Hell’s Hinges (1916)

Hell's Hinges Movie Review………………………………………………………………….

Hell’s Hinges Movie Review

Hell’s Hinges is a 1916 silent western film directed by and starring William S. Hart. It is a solid, at times respectable western, but the one with some very troublesome parts.

Yes, the entire plot here is so problematic. It is about a gunman who tries to expel the rowdies from the newly built church. It all ends with the destruction of the whole town. Yep, needless to say, the message is so problematic. It basically says that if you don’t believe in God, you’ll die and that is what happens here. The non-believers are punished. I get that in that time faith was important and especially in the time period of the movie, but this was still frustrating.

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Neither law nor religion shall ever come to Hell’s Hinges

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Hell's Hinges Movie Review………………………………………………………………….

The minister is a solid character and Blaze Tracy is a typical western protagonist, but a memorable one nonetheless. The others are all forgettable and the film doesn’t have the best character development to be honest. But the acting is really good for sure. I thought William S. Hart was a great lead, so charismatic and talented and he just demands the screen. He is perfect for westerns and I even saw the resemblance to John Wayne.

Let’s now talk about the technical aspects. Hell’s Hinges is a well directed and, as I said, very well acted movie. But the cinematography is its finest feat as it is so well shot and some parts look phenomenal. The ending in particular is quite memorable. The pacing is okay, but the running time could have been longer and the script should have been much more sophisticated and complex.

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Hell's Hinges Movie Review………………………………………………………………….

The beginning and the ending are good, but all of the middle parts are forgettable and the message at the end is troublesome. But the plot is the biggest problem as I just never found it to be particularly involving and it rarely had momentum. There is a great movie here, but it didn’t come through as the focus is wrong and the execution is sometimes poor. In the end, Hell’s Hinges is solid, but frankly too problematic.

Hell’s Hinges is a solid early western with such a good cinematography, a memorable lead in William S. Hart and some great parts, but it is too problematic in its script and especially in its message which is so troublesome and just wrong. It is well made and especially well shot, but too simplistic and way too infuriating at times.

My Rating – 3.5

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L’Inferno (1911)

L'Inferno Movie Review…………………………………………………………………

L’Inferno Movie Review

L’Inferno is a 1911 Italian silent fantasy drama film directed by Francesco Bertolini. It is pretty stupendous as one of the oldest surviving feature length films.

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The Poets climb down the shaggy sides of the monster, Lucifer,

to reach the subtler-ranean way

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L'Inferno Movie Review…………………………………………………………………

It is an adaptation of Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy. The story itself is of course powerful and I really liked it here. It is pretty well adapted for film and it succeeds as a solid adaptation. It is detailed in descriptions, it is visually arresting and it is overall pretty engaging and interesting.

However, L’Inferno has one big problem that really hurt the movie and that is its use of intertitles that is not only overabundant, but at times even unnecessary. Also, the length/running time of the intertitles is too prolonged and thus you end up with a movie that is almost half of the running time in intertitles. That was troublesome as, no matter how interesting those descriptive passages were, they were still too descriptive. A movie shouldn’t be that descriptive and a movie should show more than tell and this is a classic example of a film that mostly tells its plot, rather than show it.

And that was a huge shame as, when shown, the film is actually pretty good. The effects here are so phenomenal and absolutely astounding and groundbreaking for its time that it really bothered me that they decided to cut back on that as they clearly could have made more use of its visuals which are awesome.

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L'Inferno Movie Review…………………………………………………………………

The second half is better in that regard as you have many intriguing visuals and imagery. Really, the imagery in L’Inferno is so powerful and instantly recognizable and a groundbreaking achievement in cinema. The apparitions are so well executed, the nudity is well handled, the various fantastical creatures are so well imagined and depicted and the film most of all succeeds as a good early fantasy flick.

But it doesn’t particularly succeed as a drama unfortunately. Whereas its fantasy elements are fascinating, its dramatic elements aren’t which is why the second half is so much more entertaining than the first one. The second one is more show than tell whereas the first one is the opposite.

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L'Inferno Movie Review…………………………………………………………………

L’Inferno is the oldest feature film that I’ve seen up to this point and I have to say that I really respect it. It isn’t great or even very good, but it is pretty solid with the level of greatness achieved in more than a couple of sequences. The score in the version I’ve seen is too modern and annoying, but the directing is solid, the pacing is mostly good and the running time is quite short, but rewarding in terms of storytelling as a lot happens during its seventy minutes. The film should have had a more emotional tone to it and it feels rather cold at times. The same can be said for the characterization as the characters are forgettable. The script is good, but as I said, the dialogue and the explanations are overly abundant and even unnecessary. Thanks to all of those reasons, it is a deeply flawed movie, but because the visual effects are so great, its adapted screenplay is quite solid and the imagery is powerful, it is still pretty solid and memorable.

L’Inferno is such a solid and at times respectable, but also deeply flawed movie. It has astounding visual effects for its time, the imagery is so striking and powerful, it is solidly adapted and it is mostly quite good, but the intertitles are overly abundant and at times too descriptive, too long and frankly unnecessary and seriously affecting the movie that should have shown more than just told its story. But for being one of the first surviving feature length films, it is quite solid and even stupendous.

My Rating – 3.5

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The Blue Bird (1918)

The Blue BirdThe

Blue Bird Review

The Blue Bird is a 1918 silent fantasy children’s movie directed by Maurice Tourneur.  It is one of the earliest and undoubtedly best fantasy films.

It is about a young boy and girl who are asked to search for the blue bird of happiness only to realize that it was in their house all along. The story is excellent. It starts with a great premise and it ends wonderfully with those beautiful lines and a great message for children that truly is wonderful. But the journey is also so beautiful to behold and filled with great creatures and memorable imagery. It is riveting from start to finish and fueled with this evident energy, charm and unique authenticity.

Now, I have some problems with it. It is too weird at times and not just offbeat but so incredibly weird to the point of becoming sort of a drug-fueled experience. I am talking about the souls of things in the scene where the objects come to life. Now, some are understandable like the pets, but others are not. For example, bread. What is the point of bread having a soul and body? I honestly do not know. But the weirdest are definitely the pets who, when they come alive, embody the body of a human, but still retain animal-like qualities. And the scene where they lick the children is so weird and I even laughed how unbelievable it is.

But it is a great and imaginative story nonetheless, no matter how odd it can become at certain moments. I absolutely adore its scenery which is at times even artistic and so memorable. The colors used here are gorgeous and the cinematography is just splendid. It is filled with such a great imagination and wonders that it works as a beautiful fantasy work.

The characters are good as is the acting. Both kids are realistically depicted and they are also stupendously well acted which is always a pleasant surprise. And the others are all very well realized and also acted and I absolutely adore its plethora of diverse characters and creatures, making the whole journey all the more enjoyable.

Now, I have another problem with its storytelling and that is certainly its episodic nature. It is just too unevenly spread throughout with not only weak editing, but also too much resembling a TV show. The nature of the film is too episodic with particularly its second half just being split into many different sequences that do not mash particularly well together. The first and the last act are great, but the middle is very uneven and the film’s lowest point unfortunately.

But the directing from Maurice Tourneur is absolutely splendid and he gave the film a unique touch. The Blue Bird is a technically polished feature across the board. The cinematography is, as I said before, magnificent and the imagery is very evocative and beautifully unrealistic and always imaginative. It also greatly uses its colors and the score I also liked a lot. The film has such likable characters and an involving and well crafted script with the first act making you interested instantly and the ending being so incredibly satisfying with a great morale. I liked its tone as it is quite mature. It is for children, but it is also a movie that adults can quite enjoy due to its wondrous spirit. It is also incredibly original with a story that is unlike any I’ve ever seen in a movie. The make-up for the creatures is terrific and the effects are simply astonishing and just breathtaking given the context of time. It also has a solid dialogue and the intertitles are well spread throughout. It does have a lot of heart, a humor and a great sense of wonder.

The Blue Bird is such a memorable and unique experience with a story not like any other, a wonderful sense of wonder, terrific effects, awesome imagery, quite likable characters and a riveting story with a great message as well. It is too weird at times and is too episodic in nature, but it is an early fantasy movie that works on many levels and is just a joy to watch, highly authentic and charming.

My Rating – 4

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The Cheat (1915)

The Cheat

The Cheat Review

The Cheat is a 1915 silent melodrama directed by Cecil B. DeMille and starring Sessue Hayakawa and Fannie Ward. It is one of the very best films of the year and one of the finest 1910s movies I’ve watched so far.

It is about Edith Hardy who leads a wealthy and extravagant life. But when financial troubles ensue, she, in order to help her and her husband, accepts the loan from a wealthy Japanese admirer. But she soon finds out that he is not an easy man to deal with. This is a pure melodrama, just like they used to make them back in those days. But whereas it can be too dramatic, I still enjoyed this story immensely as I found the message and the point being made crystal clear and the social commentary is great. What I also adore about this film is its story told through different angles and how almost everyone, except maybe the husband, is rather awful in this movie and highly unlikable which is so realistic and makes it very dark and serious. It is a very good story that is only undone by its unfortunate happy ending which is a highly unsatisfactory and contrived conclusion.

The characters are excellent thanks to terrific characterization at display here. Edith Hardy is a phenomenal protagonist, so uncharacteristic for the lead and especially for the time. She is so unlikable and a bad person, but she still wants everything to get better and she can be said to be more of a tragic figure than a bad person. Her husband Richard is probably the only good-natured character here and his care for his wife and his troubles with her are really well realized making him the most sympathetic character in the movie, the one the audience can sympathize with most. As for Haka Arakau/Hishuru Tori, he is a marvelous villain, he posed a real threat and a genuine villainous presence making his character the standout. The movie is racist in his portrayal and the fact that they changed his name and nationality from Japanese to Burmese did not help much as it is still racist, but this was made a century ago so it can be forgiven.

The acting is absolutely superb. It is interesting how Hayakawa gave a more subtle and natural performance than the overly theatrical performances of Fannie Ward and Jack Dean and it is interesting to watch that distinction on the screen. But all three are great for the type of performances they give. Jack Dean is really good and Fannie Ward, although too over-the-top in later parts, is still memorable and quite good in her role. But it is of course Sessue Hayakawa who is the highlight here, giving the finest performance. He also steals every scene he is in with a strong presence and great charisma and eerie look in his eyes. He made his villain all the more villainy which is much appreciated.

The directing from Cecil B. DeMille is outstanding and this is probably his best directed film in this decade, much better than his work in ‘Male and Female‘. He brought a polished and professional feel to the film. The Cheat is also incredibly well photographed with some shots being just pause-worthy and artistically expressed. The camera angles are wonderful and both the interiors and the exteriors are appealing to the eye. But the way it was filmed and photographed gave it such a modern look which is why The Cheat aged like fine wine, being powerful to this day. Some scenes are horrific and tense, while others are powerful and dramatic. But the sequence with the seal branding is so incredibly intense, powerful and even scary a bit to this day. It also has a solid dialogue and it boasts a suave direction and excellent score that accompanies the screen wonderfully. And the movie is very memorable and even iconic in some sequences. But above all I found the dramatic tone instead of excessive, quite satisfying and they pulled it off in a great way, making you feel the danger and the consequences.

There are two problems I have with The Cheat. The first is that the editing is flawed. The movie is incredibly fast-paced which is good because it lead to its evident ageless quality, but is bad because it seems rushed in the second half. Its rushed nature can be attributed mostly to the running time as it is too short for this story and definitely should have been longer. And the second flaw I have with the film is definitely the ending which is unfortunately a typical happy ending that seems contrived and even pointless. With a more sinister and sad ending, this would have been a much better film than it already is.

The Cheat is a terrific film. It is incredibly well directed, wonderfully shot and it has some scenes that are immensely powerful and even horrific, but it is above all perfectly melodramatic and entertaining, it has excellent characters, the acting is marvelous and the story is very well crafted. It has its flaws including its too fast-paced nature and an unfortunately contrived ending, but it is mostly a phenomenal film that, for a century-old movie, aged like fine wine, still being powerful and entertaining, and it is one of the best films of the period.

My Rating – 4.5

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