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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The Freshman (1925)

The Freshman Movie Review……………………………………………………..

The Freshman Movie Review

The Freshman is a 1925 comedy film starring Harold Lloyd. It is a good, but archetypal and overly influential film.

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I’m just a regular fellow and I want you to step right up and call me Speedy!

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The Freshman Movie Review……………………………………………………..

I am talking about its plot. The freshman tries to become popular by joining the football team and eventually wins the respect from everyone. Needless to say, it is a very clichéd, exceedingly so premise and execution. I get that it was the first of its type, but its influence is mostly bad when it comes to college and especially sports movies and that is why I disliked its plot even more.

But it still has its great scenes and is a good film, just not as great as the critics say it is. The extended sewing sequence is absolutely fantastic and the prime comedic moment in the movie. Perfectly delivered and constructed, not to mention quite unforgettable. The first speech at college was also very good and the scene in which he realizes he is unpopular and they have been mocking him all along is actually quite touching.

Harold Lloyd is very good here. He gave a good, competent comedic performance and he even got some emotional moments as well. This is nowhere near the quality of his ‘Safety Last!’, but at least it comes close as he excelled in the nerdy roles which is best exemplified here. I also liked his girlfriend and especially the coach who was a memorable supporting character.

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The Freshman Movie Review……………………………………………………..

The Freshman is very well executed in action and although I wanted much more gags and action parts, those that we got are still excellent. The football part in the end is well executed, but I disliked it the most and that is what ruined this movie to an extent in my opinion. However, his first football practice is amazing and I just loved the scene in which he fools the angry dog and takes the ball close to him. Very good comedic stuff very well executed in terms of action.

So the film can be quite funny at times when it doesn’t rely on that stupid dance and clichéd sports stuff. Most of his gags worked and the film is surprisingly modern and hugely influential for better and for worse. It is a good influence when it comes to characterization which is very strong and humor which is mostly very satisfactory, but it is a bad influence when it comes to clichéd and entirely predictable storytelling.

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The Freshman Movie Review……………………………………………………..

I found the intertitles to be excellent in The Freshman which is a surprisingly well edited and paced flick, especially for its troubled time. The runtime is short and sweet, the film is well shot and memorable in imagery and it is consistently entertaining and a lot of fun from start to finish.

The Freshman is a highly influential college comedy flick for better and for worse. It is clichéd and entirely predictable in its plot with a very annoying ending, but the characterization is very good, Harold Lloyd is excellent in the main role, it has a couple of memorable scenes filled with funny gags and the film is so well made and a lot of fun that it transcends its obvious script problems.

My Rating – 4

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The Cat and the Canary (1927)

The Cat and the Canary Movie Review………………………………………………..

The Cat and the Canary

The Cat and the Canary is a 1927 silent horror film directed by Paul Leni and starring Laura La Plante and Creighton Hale. It is a pretty good, but not great horror flick.

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That clock hasn’t struck in twenty years – since the old man died!

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The Cat and the Canary Movie Review………………………………………………..

The plot is very good and actually quite detailed for a horror film. The movie has a very mysterious and atmospheric quality to it while consistently being a lot of fun. I liked most of the developments here and of course the monster is very memorable and with an interesting, scary for the time look to him.

The Cat and the Canary is a very modern film for better and for worse, certainly hugely influential. That means that the film is very atmospheric and actually scary in a way as it features very modern storytelling and even an early use of jump scares which was certainly unusual for a 1920s horror film.

However, there is also a bad side to its influential and contemporary nature. I am of course talking about an incredible amount of action scenes and a very frenetic pacing which is certainly modern, but I do not like that which is why the film suffered from it. A slower pace and a longer running time were definitely needed this time around.

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The Cat and the Canary Movie Review………………………………………………..

As for its humor, it is solid. The film is never truly funny and its mix of horror and comedy is problematic, but certainly original for the time and actually quite interesting. It led to a film that never took itself too seriously which was a departure from other horrors of the time and that makes it more memorable and admirable.

Creighton Hale is the only funny actor here as his character is very amusing. He was definitely modeled after Harold Lloyd. But others aren’t all that interesting and the female characters here were not as strong as the male ones are. But Laura La Plante is very memorable in her role and certainly the acting in this movie is quite strong as everyone was fun and gave pretty stellar performances. It’s a shame that it has too many characters and not that great development for them, though solid for this genre for sure.

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The Cat and the Canary Movie Review………………………………………………..

I particularly liked The Cat and the Canary’s technical aspects and those sell this movie in my honest opinion. The old dark house trope here is well utilized owing to a superbly looking house filled with a great attention to detail. And its rooms and corridors are well explored thanks to the fine work of Gilbert Warrenton whose cinematography work here is truly phenomenal. The film is definitely spooky and fun and even though I liked the build-up more than the actual conclusion, the overall storyline was certainly pretty good and meticulously crafted and told. To me the intertitles were the most memorable thing about this film as they are some of the most inventive of any silent film featuring such a clever way to compensate for the lack of sound by having letters enlarge and come at you and even having vibrating letters to increase tension. The effect was achieved tremendously and it strengthened the film in the process to being quite remarkable.

The Cat and the Canary has too many characters and it is influential and modern for better and for worse as it is fun and having a lot of jump scares and modern thrills while also being too action oriented and frenetic in pacing. But the plot is well told and quite detailed actually, the cinematography is stellar, the humor and acting are solid and the strong, spooky atmosphere is achieved through the use of some of the most clever and inventive intertitles in any silent film.

My Rating – 4

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The Circus (1928)

The Circus Movie Review………………………………………………………………

The Circus Movie Review

The Circus is a 1928 silent comedy film directed by and starring Charlie Chaplin. It is isn’t one of his best works, but it is still quite a good, expectedly endearing flick.

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Where’s the funny, man?

Bring on the funny, man

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The Circus Movie Review………………………………………………………………

The ringmaster of an impoverished circus hires Chaplin’s Tramp as a clown, but discovers that he can only be funny unintentionally, not on purpose. That is the plot here along with the romantic subplot in which Tramp falls in love with a girl who eventually chooses another man. Now the plot is minimal here and that is why the film is much weaker than Chaplin’s greatest works. There isn’t anything sophisticated here, not a message nor an abundance of themes. It is just a solid plot which is fine and actually quite charming at times, but I still expected more from it.

The characters are pretty good and the Tramp is as great and as lovable as usual. I loved the romantic subplot which was quite endearing and so well done. And I of course respect Chaplin’s talents as he not only directed and acted in this movie, but he produced it, wrote it and even composed it, adding afterwards an opening song in the beginning. He truly was one very hard working and talented individual and it is great that the movie ended up being good in the end despite its by now famous problems during production such as the studio fire and him being sued by his former wife for sexual harassment.

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The Circus Movie Review

 

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The Big Parade (1925)

The Big Parade Movie Review…………………………………………………………………..

The Big Parade Movie Review

The Big Parade is a 1925 World War I film directed by King Vidor and starring John Gilbert. It is a very good, respectable silent film.

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I don’t understand a word you say…

but I know what you mean.

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The Big Parade Movie Review…………………………………………………………………..

The film is about an idle rich boy who joins the US Army’s Rainbow Division and is sent to France to fight in World War I. He becomes a friend of two working class men, experiences the horrors of trench warfare and falls in love with a French girl despite the two not speaking the same language. The plot is quite strong and I of course always respect a war film that is strongly anti-war in its sensibilities and message.

I loved its romantic as well as comedic elements, but I have to say that the film felt weakly structured and too much different in styles and tones. It starts off comedic then goes romantic than dramatic and then action-oriented with war elements. The action sequences are stellar, but not as involving as these other elements are.

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The Big Parade Movie Review…………………………………………………………………..

The highlight is the romance. The character development could have been stronger, but the acting is quite strong with John Gilbert being superb and Renee Adoree being quite endearing. The two are so charming together, so wonderful that they perfectly lift those scenes to even greater heights as they were already beautifully conceived. The scene in which they sit together and laugh warmed my heart and I loved it so much.

The Big Parade is of course well directed by King Vidor and he is naturally such a great director, but I found the film to be a bit too long and not as engaging as it needed to have been. It wasn’t boring, but just not as involving as I hoped. The editing is fine, but I would have cut off some scenes as they weren’t necessary to the overall picture.

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The Big Parade Movie Review…………………………………………………………………..

I just loved the visuals in the film. It was beautifully shot with terrific camera movements and absolutely gorgeous scenery at times. I loved the imagery of war and of course parades and various large groups of soldiers. Those were terrific. But once again, those more intimate, rustic sequences were the standout ones, so charming, wonderful and heartwarming and so well shot and constructed. The use of intertitles is also very strong and they use just the right amount of dialogue. The score in the version I’ve seen was great, but again the visuals were the highlights, so polished and crisp. It made the experience much more enjoyable. The film is overall flawed, yet very good with a timeless quality to it as it aged remarkably well. It needs to be seen by everyone being one of the better films about the much less popular of the two World Wars.

The Big Parade is overlong, not entirely involving and sometimes not as well constructed, but it is a very good anti-war film with excellent action sequences, beautiful cinematography with some wonderful imagery and excellent direction and acting. But the highlights were those romantic scenes which were heartwarming, funny and immensely charming.

My Rating – 4

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Häxan (1922)

Häxan Movie Review……………………………………………………………….

Häxan Movie Review

Häxan is a 1922 Swedish/Danish documentary horror silent film directed by Benjamin Christensen. It is a pretty good, intriguing experiment.

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Poor little hysterical witch!

In the middle ages you were in conflict with the church.

Now it is with the law

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Häxan Movie Review……………………………………………………………….

It is  a study of how superstition and the misunderstanding of diseases and mental illness could lead to the hysteria of the witch-hunts. Because I have always been interested in this particular subject matter, I found this movie to be quite fascinating at times. That is not to say that it is without its problems and there are many on which I will elaborate later, but the film is mostly a successful and definitely admirable experiment as rarely have I seen a film quite like this one.

It is a mix of documentary and horror which is, needless to say, quite authentic and interesting. I loved its distinctive visual style and how well thought out it is. It explains you almost everything you need to know about witch-hunts and the second half in particular is quite engaging.

But the problem with Häxan lies in its first half. Yes, the documentary approach here isn’t the greatest. And even though the mix of fiction and documentary is interesting, it definitely felt odd at times and tonally weird. Those passages where they explain this subject were overlong and filled with too many intertitles and not enough images. Some of the imagery was quite striking, but I still would have preferred to have seen real footage or fictionalized footage that is.

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Häxan Movie Review……………………………………………………………….

Häxan is exceptionally well made and crafted. The problem is that it is just never as entertaining as I hoped it would have been given its fascinating subject matter and it disappointed me a little overall, but the direction from Benjamin Christensen is excellent and some scenes are just so memorable. And the special effects are simply outstanding and so revolutionary for its time period. In the end, even though it isn’t the best that foreign cinema of the twenties has to offer, it is still so intriguing and different that I admired it a lot.

Häxan definitely is tonally odd, it isn’t as engaging as it could have been and the mix of documentary and horror is weird, but that mix is still authentic and very interesting, some of the imagery here is quite striking, it deals with its interesting subject matter really well and it is mostly exceptionally well made and visually magnificent. It has its flaws, but it is certainly one of the most unique silent films.

My Rating – 4

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Metropolis (1927)

Metropolis Movie Review………………………………………………………………………

Metropolis Movie Review

Metropolis is a 1927 classic science fiction film directed by Fritz Lang and starring Brigitte Helm and Gustav Frohlich. It is one of the finest silent movies.

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The mediator between head and hands must be the heart

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Metropolis Movie Review………………………………………………………………………

It is set in a futuristic urban dystopia and it follows the attempts of Freder, the wealthy son of the city’s ruler, and Maria, a poor worker, to overcome the vast gulf separating the classes of their city. To me the storytelling is one of the strongest points of an all around excellent film. The plot is, needless to say, so influential and incredibly original, very impressive. But the film is so well crafted and executed, that story is thankfully utilized properly and its themes of clash between classes, artificial intelligence and the reliance on machines are all really well explored.

The characters are pretty good. Freder is a classic main character done mostly right, Maria is very likable and the robot is of course so memorable and iconic by now. Joh Fredersen is fantastic as Freder’s father and I found him to be the most moving and interesting person here. The mad scientist Rotwang is typical for this genre, but again highly memorable and the film is great for basically inventing all of these sci-fi archetypes in the first place, almost all of which staples today. Grot is funny and sympathetic, Josaphat of course is so tragic and you root for him and as for the Thin Man, he wasn’t particularly well utilized or present actually, but he was still memorable in his menacing appearance.

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Metropolis Movie Review………………………………………………………………………

The acting in Metropolis is very interesting. On the one hand, you’ve got some actors that are typically overacting, but on the other hand, you have Alfred Abel who is so natural and subtle in the role of Joh Fredersen that he alone contributed a lot to my sympathy for this particular character. Rudolf Klein-Rogge is very over-the-top in his role, but this is a mad scientist role which demands such an approach and that is why it isn’t annoying, but rather fitting. The same goes for Brigitte Helm who actually did a rather admirable job in the dual role of both Maria and the robot. She is the highlight in the latter role as her overly emphasized manners and menacing looks made the character unforgettable. The only weak link is definitely Gustav Frohlich who is so over-the-top in his acting that is was too much even for its time period and it is also not fitting for the role which should have been more subtle.

Metropolis is a visual feast. I will now touch upon some of the great technical aspects presented here and there are quite a lot. Actually, this movie is so groundbreaking in its style and effects that it might even be underrated in that respect. The effects are breathtaking. This is without a doubt the best looking silent film of all time. The highlights are of course the robot who looks so real and so revolutionary and the city. Those panorama sequences were to me the most astonishing scenes of the movie as rarely have I seen anything of that caliber. The various vehicles looked so futuristic and intriguing, the buildings are marvelous and the entire city with all of its machines is beautifully brought to life and it leads to such an unforgettable viewing experience.

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Metropolis Movie Review………………………………………………………………………

Metropolis has to be the quintessential German expression picture as its cinematography is top-notch and its imagery is so atmospheric. The entire movie has that very great atmosphere, sometimes scientific, sometimes even creepy (the scene with Maria fleeing from Rotwang is just such a spectacular horror sequence perfectly executed and shot). But those striking looking buildings led to such an artistic feel to the film and I truly would call the movie art. The camera movements are exceptional as sometimes you get that great wide view at the city, but at other times you get effective close-ups and even some very intriguing first-person action shots.

So the writing is top-notch, the characterization is very good, the performances are memorable and the technical aspects are all gorgeous. Then why do I not give it a perfect rating even upon my second viewing? Well, the answer lies in the only flaw that Metropolis possesses, but it’s a very big flaw, and that is its third act. This film is one of the most entertaining films I have ever seen as the entire first half is riveting to behold. However, it could get a bit dull in its conclusion as the action is just overwhelming.

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Metropolis Movie Review………………………………………………………………………

Metropolis is a blockbuster for better and for worse. You get the spectacle, you get the epic nature of it all and you get great entertainment. But you also get the bad side of the formula meaning the action. The entire third act lasts for about half an hour and it should have definitely been trimmed to around fifteen minutes. The flood is initially fascinating, but quickly becomes wearisome as it is so prolonged. Those chases lasted for too long and I know that people usually love the spectacle and action the most, but I’ve always liked that less in favor of the story. As for the romance, it isn’t as problematic as I thought of it at first, but it did feel a bit rushed and conventional nonetheless.

The pacing is, not counting the conclusion, excellent and the film is so involving to watch. It is easily the most entertaining silent film I’ve seen. But it isn’t the best silent film and its status is a bit overrated in that point. It is a great movie, don’t get me wrong. But it isn’t a perfect movie and I can think of at least seven other silent films that are better than this one.

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Metropolis Movie Review………………………………………………………………………

But the film is mostly admirable and what Fritz Lang did here is beyond impressive. The score in the version I’ve seen was excellent and it fitted the action on screen beautifully, the intertitles are sometimes too rarely used, but are mostly well utilized and very artistic in style. The best scenes are the beginning with that very memorable garden, the very ending was sweet, the creation sequence is stunning and the horror chase scene is marvelous and so atmospheric. It is a glorious achievement and one of the best silent as well as science fiction as well as German films ever made.

Metropolis is a blockbuster for better and for worse meaning that it is grand and epic in scope and visually marvelous, but it has overwhelming action near the end and that is the only flaw the movie has. It is otherwise a spectacular achievement with groundbreaking special effects, some marvelous camera movements and great shots, gorgeous and highly imaginative and memorable imagery, very original and influential storyline, likable characters and mostly good performances. It is a quintessential German expressionist picture and one of the finest silent as well as science fiction films of all time.

My Rating – 4.5

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He Who Gets Slapped (1924)

He Who Gets Slapped Movie Review…………………………………………………………………..

He Who Gets Slapped Movie Review

He Who Gets Slapped is a 1924 silent drama film starring Lon Chaney, Norma Shearer and John Gilbert and directed by Victor Sjostrom. It is a somewhat disappointing film.

It is about a man who gets tricked by his friends who take credit for his scientific breakthrough leaving him to go and become a clown. The reason why I found the film very disappointing is its use of romance. It is not only fairly typical and way too melodramatic (even for its age), but also mostly unnecessary and it definitely ruined what could have been a great drama film instead.

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What is it in human nature that makes people quick to laugh

when someone else gets slapped – whether the slap be spiritual,

mental or physical?

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He Who Gets Slapped Movie Review…………………………………………………………………..

But those other elements I really liked. I loved the beginning, it was brutal and highly tragic. And the ending is exactly like that too. I loved when the film focused on the main character and although its themes were a bit too on the nose, I still really liked them. It wonderfully showcases the humans’ tendency to be amused and laugh at other people’s misfortune. That was a very hard-hitting and brutal, yet real and important point to be made. It is a problem that remains to this day.

As for its characters, I found both Bezano and Consuelo to be rather dull and whenever the movie revolved around these two, it definitely suffered. The protagonist, on the other hand, is phenomenal and he is the best thing about this movie. John Gilbert and Norma Shearer are superb actors of course, but they aren’t particularly memorable here whereas Lon Chaney is as great as ever and watching him suffer was heartbreaking, but also great as it showcased his enormous acting talent. He is the best at playing emotion, especially fragility and heartbreak, and here in the most brutal sequences you can easily see how amazing he was.

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He Who Gets Slapped Movie Review…………………………………………………………………..

He Who Gets Slapped was directed by Victor Sjostrom and it is nowhere near the quality of his greatest works, but it still gives us his signature creepy atmosphere and truly some moments here were quite menacing, especially creepy for a drama film. The pacing is also mostly good, but the film unfortunately just wasn’t that involving to me. The first and third act were engaging, but the second one was way too meandering in its structure and storytelling. The tone is fittingly serious and mature and the cinematography is quite good. The emotion is evident and well conveyed, but the dialogue was too simplistic and on the nose. It is in the end a film that disappointed me quite a bit.

He Who Gets Slapped is disappointing in its supporting characters and a meandering second act, but the protagonist is excellent and so well played by terrific Lon Chaney, the dialogue is too on the nose, but the themes are important and interesting and some scenes are quite moving and heartbreaking.

My Rating – 3.5

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The Unknown (1927)

The Unknown Movie Review………………………………………………………………..

The Unknown Movie Review

The Unknown is a 1927 horror film directed by Tod Browning and starring Lon Chaney and Joan Crawford. It is such a great, truly a one of a kind movie.

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 You are a riddle, Nanon. You shrink from me…
yet you kiss my flowers when I am gone
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The Unknown Movie Review………………………………………………………………..
It is about a serial killer who pretends to have no arms, but eventually decides to actually amputate them in order to be with a girl who is afraid of men’s hands. But the girl falls in love with another man and gets over her fear and you have that giant irony at the end. Yes, it is just unbelievable when you read this premise and realize that there is a movie with this exact plot, made during the silent era no less. And I just want to take a moment here and say how awesome the sheer existence of this movie is. And the fact that the movie stays away from those gruesome moments and never shows them on screen is even more commendable.
 The Unknown is fifty minutes long and although that is certainly very short, it still meant that it was consistently involving and truly it is one of the most purely entertaining silent films I’ve seen. The beginning is a bit rushed, but the pacing throughout is mostly deft and this is one of the examples of how a very short movie can be extremely satisfying and that not all stories need a regular running time.
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The Unknown Movie Review………………………………………………………………..

 Alonzo is such a memorable, very effective character. What I liked about his characterization is the fact that he is never made fully a villain and although despicable, you feel sympathy for him in the end as he was going through some extreme, awful situations. As for Malabar and Nanon, they aren’t the most memorable characters, but their relationship is well developed. As for the acting, both Norman Kerry and Joan Crawford are very good in their roles, but it is Lon Chaney who steals the show with probably his finest performance. He is so believable and gave the performance with just the right amount of theatricality and heart. His emotional scene where he breaks in laughter is easily the most powerful sequence in the film and a perfect showcase of his enormous acting talent.

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The Unknown Movie Review………………………………………………………………..
 The Unknown is so well edited and superbly directed by Tod Browning and this film is definitely one of his finest. It is also well filmed and I really liked how they filmed Chaney without hands as well as the whole circus setting that is greatly utilized. The use of intertitles is also fantastic and never excessive or too short.
 
The Unknown also has a solid dialogue and a great irony in it. It is without a doubt one of the most original films of its era and even of all time as there really isn’t anything quite like it. My jaw dropped more than a couple of times at the sheer craziness of the script and although it may sound too convenient and crazy, the execution is so good that it never felt excessive in its madness. The emotion is there and some scenes are heartbreaking. The meticulous detail went into this production not only in technical aspects, but also in terms of storytelling as the plot is so well crafted, extremely memorable and consistently rewarding.

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The Unknown Movie Review………………………………………………………………..
It succeeds as a horror movie because it is just so unnerving, but it also succeeds as a drama film because it has good characterization, acting and evident emotion. It is melodramatic, but satisfyingly so and never too sappy. Some of the highlights in terms of the scenes are the laughing scene which is just so perfectly constructed from beginning to end and powerfully acted by Lon Chaney, the end scene is also phenomenal and so intense, the murder sequence is so memorable as is the hospital one and every scene with Chaney/Alonzo is great as the character and actor steal this movie entirely. It isn’t a perfect movie as it is a bit too short, sometimes rushed and Nanon’s fear of men’s hands isn’t best explained, but overall, it is one of the best films of an extraordinary year and one of the most unforgettable pictures of the twenties.

 The Unknown is a bit too short and rushed, but ultimately rewarding in its crazy, authentic and jaw-dropping story and so well acted with Lon Chaney giving a truly powerful performance. It is a film that is consistently entertaining, but also truly unnerving at times, moving in its irony and so well constructed from beginning to end. It is one of the most original films ever created and one of the most purely entertaining films of the period.

My Rating – 4.5

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Applause (1929)

Applause Movie Review………………………………………………………………………

Applause Movie Review

Applause is a 1929 musical talkie film directed by Rouben Mamoulian and starring Helen Morgan and Joan Peers. It is such an interesting, really well crafted movie.

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I’m not goin’ to get married unless I’m gonna be the boss

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The plot itself is a pretty standard fare and quite familiar. You have a woman who is a burlesque star, but had sent her daughter to live in the convent many years ago. Now, the girl comes to the city and you get the conflict in that she doesn’t want to work with her mother and wants to go live with her newly acquainted boyfriend. Yes, that all seems to melodramatic and too typical. However, I still really liked the plot in Applause because it is very well told and at times so moving and dramatic. It is also really heartbreaking in the end, but more on that later.

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Applause Movie Review………………………………………………………………………

The characters are mostly archetypes here, but those archetypes usually work when done right and this is no exception. The character development is truly good here with Kitty Darling being such a likable, tragic figure for whom you really feel sorry. Her devotion and care for her daughter is evident and so heartwarming. As for April, she annoyed me in some scenes, but she is mostly a realistic and likable character as well. The same goes for Tony who is a typical, impossibly perfect male love interest, but he is so good-natured and so sweet that you can’t help but love him. The relationship between the two is absolutely fantastic and the movie is so romantic. As for Hitch, I have to say that he is my least favorite character in this picture. He is just such a typical mean character who never has anything that distinguishes him from others of his type.

Applause is a very weird movie, mostly due to its ending. It ends on such a tragic note that seemed too harsh to me. Yes, this is a melodrama, but that incredibly brutal conclusion still seemed too unhappy. But I still give kudos to the filmmakers for being brave enough to end it on such a brutal note and the ending is overall really well executed and it wraps up the film wonderfully.

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Applause Movie Review………………………………………………………………………

The film is the finest when being a romance because its romantic scenes are just so lovable and just beautiful to behold. I loved how they were shot, but also acted and the lines of the dialogue, though typical, are moving and they brought a smile to my face. I absolutely loved those sequences and I enjoyed them the most here.

Yes, Applause is such a weird mix of romance, melodrama and musical. And it does succeed as it uses all of those elements in a great fashion and to its fullest advantage. The songs here are okay, but nothing spectacular and the film should have had more dance and musical scenes in it. But those that were present are good and well utilized. The melodramatic elements are also pretty good and despite being too brutal at times, the film manages to be not only dramatic, but also really emotional at times. And as I said before, its romantic elements are the finest as the film is so charming in tone.

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Applause Movie Review………………………………………………………………………

Applause succeeds as an early sound film for various reasons. It is one of the rare early talkies that is actually well executed and not amateurish in its realization. The directing from Rouben Mamoulian is really fantastic and the acting is also pretty good with Helen Morgan being particularly good in her role. The cinematography and its camera movements are in my opinion still not as good as they would become later on, but for the time being, they are excellent and the movie is truly groundbreaking because of that. There were many scenes here where the camera moves freely and it gives us some really intriguing shots that I really admired its ambition. And the sound quality is phenomenal and so revolutionary.  The film is also original in its execution, if familiar in its substance. It is also really well paced and always involving to watch, but the running time is arguably too short and the first third drags a bit. But it is such a memorable film that I will remember with fondness for sure, it has a big heart and it has many great sequences with the romantic ones being the highlights.

Applause is familiar in its plot and characters and its ending is admittedly ridiculously harsh, but this is still such a good early sound film with some excellent, really groundbreaking camera movements and sound quality at display here and it is an excellent mix of musical, melodrama and romance with many dramatic and heartbreaking scenes, but also having many truly wonderful, romantic sequences that are so charming. It is a weird, but memorable early talkie.

My Rating – 4

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