Archive for category: Silent Cinema

Presenting Thanhouser, the Greatest American Independent Studio of the 1910s

15 December, 2014 (16:04) | by Sean Axmaker, Essays, Silent Cinema | By: Sean Axmaker

The title to Ned Thanhouser‘s documentary, The Thanhouser Studio and the Birth of American Cinema, isn’t mere hyperbole. Veteran stage actor and theater manager Edwin Thanhouser (the director’s grandfather) made his move from live theater to making movies for the growing market of cinema in 1909. By 1918, as the industry grew beyond Thanhouser’s ability […]

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Ten Silent Movies to Make You a Silent Movie Fan

8 December, 2014 (12:49) | by Sean Axmaker, Essays, lists, Silent Cinema | By: Sean Axmaker

“We didn’t need dialogue. We had faces.” —Norma Desmond, Sunset Blvd. You say that you’re really into old movies and you can’t get enough of the classics but you just haven’t found a way to love silent cinema? You say that all your friends are doing the silents and you feel left out? You say […]

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Videophiled Landmarks: ‘The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari’ and ‘Verdun’ restored

30 November, 2014 (09:50) | Blu-ray, by Sean Axmaker, DVD, Film Reviews, Silent Cinema | By: Editor

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Kino Lorber, Blu-ray, DVD, streaming) is the grandfather and the godfather of German Expressionist cinema and one of the most influential films of its era. Directed by Robert Weine, it features Werner Kraus as the tyrannical Dr. Caligari, a sideshow barker in cape and top hat who commands the sleeping […]

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The Dialectics of Humor: Russian Silent Comedy

10 November, 2014 (16:16) | by Sean Axmaker, Essays, Silent Cinema | By: Sean Axmaker

Let’s face it, Soviet silent cinema isn’t renowned for its sense of humor. And that’s a shame. Most of us were introduced to the silent era of Russian film through the dialectic exercises of Sergei Eisenstein, who combined the intellectual and the visceral in such films as Strike (1925) and Battleship Potemkin (1925) or the dazzling montage […]

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Essay: ‘The General’

5 October, 2014 (07:53) | by Sean Axmaker, Essays, Silent Cinema | By: Editor

This essay was originally written for the Silent Fall 2014 program presented by the San Francisco Silent Film Festival on September 20, 2014 No silent moviemaker ever engaged with the machinery of modern life as resourcefully as Buster Keaton did. From One Week (1920), his debut as a solo director after his apprenticeship with Fatty […]

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Videophiled Classic: Chaplin at Mutual and 25 Years of Mack Sennett

30 August, 2014 (09:09) | Blu-ray, by Sean Axmaker, Film Reviews, Silent Cinema | By: Sean Axmaker

Flicker Alley releases two more collections of classic silent comedies. Chaplin’s Mutual Comedies 1916-1917 (Flicker Alley, Blu-ray+DVD) collects the greatest run of comedy shorts in Chaplin’s career in newly restored and remastered editions, and The Mack Sennett Collection: Vol. One (Flicker Alley, Blu-ray) collects 50 comedies of a variety of lengths (including one feature) from […]

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Streamers: See Orson Welles’ ‘Too Much Johnson’ and Amazon’s Third Pilot Season for Free

27 August, 2014 (08:06) | by Sean Axmaker, news, Orson Welles, Silent Cinema, streaming, Television | By: Editor

Too Much Johnson, the Orson Welles film (or rather film project) that was long thought lost (the last print was reportedly destroyed in a fire in Welles’ Spanish home in 1970), was found a few years ago and restored. It’s not a feature or even a short, per se, more of an experiment shot to […]

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Rediscovery: Orson Welles’ ‘Too Much Johnson’

21 August, 2014 (08:19) | by Sean Axmaker, Essays, Orson Welles, Silent Cinema | By: Sean Axmaker

Ladies and gentlemen, presenting the slapstick stylings of Orson Welles, the boy wonder of Broadway! Not exactly how we think of Welles, is it? We know he had a rich career both on radio and on the New York stage before he made Citizen Kane, but the few comedies he made were far outnumbered by […]

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Blu-ray: ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ (1920)

26 July, 2014 (07:48) | Blu-ray, by Sean Axmaker, DVD, Film Reviews, Silent Cinema | By: Sean Axmaker

Stage and screen legend John Barrymore took on the good doctor and his vicious alter ego from the famous Robert Louis Stevenson novel in this silent horror classic, adapted as much from the stage play by Thomas Russell Sullivan as from Stevenson’s original book. It wasn’t the first adaptation of the story but it became […]

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Blu-ray: ‘Master of the House’

14 June, 2014 (10:13) | Blu-ray, by Sean Axmaker, DVD, Film Reviews, Silent Cinema | By: Sean Axmaker

The theme of Master of the House, Carl Theodor Dreyer’s 1925 screen adaptation of Svend Rindom’s play Tyrannens fald, is better captured in the film’s original Danish title Du skal ære din hustru: Thou Shalt Honor Thy Wife. Viktor Frandsen (Johannes Meyer), the master of the house himself, is indeed the central character of this […]

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Blu-ray / DVD: ‘The Freshman’

28 May, 2014 (09:39) | Blu-ray, by Sean Axmaker, DVD, Film Reviews, Silent Cinema | By: Sean Axmaker

Harold Lloyd was the collegiate kid to Chaplin’s underdog tramp and Keaton’s earnest social misfit, the young, modern guy full of energy and spunk taking on the world with the ambition of a go-getter and the smart-aleck attitude of a city boy. Yet for a young man who epitomized the up-and-comer in the modern urban […]

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Blu-ray: Lon Chaney’s ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’

6 April, 2014 (07:38) | Blu-ray, by Sean Axmaker, Film Reviews, Silent Cinema | By: Sean Axmaker

Lon Chaney was the most unlikely of Hollywood superstar actors. Talented and ambitious, he fearlessly took on roles of tortured victims, twisted villains, and misshapen outcasts, parts that he brought to life with a mix of elaborate make-up, physically demanding incarnations, and emotionally intense performances. In some ways, you could see him as the De […]

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Louis Feuillade: An Introduction

5 November, 2013 (10:13) | by Sean Axmaker, Essays, Silent Cinema | By: Sean Axmaker

In the rapid evolution of film style in the first twenty years of cinema, from the earliest shorts by the Lumieres, the Edison Studio and Méliès to the narrative storytelling of D.W. Griffith, editing is king. It is, we are told, the foundation of film grammar. It gives the filmmaker a tool to direct our attention, […]

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SFSFF 2013 Spotlights: The ‘Beauté’ of Louise, the ‘Safety’ of Lloyd, and those ‘Joyless’ Germans

19 August, 2013 (09:11) | by Sean Axmaker, Film Festivals, Film Reviews, Silent Cinema | By: Sean Axmaker

G.W. Pabst’s The Joyless Street (1925), the Centerpiece screening on Saturday night, is a landmark drama of social commentary, a savage portrait of Germany after World War II, when rampant inflation and record unemployment plunged an entire class into poverty and widened the gulf between rich and poor into a veritable ocean. Decadence and desperation […]

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SFSFF 2013 Premieres: ‘The Half-Breed’ and ‘The Last Edition’

12 August, 2013 (05:25) | by Sean Axmaker, Film Festivals, Film Reviews, Silent Cinema | By: Sean Axmaker

I surveyed the 2013 San Francisco Silent Film Festival for Fandor a few weeks ago, covering the highlights and landmarks in brief. But it was always my intention to explore the films, and my experience with them, in a little more detail, time permitting. As it turns out, time has not permitted much opportunity, so […]

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