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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Cabiria (1914)

Cabiiria Movie Review

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Cabiria Movie Review

Cabiria is a famous 1914 epic silent film directed by Giovanni Pastrone. It is a very ambitious and fantastically looking film, but a very flawed picture nevertheless.

It follows the Second Punic War and more melodramatic plots. That is the problem to me. It is split into five episodes with five different stories, but it is unfortunate that they rarely connect with each other. They are very dramatic stories and are well  told, but they just did not connect to me and another reason for that is the character development. It is weak and none of the characters are particularly developed which is really troublesome.

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Cabiria Movie Review

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But this is a marvelous film when technical aspects are concerned. The imagery is so iconic and memorable and the cinematography is incredibly good. The direction from Pastrone is absolutely superb and the acting is good. But it is so well filmed and shot that you don’t fail to be amazed. It is very artistic and powerful. The set designs are absolutely gorgeous and probably better than in the works of Griffith. Also the costume design is terrific and all of the costumes and places are wonderfully recreated. The pacing is solid and the running time is appropriate, but the stories should have meshed together better.

When historical films are concerned, this is nowhere near as good as ‘The Birth of a Nation’. But technically it is even more impressive because it preceded that classic Griffith movie. But I am annoyed with these big-budget epic spectacles of the 1910s because they are rarely as emotionally investing as they are well filmed. And the characters are so weak here that they diminish the movie’s impact. And also because it is episodic in nature, there are those stories that are good but there are those that are very forgettable and very boring. I just wish that the stories were better connected and that would have made it a better movie.

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Cabiria Movie Review

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Cabiria is a flawed movie. It has interesting stories, but those stories are weakly connected and that episodic nature just feels wrong. Also the characters are weak and it is not emotional at all, but it is a breathtaking film visually with terrific costumes, excellent set design, great direction and fantastic cinematography. It is a movie undone by its ambition and flat characters, but it is still a powerful and very artistic movie and most especially for its extraordinarily old age.

My Rating – 3.5

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The Outlaw and His Wife (1918)

The Outlaw and His Wife Movie Review

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The Outlaw and His Wife Movie Review

The Outlaw and His Wife is a 1918 Swedish drama film directed by Victor Sjostrom. It is one of the best films from the 1910s I’ve seen so far.

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Their only law was their love

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The Outlaw and His Wife Movie Review

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It follows an outlaw and his wife who joins him in the escape from authorities. They go from Sweden to Iceland where they live constantly on the run and in the wild. This is in my opinion a precursor to ‘Bonnie and Clyde’, but done better and it also has a touch of ‘Z for Zachariah’ in it. But it came first so it is very original and of course hugely influential for its emphasis on the scenery of wilderness.

Eyvind of the Hills is one very memorable protagonist so well played by Victor Sjostrom. He not only directed this movie beautifully, but also gave a strong performance and that dual presence is felt strongly and he is the biggest reason why the film is so great. Edith Erastoff is also pretty good as Halla and they are great together. Such a wonderful romance develops between the two and the final scene is heartwarming.

The Outlaw and His Wife is a simply gorgeous film that features one of the best technical aspects of any silent film. I am not just talking about the direction, but also about editing which is deft and tight and the film moves quite smoothly. The first half wasn’t as great as the second one was and it did not introduce me to its characters all that well, but the second half fixed that and was a terrific viewing experience.

The cinematography is just stunning. Yes, it is one of the first films to use nature extensively in its narrative, but it is also a character here in and of itself and is very important in the shaping of its main characters.

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The Outlaw and His Wife Movie Review

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But it is just so beautiful to look at. I loved the mountains and this one was majestic and dangerous. That spring was one of the highlights for me, but I loved every scene where we see the mountain imagery and of course the ending with its harsh winter cold is the perfect finale for this story.

I liked its story, I liked how it ended and I admired that it did not involve as much melodrama as was usual for the period. It truly is a remarkable film, refreshing for its time, even artistic and groundbreaking in narrative and in scenery. It’s one of the biggest classics of the first decade for features.

The Outlaw and His Wife is one of the best films of the 1910s thanks to Victor Sjostrom’s great dual role as a director and actor, a strong story and characterization, many memorable and striking scenes and of course fantastic cinematography with gorgeous mountain imagery.

My Rating – 4.5

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From the Manger to the Cross (1912)

From the Manger to the Cross Movie Review

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From the Manger to the Cross Movie Review

Telling the story of Jesus Christ from his birth to his crucifixion, From the Manger to the Cross is a 1912 drama film directed by Sidney Olcott and it is one of the most popular movies of its time.

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And the earth did quake

and the rocks rent

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From the Manger to the Cross Movie Review

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This is a very problematic film, I found it to be very annoying and extremely troublesome. I wouldn’t call it mediocre, but it is also not good. The filmmakers chose to tell literally the whole story of Jesus and that I find to be such a bad approach and also execution thanks to many reasons. First, this is probably the most iconic historical figure of all time so you have to be careful. Second, the running time is literally a little over an hour which is, suffice to say, too short for such a fascinating and important story. And lastly, the execution is absolutely terrible because the movie is filled with endless intertitles, there are way too many of them ruining the flow of the picture for sure. And it is so by-the-numbers and boring, you could literally read this in a book. They show you everything that happened here in the most ordinary, standard and bland way possible. The energy was much needed in the execution along with the better script.

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From the Manger to the Cross Movie Review

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The technical aspects are solid frankly. The editing is awful thanks to those interrupting intertitles, but the cinematography as well as the imagery present are mostly good. The acting is also solid as is the directing. But it all went into this unfortunate production for nothing. There is nothing iconic or authentic or memorable about this film which has to be the biggest reason why it is largely forgotten today. It could have been a great film had it had a good approach and a more energetic execution, but it failed to bring this material to life leading to a failure of a movie.

With way too many intertitles, troublesome pacing, way too short running time and awful approach and execution which are bland and very by the numbers, From the Manger to the Cross has some good technical aspects, but it is not remembered today for all the good reasons because it fails to bring its subject matter to life and fails to bring energy and sophistication into the project. It is a very problematic film which is definitely not good and a huge disappointment.

My Rating – 3.5

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Where Are My Children? (1916)

Where Are My Children? Movie Review

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Where Are My Children? Movie Review

Where Are My Children? is a 1916 silent drama film directed by Lois Weber and starring Tyrone Power, Sr. It is a flawed, but very good early social drama.

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Where are my children?

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Where Are My Children? Movie Review

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This early drama is very social and deals with an important issue of adoption that was during this time talked about a lot and even sensationalized. The film itself takes the stance against abortion, but it does advise for birth control pills. And I guess that may seem outdated, but I honestly liked that stance as it would be ideal if abortions wouldn’t have to be committed and that women do not get pregnant in the first place.

So Where Are My Children? is thus very modern and actually pretty admirable a film as it deals with its important subject matter in a pretty good, subtle manner instead of the overly melodramatic and emphasized tone that plagued most of the 1910s movies. Yes, the third act here was certainly overly dramatic, way too much, but the rest of the film stayed away from that tone fortunately.

Where the film fails is in the character development. Yes, all of the actors and actresses did a very good job in their roles with everyone delivering strong, subtle performances, but the characters themselves are way too forgettable and underutilized and it’s a problem as this script demanded stronger characterization. It also has way too many characters.

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Where Are My Children? Movie Review

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The film is way too short as well. An hour was just not enough for this type of story so the end product felt extremely rushed in my opinion. So the pacing is problematic, but the movie is very well shot and superbly directed by Lois Weber (if it was her as she went uncredited). The dialogue is also superb and especially the intertitles as they weren’t overly abundant or too rarely used, but in just the right amount. I also liked the urgency in its tone in the first half and how the film is a product of its time, yet relevant today as well. It is one of the better films of 1916 for sure.

Where Are My Children? has weaker characterization and way too short running time, but in dealing with its subject of abortion, the film manages to be very modern and certainly admirable for its time. It is mostly very subtle, very well acted and well directed leading to a movie that felt engaging and modern a century later.

My Rating – 4

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Snow White (1916)

Snow White Movie Review

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Snow White Movie Review

Snow White is a 1916 silent fantasy film starring Marguerite Clark. It is a very good early adaptation of this famous fairy tale.

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If these are pig’s tails,

then that is a pig’s heart

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Snow White Movie Review

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First of all, let’s talk about the elephant in the room and that is of course the fact that this movie influenced Walt Disney and impressed him so much (it was the first movie that he has ever seen) that he was inspired to make his own version. It’s a shame that this film is famous just for being Walt’s vehicle when it is a good movie in its own right.

Comparing the two, I of course loved Disney’s version much more as I just adore that classic film, but it was somewhat disappointing seeing how much he took from this film. The dwarfs mining and meeting Snow White, her cleaning the house and them washing up one of the dwarfs were all the scenes that Walt basically rehashed.

But other than that, it is very much a thing of its own. For example, it has much more characters in it and the entire first third is different. That first third is a major flaw of the movie. I still thought that it was good, but just not as good as the rest of the picture and it made the film feel odd structurally speaking as the action started way too late in its run plus those many characters introduced in the first part serve no purpose later on in the story.

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Snow White Movie Review

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But I still loved how this Snow White was much more faithful to its source material than the usual adaptations and sure enough, we have a poisonous comb here as well as Snow spitting the apple and thus managing to survive, all of the elements from the original fairy tale.

I personally really liked this Snow White as she is charming and likable which is a testament to Marguerite Clark’s performance which is very strong and certainly quite charismatic. The dwarfs themselves are solid, but not as memorable as they should have been and the entire film needed more humor as it is childlike in approach, but never funny which was a problem to me.

Prince meeting her earlier was well realized and he was solid, but the villain is great and it was interesting that we actually got two villains here as the Queen gets the help from Witch Hex who is a very memorable creation. The sequence with pig tails is actually a standout one as it is pretty gross and so well executed technically with excellent effects for its time.

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Snow White Movie Review

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But I would have liked to have seen the Queen die or get some sort of punishment and that overly happy ending was unfortunate. The film is very entertaining, but overly frenetic to the point of being abrupt in approach as some scenes seem to be cut in their progress, but that is because this isn’t a complete version and thus I shouldn’t judge the movie too much for it. As it stands, it never reached greatness, but it was competent and quite good from start to finish and it is ultimately a successful adaptation of this fairy tale.

The 1916 version of Snow White is famous for influencing Walt to make his own classic version and though he clearly took a couple of scenes in its entirety, this film is actually quite different otherwise as it follows the original fairy tale much closer. Even though the first third was problematic, the film is mostly very competently made with a charismatic turn from Marguerite Clark, good villains and a couple of standout scenes leading to a quite successful early adaptation of this famous fairy tale.

My Rating – 4

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The Queen of Spades (1916)

The Queen of Spades Movie Review

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The Queen of Spades Movie Review

The Queen of Spades is a 1916 Russian silent film directed by Yakov Protazanov and starring Ivan Mosjoukine. It is a film that had great potential, but squandered it on an uneven execution.

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Play the three, the seven and the ace

in succession and you will win

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The Queen of Spades Movie Review

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Yes, the story here is phenomenal which is expected as it came straight from the mind of Aleksandr Pushkin. The premise is very intriguing and the mix of horror elements into the whole drama is quite interesting. Everything about that third act is terrific with the imagery being particularly memorable. The juxtaposition of the cards and memories into the shots was so well done and quite advanced for its time. The ghost scene is the highlight and the ending is so striking, again accompanied by some intriguing special effects.
But everything that came before that amazing third act is quite weak. The first two acts are so dull and uneventful that the idea of a build-up is stretched way too much here. I get that the film needed to have that build-up, but one act would have sufficed and the second act should have introduced the conflict with the third act being the conclusive one.

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The Queen of Spades Movie Review

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But the filmmakers behind The Queen of Spades apparently had no idea of a three-act structure. The editing is all over the place and the structure is horrible. That is why the first two acts were dull and the third one was so rushed. And I continually get frustrated with the movies which are so great on paper, yet in execution of the pacing, editing and structure they fail. This is one fine example of such a bad practice.
I liked the characters. The protagonist is memorable and the old lady is naturally the standout person here. The entire idea of having this old lady know what cards to play is quite fascinating and I absolutely loved how the main character came to know here as it was believably scripted. And of course the message is great.

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The Queen of Spades Movie Review

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Ivan Mosjoukine is so good here. This is my first time seeing him and I have to say that I instantly got why he was such a huge star in Russia during the 1910s. His looks are memorable, his acting is very good and his emphasized gestured bring a lot to the overall performance. He is very charismatic.
I guess the movie isn’t too short in length as this story did not need more than an hour of running time, but the pacing is so bad that it hurt it in the long run and even Yakov Protazanov’s direction is to blame as it isn’t as deft and polished as the film demanded.

The Queen of Spades has such a great premise, Ivan Mosjoukine is very charismatic and memorable in the lead role, the film is technically terrific with great imagery and the third act is intriguing, but the first two acts are too dull, the film’s structure and editing are quite mediocre and the direction should have been better leading to an unfortunately uneven film.

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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