Tol’able David (1921)

Tol'able David Movie Review

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Tol’able David Movie Review

Tol’able David is a 1921 silent drama film directed by Henry King and starring Richard Barthelmess. It is at times strong, but ultimately not great film.

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I’m tol’able…

Just tol’able

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Tol'able David Review

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It is a tale about a boy who is sick and tired of being called a boy and wants to prove himself as a man and he eventually does do that through revenge. Now let’s first state the positives and then I am going to go through the negatives. First off, the first half. It is excellent and certainly the highlight of the film.

It was just a very cozy, atmospheric and moody film at those points and I almost felt that I visited the countryside during the twenties. That is how atmospheric and full of detail the film is. It felt almost poetic in its quality.

That is mostly due to the technical aspects which are superb across the board. Richard Barthelmess did a good job in the main role and the others are memorable as well. The direction is also solid. But it is the cinematography that is the highlight and some scenes are highly memorable both in action and in scenery.

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Tol'able David Movie Review

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However, the second half ruined all of that for me. That is when the movie suddenly went into overly dark crime territory that did not suite this film particularly well. It just wasn’t executed in the most interesting or dramatic manner and I lost my interest especially in that third act.

The overall story is admittedly good for its time, but is now rather typical and archetypal, especially in the main character’s goal. It has its western and crime elements, but both were underutilized and it remains strongest as a period drama. So I did like it and I did find it to be charming, but quite flawed and disappointing in the end.

Tol’able David is especially strong in its first half as quite a charming, detailed and atmospheric countryside drama with excellent cinematography and some very memorable scenes, but the second half employed a typical crime angle and to me it was much less interesting overall.

My Rating – 3.5

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The Crowd (1928)

The Crowd Movie Review

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The Crowd Movie Review

The Crowd is a 1928 silent drama film directed by King Vidor and starring James Murray and Eleanor Boardman. It is a very strong, effective film.

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Look at that crowd! The poor boobs… all in the same rut!

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The Crowd Movie Review

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This is one of the better films out there that deal with the American Dream in particular. That concept is so well realized here as a man arrives to New York City to search for great life and job, but struggles to maintain it and realizes that he is just one piece of a much bigger puzzle – one man in a crowd of many other competent, successful men.

I thought that when it comes to harsh realities of living in a big city, The Crowd very much succeeds and it painted that harsh, but realistic picture so well. Certainly the film employs some melodrama in it per usual for the era, but it was mostly done minimally and the result is one of the better films from this period and one of the most emotionally resonant.

James Murray and Eleanor Boardman both did a really good job. I respected the director for not employing bigger name talent as this film is and should be about ordinary people and thus that casting choice paid off significantly. She is very good, but Murray is the highlight as he delivered such a strong, great performance and he is the heart and soul of this film.

I wasn’t that big of a fan of Bert Roach as Bert. I thought the actor did a good job, but the character wasn’t really necessary to the movie which is much better when it relies just on these two as their relationship is strong and tender and I loved it.

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The Crowd Movie Review

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Some of the highlights of course include that crowd sequence which was beautifully shot and unforgettable in its quality and of course that heartwarming ending which was a wonderful happy ending and a great way to portray the crowd in a lighter way too. Really well done. The film can also be pretty romantic at times.

The direction from King Vidor is outstanding and he directed this movie highly professionally and his role is certainly the most important one here. But the cinematography is the standout aspect as it is absolutely magnificent with many highly original camera angles and takes. It looks polished and timeless.

Masterfully directed by King Vidor, emotionally resonant and rich and relevant in its themes, The Crowd truly is a phenomenal cinematic achievement with many truthful quotes and observations, very strong performances, a heartwarming ending and a particularly effective, inventive and incredible cinematography. It remains a strong, resonant drama to this day.

My Rating – 4.5

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7th Heaven (1927)

7th Heaven Movie Review

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7th Heaven Movie Review

7th Heaven is a 1927 silent romance film directed by Frank Borzage and starring Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell. It’s a wonderful, classic movie.

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You mustn’t be afraid. I’m never afraid.

Never look down – Always look up.

I always look up. That’s why I’m a very remarkable fellow!

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7th Heaven Movie Review

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I really like this film and it is one of quite a high number of films that prove how extraordinary 1927 film year was. This is one of the better romances that I’ve seen as it is such an enjoyable, immensely romantic tale of the relationship between an abused prostitute and a low-class worker.

The film is set in 1910s Paris and the reason why it is a great, but flawed movie lies almost entirely in its ending. So basically he goes to war (WWI) and that was a typical, not particularly engaging development and afterwards she gets the word that he’s dead, but he eventually comes back and they reunite. Needless to say, this felt unbelievable, overly melodramatic and maudlin to the point of being ridiculous.

But that is the only big flaw in an otherwise stellar picture. The film features such likable, endearing characters and that is why I felt their connection as they are so charming together. This is in no small part due to a great chemistry and interactions between its two stars.

Charles Farrell deserves more respect as nobody talks about him whereas everybody talks about Gaynor. He is very charming and charismatic here owing to his very good performance as well as his good looks. But of course Janet Gaynor steals the show and this was surely an amazing year for her (‘Sunrise’ is also her movie). She is endearing and she played the part so well that I bought the transition in her character. Both of them were great and especially superb when together.

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7th Heaven Movie Review

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7th Heaven is a gorgeous movie technically speaking. It features absolutely amazing, accomplished set design and that staircase climb is one of the most visually striking sequences in all of silent cinema. The way the camera moves there to follow the action is breathtaking. Ernest Palmer’s cinematography here is simply stunning.

The direction from Frank Borzage is terrific and he surely did a magnificent job here. The score in the version I’ve watched was also excellent and I have to say that the intertitles were my cup of tea here. Not too sparse or overused, but just the right amount and with pretty good dialogue. Certainly some lines were too cheesy, but some were beautiful. The film is also very well paced, it flows so well and is engaging from the first to the last moment. It is such a charming, old-fashioned romance that anyone can enjoy it.

My favorite scenes apart from the aforementioned staircase scene are the first meeting of the two as it was very well done, the wedding dress scene is wonderful and of course the standout is the entire scene where she arrives and their scenes in the apartment were all phenomenal. I loved the view, I loved the interiors and its set design really contributed to such a romantic atmosphere within the film.

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7th Heaven Movie Review

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7th Heaven was the most nominated film at the 1st Academy Awards with five nominations. Gaynor won for Best Actress and that was much deserved as she had an awesome year there. I wouldn’t say that directing and writing wins were deserved, but I don’t mind as the script and direction here truly are excellent. And the nods for Picture and Art Direction were also highly deserved.

7th Heaven is one of the most visually dazzling and accomplished silent movies with superb direction from Frank Borzage and absolutely gorgeous set design as those wonderful sets really contribute a lot to the film’s romantic atmosphere. It has many unforgettable scenes with the staircase climb sequence being the visual highlight. Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell are both wonderful here and this is such a beautiful, immensely romantic movie that not even its overly melodramatic, maudlin ending could hurt it.

My Rating – 4.5

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Blood and Sand (1922)

Blood and Sand Movie Review

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Blood and Sand Movie Review

Blood and Sand is a 1922 silent drama film starring Rudolph Valentino. It is a solid, engaging, but thoroughly predictable film.

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But out there is the real beast – a beast with ten thousand heads!

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Blood and Sand Movie Review

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It is about a handsome matador who is lured by a vamp woman and cheats on his wife. Eventually, he feels sorry for what he did and she forgives him the moment before his death from the hits from the arena. Yes, this storyline is extremely cliched, predictable and overall your typical sappy and melodramatic silent movie. Almost all of its plot points came as absolute no surprise for me and that took away from much of the enjoyment of the picture.

However, whereas Blood and Sand is immensely cliched, it is still so well crafted, directed and overall really well made that it mostly managed to transcend that typical storyline. The film not only is very well directed by competent Fred Niblo, but it is also very well paced as the runtime of 80 minutes is just right for this kind of story and it never felt either rushed or dragging.

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Blood and Sand Movie Review

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It is also very well shot. I really liked those bull fighting sequences. They were stock footage, but definitely cleverly used footage as it felt realistic to me. Every setting in the movie was well utilized. Of the favorites, the ending, although typical, was moving and very memorable. I loved the final line about the arena crowd and I simply adored all of the vamp sequences.

Yes, I loved Nita Naldi here! She even stole the show from Valentino at times with her great rendition of the vamp persona beautifully established by Theda Barra in ‘A Fool There Was’. She is not on the same level as her performance is not the greatest, but she and her character were just a lot of fun and she excelled at portraying this seductive, dangerous woman. I loved her looks, facial expressions and walks – all incredibly amusing.

Lila Lee is forgettable as is her character Carmen. This is said to have been Rudolph Valentino’s finest film performance and I can see that as he is excellent here. In that one fighting scene between him and Naldi, both were quite poor, but otherwise both did a good job. He is still utilized as “the Latin lover” here but thankfully he also gave a very good, competent performance which ranks among his best, if not the very best.

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Blood and Sand Movie Review

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So Blood and Sand is a solid movie, very fun at times and mostly really well crafted. I enjoyed watching it on the big screen as it really looks fine and I can see that it was basically the major blockbuster from 1922 for better and for worse. I have to say that the dialogue was weak and overly straightforward and it lent itself too much to melodrama. Also the overreliance on intertitles was unfortunate as I prefer my silents less talkative and less descriptive and more driven on the visuals.

Blood and Sand is immensely cliched and predictable in its familiar storyline and the overreliance on intertitles is unfortunate, but the film transcended its obvious flaws thanks to a very good direction, some very memorable scenes and shots and Rudolph Valentino’s competent performance that ranks among his best. But Nita Naldi honestly stole the show for me with her vamp character who was just a lot of fun.

My Rating – 3.5

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The Last Command (1928)

The Last Command Movie Review

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The Last Command Movie Review

The Last Command is a 1928 silent drama film directed by Josef von Sternberg and starring Emil Jannings and William Powell. It is one of the better movies from this director.

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He was more than a great actor – he was a great man

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The Last Command Movie Review

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Actually the storyline here is very original and unlike anything I’ve seen before really. A past German general comes to Hollywood to work as an extra but owing to post-traumatic stress disorder, he starts to believe that the movie battle in the film is real leading to his nervous breakdown.

I liked the story despite its uneven execution. The first act is excellent and the ending is naturally amazing, superbly acted and so incredibly emotional. It is also grand and very cinematic. But I agree with Movies Silently that the middle section honestly felt subpar in comparison. It was dragging, it was uneven, not as interesting and the flashbacks weren’t all that well incorporated into the picture. Plus of course it has those typical silent movie trappings in its ending where he dies. A nervous breakdown would have been enough for me and dying felt a bit too melodramatic.

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The Last Command Movie Review

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So the film is famous for being the vehicle that brought Emil Jannings his Academy Award for Best Actor, the first ever given and the only one given to a German which is quite interesting. And oh boy, did he deserve it! This has to be one of the finest silent movie performances by an actor as it is so great. It is aggressive, but it works in the context of the medium and the story. He portrays such an admirable, heroic and immensely likable character and his every smile, fear and anger is beautifully portrayed and of course his final scene is marvelous to behold.

Evelyn Brent is also quite likable and charming in her interesting role and I really liked the romance between the two. These are all very well developed, interesting characters for sure. And of course we have William Powell here in one of his early roles. Seeing him in a silent movie was weird as he is much more suited for talkative movies, but he nonetheless was superb in this one as he gave a very good, competent performance. I continue to be his big fan.

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The Last Command Movie Review

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The Last Command is a very uneven movie. Some scenes are just breathtaking in quality and so unforgettable but others are exactly the opposite – dull and forgettable. The movie is weakly edited and the flashback structure was intriguing, but not at all well utilized. But still the acting is so great and the story is moving and dramatic that it succeeds as a worthy Oscar-nominated movie. Best Original Story nomination was quite deserved. And it is in my opinion one of the better Josef von Sternberg movies. Nowhere near as great as his masterpiece ‘The Docks of New York’, but still better than most of his follow-up projects.

The Last Command is a very uneven movie with a troublesome middle section, but the first act is great and the ending is of course magnificent and so powerful in emotion. The flashback structure is not well utilized, but it was intriguing and the storyline is very interesting and quite original in a way. It is most famous for being Emil Jannings’ vehicle. He is absolutely marvelous here, unforgettable and his performance is so superb that he thoroughly deserved the first ever Academy Award for Best Actor.

My Rating – 4

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Sadie Thompson (1928)

Sadie Thompson Movie Review

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Sadie Thompson Movie Review

Sadie Thompson is a 1928 silent drama film directed by Raoul Walsh and starring Gloria Swanson. It was a great vehicle for Swanson.

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Make the best of things today, it’s bound to be worst tomorrow!

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Sadie Thompson Movie Review

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Yes, she absolutely shines in this movie which surely features one of her very best performances. She is likable, eclectic and simply beautiful. I loved her hairstyle, her overall look and dresses, but her performance is strong as it isn’t overly theatrical and she employed great, emphatic facial expressions which were essential tools for silent movie performances and here she excelled at them. Whenever she was on screen, she stole the show.

The overall plot of a “fallen” woman whom “moralists” try to “fix” and cure from her prostitution, drinking and smoking is certainly very much of its time. It is still strong, but not as strong as it could have been with a different, more tragic ending. This happy ending was a problem to me in this particular case.

But the film still flows well and is engaging despite the first act which is somewhat less memorable and less interesting than the second and third one. As for the other characters, they are all quite memorable and Lionel Barrymore of course did a very good job in the role of Davidson.

Sadie Thompson is great for its serious, dramatic scenes which were so well filmed with mostly excellent dialogue, great acting which was very important here and of course emotionally investing approach. Those scenes in the prison were easily the best of the bunch here, so well done and quite powerful. I wish the whole movie was as powerful as those magnificent scenes were.

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Sadie Thompson Movie Review

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It looks great. The score is solid, but it is its cinematography that really takes it to the next level as its scenery is very well incorporated into the picture and its mood in particular. I loved the setting and the editing was also mostly good. It is a shame that the last reel is missing in parts. The film earned two Oscar nominations – for lead actress and cinematography – and both were very much deserved.

Sadie Thompson is less memorable in the third and first act, but the second one was phenomenal with superb dialogue, many great dramatic moments and some quite emotional scenes. But the Oscar nominated cinematography and Gloria Swanson are the highlights as the film looks great and she gave such a fantastic performance that is probably her career best one.

My Rating – 4

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It (1927)

It Movie Review

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It Movie Review

It is a 1927 silent romantic comedy film which is a great Clara Bow vehicle. She is excellent in the film which is itself not great.

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I’m sorry, but a girl has to do that.

You know how things are

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It Movie Review

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The story of a shop girl who wants to seduce a handsome, wealthy boss is fairly typical by this point. I will give the movie credit for possibly being one of the first films to do this story and it is one of the first romantic comedies, but still it felt overly familiar and it lacked some sort of special oomph in the storytelling department to take it to the next level.

The characters are also fairly straight and typical with the only exception being the protagonist who is memorable. I really liked the performances here, but of course Clara Bow is the highlight and the biggest reason to see this movie for sure.

She excelled in portraying this spunky, energetic and very attractive girl and I could see why men love her and why women want to be her friends. The film explores the concept of “It” which is a special quality of possessing a magnetic force and it was just such a fabulous choice to cast Bow in this role as she really embodies that quality and is magnetic from start to finish here. I loved her look, her dresses and especially her movements and her facial expressions. She really gave a standout performance.

She also made It a very modern movie, much more modern than most of the movies from the twenties and it aged so well that it can be enjoyed a lot even in this day. It surely is a prototype of a romantic comedy as it has all of those ingredients, some great and some annoying.

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It Movie Review

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The film is well directed and paced and it looks great and very modern and quick in pace and in character interactions. I just loved the first half so much with all the preparations for the dinner and especially the roller coaster scene was so wonderful that it was really disappointing to see the second half get reduced to unnecessary melodrama (the subplot with the baby was not needed honestly), typical complications and misunderstandings and an overly bombastic, though still fun and memorable spectacle finale.

It is mainly a major Clara Bow vehicle and she certainly embodies the titular concept perfectly with her beautiful looks and a spunky personality while also giving just a fabulous performance as a whole. I loved the first half as it had some wonderful scenes such as that preparation for dinner as well as a roller coaster scene, but the second half was reduced to typical misunderstandings and melodrama a bit too much and although the spectacle ending is fun, it was still too bombastic. It is certainly a very influential romantic comedy for better and for worse.

My Rating – 4

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Greed (1924)

Greed Movie Review

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Greed Movie Review

Greed is a 1924 silent drama film directed by Erich von Stroheim. It is a famous movie that is quite commendable, yet never as great as it could have been.

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We can’t afford such extravagance.

Thirty-five dollars… and the water extra!

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Greed Movie Review

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Now the reason why it isn’t great lies in its approach. I do get that greed is terrible and it is a problem that plagues today’s society just as much as it did that of 1924, but the way it was approached wasn’t the greatest and was typically excessive and overly melodramatic for its time.

I am talking about too long stares, some very implausible scenarios (the hand infection) as well as an over-the-top and too aggressive and nowhere near as subtle take on the subject matter. That was a problem here, but again the film is so epic, so moving at times and ultimately powerful that it managed to overcome that problem.

Greed is Erich von Stroheim’s magnum opus in terms of directing as his direction here is absolutely amazing and one of the best of the silent era. It is a shame that we cannot see the full version, but watching the restored four-hour version was a pleasant experience as they lovingly recreated the lost footage in a way.

The characters are memorable and so well developed and the acting is very strong and actually quite subtle at times, especially for its period. To me the final part was a spectacle, both visually and in terms of the action, but I also loved the romantic vignettes and those more sentimental scenes were some of my favorites as you could definitely feel the plight of its characters.

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Greed Movie Review

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The dialogue in the intertitles is so strong as are the descriptions and the narration. The film is a visual masterpiece not only in its strong camera movements, but also in scenery and you do get some stupendous imagery, especially in the desert in the final scenes. The film is thematically so well connected and overall stupendously well made that it is a shame that it wasn’t all that subtle as it would have been a masterpiece that way. And of course we cannot judge this movie fully without all of its footage, but as it stands, it is a very good, admirable silent movie that was pretty groundbreaking for its time in more than one way.

Greed should have been more subtle in its approach, but its ambition and especially its scope are unprecedented. The film is visually arresting with such a spectacle of the last act, it features very good characterization and excellent acting, but it is its strong emotion and Erich von Stroheim’s confident direction that take it to the next level.

My Rating – 4

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The Covered Wagon (1923)

The Covered Wagon Movie Review

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The Covered Wagon Movie Review

The Covered Wagon is a 1923 western film directed by James Cruze and starring J. Warren Kerrigan and it is about a group of pioneers traveling through the old West from Kansas to Oregon encountering on their quest desert heat, mountain snow, hunger, and Indian attack.

The story is quite interesting and an important historical lesson of course. But the film never quite makes use of its superb premise thanks to some boring sequences and not well developed characters. The situations they encounter are fascinating and mostly well executed which is quite unexpected given the era it was released, but the action sequences are wonderfully executed and are quite intriguing. But the story, while excellent at first, somehow becomes boring in later parts and definitely the second half is awfully inferior to the first one.

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The Covered Wagon Movie Review

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The technical aspects are phenomenal. The cinematography and the scenery are amazing, the action sequences are fantastic and the direction is quite solid. But the editing and pacing are not great and it is not as polished entirely as it should have been.

The character development is quite so-so. The leads are honestly solidly developed, but the rest are not unfortunately. But the acting is definitely very good and it helps the film without a doubt and bringing the professional aspect to the whole thing.

Overall, The Covered Wagon is an early western which has some excellent action sequences, superb cinematography, very engaging premise and the first half is absolutely great, but the second half ruined it with problematic pacing, some boring scenes, not well developed characters and some dated elements regarding the fights. But the plot which had potential is awfully ruined here with later boring parts and the film would have benefited with better script writers and a better and more exciting approach which was quite needed but never realized. It is a solid feature, but the one which is incredibly flawed and quite frankly forgettable in the most annoying way.

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The Covered Wagon Movie Review

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It is not bad and not that good, but just forgettable and that is the worst thing that a movie can be in my opinion, it is not usually like that, but that is the worst in my opinion. I would rather watch a mediocre film than the one which is quite okay but awfully forgettable and this movie unfortunately fits into that picture which is a shame because it had a lot of potential.

My Rating – 3.5

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The Penalty (1920)

The Penalty Movie Review………………………………………………………

The Penalty Movie Review

The Penalty is a 1920 silent crime film directed by Wallace Worsley and starring always great Lon Chaney. It is a very good, entertaining movie.

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Everything comes to him who waits

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The Penalty Movie Review………………………………………………………

It follows a man played by Chaney who got his legs mistakenly amputated as a kid and now seeks revenge on the doctor who ruined his life. This is an obvious Chaney vehicle and he absolutely killed it in this role. The film itself isn’t one of his very best and ‘The Unknown’ is certainly much better, but it is one of his best performances as he is so great here.

His character is complex and villainous and creepy and crazy but also with a touch of sentiment and sympathy. He had to hit all of those notes and he did it masterfully, not to mention that he was torturing himself physically in order to play a legless man. Such an admirable devotion from one of the greatest actors who ever lived. The other actors here are much weaker in comparison to him.

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The Penalty Movie Review………………………………………………………

The plot is interesting and The Penalty is basically an early all-out crime film and I honestly liked it quite a bit. It should have been more memorable and it never fully utilized on its awesome premise, but still it remains a hugely entertaining, even emotional at times crime flick that is satisfactory and quite modern. Anyone looking for fun and quick silent flicks should definitely watch this one. It perfectly debunks the old, annoying myth that silent films are boring.

My favorite sequences are all of the romantic parts with the two leads and I loved the piano scenes. The secret passage and everything around it was so well conceived. And of course the ending is moving and tragic. The film is interesting for featuring Blizzard as an antagonistic character while also having all of the other characters be absolutely horrible as they show no empathy whatsoever to his condition. That led to such an incredibly dark emotionally and thematically film that it took me by surprise.

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The Penalty Movie Review………………………………………………………

The Penalty features very good intertitles that are never overly abundant or sparse and they explain the plot and fuel the characterization very well. The acting is great, but so is the directing from Wallace Worsley. He isn’t Tod Browning, but he still did a very good job. This was the film that introduced the masses to the power of Lon Chaney and it did that remarkably well. I thought it was solidly paced, but some of the middle parts were much less interesting than the rest of the film. And it is well shot and with a very good eye for detail. Overall, I liked The Penalty a lot, but I didn’t love it as much as I wanted to.

The Penalty has its weaker parts and it isn’t as great overall as it could have been, but the premise is awesome and this crime flick features a crazy, incredibly dark thematically and emotionally storyline and filled with questionable actions by its characters. The reason to see it of course lies in the performance from Lon Chaney which is absolutely phenomenal. He had to physically torture himself while also portraying a very complex character and he still did a masterful job. This is certainly one great vehicle for one the best actors who ever lived.

My Rating – 4

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