• Noah's Ark (1928)

    ** 1/2 (out of 4)

    Big-budget Warner film has parallel stories with the first dealing with an American man (George O'Brien) who falls in love with a woman (Dolores Costello) he saved after a train wreck only to then be separated after WWI breaks out. The second story deals with Noah being asked to build an ark and fill it with two of every creature on Earth in order to survive the great flood. NOAH'S ARK was meant to be an all-silent picture but while in production MGM was raking in cash with THE JAZZ SINGER so Warner went back and added sequences with sound. I've always found these early attempts to throw sound into a silent movie rather distracting and I think that's the case here. At least 80% of the movie is silent and I think the added dialogue sequences really don't add anything and the first talking scene between Costello and O'Brien is rather laughable. Overall, I was pretty disappointed in this film because I found the story to be lacking all around and in the end the only real reason to watch this is for the amazing special effects but more on them in a bit. I found the first portion of the film to be so heavy in terms of going over-the-top to get the religious elements in that they became quite annoying. DeMille is best remembered for doing this but I think he handled it much better than what Michael Curtiz could do here. The film certainly likes to preach but this here is to be expected but at the same time less could have been more. The WWI story isn't all that compelling because we've seen that type of story play out several times in the silent era. Two young people fall in love, war breaks out and they get separated. The subplot of the evil man trying to have the woman killed really didn't add any drama and the entire WWI sequence just seems like something added on and never really hits with any emotion. Once the stuff with Noah finally happens we're treated to some amazing special effects but it should be noted that at least three people were killed and countless others injured. It's said that Curtiz and Warner didn't care about anyone's safety and it's obviously true after you see the effects here. I think it's safe to say that these effects couldn't even be done today without the use of CGI so to see them in 1928 is just jaw-dropping. The flood sequences are among some of the best disaster effects you're ever going to witness and there are other moments like the train derailment that just make you stop in your tracks and take notice. These special effects are so ground-breaking that you can't help but recommend the movie to everyone but at the same time one wishes they had come up with a stronger, less preachy story or perhaps just filmed a Biblical tale about Noah.