The Time Theaters Had A “Way Down East” Pumpkin Pie Contest

Hello and happy Thanksgiving, my readers! And a happy holiday season in general–it’s officially that time of the year! As such, I initially thought I’d look for some sort of vintage, pumpkin pie-related recipe from Ye Old Movie Magazines to share. But instead, I found something better!

Introducing the great 1922 Way Down East Perfect Pumpkin Pie Contest Exploitation Campaign!!

Way Down East pie contest ad large

Because pumpkin spice was always popular, y’all.

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9 Treasures From The NFPF Site

Love cinema, especially obscure cinema? So do I, obviously. I’m always on the hunt for all things quaint and curious, and aside from those random YouTube playlists, there’s one site in particular that has a fascinating library of free films that I highly recommend: The National Film Preservation Foundation’s website.

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This foundation, as you suspect, does God’s work. As their site describes:

The National Film Preservation Foundation is the nonprofit organization created by the U.S. Congress to help save America’s film heritage. We support activities nationwide that preserve American films and improve film access for study, education, and exhibition…Our top priority is saving American films that would be unlikely to survive without public support. Over the past decade, we have developed grant programs to help archives, historical societies, libraries, museums, and universities preserve films and make them available for study and research. Our grants distribute federal funds secured through the leadership of the Library of Congress and preservation services donated by public-spirited laboratories and post-production houses. Congress increased the authorization for this work in 2005 and 2008. Every penny of these federal funds goes out to the field and we raise operational support from other sources.

Comedies, dramas, cartoons, documentaries, avant-garde, westerns–you can find a little of everything on the NFPF’s site, most films being from the early 20th century. Since it contains a good helping of silents, I thought I’d share nine of my favorite finds (so far). Think of it as suggestions for a DIY at-home film festival: Continue reading

Obscure Films: “A Bear Affair” (1915)

Picture a fast-paced silent film scene where one character chases another with a gun blazing. Bullets fly, characters panic, and the editing is fast and furious Picturing something from a Western? Maybe even a Roaring Twenties gangster shootout?

Nope, just a typical scene from a 1910s Keystone comedy, where people fire guns like Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots and bullets do less damage than gnat bites. This particular scene’s from a short known only by the most hardcore silent comedy aficionados, A Bear Affair (1915). Oh, and the actor brandishing the gun? That would be the actress Louise Fazenda, one of the toughest and most good-natured slapstick comediennes of the silent era.

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“Stark Love” (1927) And The Very Brief Career Of Helen Mundy

While browsing through old film magazines online (how often have I said that), an unusual photo caught my eye–a young woman with intense eyes, peasant-like clothing and long, unkempt hair. Oh, and she was gripping an ax.

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Happily the full version is online.

Not something you see in those polished magazines every day! I had to find out the story behind it, and what turned up was one of those “rags to riches” types of Hollywood tales–with a unique twist. Continue reading

Fan Magazine Fun: “Bobbing for Apples”

‘Tis Hallowe’en, and may an abundance of spooky, autumnal fun be had by all! In the spirit of the season I’m sharing this essay from the November 1920 issue of Photoplay, mainly for the author’s reminisces about childhood Hallowe’ens, but also to remind us that we simply don’t write gentle, moralizing essays like this anymore.

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Sangster was actually the granddaughter of the warm, philosophic poet and writer Margaret Elizabeth Sangster, who had passed away in 1912. The younger Sangster was given her own column in Photoplay in the summer of 1920, where she shared her thoughtful look on life. Since she wrote this in 1920, her childhood probably took place around the 1900s–the Meet Me in St. Louis era, if you will. Feel free to give it a read–you might find its message surprisingly timeless! Illustrated throughout with Hallowe’en imagery from those days of “magic and mystery.”

BOBBING FOR APPLES

A heart to heart talk with the Family Circle

by Margaret E. Sangster

When I was a little kiddie I used to look forward to Hallowe’en with nearly as much happiness and nearly as many anticipatory thrills as Christmas or a birthday awoke in my breast. Christmases and birthday were wonderful times of present giving and joy and congratulations and extra-special things to eat, but Hallowe’en was a day of mirth and magic and mystery! Hallowe’en was a day when you wore your old frock–a day when you could tear stockings and lose hair ribbons without being scolded. Hallowe’en was a boisterous day–a day when spirits were high and laughter was the king of the universe.

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The Strange Saga Of “Nosferatu”

One of the few silent classics virtually anyone’s willing to watch, Nosferatu has been iconic practically since its release in 1922. The strange, hunched Count Orlok has a permanent place in cinema history, a unique pedestal that keeps him apart from the suave villains of later pop culture.

Max Schreck in Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens (1922)

I’ve reviewed this gothic masterpiece before, but didn’t delve much into the details of how or why it was made. A few of you may already know the tale, with its background of modern art, WWI, occultism, flu epidemics, and gleeful copyright infringement. But if not, do read on.  Continue reading

Obscure Films: “The Mascot” (1933)

If someone asked me this week about my thoughts on the existence of a Higher Power, I might ponder upon different answers, what arguments I would hope to elucidate with all the finesse of an old-school British professor sitting in a leather wingback chair next to a crackling fireplace (as they do). I say “might ponder.” Because what I instinctively wanna blurt out is “Heck yes a Higher Power’s gotta exist, because He made sure I never saw The Mascot when I was a kid!!”

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“Mommy, peees, turn it doff!”

In the past, I’ve mentioned that there’s certain, shall we say, unique silents that would’ve terrified me back when I was a kid–especially ones with papier-mache goblins or weird stop-motion sequences. The Panicky Picnic (1909)? Ew. Ah! La Barbe (1906)? No thank you. Don’t even bring up Le cochon danseur (1907)–it just stopped making cameos in my nightmares. So now I must announce that Ladislas Starevich’s The Mascot (Fétiche Mascotte, 1933), which I saw for the first time recently, is currently #1 on my “Do Not Show To Sensitive Children” list. Did I mention its alternate title is The Devil’s Ball?

While exploring Starevich’s work for Silent Stop Motion Month I became fascinated by this peculiar short, a distinctively European work showcasing some of the era’s most brilliant stop motion animation and some of its creepiest imagery. Apparently it’s already freaked out a generation of ’80s children, thanks to being shown with other cheaply-acquired shorts on late-night British TV. Now it dwells on YouTube, to unsettle all unsuspecting animation fans who doth click on it (and oodles of indie rock bands who use clips for their music videos–like flies to honey, my friends). Since The Mascot is practically a silent film and was made by a silent era master, I say we take a look at it.

Admittedly, there’s cute parts too.

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Caligari’s Controversial “Bookend” Scenes: Yea Or Nay?

In October, the cinephile’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of German Expressionism. Accordingly, I thought we’d discuss an intriguing topic–those “bookend” scenes (otherwise known as a “frame story”) from The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. 

Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari (1920)

If you haven’t seen Caligari, be forewarned now that this post discusses spoilers–nay, it depends on spoilers. So if you haven’t gotten around to watching one of the most important films of the 20th century, well…ya oughta! Continue reading

Thoughts On: “The Haunted House” (1907)

In the annals of old-timey horror–and don’t get me started on those 19th century ventriloquist dolls–some of the weirdest and most gleefully grotesque imagery of all can be found in our oldest silents. One example that leaps to mind is Segundo de Chomón’s The Haunted House, a six-minute film from 1907 that you’ll doubtless recognize from this still:

Haunted House '08 goblin

Ah yes, that one–with the hairy, paint-streaked demon with admirably bushy eyebrows. Also known as The Witch House, La Maison Ensorcelée, or The House of Ghosts, this frolicsome–hold on, is it called The Haunted Hotel too? Oh, that’s a different 1907 film–that’s not de Chomón’s too, is it? And wait, is The House of Ghosts actually an entirely different film from 1906? What’s going on?? Continue reading