Obscure Films: “The Merry Frolics Of Satan” (1906)

One of my very favorite Georges Méliès films is Les Quat’Cents Farces du diable, literally translated as The 400 Tricks of the Devil. We just call it The Merry Frolics of Satan (1906), which is a title truly of its time. So is the film itself, but that’s why I love it so much.

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While not as widely discussed as A Trip to the Moon and more familiar from clips turning up in documentaries on early cinema, it’s one of Méliès’s most elaborate works and a real treat for the eyes. Its plot can be…quite mystifying even if you’re paying close attention, so here’s a detailed recap (I believe some of the information originally came from the Star Film Company’s catalog): Continue reading

Obscure Films: “Behind The Door” (1919)

If you mention Behind the Door to a silent film fan, they’ll react in one of two ways: the blank, racking-their-brains-have-they-heard-of-it-maybe-actually-nope-never-heard-of-it look, or a sudden widening of the eyes and a little gasp: “You’ve seen it?!

Because it’s that kind of film, my friend. Its notoriety precedes it, and once you watch it you’ll know why. The screen doesn’t show anything graphic, but the implications are crystal clear…and stomach-churning.

Image result for behind the door 1919 Continue reading

Obscure Films: “Shot In The Excitement” (1914)

There are some silent comedy shorts that are so of-their-time silly that you aren’t sure if a newbie could handle them. They’d probably think to themselves, “This is what silent comedy was like? Lots of grimacing and flailing around? Humor was, like, so primitive back then. And look at those special effects–why did they even bother before CGI?”

Um, CGI could never improve on Al St. John, for one thing.

What this newbie doesn’t know is that there’s more to these “primitive” comedies than meets the eye. Well, a little more, anyways. If you chuck aside your “21st century cynicism” glasses for about 15 minutes, you can have a delightful time experiencing the supreme Awesomeness of a short like Shot in the Excitement (1914). Allow me to give you a tour. Continue reading

Ray Guns and Mechanical Monsters: 5 Obscure Sci-Fi Silents

Hello, everyone! Today I’m happy to be taking part in the “For the Love of Film” blogathon, a prestigious annual fundraiser about a topic near and dear to all of our movie-loving hearts: saving films. Hosted by Ferdy on FilmsThis Island Rod, and Wonders in the Dark, this year’s blogathon is aiming to raise money for the restoration of a delightful 1918 film called Cupid in Quarantine. The goal is $10,000 to cover the National Film Preservation Foundation’s laboratory costs.

Here’s the description of Cupid in Quarantine from the NFPF site:

This charming comedy about two lovebirds faking smallpox features the forgotten actress Elinor Field, who got her start in a series of Strand Comedies and later starred in such films as The Blue Moon (1920), The Kentucky Colonel (1920), and the 15-part Selig serial The Jungle Goddess (1922). Regarding her performance in Cupid in Quarantine, Motion Picture World raved, “Miss Field’s vivaciousness permeates the entire picture, filling it with life and action and a humor that is contagious.

So here’s how it works: 

  1. Everyone rushes to donate money (as little as $5 will help!),
  2. The NFPF will restore the film to gloriousness and create a new score,
  3. The film will be available to everyone FOR FREE on the NFPF website,
  4. We can all sit back and marvel at the the role we played in helping to preserve film history for future generations–for as little as $5!

Sound good? Excellent! On with the blog post:

Long before the robots-and-rocketships mania of the 1950s, long before the epic adventures of Star Trek and Star Wars, and very long before the current steampunk craze, science fiction was alive and well in the form of popular novels and…silent films (which could be surprisingly steampunk). That’s right, sci-fi silents, and you already know at least two of them: A Trip to the Moon (1902) and Metropolis (1927). Continue reading

Obscure Films: “His Wife’s Mistake”

I am pleased to be a part of the Shorts! Blogathon hosted by Movies Silently. Thank you so much for stopping by, blogathon readers–make yourself comfortable and be sure to check out all of the other great posts this weekend too!

Hold onto your too-small derbies, folks! It’s time to turn your attention to one of Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle’s most overlooked short comedies–a two-reel gem. (Although, in fairness, Roscoe could’ve turned any film into a comedy gem just by wandering into it by accident.) The film is His Wife’s Mistake (1916), and why no one ever seems to discuss it is beyond me.

Arbuckle his wife's mistake lobby card Continue reading

Obscure Films: “Moran of the Lady Letty”

And once again, one blogathon is hot on the heels of another! I’m happy to be participating in the Rudolph Valentino blogathon, hosted by Timeless Hollywood

One of Valentino’s lesser known vehicles, watched mainly by his fans and not often discussed outside of that circle, is the seafaring drama Moran of the Lady Letty (1922).

Valentino moran with dalton photoplay '22

Photoplay, 1922.

Some time ago, before viewing Moran for the first time and after reading some fairly enthusiastic but slightly tepid reviews, I was all set to either like it or consider it merely another interesting artifact of film history under my belt. But midway into the film I not only liked it, but was happily absorbed by its straightforward, entertaining charm. Continue reading

Obscure Film Recommendation: “The Female of the Species”

In addition to my “Thoughts On…” series I was also occasionally put the spotlight on an obscure silent film that I think is interesting (for varying reasons).  This can be a film that is, obviously, hardly watched, or maybe it floats around but never gets discussed, or perhaps the casual silent fan just doesn’t know it exists.  Enjoy!

If you’re a fan of early film history, you’ve probably gotten into at least a few of the D.W. Griffith-directed shorts by the American Biograph Company.  These one- to three-reel “Biograph shorts” from the early 1910s (which can also be handily referred to as “bite-sized gems of filmmaking genius”) prove how rapidly filmmaking matured.  The New York Hat, The Musketeers of Pig Alley and The Battle of Elderbrush Gulch are among the most famous and talked-about of the bunch. Continue reading