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Sunday, August 5th, 2012

Sunrise S.e. (1927 vers.) [Blu-ray]

Starring – George O’Brien (The Man), Janet Gaynor (The Wife), Margaret Livingston (The woman from the city), Bodil Rosing (The Maid).

Released – November, 1927

Directed By – F. W. Murnau

Produced By – Fox Film Corporation

Distributed By – Fox Film Corporation

Description – When a seductive, scheming, woman from the city meets and starts an affair with a simple-living farmer only trouble can follow.

A vacationing city woman hangs around a small town much longer than expected. She has been having an affair with a farmer who has fallen under her spell. The woman sees the farmer as an opportunity to seize an easier life.

One night, after donning a slinky black dress, the city woman goes to the home of the farmer, his wife, and their child. She signals for the farmer and waits secretly outside for him. After awhile he comes out and the pair sneak off for another tryst.

However, this tryst is a little different. The woman from the city suggests that the farmer drown his wife making it look like an accident. Then the pair can live together in the city. At first the farmer violently objects, but the lustful spell of the city woman eventually wins out.

The plan is that the farmer will go boating with his wife, throw her overboard, and make it appear that he was the only one to survive an overturned boat. He will cling to bundles of reeds to stay afloat and make it to shore.

The wife suspects nothing when asked by her husband to go for a boat ride on the local lake. It is only when out on the lake that she becomes increasingly uncomfortable due to her husbands unusual and bizarre behavior.

The husband starts to throw his wife over the side of the boat when he suddenly realizes what a horrible thing he is doing. He stops and immediately, and hurriedly, rows toward shore. When there his, now very fearful, wife runs away. He follows.

Afraid to return to their remote home she boards a trolley for the city. He also boards the trolly. Desperately trying to get his wife to forgive him, and after a tearful reconciliation, they talk and walk around the city. They have their picture taken, make a visit to a local barber shop, enter a church to watch a wedding, go to an amusement park, and spend some time dancing. After dark, they board the trolley for the ride home.

Again they must cross the lake by boat. As they row across the lake a storm begins to start up. Fearful that the boat may overturn, the man ties the groups of reeds around his wife. The storm worsens, the boat capsizes, and the man is washed to the shore.

With no sign of his wife he asks the townspeople to help look for her. All that is found is a broken bundle of reeds floating in the water.

The commotion of the search has gotten the attention of the city woman who now believes that the plan to murder the farmers wife has been successful.

NOTABLE: Sunrise won Oscar’s for Best Picture, Unique and Artistic Production (This was the only year that this specific award was given out), Best Actress in a Leading Role (Janet Gaynor), and Best Cinematography. The film was also nominated for Best Art Direction.

In 1989, Sunrise was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.

Sunrise was one of the first motion pictures to include a soundtrack of music and sound effects using the new Fox Movietone sound-on-film system.

Sunrise became the first silent-film to be released on Blu-Ray in 2009 by Eureka Entertainment in the United Kingdom.


The King of Kings

Thursday, July 12th, 2012

The King of Kings (The Criterion Collection)

Tagline – Supreme in Theme! Gigantic in Execution!

Starring – H. B. Warner (Jesus), Dorothy Cumming (Mary), Ernest Torrence (Peter), Joseph Schildkraut (Judas Iscariot).

Released – April, 1927

Directed By – Cecil B. DeMille

Produced By – DeMille Pictures Corporation

Distributed By – Pathe’ Exchange

Description – An epic retelling of the life of Jesus, focusing on selected episodes during the last weeks before his crucifixion and resurrection.

The film begins by introducing us to Mary Magdalene who is living the life of a courtesan. Upon learning that Judas has gone to stay with the carpenter known as Jesus, rather than attend her feast, she sets out by chariot to bring him back.

Peter is portrayed as the most loyal apostle, and future gospel writer Mark as a child healed by Jesus. The Virgin Mary is both saintly and beautiful, a mother figure to all of Jesus’ followers. We first view Jesus, adorned with a halo, through the eyes of a young girl who has also been healed.

When Mary Magdalene arrives to speak with Judas, he tells her that he is staying with Jesus so that when Jesus is named the King of King’s he too may be named a king. Mary Magdalene will also meet with Jesus and the meeting causes her to repent her sins and her lifestyle. Jesus now will cast the Seven Deadly Sins from Mary cleansing her for a new life.

The next segment shows Jesus Raising of Lazarus, four days after his death. This miracle illustrates Jesus’ divine authority by showcasing his power over death. It is here that his crucifixion is foreshadowed as, during a visit to the work shop of a village carpenter, Jesus helps the carpenter with a piece that revels a cross towering over Jesus.

As Jesus and his apostles enter Jerusalem, Judas rallies the people to support Jesus as the King of Kings. This act infuriates High Priest Caiaphas who believes Jesus to be a false prophet. In an effort to save himself from Caiaphas, Judas agrees to betray Jesus.

It is now that the events that can only end with Jesus crucifixion began to unfold. Warned by Mary, his mother, that danger is coming and he should flee, Jesus responds that what must be done, must be done, for the salvation of all people.

As a result of Judas’ betrayal, Jesus is soon captured by the Romans and despite the pleas of the Virgin Mary, and Mary Magdalene, he is taken to ultimately be crucified. The horror of this reality will drive Judas to suicide.

The death of Jesus results in a blackened sky, violent lightning strikes, high wind, and a great earthquake. Peace only returns after Mary appeals to God to forgive the world. Jesus is taken down from the cross and buried. On the third day he will rise again.

NOTABLE: King of King’s became the first motion picture to be shown at Grauman’s Chinese Theater.

Cecil B. DeMille required his two stars, H. B. Warner (Jesus) and Dorothy Cummings (Virgin Mary) to sign agreements prohibiting them from appearing in other screen roles that might compromise their “holy” image for this film. This agreement was for five years.

Author Ayn Rand, then a struggling immigrant, was a face in the crowd in this film. After filming, she would be given a job by DeMille to help her get on her feet.

Popular western actor J. B. Warner (no relation to H. B. Warner) was DeMille’s first choice to play the role of Jesus. However, before production began, J. B. Warner died from tuberculosis. He was 29.

The backlot set for The Temple of Jerusalem was later used as the Great Wall broken through by King Kong, and again as a Civil War era building burned to the ground in Atlanta during filming of Gone With the Wind.


Tess of the Storm Country

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

Tess of the Storm Country

Starring – Mary Pickford (Tessibel ‘Tess’ Skinner), Lloyd Hughes (Frederick Graves), Gloria Hope (Teola Graves), David Torrence (Elias Graves).

Released – November, 1922

Directed By – John S. Robertson

Produced By – Mary Pickford Company

Distributed By – United Artists

Description – Wealthy landowner Elias Graves is determined to remove the squatters from his land. Tess Skinner is the 17 year old daughter of the squatter family. She is equally determined to help her family stay.

Elias’ son Frederick is sympathetic to the squatters and finds himself attracted to young Tess as she is to him. When Frederick’s sister Teola suggests that her father can remove the squatters by claiming that they are fishing illegally on Graves land, a murder takes place that is blamed on Tesses father.

The murder victim is the father of Teola’s soon to be arriving child. About to have a child out of wedlock, Teola thinks about committing suicide. Although an unlikely ally, Tess decides to help by claiming the child as her own. Another murder follows as the involvement of the innocent continues to deepen.

NOTABLE: This was the role chosen by Mary Pickford to follow the critical disappointment of Little Lord Fauntleroy. It was her second turn as Tess Skinner having previously done the role in 1914 which proved to be a showcase for her talent.

Foolish Wives

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

Foolish Wives [Blu-ray]

Tagline – Von Stroheim’s Million Dollar Photo-play.

Starring – Rudolph Christians (Andrew J. Hughes), Miss Dupont (Helen Hughes), Maude George (Her Highness Olga Petchnikoff), Eric von Stroheim (Count Wladislaw Karamzin).

Released – January, 1922

Directed By – Erich von Stroheim

Produced By – Universal Film Manufacturing Company

Distributed By – Universal Film Manufacturing Company

Description – This silent drama tells the story of a conman who poses as a Count in order to seduce rich women and extort money from them. Combining charm with aristocratic behavior, his con- game has been extremely successful.

Working in Monaco and Monte Carlo, with two lovers posing as his cousins, the Count has his sights set on the gullible wife of American ambassador Andrew J. Hughes. Helen Hughes, bored and looking for a little excitement, is easily seduced by the Count who proceeds to try and relieve her of 90,000 francs.

Enjoy a little seduction, suicide, and murder.

NOTABLE: In 2008, Foolish Wives was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.

This film was produced by Irving Thalberg, who un-credited in this film, went on to become one of the legendary studio heads at MGM.

The films production costs exceeded $1 million dollars making it the most expensive film of its time. Always considered to spend excessively, there was no denying von Stroheim’s attention to detail.

von Stroheim originally intended the film to run from 6-10 hours. Understandably upset, the Universal studio heads edited the film to 130 minutes.

Actor Rudolph Christians died from pneumonia during filming and was replaced by Robert Edeson who only showed his back in the film.

The Unknown

Friday, November 6th, 2009

TCM Archives – The Lon Chaney Collection (The Ace of Hearts / Laugh, Clown, Laugh / London After Midnight / The Unknown)

Starring – Lon Chaney (Alonzo the Armless), Norman Kerry (Malabar the Mighty), Joan Crawford (Nanon Zanzi), John George (Antonio Zanzi).

Released – June, 1927

Directed By – Tod Browning

Produced By – Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Distributed By – Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Description – A Lon Chaney silent classic about a seemingly armless knife thrower, and the carnival girl (Joan Crawford) he hopes to marry.

Alonzo keeps his arms tightly strapped to his sides, appearing armless, and amazing his audience with his knife throwing ability by using his feet. He is in love with his assistant Nanon, who has a pathological fear of being touched by a man,

Zanon witnesses the murder of the carnival manager but, only sees the thumb of the killer. In an effort to both cover up his crime, and to remove Zanon’s fear of being touched, Alonzo blackmails a doctor to amputate both of his arms. He believes that by doing this he can win the heart of Zanon without her fear of being touched by a man getting in the way.

This proves to be a huge mistake as Zanon loses her fear and is now interested in the carnival strong man. Finding this out, Alonzo become enraged and plots his revenge.

NOTABLE:  Joan Crawford has always stated that she learned more about acting, working with Chaney, in The Unknown then the rest of her entire career.

Burt Lancaster considers Chaney’s performance in The Unknown to be the most emotionally compelling performance that he has ever seen.