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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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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