Ben Hur (1907)

Ben Hur ReviewBen Hur Review

Ben Hur is a 1907 silent short film directed by Sidney Olcott. It is an expectedly flawed experiment.

Now I really did not like Sidney Olcott’s ‘From the Manger to the Cross’ and although Ben Hur shares most of its problems, it is still a better film overall. That is mostly because it is shorter in length and thus the film is much more engaging and it flows nicely.

Most of its scenes were solid with the early chariot sequence being solidly filmed and memorable. I also liked that the intertitles were sparingly used. But even though the film looks really good with such a good costume design, it is again flawed and I know I said that it is good that it is short, but it is also bad. Let me explain. With just fifteen minutes of runtime, the film couldn’t possibly adapt its source material properly and thus we have only a couple of scenes and nothing more than that. Thus the film feels ridiculously slight and frankly even unnecessary.

Ben Hur is another one of Sidney Olcott’s weak experiments that looks good, but has way too short runtime for this kind of story to be told.

My Rating – 3.2

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The Bewitched Inn (1897)

The Bewitched Inn ReviewThe Bewitched Inn Review

The Bewitched Inn is an 1897 silent short film directed by George Melies. It is such a fun film per usual for the director.

A traveler arrives to a small hotel room and prepares to sleep, but the room refuses to let him sleep and at first chairs move, then his boots and finally his bed. He eventually flees the room in frustration. This is such a funny film that is so well crafted and entertaining throughout its very small running time of just two minutes. I loved the ending and my favorite part was the clothes flying off.

I could see that it was the editing technique during the chair disappearance, but other than that, the film is superbly executed and again impossibly realistic and it looks great to this day and age. It lacks variety and I prefer his ‘The Haunter House’ from the previous year, but The Bewitched Inn is still a phenomenal achievement and such a wonderful and fun film from this decade.

The Bewitched Inn lacks variety, but it is stupendously entertaining and even funny with exceptional effects from master Melies.

My Rating – 4.1

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The Haunted House (1896)

The Haunted House ReviewThe Haunted House Review

The Haunted House is an 1896 silent short film directed by George Melies. It is such a groundbreaking film.

This is the kind of film that seems miraculous to have been made in the 19th century. Watching it was fascinating. George Melies truly is a master of special effects and I couldn’t believe that even in his earlier years he managed to successfully create them. The film is interesting for possibly being the first horror picture ever and although that is disputed as not being initially intended to scare, I disagree and I would definitely classify it as a horror film.

The film’s weakness is that it is a bit repetitive at times and not particularly varied in its effects. But most of the plot points and the effects worked with the highlights being the bat which was just awesome and those ghostly figures multiplying near the end were fantastic. Most of these effects are obviously achieved by film editing, but it is still mostly well executed and the fact that the director successfully did this back in 1896 just further proves how hugely talented he was. The film is definitely intriguing and atmospheric and I can clearly see audiences of its time being frightened by it.

The Haunted House is impressive in its special effects and very atmospheric leading to an intriguing early horror film.

 My Rating – 4.2

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The Impossible Voyage (1904)

 The Impossible Voyage ReviewThe Impossible Voyage Review

The Impossible Voyage is a 1904 silent short film directed by George Melies. It is not one of his best films, but is still pretty good.

The problem I’ve had with The Impossible Voyage is that it is too similar to ‘A Trip to the Moon‘. The only difference here is that they go to the sun instead of the moon. And I once again was frustrated by the lack of intertitles that rendered some of the movie pretty difficult to understand, especially the first act. But this is still a great showcase of Melies’ talents as a director as the film is very well directed plus it is mostly well edited and crafted and the story, although familiar, is still fun and charming.

I loved the costumes and of course the special effects are as great as you would hope they would be from the director. The art direction is phenomenal and some sets are just gorgeous. The film is silly in its premise, but so charming in its execution that that silliness somehow becomes its advantage. The highlights for me were the scene on the Alps and of course the sequences on the sun were fantastic and so memorable. I loved the sun’s face and that arrival scene was so good.

The Impossible Voyage is familiar in its storyline, but it is so positively silly and charming while being expectedly superbly made and crafted.

My Rating – 4.2

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The Merry Frolics of Satan (1906)

The Merry Frolics of Satan ReviewThe Merry Frolics of Satan Review

The Merry Frolics of Satan is a 1906 silent short film directed by George Melies. It is an expectedly admirable, fantastical effort from the director.

The only problem here is the plot. I mean the plot itself is quite good, but it isn’t particularly well explained and it should have had some intertitles in it. But regardless of that, it is such a splendid movie that is again ahead of its time. George Melies excels at these kinds of fantastical featurettes and this is no exception. The plot is so wild and imaginative as are its visuals and almost every sequence is just fascinating to watch.

Let’s talk about those magnificent technical aspects. The action and chases are so good as is its humor. But the standout are its special effects which are just unbelievable. I was amazed at some of the stuff that unfolded in front of my eyes. The imagery is superb, the color photography is gorgeous and the set design is just marvelous. The various tricks that he did here paid off as the movie consistently looks great and even groundbreaking and it deserves a lot of praise for centuries to come.

The Merry Frolics of Satan has awesome photography, great sets, imaginative story and such marvelous special effects leading to such a great film.

My Rating – 4.5

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Easy Street (1917)

Easy Street ReviewEasy Street Review

 Easy Street is a 1917 action comedy short film directed by and starring Charlie Chaplin. It is such an unexpectedly strong, funny entry.
 
The problem with this entry is that it takes its time to get there owing to a very slow, uneventful first half that lacks strong comedy elements. And you can only do so much with a policeman in terms of humor. But the second half fixed all of that with such a superb humor and many great action moments.
 
Yes, Easy Street is interesting for being an action film as well and it surprisingly succeeds as most of the action here is either funny or legitimately well executed. The fights were so good, but the humor is also excellent and I smiled a lot and I genuinely felt good watching the film as it is so endearing. And the Tramp here is especially likable, even more so than usual. His role as a policeman is a memorable one and the ending where he becomes a really great cop is so funny and such a satisfying conclusion.
Easy Street is such a funny, endearing Chaplin short which also contains surprisingly good action sequences.
My Rating – 4.3
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Frankenstein (1910)

Frankenstein 1910 ReviewFrankenstein Review

Frankenstein is a 1910 silent short film directed by J. Searle Dawley. It is the first film adaptation of the titular novel.

Now, this film is very interesting for being a much closer adaptation of Mary Shelley’s work, much closer than the famous 1931 adaptation. I really enjoyed that as I found most of the novel’s major plot points present here and well utilized. I liked the creation of the monster, I really liked the monster’s realization of his true self in the mirror and I liked the bride plot point too. Also, that ending with the mirror is very ambiguous and so intriguing.

However, whereas it succeeds solidly as a faithful adaptation, it doesn’t succeed particularly well as a short film because, let’s face it, there is too much going in this story for it to be less than 15 minutes in length. The decision to film it in 15 instead of at least 25 minutes really hurt it as the pacing is rushed and the film moves too past and is even abrupt. But despite that, it mostly succeeds as an adaptation.

Frankenstein is a very solid and even stupendous first adaptation of this material with solid effects, intriguing ending and a faithful approach.

My Rating – 4

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An Andalusian Dog (1929)

An Andalusian Dog Review

An Andalusian Dog Review

An Andalusian Dog is a 1929 surrealist short film directed by Luis Bunuel. It is a famous movie that I admire more than I love.

It is a surrealist film meaning that it doesn’t have a typical plot or structure. It has a disjointed, dream-like narrative and it has scenes that are unconnected and all of them bizarre in nature. Now, I have to admit that I usually dislike these kinds of films that are weird and with no solid narrative or point to them. And yes, An Andalusian Dog bothered me as well, but I still liked it for the most part as it truly is original in its vision and so spectacular in its imagery.

Some of the imagery here is too disgusting with the eye slicing scene being the worst offender of that, but some of the other imagery is fantastic and just unforgettable with the ants crawling out of the hand scene being so memorable. The scene with the moth is the highlight to me as it benefits from some spectacular special effects, terrific visuals and such unexpected, revolutionary developments with the moment where whatever the girl does to her face influences the face of a man being so incredible. It is because of those scenes that the movie succeeds.

An Andalusian Dog is confusing and it lacks any plot or cohesion, but it is also an iconic, very memorable, groundbreaking, notorious, audacious and even intense mix of unrelated images and sequences which are confusing, but which will get stuck in your head due to their originality, boldness and artistry. It is probably the most iconic short film for a reason – it is a revolutionary, engaging, artistic and disturbing trip that does not make sense, but is an entirely authentic and glorious feast for the eyes.

My Rating – 4

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A Corner in Wheat (1909)

A Corner in Wheat ReviewA Corner in Wheat Review

A Corner in Wheat is a 1909 silent short film directed by D. W. Griffith that is usually regarded as the finest film of that year.

A Corner in Wheat is about a greedy tycoon who tries to corner the world market on wheat and destroys the lives of the people who can no longer afford to buy bread. This story is not only dramatic, but also important and really well told. You can really feel the desperation in the air as the film has a really great dramatic and emotional tone to it. And the ending is powerful.

The problem I’ve had with the film is definitely the beginning which is unfortunately too abrupt in its nature. The movie just starts and nothing is properly explained. The first half is definitely inferior to the second one, but the second is great and so good. The cinematography is excellent, the score is good and the film is really well made on technical grounds. I also really liked that it managed to tell its story with no use of intertitles which is really respectable and quite professional.

A Corner in What is weaker in its first half, but the second one is great with a dramatic and emotional story and the film is overall really well crafted.

My Rating – 4

 

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A Woman (1915)

A Woman Movie Review

A Woman Movie Review

A Woman is a 1915 short comedy film directed by and starring Charlie Chaplin. Its first half is boring, but the second one is great.

I really enjoyed this film and I found it to be incredibly entertaining. Yes, the first half is very problematic. It introduces you to the characters and sets up the scenario well, but it is again too prolonged and nothing really happens there in terms of plot or comedy. That is the only problem I’ve had with A Woman as it is otherwise a very good work from Chaplin.

The second half is phenomenal. When he dresses up as a woman, that leads to a lot of hilarious moments. Yes, that kind of humor is incredibly old-fashioned and it might be dated to some, but here it worked because Chaplin is so good in it as he wonderfully expresses femininity and his comic timing here is fantastic. I also loved the role of Edna Purviance and the scenes between the two were so charming. She has rarely been this great or this likable in his films. Overall, it isn’t particularly sophisticated, but it is a funny, fun film that is very satisfying in its energy and humor.

A Woman has a weaker first half, but the second half is great with such a great scenario perfectly executed with a lot of charm, energy and good slapstick.

My Rating – 4

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