psteier

IMDb member since January 2000
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    IMDb Member
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Reviews

Hellbound Train
(1930)

How to make the devil happy on your way to hell
I saw the Library of Congress reconstruction, which was pieced together from fragments of three different prints. Silent, with a soundtrack by Samuel Waymon.

Produced for private showings at churches and other meetings. The Devil is shown as the engineer of a train heading to hell, as well as dancing around when he gets new recruits for hell. Different cars on the train are reserved for sinners of various types, such as thieves, drunkards, people who deceive their spouses, and cheats. There are various scenes illustrating these sinners in action.

Mainly interesting as illustrations of life of the time, such as costumes, interiors, cars and dances - the sins seem have remained the same.

Kanimanji engi
(1925)

Early animation of the legend of the founding of a temple
The print from Japan was quite good for a film of this age and seemed mostly complete. The animation is mostly cut paper.

I saw the film with just Japanese titles and it may be difficult for people with little knowledge of Japan or Japanese customs to follow the story. However, those interested in Anime may find it interesting from a technical point of view.

The film tells the legend of the founding of Kanimanji (Crab Temple). A woman frees a crab from being tortured by a boy. She then frees a frog from a snake by promising that the snake can marry her in three days. When the snake comes for her (in human form), the snake is defeated by the crab's companions. The temple was then founded to console the spirits of the crabs that died fighting the snake.

Qui?
(1916)

An early locked room murder mystery
The plot itself is not much and its resolution is unsatisfactory.

Some of the views of life at the time are interesting, such as of judicial proceedings and of custom tailoring. The contortionist is a wonderful performer and the music hall girls are cute, but they don't get much screen time.

Le Moïse du moulin
(1911)

Interesting mainly as an example of filmmaking of the time
A miller expels his daughter because he does not approve of her boyfriend but they are reconciled after he sees their baby.

Nice location shooting and costumes. That there is a title explaining each scene before it is acted out is typical of French filmmaking of the time. The restored print is quite nice, though the titles are replacements.

The Marriage Circle
(1924)

Another sexless European sex comedy
Mainly of interest to those looking for Lubitsch touches, of which there are a goodly number. Hollywood has had a difficult time cleaning up European sex comedies for the American market without losing the zip.

This picture is an example of this problem.

Very good costumes and sets, but the story is not engaging.

Romeo und Julia im Schnee
(1920)

A bright comedy
A broad parody of the Romeo and Juliet story. Set in a 19'th century Alpine village, Romeo and Juliet love each other but they can't marry because their families are feuding. Unlike Shakespeare, there's a happy ending.

Plenty of low humor. Nice sets and costumes. The best costumes were for scenes at a costume ball.

Anna Boleyn
(1920)

Heavy going despite the great production values
The story is hard to follow unless you are quite familiar with the history of Henry VIII's reign. The picture seems more interested in spectacle than story telling. Wonderful costumes.

I wasn't impressed with Jannings. His Henry was mostly interested in eating, drinking, hunting and women.

Joan the Woman
(1916)

A curiosity, not as masterpiece
I saw the Eastman House print, where only the final 20 minutes or so were tinted and where the titles in the first half hour were very jumpy.

The acting is better than average for movies of the time, though modern artists may think odd the scenes where Geraldine Farrar emotes to the camera.

Best for the sets and the costumes. I thought that the attack on the castle was the best part of the movie, and the early scenes in Joan's home village were very atmospheric.

The story itself is more to be ignored and seems to take history just as a jumping off point.

Love Me Tonight
(1932)

Not that wonderful - beat for Maurice Chevalier fans
Maurice Chevalier does most of the singing, so if you don't like him, I suggest you skip this picture. Thin and unbelievable story (a depression era fantasy). Nice production values. Little dancing.

Mississippi
(1935)

Mainly for W.C. Fields or Bing Crosby fans
W.C. Fields fans will love his performance, though some of the gags are repeated to death. Bing Crosby gets in lots of singing, most of it unrelated to the featherweight plot. The women's costumes are nice. Otherwise, nothing to go out of your way for.

Dancing Lady
(1933)

Yet another backstage musical
Relatively standard plot, but a super finale in the style that Busby Berkeley made famous.

Clark Gable is not yet the smooth heartthrob he will later become. Fred Astaire doesn't have much time to strut his stuff. The Three Stooges (as Ted Healey and His Stooges) are already a mature act.

The Phantom President
(1932)

Soso, with some nice touches
A populist political satire in the Frank Capra mold.

George M. Cohan's dance is blackface during a medicine show is interesting and the scenes where his two characters appear together are well done.

Jimmy Durante puts in a good performance. Sidney Toler is very good as a political consultant, but doesn't get much screen time, not does the Hawaiian band at the convention.

Himiko
(1974)

A modernist historical fiction
An imagined life of the prehistoric Japanese Queen Himiko, based loosely on a few mentions in Chinese chronicles. Himiko is presented as the head priestess of the Sun Goddess cult and a spirit medium. This cult later was used by the Japanese Imperial family as their claim to rule. Himiko is made queen when the king is killed, but lets the men around her rule. She is then deposed and killed because she lusts after her half-brother, who is more interested in Adahime, who supports the Earth Goddess.

Done in modern style, with little effort made to have the costumes, the sets and the lighting be as they would be at the time. The Japanese language and characters' motivation seem modern also.

Butoh dancer Tatsumi Hijikata and members of his troupe seem to add a touch along the lines of what one expects in a Fellini picture, but dance historians may be interested.

The Ace of Hearts
(1921)

Odd plot, but not otherwise notable
Lon Chaney and John Bowers both love Leatrice Joy. They are members of a secret organization modeled on anarchist groups of the day that kills people it thinks the world would be better off without. Leatrice Joy is more interested in the (unspecified) Cause, but when John Bowers is picked to bomb the latest victim, she agrees to marry him. Lon Chaney agrees to help John Bowers and John Bowers flee the organization if Bowers survives the operation, but only if she will marry Chaney if Bowers gets killed. If you really care, you will have to see the movie for the Hollywood ending.

A rare chance to see Lon Chaney's face without much makeup.

Madame DuBarry
(1919)

It's not that bad not that good either
Follows the rise and triumph of Madame DuBarry as she sleeps and teases her way from a worker in a millinery shop to King Louis XV's mistress and to Countess (at least in name). The final scenes showing her condemnation and execution during the French Revolution look like an afterthought.

A heavy historical spectacle, though the cast of thousands mainly is around for the Revolution scenes.

Pola Negri is the main bright spot and she can be quite enchanting when shy tries (mainly during the first third of the picture).

Why it was banned in France is unclear, though none of the major characters are very sympathetic.

Has little of the Lubitsch touch.

Quai des Orfèvres
(1947)

Perhaps Clouzot's best film, certainly the lightest
A nice, humorous mix of music hall (in the first third mostly) and police procedural mystery as the various suspects' stories start to collapse. The final exposure of the murder may come as a surprise if you don't watch closely. A gritty look at Paris of the time. You can ignore the final scene (the Hollywood ending). Louis Jouvet is best as the police inspector who seems to be just passing through, but is really on top of things.

Nedbrudte nerver
(1923)

Pleasant comedy/mystery
Overworked star newspaper reporter tries to get away to a seaside resort, but crosses paths with the daughter of a high government minister, who seems to be involved in crime.

A light look at Danish life at the time.

The Stain
(1914)

Interesting mainly as a survivor
A real melodrama, up to the courtroom climax, with reasonably good production values. Interesting contrast of the poor and the rich of the day.

This is said to be Theda Bara's first movie, but she only has a bit part, and it is hard to guess from it that she would soon be a top star.

Rumpelstiltskin
(1915)

Early long version of the fairy tale
The movie has a somewhat different plot than the American standard version of Rumpelstiltskin and elements of some other fairy tales elements have been added (for example, a magic carpet and Simple Simon).

Acting is not of the best and often done for comedy. Sets and costumes are more fun than fashion.

Quite suitable for children, though the special effects are cheesy by modern standards and someone may have to read them the titles.

The New York Museum of Modern Art restoration is quite nice despite a few scenes that seem out of place. It looks much better than most restored films of the period.

Bucking Broadway
(1917)

Interesting Western
Cheyenne Harry (Harry Carey) is a ranch hand who gets engaged to the owner's daughter Molly. However, she falls for the charms of city dude Thornton and runs off to marry him. When she finds that neither Thornton nor New York City high life to be to her taste, she sends a letter to Harry, who comes to New York and rescues her with some help from the other ranch hands.

A very well done movie, with a nice mix of action, drama and humor, though the beginning is a bit slow.

The French digital restoration is very nice, with scratches and most other damage to the print removed.

The second John Ford film after Straight Shooting (1917) known to survive.

Pollyanna
(1920)

best for the Pollyannas among you
If your skin will break out from too much sweetness, light and Hollywood "reality", you should skip this picture.

Mary Pickford is mostly believable as a preteen girl since the adult cast towers over her. Nice sets and costumes (though no Hollywood glamour) and a pleasant look at small town life.

This is Mary Pickford's first film for United Artists (of which she was a part owner), so it was supposed to be a safe moneymaker and Mary is cast to and plays to what sold in the past.

Mammy
(1930)

Mainly for Al Jolson, Irving Berlin and white minstrelsy fans
In general, second rate material all around, though one of the minstrel numbers (the Yes We Have No Bananas Operatic Finale) is quite good. The plot is mainly an excuse to let Al Jolson do his stuff, but he can't carry it alone

The first part of the movie does give some idea what a white minstrel show might look like, including a parade in the rain.

I saw the UCLA restoration, which does include what is known to survive of the 2 color (red/green) Technicolor sequences. Unfortunately, sections of those sequences were lost when Dutch titles were inserted, and some of the cuts from color to sepia tinted black and white are not smooth.

Glamour
(1934)

Yet another backstage picture
Another Hollywood look at the Broadway theater and the people who put on the shows. Costumes and acting are OK. People who interested in Hollywood Deco design will like some of the sets.

I was disappointed that there was not more music and dancing.

The Love Trap
(1929)

A curiosity from the transition from silents to talkies
Most of the movie is silent, with titles; just music on the sound track; and an acting style typical of later silents. At the climax, the actors start talking, though the sound track is mostly silent otherwise.

The story is pleasant, but has been retold several times, so it will seem familiar if you've seen many 1930's pictures. Acting, sets and costumes are OK.

Under a Texas Moon
(1930)

Mainly for hard core movie viewers
Frank Fay plays a Mexican gentleman in South Texas who takes up the task of searching for cattle rustlers, but spends more time romancing various young ladies. The plot is lightweight and played for laughs.

There are some musical numbers and and a bit of dancing.

Supposedly the first two color Technicolor western. The restored print has nice colors, which shows off the costumes well.

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