Archive for category The 20’s

Metropolis [1927]


Directed by the legendary Fritz Lang, “Metropolis” is probably the first science fiction movie ever made. With huge sets, thousands of extras, and first rate special effects (considering it was made in the 20’s), it’s hard not to admire this truly wonderful film. Yet one of the most interesting things about it is the fact that it was a huge box-office disaster at the time of its release. The subject was controversial back then, and it almost ruined the studio. The story is about a young rich kid, Freder Frederson, son of the Master of Metropolis, who becomes concerned about the way the society is run by his father. He lives in the “Pleasure Garden”, high above the level of the workers, and he worries about what would happen if the huge number of workers were to turn against his father, given the horrible conditions in which they live and work. But that’s just the beginning, and to reveal more about the story would be unthinkable! Suffice it to say that director Fritz masterfully portrays this extremely complex story using limited dialogue, and the result is still fascinating today. The special effects were way ahead of its time, and perhaps the reason why such movies as “2001: A Space Odyssey”, “Star Wars” (C-3PO was inspired by the robot in this film) and “Blade Runner” were made in the first place. Another interesting point is that for years, a quarter of the film was believed to be lost. However, the discovery of a negative copy of the original print took place in Argentina in 2008. Examining the reels, film experts realised that they contained almost all of the missing sequences! After 80 years, the film is now complete.

“Metropolis” is one of the richest fantasy films ever made. It is the pinnacle of German Expressionism, astonishing in every detail, and a wonderful achievement for one of the most influential directors of all time, Fritz Lang.

Rating: 4/4

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The Phantom Of The Opera [1925]


Fascinating silent film starring Lon Chaney in the title role as the tragic disfigured Erik who haunts the corridors and the cellars of the Paris opera house. He secretly befriends and coaches  a beautiful young woman named Christine, and drives the leading lady in the play to flee her role, allowing his new protege to take her place. Complications arise when the phantom decides to take her to his subterranean lair in order to confess his true feelings and becomes convinced that Christine will return his love in spite of his horrible disfigurement. Remade countless of times, this first adaptation of  the Gaston Leroux novel is definitely the best, with Chaney in top form as Erik the phantom (he even designed his own makeup!). Several sequences were shot in early color processes, but only the Bal Masque scene is still available (and it looks wonderful). Lon Chaney was nicknamed “The Man of a Thousand Faces”, and he often played tortured and disfigured characters (he played Quasimodo  in the 1923 version of “The Hunchback Of Notre Dame”). But what really sends shiver down one’s spine is this following piece of trivia: “Inside sound stage 28, part of the opera house set continues to stand to the side where it was filmed some eight decades ago making it the oldest standing interior film set in the world. Though it remains impressive, time has taken its toll and it is very rarely used. Urban legends claim the set remains because when workers have attempted to take it down in the past there have been fatal accidents, said to be caused by the ghost of Lon Chaney Sr.”! Wow!

Rating: 3.5/4

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The Circus [1928]


Brilliant Chaplin movie finds the tramp accidentally joining the circus, with hilarious consequences. Many critics do not consider this as excellent as “City Lights” or “Modern Times”, but there’s still plenty to enjoy here, especially the tightrope walking finale. There’s no doubt that Chaplin’s comedy is still fresh and funny today as it was some 80 years ago (I watched this one with a packed audience and everyone was laughing and cheering!). What’s more, he received a special oscar for writing, acting, producing and directing this. Great stuff!

Fun fact: “In the 1969 re-issue, the 80-year-old Chaplin sang the title song.”

 

Rating: 3.5/4

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Safety Last [1923]


Hailed as the 3rd genius of the silent era (along with Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton), Harold Lloyd may not be as popular, but he’s certainly the funniest in my opinion. The gags in “Safety Last” are sensational but my favorite will always remain the famous building climb at the end. There’s some real movie magic at work here!

Fun fact: “In 1919 Harold Lloyd was handed what he thought was a prop bomb, which he lit with his cigarette. It turned out to be real and exploded, blowing off Lloyd’s right thumb and index finger, and putting him in the hospital for months. When he recovered, he went back to making movies, wearing a white glove while on screen to hide his damaged right hand. He did his stunts in this film and Feet First (1930), dangling from ledges, clocks and windows, using only eight fingers”.

Rating: 3.5/4

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Nosferatu: A Symphony of Terror [1922]


“Is this your wife? What a lovely throat”.

It’s hard not to appreciate this classic horror movie. It might look a bit dated now (it was filmed some 90 years ago), but it’s still a wonderful movie. Max Shreck’s performance as  Count Orlok gave me goosebumps. Maybe it was the look in his eyes; I’ll never know. Film buffs might argue which version of “Nosferatu” is the best. I’ll go with this one. It’s one of the most chilling movies I’ve ever seen.

Fun fact: “Director F.W. Murnau found Max Schreck “strikingly ugly” in real life and decided the vampire makeup would suffice with just pointy ears and false teeth”.

Rating: 3.5/4

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The Freshman [1925]


“The Freshman” is one of Harold LLoyd’s best work. He plays a nerdy college student who’ willing to do anything to become popular on campus. But of course its no easy task, especially when the college bully humiliates him in front of the whole school. This one features one of LLoyd’s best gags and an edge of your seat finale. A great silent movie.

Rating:  3.5/4

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