Action/Adventure


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The Black Pirate

Monday, September 19th, 2011

The Black Pirate [Blu-ray]

Tagline – The Love Story of a Bold Buccaneer

Starring – Douglas Fairbanks (The Duke of Arnoldo/The Black Pirate), Billie Dove (Princess Isobel), Anders Randolf (Pirate Captain), Donald Crisp (MacTavish).

Released – March, 1926

Directed By – Albert Parker

Produced – Elton Corporation

Distributed By – United Artists

Description – Washing ashore on a tiny island are a father and son, the only two survivors of a Spanish ship looted, burned, and sunk by a band of pirates. The son’s father soon dies, but before doing so he gives his son a signet ring.

The Pirate Captain and his Lieutenant also come to the island to bury their stolen loot taken from the Spanish ship. They plan to kill the other pirates and keep everything for themselves. The son, who has vowed vengence for his fathers death, approches the pirates and pretends he wants to join them.

He claims he will fight the most dangerous of the pirates to prove his worth. The Pirate Captain takes him up on the challange and is killed in the fight. The Pirate Lieutenant, now in charge, is not satisfied with just swordplay, and the son says he will single-handedly capture the next ship to pass.

A merchant ship passes and the son does capture the ship earning himself the name, “The Black Pirate.” As the pirates begin to loot the ship and its passengers, planning to sink and burn the merchant ship, The Black Pirate notices some of the other pirates drawing lots for a beautiful woman that has been captured.

To stop this, The Black Pirate convinces the Pirate Lieutenant that they should hold both the merchant ship and the woman, who The Black Pirate recognizes as royalty from the jewelry she wears, for a kings ransom.

The woman is a princess and The Black Pirate has fallen in love with her at first sight. An escape attempt follows and The Black Pirate is caught and forced to walk the plank.

It now appears as though the Princess’ only hope for rescue has drowned.

NOTABLE: In 1993, The Black Pirate was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.

The Black Pirate was the third motion picture to be filmed using the early two-toned Technicolor process developed in 1922.

During filming, actress Billie Dove used a kissing-stand-in. The woman actually kissing Fairbanks is Mary Pickford.

An extra in the film, Nino Cochise, was a grandson of Apache Chief Cochise, and had also worked as an extra in Fairbank’s Robin Hood.

Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ

Sunday, February 13th, 2011

Ben-Hur: A Tale Of The Christ

Tagline – This Mighty Picture Will Burn Its Way Into Your Memory To Last Forever!

Starring – Ramon Novarro (Ben-Hur), Francis X. Bushman (Messala), May McAvoy (Esther), Betty Bronson (Mary).

Released – December, 1925

Directed By – Fred Niblo, Charles Brabin

Produced By – Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Distributed By – Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Description – Close childhood friends ,Judah Ben-Hur and Messala, have met again as adults and things have changed. Ben-Hur is now a wealthy, but conquered Jew, and Messala is a powerful Roman Tribune in the conquering Roman Army.

Messala seeks Ben-Hur’s assistance with the Roman oppression of the Jews. Messala’s new and unsympathic attitude causes Judah to realize that the two can no longer remain friends and they part.

That afternoon, Gratus, the new commander of Jerusalem, arrives with a precession down the main streets of the city. Judah, his mother Miriam, and sister Tirzah watch from a rooftop. An accident occurs and a falling brick nearly hits Gratus in the head.

This accident is used by Messala to imprison Judah. He is sentenced to life as a galley slave while his mother and sister are imprisoned. Forced to walk through the desert towards the sea and later dragged through Nazareth, Judah begins to question his faith. His increasing thirst begins to destroy him when suddenly he is given water from the young carpenter son of Mary and Joseph.

Judah’s religious resolution returns and his determination to survive aboard the galley ship impresses Roman Admiral Quintas Arrius who allows Judah to be unchained. The galley comes under attack and is sunk by pirates, but Judah has survived and saved the life of Arrius.

They drift at sea for two days before being rescued by another Roman ship. Arrius protects Judah’s identity and explains him as his adoped son. Within a few years after this incident, Judah becomes a great athlete and chariot racer.

It is this ability that sets up his return to Jerusalem to search for his mother and sister and to seek revenge on Messala.

NOTABLE: In 1997, Ben-Hur was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.

Ben-Hur was the most costly silent film ever made, costing approximately $4 million dollars.

The sea battle filmed near Livorno, Italy required the use of fourty-eight cameras.

The first attempt to film the great chariot race was beset by many problems, one of which was a wheel coming off a chariot causing the death of the stuntman driver. These problems led to the closing of the Italian set and the production moved to California.

Filming the chariot race in California was also tragic. With the pace of the race moving slowly, a bonus was offered to the winning driver as an incentive. The now hectic pace caused a pileup of chariots that resulted in the death of several horses.

Silent screen legends Rudolph Valentino and Buck Jones were considered for the role of Judah Ben-Hur.

Cast and extras used in the production numbered over 125,000.

Uncredited extras used in the chariot race scenes included future stars Clark Gable, Gary Cooper, Joan Crawford, and Myrna Loy. Also appearing as slave girls in the production were Carole Lombard, Janet Gaynor, Fay Wray, and Joyzelle Joyner.

With the production initially floundering and costs escalating, studio boss Irving Thalberg replaced director Charles Brabin with Fred Niblo.

Star Ramon Navarro received a weekly salary of $125.00 for The Prisoner of Zenda; for this role he was paid $10,000 weekly.

The Thief of Bagdad

Sunday, September 26th, 2010

The Thief of Bagdad (Restored Kino Edition) (Silent)

Starring – Douglas Fairbanks (The Thief of Bagdad), Snitz Edwards (The Thief’s Evil Associate), Charles Belcher (The Holy Man), Julanne Johnston (The Princess), Anna May Wong (The Mongol Slave).

Released – March, 1924

Directed By – Raoul Walsh

Produced By – Douglas Fairbanks Pictures

Distributed By – United Artists

Description – Bagdad has many thieves, but only one is known as The Thief of Bagdad. This is a thief with a heart, and he has lost it to the daughter of The Caliph. He had intended to steal from the rich Caliph until he saw the beautiful Princess.

The Caliph will he happy to give his daughters hand in marriage, but only if he can profit from it. To do this he offers to give the Princess’ hand to the suitor that brings to him the rarest of treasures that can be found after the next seven moons.

Our love struck thief disguises himself as Prince Ahmed and sets off on a fantasy adventure in search of the treasure. He is not alone in this quest as there are four suitors. One is the Prince of the Mongols, who very badly seeks the hand of the Princess, as well as control of Bagdad, and he is not about to play fair.

Enjoy the early silent screen spectacle of the magic carpet, flying horses, a magic crystal, and a magic apple.

NOTABLE: In 1996, The Thief of Bagdad was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.

According to his son, Douglas Fairbanks considered this to be his favorite film.

In addition to starring in The Thief of Bagdad, Douglas Fairbanks also wrote and produced the film.

With a budget of $2 million, this was one of the most expensive film produced during the 1920’s.

Premiere voted the films poster as #9 on “The 25 Best Movie Posters Ever” list.

Personal Note: For its time, this is a special effects masterpiece. William Cameron Menzies set design resulted in one of the most imaginative silent films of all time.

Robin Hood

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

Robin Hood

Starring – Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. (The Earl of Huntingdon/Robin Hood), Wallace Beery (Richard The Lion-Hearted), Enid Bennett (Lady Marion Fitzwalter), Sam De Grasse (Prince John).

Released – October, 1922

Directed By – Allan Dwan

Produced By – Douglas Fairbanks Pictures

Distributed By – United Artists

Description – A silent classic that established Robin Hood as one of the most loved heroes in film history. With King Richard off fighting in the Crusades, his brother Prince John is left to rule his kingdom.

With encouragement from Sir Guy of Gisbourne, Prince John seeks total control of the kingdom and soon is revealed to be no more than a cruel and betraying tyrant. When Lady Marions’s word of John’s treachery reaches the Earl of Huntingdon, who has accompanied King Richard on the Crusades, he returns to England to oppose Prince John and return Richard to the throne.

It is now that the Earl assumes the identity of Robin Hood, champion of the oppressed, and with his band of loyal followers begins to “rob the rich, and give to the poor.” It doesn’t take long for these actions to get the attention, and draw the ire of Prince John leading to an exciting final confrontation.

NOTABLE: Robin Hood was the first motion picture to have a grand Hollywood premiere. The premiere was held, at the then, Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre.

This film was entirely financed and produced by Douglas Fairbanks for his own production company, Douglas Fairbanks Picture Corporation, which was jointly owned by Fairbanks, his wife Mary Pickford, D. W. Griffith, and Charles Chaplin.

Actor Alan Hale, Sr. was so effective in the role of Little John that he would play the character again in 1938’s The Adventures of Robin Hood , with Errol Flynn, and 1950’s Rogues of Sherwood Forest.

The castle built for this production is considered to be the largest Hollywood set built for a silent picture.

Orphans of the Storm

Friday, November 6th, 2009

Orphans of the Storm (1921)

Starring – Lillian Gish (Henriette Girard), Dorothy Gish (Louise Girard), Joseph Schildkraut (Chevalier de Vaudrey), Frank Losee (Count de Linieres), Katherine Emmet (Countess de Linieres), Monte Blue (Danton).

Released – December, 1921

Directed By – D.W. Griffith

Produced By – D.W. Griffith Productions

Distributed By – United Artists

Description – Taking place during the French Revolution, this is the story of the Girard sisters as played by the Gish sisters. Though the revolution itself never takes center stage, it is used to demonstrate “class conflict” among the citizens of France,

After Louise goes blind, she and her sister Henriette go to Paris in the hope that Louise’s blindness might be cured.

While there they become separated as Henriette is kidnapped by an aristocratic nobleman leaving Louise alone in the streets of Paris until she too is taken into a family of beggars.

The two suffer innumerable deprivations from both the beggars and the betraying, and self-serving aristocrats. Watch the drama unfold as Henriette falls in love while attempting to free herself and find her sister.

NOTABLE:  Though the plot may be outdated, the settings and the acting provide excellent examples of what can be done with a high-quality silent film. The facial expressions of silent screen legend Lillian Gish convey emotions that equal what any spoken word.

D.W. Griffith was considered the first of the “master directors,” with this film being his last pairing of both Gish sisters.