Century Film Project

Celebrating the movies our ancestors loved

Book Review: 100 Silent Films

Worldcat Link: http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/719415465

isbn: 9781844573080

Full Citation: Bryony Dixon. 100 Silent Films. London: Palgrave MacMillan, 2011.

This guide has provided me with about twenty leads for this project; all of them very interesting so far. The bulk of the movies listed are from the “golden age” of silents in the twenties. Most of the major ones you’ve heard of are here, but Dixon makes a special effort to include lesser-known gems that will surprise and delight. She also sneaks in mentions of more than 100 movies, if you are attentive. One example is the review of D.W. Grifftih’s “Adventures of Dollie,” which begins with a full paragraph about its predecessor “Rescued from an Eagle’s Nest,”  Griffith’s first starring vehicle as an actor. Of course, any fan will dispute this or that entry and why not an entry for this or that film, but as a general introduction it is excellent.

I enjoyed Dixon’s easy style and her profound knowledge of her subject. Were I her grading TA, I would criticize her for spending a bit too much time describing, rather than analyzing, the films she covers, but this probably makes the book more accessible to a general audience. The book includes many nicely reproduced photos from the films, including some you’ve probably not seen before, and which heighten the interest in seeing the movies. There is also a brief bibliography, a short introduction, and a small but functional index. The meat of the book, however, is the movies, and if you are interested in the history of film at all, this is a fine source which proves that the film guide is not yet dead.

Read the complete review: here

 

Student of Prague (1913)

Student of Prague

Original Title: Der Student von Prag

Director/Star: Paul Wegener (co-directed by Stellan Rye)

What defines a horror movie? If it can be defined by the presence of a supernatural antagonist which threatens the protagonist and other characters with death, then this movie qualifies as an early example (though probably not the first). In it, Paul Wegener (later to direct and star in “The Golem” and its several remakes/sequels) stars as the eponymous student, a carefree, hard-living lad, until he falls in love with a local noblewoman, betrothed to her own cousin to preserve the family line. He makes a deal with a Magician, who may or may not be the Devil (and looks like sort of a cross between Georges Melies and Dr. Caligari) in order to possess her. The deal seems innocent enough – our student simply agrees to let the Magician take away his reflection in the mirror. But, this results in the existence of a dangerous doppelgänger, who seems bent on destroying the student’s happy life. Wegener really goes to town, portraying the sinister reflection and the horrified student, and there are some neat camera tricks to allow them to interact. I also noticed that the camera moves in this movie more than in most I’ve seen from the period, if only to keep up with actors as they move out of frame, which gives it a more modern feel than, for example “The Avenging Conscience.”

Run Time: Supposedly, 85 min originally. There is an 83 minute “restored” version I haven’t seen, and the one I have seen is 41 min.

You can watch it for free: here