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Silent Films Discussion

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View Poll Results: How many silent feature films have you watched?
watched parts of films but never managed to get through the whole thing
3
3.30%
0 - and I plan to keep it that way
4
4.40%
0 - maybe I'll get around to it some day
3
3.30%
0 - but I'll check 'em out now that I've read this thread
0
0%
1 - didn't like it, so I never tried another
1
1.10%
1
4
4.40%
2
3
3.30%
3 - 7
20
21.98%
8 - 20
21
23.08%
over 20
32
35.16%
Voters: 91. You may not vote on this poll

Silent Films Discussion

Old 03-12-04, 02:02 PM
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Silent Films Discussion

Up until recently I hadn’t been very receptive to the idea of watching silent films. Actually, maybe “not receptive” isn’t the best description, I suppose I simply never gave serious consideration to the idea that it might be something I would enjoy; silent films were just a curiousity. Though I had watched some Chaplin and Harold Lloyd, and caught parts of films like Metropolis and Ben-Hur, I never felt moved to educate – if nothing else - myself more in the area of silent films. The silent films I had watched were much more casual viewing than anything else.

With that as a background, some weeks ago I read John Sinnot’s DVDTalk review of the Douglas Fairbanks collection. Being a big fan of swashbuckler films (Westerns & war films too FWIW), I decided to take the plunge and make a rather expensive and impulsive blind-buy of the set. Around the same time, I started taping some of the silent Westerns which have been airing on the Westerns Channel on cable.

A couple of weeks ago, I – for perhaps the first time ever – dedicated myself to watching a silent film. I popped Fairbanks’ “The Mark of Zorro” into the player and sat back. It took a few minutes to adjust to the experience, but after a short time I really got into it. It was a terrific mix of adventure, comedy, and romance all played out to the tunes of a wonderful piano score. Fairbanks was terrific in the dual roles of Don Diego and Zorro. Since that day, I’ve been on somewhat of a silent film feeding frenzy and have watched:

Robin Hood – Fairbanks
Don Q, Son of Zorro – Fairbanks
Thief of Bagdad – Fairbanks
Cyrano de Bergerac – thanks TCM!
Tumbleweeds – William S. Hart - thanks Westerns channel!
The Toll Gate – William S. Hart
3 Bad Men – directed by John Ford

I’ve enjoyed them all to varying degrees with “Son of Zorro” perhaps being the best. William S. Hart is a terrific on-screen cowboy and his “The Toll Gate” is a very entertaining silent Western. I’ve also taped “The Great K & A Train Robbery” starring Tom Mix but haven’t watched it yet. Plus, I’ve still got to get around to “The Black Pirate” and “The Three Musketeers” from the Fairbanks collection. I also taped Harold Lloyd’s “The Freshman” and will be checking that one out too.

After doing some research, here are some of the silent films I hope to watch in the future (depending for the most part on TCM; they show a silent film every Sunday night at midnight):

The General
The Big Parade
The Phantom of the Opera
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Wings
Ben-Hur – this time I’ll pay closer attention
The Sheik
Son of Sheik
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
The Covered Wagon
The Iron Horse
The Lost World
What Price Glory?
Don Juan
Beau Geste
The Sea Hawk
Scaramouche
The Prisoner of Zenda
The Last of the Mohicans
Gaucho – Douglas Fairbanks
The Iron Mask – Douglas Fairbanks

Frankly, I’m not even sure of the availability of some of these. Plus, I think I’ve got a long wait for “The Sea Hawk” because it aired fairly recently on TCM.

A site which may be of interest (there are links at the bottom of the list to show numbers 101-175 and more):
Silentera.com Top 100 & more Silent Films

TCM is showing a lot of Chaplin films this month with the next airings being on Wednesday night. The Sunday midnight showings from now until the end of May are:
Stella Maris
Mare Nostrum
Intolerance
Champagne
The King of Kings
Squaw Man
The Ring - Alfred Hitchcock
Don Juan
The Penalty
Steamboat Bill Jr.
The Lost World
The Big Parade

Tumbleweeds - a Western starring William S. Hart - is airing this Sunday early morning on the Westerns Channel (Starz Superpak).

Anyway, what are your favorite silent silms, and who are your favorite stars of the silent screen (Chaplin, Lloyd, Keaton, Chaney, Valentino, Fairbanks, Hart, Mix, Novarro, Barrymore, Pickford, Astor, etc.)? What are your thoughts in general with regards to silent films? Any big fans here? Anyone who has tried but just can't seem to get into them? Do you prefer piano scores, orchestral scores, no music score whatsoever, or is it dependent on the film? What about color tinting, good/bad or again case dependent?
Old 03-12-04, 02:23 PM
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These days, I probably prefer silent films. I know I could watch Sunrise, Potemkin, or The Gold Rush dozens of times each before I'd watch 90% of films from this decade even once.

As far as stars, well, I think Chaplin is the single most talented person to ever work in cinema. However, I tend towards directors myself - Murnau, Dreyer, Chaplin, Lang, etc.
Old 03-12-04, 02:28 PM
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I love silent films. I've seen just about everything from Chaplin and Keaton that I could get my hands on.

My top 10 would look something like this:

1. Metropolis
2. The Gold Rush
3. The General
4. City Lights
5. Sherlock, Jr.
6. The Passion of Joan of Arc
7. M
8. Battleship Potemkin
9. The Circus
10. The Crowd

There are still quite a few big titles that I haven't seen yet that I hope to catch soon...Greed, The Big Parade, Napoléon, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
Old 03-12-04, 02:56 PM
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Great thread.

Favorite—Un Chien Andalou

Favorite star—Probably Keaton. He certainly had quite a presence on screen; meekly overpowering. But when I watch silents, I'm less focused on the acting.

Thoughts on silent films—I think they're great. In one aspect, little time capsules predicating a century of films; in another, wonderful films.

Scores—Live scores are always the preference. Watching Nosferatu with live piano was extraordinary. Some other favorite live performances: Griffith's Broken Blossoms, Stroheim's Greed and Lang's Metropolis with organ; The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari with piano.

Sometimes scratchy scores can be problems. The one played when I saw The Big Parade was particularly distracting.

Tinting—Effective and important if used originally. But sometimes the history of who tinted what at what time becomes so muddled that I put it out of my mind and just enjoy the presentation (I take what I can get).

I know I've seen more than 20 silent films. The first one I really paid attention to years ago wasn't even produced in the silent era: Maya Deren's Meshes of the Afternoon from '43. The adventure films and such, those are the biggest gaps for me, haven't seen too many of those. One reason I like silent films are the expressiveness and the playfulness filmmakers put into this early art form. And like I said before, watching a silent film can be like watching the history of the cinema.

One aspect of cinema that I still haven't gotten into is experimental. I feel silent films are a good gateway for that because our experiences with the film language are just as removed.

Biggest regret—missing a showing of Ozu's I Was Born, But . . . last year, complete with live translator/narrator (there's a Japanese name for the guy who does this).
Old 03-12-04, 03:02 PM
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Originally posted by sundog
Great thread.

Favorite—Un Chien Andalou
Very good movie, I watched this one and many other good silent films in a film class I took in college.
Old 03-12-04, 03:14 PM
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A LOT of art students saw it in their classes, including me. I was pretty ignint then and slept through some of it. Saw it a few times later in bad VHS tapes and it grew on me. Then last month I saw a restored print (from 1993) and it was like seeing it for the first time.
Old 03-12-04, 03:18 PM
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My top 10 would probably be:

Nosferatu
Metropolis
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
Battleship Potemkin
The Gold Rush
Intolerance
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (John Barrymore version)
Sherlock Jr
Safety Last!
The Man who Laughs

Some that I'd love to see:

Un Chien Andalou
Sparrows
The Penalty
Ben-Hur
Frankenstein (Edison version)

If only they existed:

London after Midnight
Der Januskopf
Old 03-12-04, 04:27 PM
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Re: Silent Films Discussion

Originally posted by flixtime
A couple of weeks ago, I – for perhaps the first time ever – dedicated myself to watching a silent film. I popped Fairbanks’ “The Mark of Zorro” into the player and sat back. It took a few minutes to adjust to the experience, but after a short time I really got into it. It was a terrific mix of adventure, comedy, and romance all played out to the tunes of a wonderful piano score. Fairbanks was terrific in the dual roles of Don Diego and Zorro. Since that day, I’ve been on somewhat of a silent film feeding frenzy and have watched:

Robin Hood – Fairbanks
Don Q, Son of Zorro – Fairbanks
Thief of Bagdad – Fairbanks
Cyrano de Bergerac – thanks TCM!
Tumbleweeds – William S. Hart - thanks Westerns channel!
The Toll Gate – William S. Hart
3 Bad Men – directed by John Ford
I only occasionally watched silent films on TV when I was younger (they weren't aired that often), but I've started watching silent films more often in the last couple of years (thanks to DVDs and TCM).

I really liked Mark of Zorro (especially the last ten minutes or so), but I haven't seen any of the others you listed (I think I recorded Cyrano de Bergerac a while back, but I haven't watched it yet).

I missed recording 3 Bad Men off the Western Channel a month or so back. Any idea when they're going to show it again?
Originally posted by flixtime
Anyway, what are your favorite silent films, and who are your favorite stars of the silent screen (Chaplin, Lloyd, Keaton, Chaney, Valentino, Fairbanks, Hart, Mix, Novarro, Barrymore, Pickford, Astor, etc.)? What are your thoughts in general with regards to silent films? Any big fans here? Anyone who has tried but just can't seem to get into them? Do you prefer piano scores, orchestral scores, no music score whatsoever, or is it dependent on the film? What about color tinting, good/bad or again case dependent?
I'd list Keaton, Lloyd, and Chaney as my favorite stars from the period.

A few of my favorite silent films:

The General
Steamboat Bill, Jr.
Sherlock, Jr.
Hot Water
Girl Shy
Speedy
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Ben Hur

Anyone ever seen Harry Houdini's The Man from Beyond (or any of his other films)? I saw this on a PBS station over twenty years ago, and would love to see it again.

Last edited by Dimension X; 03-12-04 at 04:30 PM.
Old 03-12-04, 07:47 PM
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The only reason I didn't watch many silents as a kid was because they weren't shown on tv much, if at all.

However, I obtained a love for them at a very early age, say, three, because there was this pizza joint my parents would take me to that showed silents, and I just got a big kick out of it. So, needless to say, had they been shown on tv, I'd have watched 'em.

Fast forward thirty years, and I still love silent film.

Some favorites...

Haxen
Dr. Mabuse, Der Spieler
Die Nibelungen
Metropolis
Nosferatu
Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
Hunchback of Notre Dame
Phantom of the Opera
Passion of Joan of Arc

I'd love to see...

Sunrise
Un Chien Andalou
Battleship Potemkin
Napoleon
Ben Hur
Moby Dick
Fairbanks
Keaton
Lloyd


And of course, London After Midnight.
Old 03-12-04, 08:41 PM
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Originally posted by sundog
I know I've seen more than 20 silent films. The first one I really paid attention to years ago wasn't even produced in the silent era: Maya Deren's Meshes of the Afternoon from '43.
...weird. Just saw that on Wednesday night.

I've seen a bunch of Chaplin shorts and feature length films, a bunch of Keaton shorts and The General, Nosferatu...and I know I'm forgetting more.

So I guess how many I've seen depends on whether or not the shorts count.

Last edited by Corvin; 03-12-04 at 10:31 PM.
Old 03-12-04, 08:50 PM
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I've seen a handful, all from film classes i've taken in college, including The General, City Lights, Un Chien Andalou... and a few others or clips of others. I was very surprised at how much i enjoyed them, and thought i would be distracted.
Old 03-13-04, 02:07 AM
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Here's all the silents I've seen in their entirety:

The Passion of Joan of Arc
Un chien andalou
City Lights
Modern Times
The Circus
The Gold Rush
The Cameraman
Cops (Buster Keaton)
Spite Marraige
Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ
A Trip to the Moon
The Great Train Robbery
Sherlock Jr. (Keaton)
The Playhouse (Keaton)
The Boat (Keaton)
The Kid (Chaplin)
The Idle Class (Chaplin)
Abel Gance's Napoleon (1981 4 hour version)
Out West (Fatty Arbuckle)
The Butcher Boy
Metropolis
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
Nosferatu
Speedy
Safety Last!
All of the Buster Keaton/Fatty Arbuckle comedies except for The Cook
Phantom of the Opera (both 1925 and 1929 versions)


Silents I've seen partially:
Intolerance
Sunrise
The Birth of a Nation
The Freshman

Last edited by PatrickMcCart; 03-13-04 at 05:12 PM.
Old 03-13-04, 04:29 AM
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Originally posted by ToddSm66
I love silent films. I've seen just about everything from Chaplin and Keaton that I could get my hands on.

My top 10 would look something like this:

1. Metropolis
2. The Gold Rush
3. The General
4. City Lights
5. Sherlock, Jr.
6. The Passion of Joan of Arc
7. M
8. Battleship Potemkin
9. The Circus
10. The Crowd

There are still quite a few big titles that I haven't seen yet that I hope to catch soon...Greed, The Big Parade, Napoléon, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
M is not a silent film.
Old 03-13-04, 07:20 AM
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Re: Re: Silent Films Discussion

Originally posted by Dimension X
I really liked Mark of Zorro (especially the last ten minutes or so), but I haven't seen any of the others you listed (I think I recorded Cyrano de Bergerac a while back, but I haven't watched it yet).
Hey Dimension X! Nice running in to you once again; it's been a while. Hope life's been treating you well.

I really liked Mark of Zorro too. As a silent film, it slides in quite nicely next to the Tyrone Power and Banderas versions. The chase scene in the town towards the end of the film is my favorite Fairbanks' action scene so far. That being said, I think I like Son of Zorro just a hair better. But each one has its strong points over the other.

Robin Hood, though enjoyable, was a little bit of a let down in comparison to the Zorro films. The film is a little long-winded in the beginning and could have used some more action. Plus, the Merry Men were just a tad too merry (a little too much skipping around). It did make me appreciate what Errol Flynn was able to pull off in his version; it's kind of tough to look cool in green tights but he managed it somehow. The castle set itself was pretty darned impressive. Interesting too to note that Alan Hale (the Skipper's Dad for those who might not be familiar), played the character of Little John in this version as well as in the Flynn version 16 years later. That was a bit of a surprise. Robin Hood isn't bad by any means but I suppose I just had some very high expectations for it. The Thief of Bagdad is better than Robin Hood and plays out quite well during the course of its 2:30 runtime. It's definitely worth checking out. Though I haven't watched "The Three Musketeers" or "The Black Pirate" yet, I've already decided to go ahead and slate Fairbanks' other 2 adventure films (Gaucho, The Iron Mask) for near-future purchase. As first mentioned in the DVDTalk review, I too am slightly disappointed that they weren't included in the boxed-set. However, they are available separately.

Cyrano de Bergerac was interesting to me, plus it's kind of different in that it was in color. However, don't expect the action that you would get in a Fairbanks movie. I understand Fairbanks' "The Black Pirate" is color as well. Until reading the DVDTalk review, I hadn't really been aware that color in movies came before sound.

Originally posted by Dimension X
I missed recording 3 Bad Men off the Western Channel a month or so back. Any idea when they're going to show it again?
I did a very quick check of the Westerns channel schedule through the end of April and I don't see 3 Bad Men listed. Nor do I see "The Iron Horse" or "The Covered Wagon", which are two of the films I was looking for. "Tumbleweeds" with William S. Hart is on this Sunday. It was fine, but "3 Bad Men" and especially "The Toll Gate" were better. Tom Mix' "The Great K & A Train Robbery" is on around the 22nd if I recall correctly, and 1903's "The Great Train Robbery" is on sometime next month. As a sidenote, according to Dennis Weaver on the Westerns channel, many of the Tom Mix films were lost forever due to a studio fire.

I recall that a few months ago the Westerns channel had a whole month dedicated to these silent Westerns. At the time I was happy about it - but for the wrong reason - because I hadn't yet developed an interest in silent films I was just glad that my VCR had the month off from taping (except for TCM of course). I'm kicking myself now of course. I hope they continue to show these silent Westerns every now and then.

It has been fun watching these silent film pioneers who first laid the groundwork for all the Swashbuckler and Western films I'm so fond of today.
Old 03-13-04, 12:30 PM
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Originally posted by Tafellappen
M is not a silent film.
Huh. That's strange. It's been so long since I've seen it, I could have sworn I remembered it being silent...oh well.
Old 03-13-04, 12:43 PM
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Originally posted by ToddSm66
Huh. That's strange. It's been so long since I've seen it, I could have sworn I remembered it being silent...oh well.
Actually, sound (and a particular melody), plays a very crucial part in M. Now, what probably throws people who remember it being a silent is that, unlike most early sound pictures, M retains all the visual sophistication of the late silent era, but adds sound. Most sound films of its vintage were visually regressive, being little more than filmed stage plays. Not many directors, Lang and Renoir excepted, were able to make the shift to sound and retain the visual appeal of silent films.

Last edited by wendersfan; 03-13-04 at 04:03 PM.
Old 03-13-04, 01:28 PM
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Fairbanks is an awful lot of fun to watch.
you definitely need to see Black Pirate, and also try to check out the Gaucho- thematically very unique in his oveure.

my favorite film would probably be The Wind.
i can' wait to see that show up on disc.
others would include
Diary Of A Lost Girl
Pandoras Box
Cabinet Of Dr Caligari
Metropolis
Orphans Of The Storm
Mark Of Zorro
The Gaucho
The General
Our Hospitality
Don Juan
The Beloved Rouge (amazing cinematography!)
Laugh Clown Laugh
Mantrap
Hula
Phantom Of The Opera


lots of good stuff out there
Old 03-13-04, 01:41 PM
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Re: Silent Films Discussion

Originally posted by flixtime

Do you prefer piano scores, orchestral scores, no music score whatsoever, or is it dependent on the film?
Without a doubt, orchestral scores.

The Chaplin films (And other various comedies) work well with piano-only scores. But I draw the line on organ-only scores. My Alpha version of Jekyll & Hyde has one of these and it's dreadful. Can't listen to no more then 10 minutes of it.
Old 03-13-04, 06:10 PM
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Re: Silent Films Discussion

Originally posted by flixtime
Anyway, what are your favorite silent silms, and who are your favorite stars of the silent screen (Chaplin, Lloyd, Keaton, Chaney, Valentino, Fairbanks, Hart, Mix, Novarro, Barrymore, Pickford, Astor, etc.)?
There are a lot more I want to see; but currently I think my favorite would be The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. My favorite silent star is Buster Keaton; he's probably the easiest to relate to for me. As for directors, I'd like to eventually see everything made by Fritz Lang & F.W. Murnau.
What are your thoughts in general with regards to silent films? Any big fans here? Anyone who has tried but just can't seem to get into them? Do you prefer piano scores, orchestral scores, no music score whatsoever, or is it dependent on the film? What about color tinting, good/bad or again case dependent?
I think they are a wonderful 'window' on another era. I can't explain why, but films that show a story visually, with little or no dialogue fascinate me. I don't know if I prefer one type of score over another; it depends on the film I guess. Same with tinting; it can be more important with some films than others. Like in Nosferatu, tinting was used to very good effect.
Old 03-14-04, 04:43 AM
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Re: Silent Films Discussion

Originally posted by flixtime
what are your favorite silent films?
I am slow to this thread because I wanted to give a lot of thought to this question. Here is my silent top 25. The General is number one and the rest of the list is alphabetical:

The General
Battleship Potemkin
Ben Hur (1925)
The Big Parade
The Birth of a Nation
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
The Cameraman
Flesh and the Devil
The Gold Rush
Greed
Intolerance
The Lost World (1925)
The Man With the Movie Camera
Metropolis
Napoleon
Nosferatu
Pandora's Box
The Passion of Joan of Arc
The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
Safety Last
Sherlock Jr.
Speedy
Sunrise
The Thief of Baghdad
The Wind


Who are your favorite stars of the silent screen?
That's easier: Buster Keaton (of course!), Harold Lloyd, Charlie Chaplin, Lon Chaney, Clara Bow, Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, Lillian Gish, John Gilbert, Louise Brooks.

What are your thoughts in general with regards to silent films?
I find silent movies fascinating, surreal and almost other-worldly. I like seeing the old cars and the occasional familiar item. Did you know that a bottle of Tabasco Sauce looked the same in 1916 as it does today?

Any big fans here?
Yes, I have over 50 silent movies on DVD and more on VHS thanks to Turner Classic Movies.

Do you prefer piano scores, orchestral scores, no music score whatsoever, or is it dependent on the film?
Depends on the film. Organ scores work best for horror films, Piano scores are suitable for dramas, Orchestras are best for epics. No music would be unthinkable.

What about color tinting, good/bad or again case dependent?
Again it depends. Tinting was common in the silent era. I like the use of blue for night scenes, but I don't think I've ever liked seeing red used as a tint because it can be overpowering.

-----

A note to silent fans, TCM will be showing a lot of silent movies in April including a Harold Lloyd day on April 20, and some Cecil B. DeMille and Alfred Hitchcock silents as well.

Last edited by Damfino; 03-22-04 at 05:23 PM.
Old 03-14-04, 08:42 AM
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Don't forget about the Laurel and Hardy 2 reels. Some great stuff in there.

I love Chaney the most, his Phantom is just perfect. Want to get into some others more in the future.

Anybody see 20,000 leagues under the sea?
Old 03-14-04, 09:04 AM
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Chaplin is wonderful, of course, but Keaton is my favorite - to me, he seems the most innovative, both in his style as an actor AND his innovations as a director.

Sherlock Jr. was the first film to show somebody go "inside a movie", for instance.

Keaton was also probably the greatest stuntman to ever live - doing basically everything you see him do for real, and always himself - he often stunted for the other actors in his films, too, because he could simply do ANYTHING with his body.

Most of Keaton's great films(before he signed the contract that took away his creative control) are available on DVD, and you should definitely watch the shorts, too, especially Cops, and - well, there are so many great shorts...

The features are all great, too - and of course you must see The General, Sherlock Junior, Seven Chances, Our Hospitaliy(a bit different kind of Keaton film, but still very good), The Navigator, etc. etc. etc.
Old 03-14-04, 11:12 AM
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Originally posted by Scot1458
Anybody see 20,000 leagues under the sea?
Oof! I did, and I thought it was extremely plodding. It may be a landmark film due to the innovative f/x, but it was a very boring presentation of the story. It's one of the very few dvds I've ever parted with, and it's the only silent film dvd I've parted with.

Rent, don't buy.
Old 03-14-04, 01:26 PM
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Anyway, what are your favorite silent silms, and who are your favorite stars of the silent screen (Chaplin, Lloyd, Keaton, Chaney, Valentino, Fairbanks, Hart, Mix, Novarro, Barrymore, Pickford, Astor, etc.)? What are your thoughts in general with regards to silent films? Any big fans here? Anyone who has tried but just can't seem to get into them? Do you prefer piano scores, orchestral scores, no music score whatsoever, or is it dependent on the film? What about color tinting, good/bad or again case dependent?
My favorites, off the top of my head, are City Lights, Cops, Napoleon, and Metropolis. I don't really care for The Gold Rush, though. It's good, but it's not Chaplin's "masterpiece" (that goes to City Lights). The scores depend on the film... Nosferatu usually is best with an organ score. Full orchestra is a must for films like Metropolis, Phantom of the Opera, and Napoleon.

I also like the unconventional scores like the ones for The Unknown and The Passion of Joan of Arc. The lighter "small orchestra" scores for Chaplin's films and others (like the excellent strings-only score for The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari) are great too.

The worst scores are simply the poorly made and inappropriate ones. I had a tape of Metropolis with a very awful stock music score that didn't even do anything for the film.

Of course, there's always exceptions. I have the Arbuckle/Keaton 2-discer from Image which has a version of "Out West" with a stock music score. It is all well selected music, plus well edited. TCM has shown a great version of "Cops

Color tinting and toning is great, but only when it's supposed to be there. Nosferatu has always supposed to have tinting and toning, while Metropolis has always supposed to be B&W. I love it when restorers re-create special color effects like stencil color for films that originally had it.
Old 03-14-04, 11:55 PM
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I haven't seen much silent films, but here's my pick:
The Battleship Potemkin
Nosferatu
Metropolis
The Passion of Joan of Arc
(with beautiful music from the Criterion DVD)

Also a few silent documentaries.

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