and chops it down, killing the giant as it falls to the ground.

Historical Rating. This is how I try and do my best to rate the movie for its historical importance, influence, how good it is releative to the rest of films at the time and how enteratining it is.
Entertainment Rating - This is where I just simply rate the movie on how entertaining I found it, regardless of age, importance, etc.

Historical Rating - 7/10
Enteratinment Rating - 4/10

sabotai 07-30-2006 04:33 PM

A Trip To The Moon (1902)
Directed By: Goerge Melies
Length: 16 minutes

George Melies' most popular film, and his crowning acheivement. A Trip To The Moon was not successful at first, since a lot of distributors did not want to pay Meleis' asking price, which seemed very high compared the price for the 1 minute long shorts. However, after Melies gave a free screening of it at a carnival, the popularity of the film took off and became a huge success. Unfortunately, Melies could not reproduce the popularity of A Trip To The Moon, and by 1913, his studio was bankrupt.

The film starts off with a group of astronomers gathered to plan a trip to the moon. It's very slow at first, but once they start building the ship ("bullet"), it starts to take off. The 16 minutes watching this film seemed faster than the 10 for Jack And The Beanstalk. The film is filled with special effects that only the magician could conjure in his head. A great film that does hold up a bit after more than a century as the world's first Science Fiction movie.

Historical Rating: 9/10
Entertainment Rating: 7/10

sabotai 07-30-2006 04:46 PM

The Great Train Robbery (1903)
Directed By: Edward S. Porter
Length: 12 minutes

The nation's first blockbuster. This film is essencially what started america cinema as it grabbed headlines. This was the first film that was shot out of order and edited afterwards for practical reasons.

This was the first western that started a few cliches that lasted for quite a long time, such as making someone dance while shooting the ground at their feet. While not big on the special effects innovations like Melies' A Trip To The Moon, it was the start of many filming technicque innovations such as, as I said, shooting out of order and editing the film in proper sequence, filming on location rather than in a studio, camera movement rather than having the camera stationary, and several other post-production techniques.

Historical Rating: 10/10
Entertainment Rating: 7/10

sabotai 07-30-2006 07:22 PM

If you were to look at a history or timeline of cinema, you would think there were no films made between 1903 and 1915's Birth Of A Nation. With good reason.

After watching several 1904-1907 films, there really isn't a memorable film at all. Here's a rundown of a few of the notable ones.

The Kleptomaniac (1905)
Directed by: Edward S. Porter
Lenth: 12 minutes

It's a parallel story of two women caught stealing. One woman is wealthy and steals a piece of cloth from a store. The other woman is poor and steal bread to feed her family. They are both caught and are put in front of a judge. The poor woman is found guilty and sent to jail, despite a plea from her daughter, while the wealthy woman is let go because of her social standing. The film ends with Lady Justice holding up her scales, with a loaf of bread on on end.

This is about the time when films with social meanings start to come out.

Historical Rating: 5/10
Entertainment Rating 3/10


Coney Island At Night (1905)
Length: 5 minutes

One of the first, non-short documentaries. Until now, there were films of the aftermatch of the San Francisco earthquake and the hurracane in Galviston, TX. But they were short, mostly just 15-30 seconds. This is the first one lasting several minutes. This was also a time when not everyone had electricity, so it must have been quite the sight to see Coney Island all lit up when in many parts of the country, electricity was still pretty rare.

Historical Rating: 6/10
Entertainment Rating: 2/10


The White Caps (1905)
Directed By: Edward S. Porter
Length: 12 minutes

The White Caps is a movie about a group of vigilanties called, unsurprisingly, The White Caps. They enforced a sort of moral law. The story is about a man who beats his wife, and then she runs away and the White Caps find out. They grab the guy at his home, but he escapes. What follows is the hunt for the man, his capture and then he gets tarred and feathers. The last scene is of the White Caps parading him down the street.

Historical Rating: 4/10
Entertainment Rating: 4/10


The "Teddy" Bears (1907)
Directed By: Edward S. Porter
Length: 12 minutes

This is a retelling of the story of Goldilocks And The Three Bears. What makes this noteworthy is that it includes an extended stop-motion animation scene, definately one of the first scenes of stop-motion animation.

Historical Rating: 6/10
Entertainment Rating: 3/10

Abe Sargent 07-30-2006 10:18 PM

I'm reading

thealmighty 07-30-2006 10:48 PM

Sab, where do you go to rent/buy/whatever these old films?

sabotai 07-30-2006 10:57 PM


Originally Posted by thealmighty
Sab, where do you go to rent/buy/whatever these old films?

Netflix. Most of the Porter films, and the ones before made for Edison, I watched off a documentary series: "Edison: Invention Of The Movies" (4 DVDs). And then there's a DVD called "Melies The Magician" which is a documentary about him that has a few of his movies on it (including A Trip To The Moon). "Landmarks Of Early Film" is another DVD I have out, but most of what is on there is on the Edison DVDs.

Two more DVDs that I should get in the middle of the week are "Biograph Shorts" which is 2 DVDs of D.W. Griffith's short movies that he made for the American Biograph Co. (a competitor of Edison's company).

Groundhog 07-31-2006 01:20 AM

Very interesting read Sab, and it's certainly got me interested in tracking some of these down.

The oldest movie I've ever seen is 1920's Der Golem, which is FANTASTIC.

sabotai 07-31-2006 03:10 PM

I never heard of Der Golem, and Netflix doesn't have it (either of them. Looks like one from 1915 and one from 1920). Looks like I can buy it though, but I decided before I did this not to get carried away and start buying the DVDs that Netflix didn't have yet. That would cost a small fortune. :D

Groundhog 07-31-2006 08:32 PM

I bought the Kino version, which was of the 1920's release. It's a horror movie, but as you'd expect it's not very scary today. The sets are amazing though, with one Amazon reviewer nailing it perfectly by saying they are Tim Burton-esque. Also has some very nice special effects for 1920 and is a good story to boot, with a classic final scene.

But yeah, it's easy to get carried away and start blowing wads of cash on movies like these. After I saw Der Golem I bought quite a few releases from the 20s and 30s which cost me some cash, but Der Golem stands as my favourite, even over Metropolis. But I'm probably alone in thinking that. :D

tanglewood 07-31-2006 09:29 PM

Der Golem is an absolute classic, I love German Expressionist film as a whole. However, nothing tops Metropolis for me.

Reading and enjoying this so far. The Great Train Robbery is a very interesting film to watch, so much innovation and so many firsts that are now integral to the film process.

Swaggs 07-31-2006 11:19 PM

Interesting idea.

I will be following and looking forward to seeing you progress through history.

Lorena 08-01-2006 01:24 AM

Very interesting dynasty, I'll be following.

sabotai 08-01-2006 11:03 PM

Several more shorts...(and the reason I stopped posting pics is because, as I said, these are not memorable or really all that noteworthy so I can't find pics of them online and I can't get my DVD software to take screen caps)

The Rivals (1907)
Director: Edward S. Porter
Length: 12 minutes

A simple story of men competing over a woman. Each scene was one man pulling a prank or a scheme to sabotage the guy the woman was with and take her from him. Each scheme got progressingly more and more complexe, not to mention, absurd. Kind of funny, put I never actually laughed. The funniest thing was the womna going off with the sabotaur each and every time. In the end, she marries on of them, and the other 2 congradulate them.

Historical Rating: 2/10
Entertainment Rating: 3/10


The Little Girl Who Did Not Believe In Santa Claus (1908)
Director: Edward S. Porter
Length: 14 minutes

This first Santa film (that I know of) starts off simple enough. One boy, living in a nice home, beleives in Santa, and a girl, who lives with her mom in what can best be described as a shack, does not. So the boy has a plan (And after this, I don't want to hear ANYONE bitching about violence in movies again!). The boy takes a GUN, and ambushes Santa when he comes to his house. Ha takes Santa hostage, ties him up and forces him to go to the little girl's house. He then makes Santa leave the girl lots of toys and creates a Christmas Tree for the girl as well. They leave, and right after they do, the little girl wakes up and finds the toys and tree. The last scene is of Santa carrying the boy back to bed. I guess that's a sign that Santa let the boy ambush him with a handgun and take him hostage. *shrug* It made it entertaining, though! :D

Historical Rating: 3/10
Entertaining Rating: 4/10


Rescued From An Eagles Nest (1908)
Director: Edward S. Porter
Length: 8 minutes

A short tale of a child that gets kidnapped by an eagle and taken to its nest. The mother finds the child missing and gets the father. The father and his tree-chopping down buddies find the nest on the side of a small cliff and lower the father down. An epic, 10 second battle between father and eagle ensues, in which the father kills the eagle. He then takes his son to safety.

Historical Rating: 2/10
Entertainment Rating: 4/10


New York Today (1910)
Length: 7 minutes

Another documentary. It was pretty neat to see places like Times Square and Central Park 100 years ago.

Historical Rating: 2/10
Entertainment Rating: 4/10

Porter basically created a system of expressions and motions to help tell his stories. But as stories became more complex, his way of director was seen as old-fashioned. Porter mainly told well known stories and simple stories. But when you have to pump out several movies at a time, you run out of ideas and well known stories. Porter is pretty much phased out around this time, as best as I can tell. He simply didn't adapt well to new on-screen techniques that helped to advance a story. There was more than one time when I was watching one of these shorts where a few minutes in I just thought "What the hell is going on!?"

I'll pick this up later when my next batch of Netflix gets here. Probably won't get it updated until late this weekend since I'll be gone all day Friday.

sabotai 08-02-2006 07:21 PM


I found The Golem on Netflix. Didn't see it before since they have it as just "Golem" (I searched for "The Golem" and "Der Golem" and didn't find it). So that movie goes on the list!

sabotai 08-06-2006 05:08 PM

My last shorts update before I get to the first full length film, The Bith Of A Nation.

Those Awful Hats
Length: 3 Minutes

This seemed to be the first "please be considerate at the movie theater" film. The simple plot if that women keep entering the movie theater wearing a larger, more absurd hat than the one before. Finally, the movie theater erupts into a large confrontation. The end has text on the screen asking the ladies to please remove their hats when they enter a movie theater.

Historical Rating: 3/10
Entertainment Rating: 2/10


The Sealed Room (1909)
Director: D.W.Griffith
Length: 11 minutes

The king's wife is a tramp! The king catches his wife in a room with another man. She is sitting in a chair while the man is sitting on the floor with his head in her lap. She seems to be feeding him some kind of food. The king quickly assembles a few bricklayers and seals the door. The two lovers panic as the king laughs. Then end.

Historical Rating: 4/10
Entertainment Rating: 4/10


The Battle of Elderbush Gulch (1913)
Directed By: D.W. Griffith
Starring: Mae Marsh, Lillian Gish, Robert Harron
Length: 30 minutes

As with the last jump in length of film (The 2-3 minute shorts to the films like A Trip To The Moon and The Great Train Robbery), the jump in production value is also very noticable.

This movie shows a tribe of native americans battling against a town. By today's standards, the way the Inidans are shown would be extremely offensive. However, I'm trying to judge the film based on its point in history. The film shows the Indians performing a ritual, and then a few of them go to the town. Getting there, they try and kidnap a few dogs (to eat them) but the girl who owns the dogs takes them back. As the Indians are struggling with the girl, a man shoots them and she gets away. One of the Indians dies, the son of the Chief. The Indians get ready for battle and attack the town. The battle rages on for quite awhile until help comes and saves the town.

The battle scenes were pretty impressive for its day. And, having seen the first half of The Birth Of A Nation so far (will be watching the second half tonight), the battle scenes in this movie were actually better than the Civil War battles in The Birth Of A Nation (although, the be fair, this movie's climax was the battle, while the battles in The Birth Of A Nation are just used to advance the story and timeline of events and aren't that important to the movie.)

Historical Rating: 5/10
Entertainment Rating: 5/10

Swaggs 08-07-2006 01:11 AM

I'm still enjoying this dynasty. You should pimp it a bit on the main board, as I'm sure a lot of folks are missing out on it.

Also, just wanted to say that this plot sounds like one of the horrendous ones that I put together when I was playing the Movies :) :

The king's wife is a tramp! The king catches his wife in a room with another man. She is sitting in a chair while the man is sitting on the floor with his head in her lap. She seems to be feeding him some kind of food. The king quickly assembles a few bricklayers and seals the door. The two lovers panic as the king laughs. Then end.

sabotai 08-07-2006 03:18 PM


Originally Posted by Swaggs
I'm still enjoying this dynasty. You should pimp it a bit on the main board, as I'm sure a lot of folks are missing out on it.

If they can't bother to check the dynasty forum, they deserve to miss out. ;)

(I may pimp it some....)

sabotai 08-07-2006 05:08 PM

The Birth Of A Nation (1915)
Director: D. W. Griffith
Starring: Lillian Gish, Mae Marsh, Henry B. Walthall, Miriam Cooper, Robert Harron
Length: 187 minutes

#44 on AFI's "100 Years...100 Movies" list (1996)

While not the first feature length film (A film over an hour long), as Griffith had made one for The Biograph Company after he was inspired by an Italian film called Cabiria that was two hours in length. After seeing Cabiria, he was convinced that feature-length films were commercially viable. The Biograph Company disagreed, and Griffith left over it, and all of the company's top actors and actresses left with him. He created his own production company and created partnerships to fund this movie.

First off, to get this out of the way since it must be said, the film is based on two novels/plays by Thomas F. Dixon Jr (The Clansman and The Leopard's Spots) and is extremely racist. All but 2 black characters are portrayed in a very negative light. (The 2 black characters that are not shown negatively are 2 black servents who stayed faithful and loyal to their sourthern masters after the war). The film celebrates the KKK as heros and protectors of the south. The NAACP protested the film when it was released, and the film was banned in a few cities. Even today, the KKK uses this film for recruitment purposes.

D.W.Griffith was the son of a conferderate soldier and raised in the south. To go off on a tangent, I was friends with a foreign exchange student when I was in high school. He came over from Egypt when we were in our junior years. He didn't like jews. At first, I was like "eh...what?", but as I thought about it, could I really blame a 16 year old Egyptian arab for not liking jews considering the enviroment he was raised in? That would be pretty unfair to him. We ended up going to the same college together, and as the years went by, he became noticably less prejudice against jews. Unfortunately, I lost touch with him after we graduated from college. The point of this is to demonstrate how I feel toward's Griffith's blatent racism in this film. I can't really blame someone for being racist in 1915 considering the enviroment he was raised in, and lived in in his adult life. It wasn't until after the film's release, and the backlash Griffith suffered for it, that he realized how racist it really was.

Here is Roger Ebert's final paragraph in his review of The Birth Of A Nation:

"As slavery is the great sin of America, so "The Birth of a Nation" is Griffith's sin, for which he tried to atone all the rest of his life. So instinctive were the prejudices he was raised with as a 19th century Southerner that the offenses in his film actually had to be explained to him. To his credit, his next film, "Intolerance," was an attempt at apology. He also once edited a version of the film that cut out all of the Klan material, but that is not the answer. If we are to see this film, we must see it all, and deal with it all."

The film is, without a doubt, a technical masterpiece. Just as the other instances before, the length of movie increased, and so did the production value with it. The film cost $110,000 to make, an astronomical sum for the time, but it's easy to see where the money went. Griffith used several innovative shots such as the full screen close up, high angle panoramic long shots, panning and moving camera shots and nighttime photography. He also used cross-cutting (cutting between multiple scenes to build suspense). He also had costumes specifically made for the film to match the fashion of the Civil War era, the first time this was done. He spared no expense to make this movie as historically accurate as he could. He even brought on West Point engineers as advisors to the battle scenes (and they also provided artillery for him to use).

The movie is broken up into two parts, and I'll try to keep this as spoiler free as possible. It follows the lives of two families, one in the north and one in the south. Both families suffer tragedy during the Civil War. In fact, this film is also very much an "anti-war" film. It shows the Civil Wat as a great sin and a black mark in American history. It is displayed as the death of state's rights and the creation of a federal nation, hence the title "The Birth Of A Nation".

The second part of the film is the Reconstruction story. It shows the south as oppressed and the northern whites and freed slaves as their oppressors. By today's standards, the story would probably be seen as cliche. It's basically the story of the oppressed fighting and revolting against their oppressors and the treachery of one side of the oppressors against the other, followed by atonement by some of the oppressors to the oppressed. (That's a lot of oppressing going on in there). You could easily put this in a sci-fi setting, and replace and whites, blacks and mulatto with Humans, Klingons and Romulans or put it in an medival setting and replace races with kingdoms and/or bloodlines.

Imagine paying $36 dollars to see a movie. That's how much it cost to see The Birth Of A Nation ($2 in 1915). It quickly became extremely popular and remained the most profitable movie made for decades. It grossed $10 million in its first run and had pulled in $18 million by the time 'talkies' came into existance (the film was rereleased several times over the next few decades).

To ignore this film's importance and place in history would be a crime. This film created the movie industry as we know it. Before Birth Of A Nation, studios would not make and release long films because they thought they would hurt the eyes of the viewers. They were mass production factories, pumping out as many short films as they possible could, not taking much time or money to really develop a quality film. It was quantity over quality. When this became a huge success, the feature-length film was born, and so was the movie industry.

Historical Rating: 10/10
Entertainment Rating: 6/10

Question to those following: Do you care if I post spoilers? I doubt anyone is going to view most of the filsm I post about, so if you don't really care, I'll give a more detailed explaination of the plot and story. If I do post spoilers, feel free to request that I don't for certain movies you are interested in watching at some point. I'll post a list of movies I'll be watching soon every once in awhile to keep you guys posted on what movies are coming up soon.

Raven Hawk 08-07-2006 05:36 PM

Reading and don't mind if you post spoilers. If I see in the title that it's something I might actually watch, I'll skip it until I've actually watched it. This is a fun little dynasty to read through.

sabotai 08-07-2006 05:37 PM

Upcoming Movies

Carmen (1915)
The Cheat (1915)
20,000 Leagues Under The Sea (1916)
Intoloerance (1916)
Broken Blossoms (1918)
Outside The Law (1920)
Der Golem (1920)
Way Out East (1920)
The Mark Of Zorro (1920)

Lost Films or Films Not on DVD
(these are movies that are on my list, but I can't watch because they have not made it to DVD yet, or they have been lost)

The Poor Little Rich Girl (1917)
Cleopatra (1917)
Mickey (1918)
Tarzan Of The Apes (1918)
Within Our Gates (1920)

Buccaneer 08-07-2006 07:53 PM

Very well done. Please post spoilers.

I can't wait until you get to Nosferatu and something on Max Schreck, perhaps the greatest of all pre-talkies.

thealmighty 08-07-2006 07:55 PM

Spoilers won't be a problem for me.

tanglewood 08-07-2006 09:14 PM


Originally Posted by Buccaneer
Very well done. Please post spoilers.

I can't wait until you get to Nosferatu and something on Max Schreck, perhaps the greatest of all pre-talkies.

Hey Bucc, what was it like to see the first talkies?

Swaggs 08-07-2006 11:02 PM

Spoilers are fine with me.

Groundhog 08-07-2006 11:48 PM

Yeah, I don't think spoilers are a major problem. I'll do as RH says, and just not read the review if I plan on catching the film.

sachmo71 08-08-2006 09:39 AM

If you can't avoid spoliers without explaining the film the way you want to, then I think it would be fine.

molson 08-08-2006 10:14 AM

I think the statute of limitations on "spoilers" is about 80 years, so you should be good.

Great read, you've encouraged me to diversify my Netlifx queue.

sabotai 08-10-2006 09:27 PM

Carmen (1915)
Directed By: Cecil B. DeMille
Starring: Geraldine Farrar, Wallace Reid, Pedro de Corboda
Length: 59 minutes

Nominated AFI's "100 Years...100 Passions"

Based on an opera by the same na,e this is the story of a woman who helps a band of smugglers. A new guard shows up to guard a hole in the city wall. His name is Don Jose. The smugglers try to bribe him, but he will have none of it, so they get a woman, Carmen, to seduce him so they can get their smuggled goods into the city.

She does a bit too good of a job at it, and Don Jose becomes obsessed with Carmen, ultimately getting into an arguement with a fellow guard and killing him. The smugglers help Don Jose flee, but he follows Carmen and her lover to the city of Seville. There, he confronts Carmen, tells her that she belongs to him, and as they struggle, he pulls a knife and kills her. Immeditately filled with grief over what he had just done, he kills himself.

The move was ok. Nothing all that great or technically impressive. The only reason the movie ended up on my list was because it came on the same DVD as the next movie I watched, The Cheat. The two most notable things, maybe the only notable things, is the director and that Charlie Chaplin spoofed it.

Historical Rating: 2/10
Entertainment Rating: 3/10

sabotai 08-10-2006 09:54 PM

The Cheat
Directed by: Cecil B. DeMille
Starring: Fannie Ward, Jack Dean, Sessue Hayakawa
Length: 59 minutes

Nominated AFI's "100 Years...100 Movies"
Nominated AFI's "100 Years...100 Thrills"

There once was a man named Richard Hardy (played by Jack Dean) who had a wife, Edith Hardy (played by Fannie Ward) who would spend and spend and spend some more. Richard Hardy had all of his money in stock investments, and could not afford his wife's spending habits. He kept assuring her that his stock would pay off soon.

She was also the treasurer of a Red Cross charity. She recieved a stock tip from a friend, and took the money from the charity and put it in the stock. Oops, the stock fell through and the charity's $10,000 was gone. She asked Haka Arakau, another friend of her's, for a loan. He'd give it....for a price. Her body. She agreed.

Her husband's stock hit the next day and she tried to pay the money back, but Mr. Arakau wouldn't accept and wanted his prize. She fought back, and he branded her on the shoulder. She fights him off, grabs his gun and shoots him. After she runs away, her husband shows up just before the cops. He takes the blame for the shooting.

He is put on trial for the shooting. Even after finding out why she was there, he still wanted to take the blame and told her to not say anything. As the verdict of guilty is read, she loses it, stands in front of the court and shows the branding and says she shot him. The court erupts into a brawl, for some odd reason. Mr. Hardy's verdict is overturned and he and his wife leave the courtroom.

What the fuck. Maybe there was a different code of chivalry back then, but why did he take the blame if her telling the truth meant no trial, for either of them?

Ok, I did not like the plot, especially at the end, as I kind of found the characters way too unbelievably 2 dimensional. However, story telling in these silent films has gotten quite good. With only showing bits and pieces of the conversation (text of the screen), you can still easily follow along. The use of music, camera and lighting techniques and body language really goes a long way in keeping the audience informed as to what is happening. Earlier films (the shorts), I had no clue what was going on a lot of the time, but am having no trouble following now. Maybe I've gotten a bit used to them, but I think that movie making had become an art form by this time. I give this a bit of a high historical rating, since apparently some people in the AFI like it. But I didn't really enjoy the movie that much.

Historical Rating: 5/10
Entertainment Rating: 2/10

sabotai 08-14-2006 03:37 PM

20,000 Leagues Under The Sea (1916)
Director: Stuart Parton
Starring: Matt Moore, Dan Hanlon, Jane Gail, Allen Holubar
Length: 101 Minutes

Nominated AFI's "100 Years...100 Movies"

Adapted from the novel by Jules Verne, this was the first movie to use filming from underwater. Part of the movie felt like it was just a demostration of this new technique.This was the second time Jules Verne's novel was made into a film. The first was in 1907 by George Melies.

The story is the basic story of revenge. Captain Nemo builds a submarine, called Nautilus, to rule the ocean and seek revenge on the world. I never read the original novel, but reading over the plot of the novel on wikipedia shows that the film makers of this movie changed quite a bit from the novel. As best as I can tell, most movie makers tried to stay as faithful to the original play/novel as possible. This might be the first time a movie deviated a lot from the original source.

The movie introduces a whole new story arc involving an island, a hot-air baloon crew and a "wild girl". Also, in the movie, Captain Nemo is made to be a former Prince from India and his revenge is directed at once person, instead of "civilization" as a whole.

The most redeeming quality of the film are the underwater shots. They didn't go very far, but they did get some video of schools of fish, sharks, and all kinds of coral. Neat, but overall the movie wasn't all that good. I suspect it was a nominee for the 100 movies list on the underwater photography alone.

Historical Rating: 5/10
Entertainment Rating: 4/10

sabotai 08-14-2006 04:33 PM

Intolerance (1916)
Director: D.W. Griffth
Starring: Mae Marsh, Robert Harron, Elmer Clifton, Alfred Paget, Seena Owen
Length: 178 Minutes

Nominated AFI's "100 Years...100 Movies"
Nominated AFI's "100 Years...100 Thrills"

D.W. Griffth's follow up to The Birth Of A Nation, he created this film as an answer to the controversy that Borth caused. He originally was creating a shorter film about the Progressive Era labor unrest and strikes. He added three seperate story lines taking place in different time periods and wrapped them around a single theme.

The modern story is about a man who scrapes by after losing his job. He ends up marrying a girl, but is framed for a crime by a local "mob boss" for whom he did work for, but quit. While in jail, his wife gives birth to their child, but then the child is taken away by a group of over-zealous women who think they know better than everyone else and that their perceptions are always spot on (DYFS anyone?). They get a warrent to take her baby away. The mob boss promises to get her baby back, after he takes an interest in her. Her husband is released from jail, but when the mob boss' wife kills the mob boss, the husband is found with the gun (the boss' wife threw the gun into the room and the husband picked it up) and is taken back to jail and sentanced to death. The mob boss' wife confesses and the man is saved at the last second.

The second story line is that of Jesus and his batryal and crucifixion. It was pretty much worthless as there were only 3 or 4 scenes for this story line and took up a toal of 10 minutes, if that. It felt tacted on.

The third story line is that of the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre during the reigh of Cathrine de Mecini and her son Charles IX of France. Another pretty worthless storyline as it took up maybe 15 minutes, if that. This storyline felt tacted on as well and only served, along with the previous storyline, as a distraction from the modern story and the 4th story, the fall of Babylon. I continually forgot about these two story lines as the Modern and Babylon stories dominated in length.

The 4th story, and best story IMO, was the Babylon story. It is the story of a Mountain Girl who is sent to the Babylonian Courts by her brother for being "incorrigable". King Belshazzar gives her freedom from the "marriage market" (she was sentanced there by the court to be sold to a good husband). Later, she is sentanced to death for fighting a priest, but the King pardons her when she pleads that the only reason she attacked the priest was because he said bad things about the king. The Mountain Girl learns of a plot by the High Priest to betray the king, but the king is hesitant to believe her. His hesitation causes the downfall of Babylon as the Persian armies enter the great city when the gates are left open.

Two huge battles are fought during the Babylon story. The sets built for the Babylon story were enormous, the largest built for a movie. They featured thousands of extras, cavarly and war elephants for the battles, large props, etc. Part of the set for the Babylon story stood in Hollywood for many years.

The movie cuts between storylines as the movie progresses, the first time a movie was present in a non-linear/hybrid way. Intolerance was not a commercial success, most likely due in large part to this. Audiences were not used to seeing a movie this way and were probably confused through some of it.

The Babylong story was very entertaining, while the Modern story was just okay. As I said before, the Judean and French storylines were pretty worthless and only served as a distraction due to them being very short compared to the other two. Recent archeaologist finds at the time had spurred interest in Babylonian times, and I wonder if it would have been more profitable had Griffith released the Modern story and Babylon stories as seperate movies. The budget is unknown, but best estimates place it at $2 million ($33 million today), an astronomical sum for the time. It was a flop at the box office, and caused Griffith's studio to go bankrupt. This result might be part of the reason why it would be awhile before a studio put that much money into making a movie again.

The historical rating is high, despite it being a flop, as many people do consider it a masterpiece and one of the best silent films ever made. The entertainment rating suffers due to 3 of the 4 storylines not being that good. Rating them seperately, I'd give the Babylon story an 8, the Modern story a 5 and the two storylines that were so short, I already have forgotten what they were about, 2 each.

Historical Rating: 8/10
Entertainment Raiting: 6/10

Router Help 08-16-2006 06:26 PM

I hope the MPAA doesn't sue me for posting a movie here, but here is a copy of the oldest surviving movie. It's name is Roundhay Garden Scene, and it was directed in 1888 by Louis Aimé Augustin Le Prince.

IMDB Page: Roundhay Garden Scene (1888)

Abe Sargent 08-16-2006 07:49 PM

nice movie!

Buccaneer 08-16-2006 07:54 PM

That was great to see. Actual footage of real people of the 1880s!

sabotai 08-16-2006 07:56 PM

Nice find, Router!

tanglewood 08-16-2006 08:01 PM

What is that guy in the coat on the right doing? SOme kind of jig it looks like to me.

KWhit 08-16-2006 10:08 PM


Originally Posted by Buccaneer
That was great to see. Actual footage of real people of the 1880s!

That must bring back a lot of memories for you.

Butter 08-17-2006 10:51 AM

Those "Bucc is old" jokes never get tired.

SFL Cat 08-17-2006 04:28 PM

Bucc: damnit, they didn't respect my privacy even back then....

sabotai 08-24-2006 05:19 PM

Broken Blossoms (1919)
Directed By: D.W. Griffith
Starring: Lillian Gish, Richard Barthelmess, Donald Crisp
Length: 90 min

Nominated AFI's "100 Years...100 Passions"

We jump up to 1919 from 1916's Intolerance. One reason, I suspect, would be because of World War I effecting the nation. Another would be that a lot of movies still haven't made their way to DVD from this time (and we'll see this again in the mid 1920s). Not to mention a lot of movies from this time just have not survived.

Today, the language in the movie would be seen as quite offensive. Cheng Huan (played by Richard Barthelmess) is a Buddhist from China who leaves for London to spread the word of Buddhism. As a white actor trying to portray a chinese character, he spends most of the film with his eyes mostly shut. He looks like he's asleep for most of the film. His character is also called "The Yellow Man" and "Chink" in the text shown on the screen. But, during this time, there was only one actor (Sessue Hayakawa) of East-Asian decent that played leading roles in films. The rest were played by whites.

Lillian Gish plays Lucy, the daughter of an abusive father and boxer named Battling Burrows. He routinely beats Lucy when he had been drinking causing Lucy to live most of her life in fear of her father. Cheng Huan, after arriving in London, becomes a shopkeeper and opium addict. He admires Lucy's beauty from afar until one day he finds her outside his shop, passed out after wandering around after another beating from her father. Huan takes her inside his shop and cares for her.

And, of course, they fall in love (but no touching!) Lucy's father finds out where she is and takes her back home by force. She runs into a closet but her father grabs and axe and chops the door (The Shining!) She screams for her life, but her dad gets to her, pulls her out and beats her to death. Huan shows up shortly after, finds Lucy dead and shoots Battle Burrows to death. He then goes back to his show, and can not live without her, and kills himself.

While a lot of the language, and the portrayal of a chinese man by Bethelmess, would be considered pretty offensive by today's standards, this was one of the first, if not the first, on screen inter-racial love stories. It was a film, that Roger Ebert says, "helped nudge a xenophobic nation toward racial tolerance."

Historical Rating: 7/10
Entertainment Rating: 5/10

sabotai 08-24-2006 06:28 PM

Outside The Law (1920)
Directed By: Tod Browning
Starring: Priscilla Dean, Wheeler Oakman, Lon Chaney
Length: 75 min

Lon Chaney played two roles in this film. The one pictured above (Ah Wing) and as the main bad guy, mobster 'Black' Mike Sylva. He was a pioneer of make up in movies, but we'll get to that in later films (namely, the monster/horror films he starred in).

Molly Madden (Priscilla Dean) and her father were once crooks who went straight with the help of Ah Wing (Lon Chaney), a teacher of Confucius philosophy. However, 'Black' Mike Sylva (Lon Chaney) frames Molly's father of a crime, and he is sent to prison. Sylva's framing of Molly's father is known only to Dapper Bill Ballard (Wheeler Oakman) who then turn to set up Molly.

However, Molly and Dapper Bill turn the tables on Sylva and make off with a fortune in jewelry and go into hiding. Sylva tries to track down the two theives as Ah Wing makes a deal with the chief of police that the charges will be dropped if Molly and Dapper Bill return the jewels. Ah Wing correctly predicts the two will have a change of heart, thanks to a little boy that melts their hearts, but it happens a bit too late as Sylva finds them. A back and forth struggle of words and actions between the three ensue. In the end, Sylva's framing of Molly's father is revealed, while Molly and Dapper Bill are let go.

A good crime thriller that painfully drags in the middle. The whole story arc with the kid is just....well, something that people who love kids will probably eat up. I felt like vomiting.

Lon Chaney, of course, steals the show in his role of 'Black' Mike Sylva, as I'm sure he stole the show in most movies he did. In the era of Silent film, it seems like every actor either overacts or underacts, does things way too slowly or way too fast, and just generally comes off as odd and boring as they do their best to act their lines. To me, making 'odd' boring is a sin! Lon Chaney seemed to find just the right level of behavior acting and just the right pace. I would say, admittedly based on this one performance, he is so far the best actor I've seen on my journey, followed closely by Lillian Gish.

The historic rating of Outside The Law is hurt by the fact that it doesn't seem to be remembered much at all. It didn't make its way as a nominee for any of AFI's lists, there aren't any reviews of the film by modern critics (like those I've been able to find of Ebert on Nation, Intolerance and Blossoms). And, I could only find one pic on the internet from the movie, and that was of the supporting character that Chaney played. It would seem that the only real historic merit it has is that it has Lon Chaney in it! Entertainment wise, it would score higher if it wasn't for the middle. Great beginning, good ending, horrible in between.

Historical Rating: 4/10
Entertainment Rating: 4/10

sabotai 08-24-2006 07:13 PM

Der Golem (How He Came Into the World) (1920)
Directed by: Carl Boese
Starring: Paul Wegener, Albert Steinruck, Lyda Salmonova
Length: 85 min

One of the first, if not the first, monster movie that would go on to be the prototype of many other monster films, namely Frankenstein.

In the city of Prague, the jewish ghetto is being evicted. The city just wants all of the jews gone. Rabbi Loew (Albert Steinruck) creates a man made out of clay, called Golem (Paul Wegener), and he comes alive when the Rabbi places an amulet on the creature's chest. The Rabbi created the clay made man to protect the jewish community, and after displaying the Golem's ability to the queen, she decides to reverse her order to evict the jews.

However, Rabbi Loew loses control of the Golem for some astrological reason and it starts to go crazy. Rabbi Loew quickly takes the amulet, however, and all is saved. That is, until Rabbi Loew's assistent, who is in love with the rabbi's daughter (played by Lyda Salmonova), catches the rabbi's hussy daughter being all hussy with another man. The assistant reactivates Golem and leads it to kill the rabbi's daughter's lover. Much insanity ensues. The Golem leaves the city to find children playing, one of them gives Golem a flower (I think). A scene that would be duplicated in countless Frankenstein movies.

Some of the scenes are very Tim Burton-esque, or should I saw Tim Burton's scenes are very German Expressionistic. Not scary by today's standards, but I can imagine the audience in 1920 sitting in the theater, and being scared out of their wits at seeing Paul Wegener's eyes open really wide as he slowly turns towards Albert Steinruck with his hands out. Definitely a different style of filmmaking from that of american film makers of the time. The sets are very interesting, and were definitely left an impression on Tim Burton (or left an impression on someone who influenced Burton). Some of the scenes reminded my of Bettlejuice and Edward Scissorhands, expecially the building architecture.

Unfortunately, as far as historic rating goes, Der Golem (the third or a series of Golem movies and only surviving film of the series) is oftan overshadowed by a film I will get to soon called The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Almost anything that mentions German films from the early 1920s reference Dr. Caligari, along with Metropolis. But, it gets a little bump up as it's obvious that a lot of monster films and film makers were influenced by this series.

This film was pretty entertaining to me, despite the slow pace. Not only were the sets interesting, but the style and techniques were as well. An example would be that so far in movies I have seen on my journey, every fade out meant the scene was over. Every single one. But, in Der Golem, there is a scene where a quick fade out is used when the character covers up one light source, and then quickly fades in when he opens a different light source (the door) and then fades out quickly again as the door is shut. A fade out and then fade in during the same scene. Definitely an interesting scene and one that immediately stuck out as I watched the film, as many more scenes would jump out at me as I watched the movie. A must see for horror movie fans (for historical purposes) and for those who are interested in film making (for technique and style purposes) .

Historical Rating: 6/10
Entertainment Rating: 7/10

sabotai 08-24-2006 07:20 PM

Note: Horror, fantasy, sci-fi, etc. These movies will be rated a bit higher in entertainment than a lot of other movies. They are the genres that I prefer, along with crime/mob movies as well as historical epics.

Romance movies (love stories), musicals, movies that try and teach/preach a moral or political message (if I pick up on it), I will tend not to like these movies. Just keep that in mind when looking at the entertainment ratings.

sabotai 08-24-2006 07:31 PM

Upcoming Movies

Way Down East (1920)
The Mark of Zorro (1920)
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)
The Last of the Mohicans (1920)
The Sheik (1921)
The Kid (1921)
The Three Musketeers (1921)
Shadows (1922)
Robin Hood (1922)
Oliver Twist (1922)
Nosferatu (1922)
The Ten Commandments (1923)
Safety Last (1923)
Our Hospitality (1923)
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923)

Lost Films or Films Not on DVD
(these are movies that are on my list, but I can't watch because they have not made it to DVD yet, or they have been lost)

Within Our Gates (1920)
The Four Horsemen Of The Apocalypse (1921)
Dr. Mabuse, Der Spieler (1922)
Scarmouche (1923)
La Roue (1923)

Groundhog 08-24-2006 08:06 PM

Yay, thanks for keeping this going, it's a very entertaining read. Glad to see you enjoyed Der Golem, too!

Buccaneer 08-24-2006 08:26 PM


Nosferatu (1922)

Thank you! Look forward to your review.

Pumpy Tudors 08-25-2006 09:14 AM

This is like reliving the film history class I took in college about 5 years ago. We watched (at least pieces of) many of these films, and I thought it was fascinating. Is The Battleship Potemkin on your list? That film is worth watching for the Odessa Steps scene alone.

Also, I'm interested in your upcoming review of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. I thought that it was rather interesting, although I found it to be difficult to follow at times. I can't wait to see what someone else thinks of it.

sabotai 08-25-2006 03:47 PM

Yes, Battleship Potemkin is on the list as is Strike, Sergei Eisenstein's first movie.

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