Bucking Broadway (1917)

Bucking Broadway Movie Review

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Bucking Broadway Movie Review

Bucking Broadway is a 1917 western romance film directed by John Ford and starring Harry Carey. It is a solid, but very flawed movie.

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Helen and I, we’d like to get married

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Bucking Broadway Movie Review

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First let’s get the negatives out of the way. A girl leaves the cowboy for a rich city slicker but eventually realizes that she has made a mistake and gets back to him. How many times have we seen this exact scenario played out in the movie? Countless is the answer.

This triangle was boring and the story is beyond slight and melodramatic. I was definitely not a fan of it despite it having some really wonderful romantic scenes that I liked. I wished that it had more of that instead of a cliched melodrama.

Bucking Broadway is apparently restored to full length, but I do not buy that. The film feels ridiculously rushed at times and I do not blame the movie, but I honestly think that some segments are missing. I am most positive of that.

So let’s get to the good stuff. Although the characters are highly typical and regular, the actors are anything but. Harry Carey is very memorable in the main role and quite sympathetic whereas Molly Malone also gave a surprisingly strong, subtle performance. Overacting was not present here which is admirable given that this is 1917 we are talking about.

The film has a wonderful romance and I loved that gift he gives her and the significance of it and the ending was nice, although that fight was getting on my nerves how silly it felt, not to mention overlong.

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Bucking Broadway Movie Review

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Bucking Broadway looks beautiful thanks to stunning cinematography. Really, some of the shots here were just amazing to behold and it truly felt like a glorious early western with beautiful desert landscapes. It was all the more great watching it in HD. I also liked its spare use of intertitles and I have to commend John Ford for his abilities. He was only 23 years old during this year and this was one of his first movies and he just knocked it out of the park completely with such a superb, competent direction and this movie truly signaled the arrival of a great director.

Bucking Broadway’s overly familiar and cliched story, a melodramatic approach and typical characters do not take away from how gorgeous its cinematography is and how terrific the direction is. It has its romantic and lovely moments, but mostly this was just a solid film that still brilliantly signaled the arrival of John Ford who really excelled here.

My Rating – 3.5

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Tillie’s Punctured Romance (1914)

Tillie's Punctured Romance Movie Review

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Tilly’s Punctured Romance Movie Review

Tillie’s Punctured Romance is a 1914 silent comedy film directed by Mack Sennett and starring Marie Dressler, Mabel Normand and Charlie Chaplin. It is such a good, underrated movie.

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He ain’t no good to neither of us

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Tillie's Punctured Romance Movie Review

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The movie is about a fat lady who inherits a lot of money from her supposedly dead uncle and Charlie is after that money and marries her with his girlfriend opposing to it and everything leads to a big scene. Now the movie is great, especially for its time, as it portrayed two very strong, admirable female characters and for 1914 this should be respected.

The film ends with the two women befriending each other and realizing that they don’t need Charlie who was awful to both of them. That final moment is unforgettable in its simplicity and big heart and it made the movie a classic for me.

It is weird seeing Charlie Chaplin in such a villainous role, very weird actually. But he still did a very good job per usual and this is his first feature effort and he showed how great he was instantly. But Mabel Normand is even more memorable and she was very charming and likable here.

But of course Marie Dressler stole the show from both of them. I loved her in ‘Anna Christie’ which I’ve watched pretty recently, but it was great seeing her in a silent movie which were her roots and she absolutely killed it in this role. Her physical comedy and gags were the best of the three and she is easily the funniest and most charismatic person here. The fact that she stole the show from Chaplin himself really says a lot about her enormous talents.

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Tillie's Punctured Romance Movie Review

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Tillie’s Punctured Romance is the world’s first feature comedy and it aged so well. It was shocking to see such a weak response to the movie on Rotten Tomatoes when I myself really enjoyed it and it is one of the period’s better films. Definitely underrated and should be watched and respected more by today’s audiences.

Now yes, the film relies too much on slapstick comedy, more specifically on kicking people in the butt. That was overplayed for laughs here and was frankly a bit annoying at times. However, where the film shines is in its charming and very memorable characters and a great scenario solidly played for laughs in many scenes.

The highlights are the first meeting of Tillie and Charlie, I loved seeing a theatre going experience of the 1910s and of course the ending made the movie for me. Tillie has had enough and she starts shooting people at the party at the mansion and afterwards the action is taken to the docks and we witness the arrival of the Keystone Cops.

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Tillie's Punctured Romance Movie Review

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They are great and everyone is great here, but Tillie stole the show naturally and I loved her crazy shooting everyone and everywhere. There is some great action to be had here with the cars and this entire scenario was so perfectly executed that it was worth waiting for the entire film which is so well edited and directed for the most part, but excels because of its action and acting.

Tillie’s Punctured Romance is the world’s first feature comedy and it holds up so well and is very underrated. The story and scenario are so well played for laughs and the ending is glorious in its action spectacle and with such a wonderful final scene. Its female characters are admirable for its time and seeing Chaplin in the villainous role was quite interesting. The dynamic between the actors is great and Marie Dressler excelled in portraying this memorable, funny protagonist.

My Rating – 4.5

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Cabiria (1914)

Cabiiria Movie Review

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Cabiria Movie Review

Cabiria is a famous 1914 epic silent film directed by Giovanni Pastrone. It is a very ambitious and fantastically looking film, but a very flawed picture nevertheless.

It follows the Second Punic War and more melodramatic plots. That is the problem to me. It is split into five episodes with five different stories, but it is unfortunate that they rarely connect with each other. They are very dramatic stories and are well  told, but they just did not connect to me and another reason for that is the character development. It is weak and none of the characters are particularly developed which is really troublesome.

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Cabiria Movie Review

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But this is a marvelous film when technical aspects are concerned. The imagery is so iconic and memorable and the cinematography is incredibly good. The direction from Pastrone is absolutely superb and the acting is good. But it is so well filmed and shot that you don’t fail to be amazed. It is very artistic and powerful. The set designs are absolutely gorgeous and probably better than in the works of Griffith. Also the costume design is terrific and all of the costumes and places are wonderfully recreated. The pacing is solid and the running time is appropriate, but the stories should have meshed together better.

When historical films are concerned, this is nowhere near as good as ‘The Birth of a Nation’. But technically it is even more impressive because it preceded that classic Griffith movie. But I am annoyed with these big-budget epic spectacles of the 1910s because they are rarely as emotionally investing as they are well filmed. And the characters are so weak here that they diminish the movie’s impact. And also because it is episodic in nature, there are those stories that are good but there are those that are very forgettable and very boring. I just wish that the stories were better connected and that would have made it a better movie.

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Cabiria Movie Review

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Cabiria is a flawed movie. It has interesting stories, but those stories are weakly connected and that episodic nature just feels wrong. Also the characters are weak and it is not emotional at all, but it is a breathtaking film visually with terrific costumes, excellent set design, great direction and fantastic cinematography. It is a movie undone by its ambition and flat characters, but it is still a powerful and very artistic movie and most especially for its extraordinarily old age.

My Rating – 3.5

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The Outlaw and His Wife (1918)

The Outlaw and His Wife Movie Review

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The Outlaw and His Wife Movie Review

The Outlaw and His Wife is a 1918 Swedish drama film directed by Victor Sjostrom. It is one of the best films from the 1910s I’ve seen so far.

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Their only law was their love

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The Outlaw and His Wife Movie Review

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It follows an outlaw and his wife who joins him in the escape from authorities. They go from Sweden to Iceland where they live constantly on the run and in the wild. This is in my opinion a precursor to ‘Bonnie and Clyde’, but done better and it also has a touch of ‘Z for Zachariah’ in it. But it came first so it is very original and of course hugely influential for its emphasis on the scenery of wilderness.

Eyvind of the Hills is one very memorable protagonist so well played by Victor Sjostrom. He not only directed this movie beautifully, but also gave a strong performance and that dual presence is felt strongly and he is the biggest reason why the film is so great. Edith Erastoff is also pretty good as Halla and they are great together. Such a wonderful romance develops between the two and the final scene is heartwarming.

The Outlaw and His Wife is a simply gorgeous film that features one of the best technical aspects of any silent film. I am not just talking about the direction, but also about editing which is deft and tight and the film moves quite smoothly. The first half wasn’t as great as the second one was and it did not introduce me to its characters all that well, but the second half fixed that and was a terrific viewing experience.

The cinematography is just stunning. Yes, it is one of the first films to use nature extensively in its narrative, but it is also a character here in and of itself and is very important in the shaping of its main characters.

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The Outlaw and His Wife Movie Review

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But it is just so beautiful to look at. I loved the mountains and this one was majestic and dangerous. That spring was one of the highlights for me, but I loved every scene where we see the mountain imagery and of course the ending with its harsh winter cold is the perfect finale for this story.

I liked its story, I liked how it ended and I admired that it did not involve as much melodrama as was usual for the period. It truly is a remarkable film, refreshing for its time, even artistic and groundbreaking in narrative and in scenery. It’s one of the biggest classics of the first decade for features.

The Outlaw and His Wife is one of the best films of the 1910s thanks to Victor Sjostrom’s great dual role as a director and actor, a strong story and characterization, many memorable and striking scenes and of course fantastic cinematography with gorgeous mountain imagery.

My Rating – 4.5

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The Poor Little Rich Girl (1917)

The Poor Little Rich Girl Movie Review

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The Poor Little Rich Girl Movie Review

The Poor Little Rich Girl is a 1917 silent film starring Mary Pickford as an 11 year old who is unhappy in a rich family mansion and wants to have some fun.

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Now you’ve spoiled  the best fight I’ve ever had

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The Poor Little Rich Girl Movie Review

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The plot is pretty simple and it is the biggest weakness of the film because it is way too simplistic. The subject matter is very ordinary. However, it is rarely done in movies so it is pretty intriguing. It is also very entertaining and involving from start to finish. But it is filled with very bad dialogue and some lines are simply laughable. Regarding the dialogue, the film seems as if it was made by a teenager. It is probably the biggest and most inexcusable flaw in the whole picture.

But the film is very unique in some aspects. The fantasy elements in the third act are very interesting visually and are well executed and they conclude the story perfectly. There is also something not a lot of people talk about and those are of course the intertitles. The intertitle design here is phenomenal and incredibly inventive. Especially in the sequence where she yells and her words literally come out of the doorknob as in comics. That is a wonderful touch. It, along with the humor, helped add a modern feel to this very old movie.

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The Poor Little Rich Girl Movie Review

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Speaking of humor, it is quite good and even charming. The sequence where she plays with the children is very endearing and the bathroom sequence is simply hilarious and very well executed. The humor adds a certain childlike and innocent flavor to a film and it fits the overall story perfectly. The whole movie is incredibly fast paced and entertaining so it is quite ahead of its time.

The characters are pretty well developed and the main character is very likable and effervescent. And the acting is fine across the board. It is of course questionable that they chose Mary Pickford to play an 11 year old child whereas she was 25 at the time. I understand how some would fault that choice, but I liked it anyway because Hollywood does that often (Judy Garland as Dorothy comes to mind immediately as a great example) and it is understandable that they choice her because she was such a commodity at the time and she is a wonderful actress. She played the part very well and her acting abilities and charisma are evident.

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The Poor Little Rich Girl Movie Review

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The editing along with the dialogue is the film’s greatest weakness. It is so fast paced, so incredibly rushed and the running time is very short, clocking in at just around an hour, that the whole film and story feel contrived and very rushed. I know that the fast pacing may feel modern and may satisfy today’s audiences, but I however found it as a flaw because it is too fast, the same way ‘The Thief of Bagdad’ is fast at times. It somehow diminished the effect of the whole movie which is a shame.

In the end, The Poor Little Rich Girl is incredibly entertaining and engaging, very funny and sweet, Mary Pickford is charming and her character is very likable, but the story is filled with so many questionable dialogues and bad lines, the pacing is awfully fast and feels rushed and contrived, it is also very short and it is full of these flaws that certainly affect the movie. But it is so charming and above all entertaining that it can be forgiven to some extent and the movie can be enjoyed by today’s audiences to a great extent which is an incredible and admirable achievement for the filmmakers.

My Rating – 3.5

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From the Manger to the Cross (1912)

From the Manger to the Cross Movie Review

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From the Manger to the Cross Movie Review

Telling the story of Jesus Christ from his birth to his crucifixion, From the Manger to the Cross is a 1912 drama film directed by Sidney Olcott and it is one of the most popular movies of its time.

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And the earth did quake

and the rocks rent

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From the Manger to the Cross Movie Review

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This is a very problematic film, I found it to be very annoying and extremely troublesome. I wouldn’t call it mediocre, but it is also not good. The filmmakers chose to tell literally the whole story of Jesus and that I find to be such a bad approach and also execution thanks to many reasons. First, this is probably the most iconic historical figure of all time so you have to be careful. Second, the running time is literally a little over an hour which is, suffice to say, too short for such a fascinating and important story. And lastly, the execution is absolutely terrible because the movie is filled with endless intertitles, there are way too many of them ruining the flow of the picture for sure. And it is so by-the-numbers and boring, you could literally read this in a book. They show you everything that happened here in the most ordinary, standard and bland way possible. The energy was much needed in the execution along with the better script.

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From the Manger to the Cross Movie Review

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The technical aspects are solid frankly. The editing is awful thanks to those interrupting intertitles, but the cinematography as well as the imagery present are mostly good. The acting is also solid as is the directing. But it all went into this unfortunate production for nothing. There is nothing iconic or authentic or memorable about this film which has to be the biggest reason why it is largely forgotten today. It could have been a great film had it had a good approach and a more energetic execution, but it failed to bring this material to life leading to a failure of a movie.

With way too many intertitles, troublesome pacing, way too short running time and awful approach and execution which are bland and very by the numbers, From the Manger to the Cross has some good technical aspects, but it is not remembered today for all the good reasons because it fails to bring its subject matter to life and fails to bring energy and sophistication into the project. It is a very problematic film which is definitely not good and a huge disappointment.

My Rating – 2.5

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Where Are My Children? (1916)

Where Are My Children? Movie Review

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Where Are My Children? Movie Review

Where Are My Children? is a 1916 silent drama film directed by Lois Weber and starring Tyrone Power, Sr. It is a flawed, but very good early social drama.

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Where are my children?

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Where Are My Children? Movie Review

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This early drama is very social and deals with an important issue of adoption that was during this time talked about a lot and even sensationalized. The film itself takes the stance against abortion, but it does advise for birth control pills. And I guess that may seem outdated, but I honestly liked that stance as it would be ideal if abortions wouldn’t have to be committed and that women do not get pregnant in the first place.

So Where Are My Children? is thus very modern and actually pretty admirable a film as it deals with its important subject matter in a pretty good, subtle manner instead of the overly melodramatic and emphasized tone that plagued most of the 1910s movies. Yes, the third act here was certainly overly dramatic, way too much, but the rest of the film stayed away from that tone fortunately.

Where the film fails is in the character development. Yes, all of the actors and actresses did a very good job in their roles with everyone delivering strong, subtle performances, but the characters themselves are way too forgettable and underutilized and it’s a problem as this script demanded stronger characterization. It also has way too many characters.

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Where Are My Children? Movie Review

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The film is way too short as well. An hour was just not enough for this type of story so the end product felt extremely rushed in my opinion. So the pacing is problematic, but the movie is very well shot and superbly directed by Lois Weber (if it was her as she went uncredited). The dialogue is also superb and especially the intertitles as they weren’t overly abundant or too rarely used, but in just the right amount. I also liked the urgency in its tone in the first half and how the film is a product of its time, yet relevant today as well. It is one of the better films of 1916 for sure.

Where Are My Children? has weaker characterization and way too short running time, but in dealing with its subject of abortion, the film manages to be very modern and certainly admirable for its time. It is mostly very subtle, very well acted and well directed leading to a movie that felt engaging and modern a century later.

My Rating – 4

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Snow White (1916)

Snow White Movie Review

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Snow White Movie Review

Snow White is a 1916 silent fantasy film starring Marguerite Clark. It is a very good early adaptation of this famous fairy tale.

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If these are pig’s tails,

then that is a pig’s heart

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Snow White Movie Review

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First of all, let’s talk about the elephant in the room and that is of course the fact that this movie influenced Walt Disney and impressed him so much (it was the first movie that he has ever seen) that he was inspired to make his own version. It’s a shame that this film is famous just for being Walt’s vehicle when it is a good movie in its own right.

Comparing the two, I of course loved Disney’s version much more as I just adore that classic film, but it was somewhat disappointing seeing how much he took from this film. The dwarfs mining and meeting Snow White, her cleaning the house and them washing up one of the dwarfs were all the scenes that Walt basically rehashed.

But other than that, it is very much a thing of its own. For example, it has much more characters in it and the entire first third is different. That first third is a major flaw of the movie. I still thought that it was good, but just not as good as the rest of the picture and it made the film feel odd structurally speaking as the action started way too late in its run plus those many characters introduced in the first part serve no purpose later on in the story.

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Snow White Movie Review

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But I still loved how this Snow White was much more faithful to its source material than the usual adaptations and sure enough, we have a poisonous comb here as well as Snow spitting the apple and thus managing to survive, all of the elements from the original fairy tale.

I personally really liked this Snow White as she is charming and likable which is a testament to Marguerite Clark’s performance which is very strong and certainly quite charismatic. The dwarfs themselves are solid, but not as memorable as they should have been and the entire film needed more humor as it is childlike in approach, but never funny which was a problem to me.

Prince meeting her earlier was well realized and he was solid, but the villain is great and it was interesting that we actually got two villains here as the Queen gets the help from Witch Hex who is a very memorable creation. The sequence with pig tails is actually a standout one as it is pretty gross and so well executed technically with excellent effects for its time.

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Snow White Movie Review

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But I would have liked to have seen the Queen die or get some sort of punishment and that overly happy ending was unfortunate. The film is very entertaining, but overly frenetic to the point of being abrupt in approach as some scenes seem to be cut in their progress, but that is because this isn’t a complete version and thus I shouldn’t judge the movie too much for it. As it stands, it never reached greatness, but it was competent and quite good from start to finish and it is ultimately a successful adaptation of this fairy tale.

The 1916 version of Snow White is famous for influencing Walt to make his own classic version and though he clearly took a couple of scenes in its entirety, this film is actually quite different otherwise as it follows the original fairy tale much closer. Even though the first third was problematic, the film is mostly very competently made with a charismatic turn from Marguerite Clark, good villains and a couple of standout scenes leading to a quite successful early adaptation of this famous fairy tale.

My Rating – 4

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The Queen of Spades (1916)

The Queen of Spades Movie Review

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The Queen of Spades Movie Review

The Queen of Spades is a 1916 Russian silent film directed by Yakov Protazanov and starring Ivan Mosjoukine. It is a film that had great potential, but squandered it on an uneven execution.

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Play the three, the seven and the ace

in succession and you will win

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The Queen of Spades Movie Review

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Yes, the story here is phenomenal which is expected as it came straight from the mind of Aleksandr Pushkin. The premise is very intriguing and the mix of horror elements into the whole drama is quite interesting. Everything about that third act is terrific with the imagery being particularly memorable. The juxtaposition of the cards and memories into the shots was so well done and quite advanced for its time. The ghost scene is the highlight and the ending is so striking, again accompanied by some intriguing special effects.
But everything that came before that amazing third act is quite weak. The first two acts are so dull and uneventful that the idea of a build-up is stretched way too much here. I get that the film needed to have that build-up, but one act would have sufficed and the second act should have introduced the conflict with the third act being the conclusive one.

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The Queen of Spades Movie Review

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But the filmmakers behind The Queen of Spades apparently had no idea of a three-act structure. The editing is all over the place and the structure is horrible. That is why the first two acts were dull and the third one was so rushed. And I continually get frustrated with the movies which are so great on paper, yet in execution of the pacing, editing and structure they fail. This is one fine example of such a bad practice.
I liked the characters. The protagonist is memorable and the old lady is naturally the standout person here. The entire idea of having this old lady know what cards to play is quite fascinating and I absolutely loved how the main character came to know here as it was believably scripted. And of course the message is great.

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The Queen of Spades Movie Review

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Ivan Mosjoukine is so good here. This is my first time seeing him and I have to say that I instantly got why he was such a huge star in Russia during the 1910s. His looks are memorable, his acting is very good and his emphasized gestured bring a lot to the overall performance. He is very charismatic.
I guess the movie isn’t too short in length as this story did not need more than an hour of running time, but the pacing is so bad that it hurt it in the long run and even Yakov Protazanov’s direction is to blame as it isn’t as deft and polished as the film demanded.

The Queen of Spades has such a great premise, Ivan Mosjoukine is very charismatic and memorable in the lead role, the film is technically terrific with great imagery and the third act is intriguing, but the first two acts are too dull, the film’s structure and editing are quite mediocre and the direction should have been better leading to an unfortunately uneven film.

My Rating – 3.5

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The Avenging Conscience (1914)

The Avenging Conscience Movie Review

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The Avenging Conscience Movie Review

The Avenging Conscience is a 1914 silent drama film directed by D. W. Griffith and starring Henry B. Walthall. It is one of the most underrated silent films.

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She fears something more than

mere mental derangement

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The Avenging Conscience Movie Review

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Yes, the status of this film is unfortunate. It isn’t talked about a lot these days which is a big shame as the film is so good. It is one of the most underappreciated early films which is actually one of the best films from the director as now only ‘Broken Blossoms’ comes to my mind as being a better picture of his.
It is about a man who is in love with a girl and wants to marry her, but his uncle objects to that. Out of desperation, he decides to murder his uncle and conceals the body in the fireplace. He loses his mind and starts imagining religious scary symbols, but eventually it is all revealed to have been a dream and the film ends happily.

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The Avenging Conscience Movie Review

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That is the story of The Avenging Conscience and, needless to say, it is hugely original and highly authentic. It is actually one of the most memorable and certainly weirdest silent flicks I’ve seen so far and its weirdness is expected as it came from the mind of Edgar Allan Poe.
Its first third or so felt a bit too heavy handed in my opinion. It was fine, but not a proper introduction to the story. All of the crime stuff and imaginary scenes were terrific and there lie the most unforgettable scenes of the film. As for its twist ending, I can understand that some may find it to be overly happy and like a cop-out, but it was still satisfactory to me personally and I didn’t see it coming. Plus the dream structure is definitely very unique, especially for its usually straightforward period in film history.
I liked the characters and the performances are also pretty good. Naturally Griffith‘s direction is awesome and he is the man responsible for this entire film being so great along with Poe’s writing of course. I loved how adapted it is and how cinematic the film is. It is one of the most purely entertaining and cinematic movies from the teens.

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The Avenging Conscience Movie Review

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The Avenging Conscience’s technical aspects are one of a kind. The cinematography is stunning with some of the imagery being unforgettable. The shots of insects are some of my favorites, but the scenes with Jesus and of course the devils were the major highlights.
The special effects are truly something special here. So professionally done and highly authentic. They definitely help sell the movie’s fantasy scenes ans help make it stand the test of time as this movie really did. It feels interesting to this day, not to mention original and incredibly entertaining.
It definitely has its flaws, but I liked that it was both a fantasy and a thriller at times while also being a crime flick. But it is in the end mostly a melodrama, but a truly intriguing one that fascinated me from start to finish. It is certainly one of the best 1910s films I’ve seen so far. Such a stupendous movie.

The Avenging Conscience is such a unique and entertaining film which I loved from beginning to end. Its twist ending may seem like a cop-out, but it was unexpected and interesting. The entire storyline is so authentic and the film’s technical aspects are amazing with Griffith’s direction being superb and the cinematography being unique and filled with weird imagery and superb special effects. It is in the end one of the most cinematic and sadly underappreciated silent films.

My Rating – 4.5

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