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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Hunchback of Notre Dame: 1923

   When someone hears the name, "The Hunchback of Notre Dame," they are probably reminded of the animated film made by Disney.  This is not that film.  If you have a mind similar to a vault of film archives, you may not have trouble remembering this, so-called, "cinematic classic," and if you don't know of it, well, that's where I come in.   Carl Laemmle directed this picture, and he would later move onto directing such films as "The Invisible Man," "The Phantom of the Opera," "Dracula," and "Frankenstein."  Wow.  I had no idea that I reviewed three of his films already!  check those out by clicking on the names of the films.  Or, don't, and just read this one.  Enjoy.

"The Hunchback of Notre Dame" was certainly a classic, but it could never have achieved that title without Lon Chaney.  It takes great skill to act a character with only three lines, and still have the audience notice you.  The physical job of Lon Chaney's acting was incredible.  He had it down!  Everything, from the jumping up and down frantically, to the sharp toothed scowl as he perched on the walls of the cathedral, pointing and shaking his fist accusingly.  It was all there, and with all of that it still didn't seem as though he was the main character.  The film plays out from different points of views.  You have the cathedral's point of view, which includes Quasimodo and Dom Claude , the peasants point of view, which includes Clopin and Esmeralda, and finally the (Government's?)  point of view, which includes the court, Phoebus, and (sort of) Esmeralda.  During the climax, all of these story lines collide.  It's a very effective technique to telling a story. 

  It doesn't focus too much on the Hunchback character, so much as the struggle of Paris society itself.  People are  hanged, there isn't too tight a grasp on the populous, and it's a bit too chaotic.  As we begin to learn more about each of the characters, so does Quasimodo's hatred begin to divide into certain areas of the society, instead of the society itself. The music plays a part in the story telling as well,  where the music gradually fits to the emotions of Quasimoto and less onto the rest of the population, as we begin to see that he isn't as evil as he looks.  It is the less disfigured people that seem more dangerous.

   Speaking of, "dangerous" and, "evil," lets talk about Jehan.  This guy is the meanest @#!*% ever!  He frames Quasimodo for a crime he was being forced to commit, he stabs Phoebus and thus frames Esmerelda for stabbing him in the back (literally), tries to get the court to, "ask the question," which I'll get into later, and finally kidnaps her to, "have his way with her!"  Now that is pretty mean!   I mean, look at him!  He's right there, circled in red, with the red cape.  Y'know how there are films that point out the villain almost instantly?  That one guy, that's hidden under a thick layer of good guys?  The one that's always telling the king what to do?  The one wearing black and red.....the colors of EVIL?  THAT is who this guy is!

   He's always lurking in the shadows, waiting to strike.  Waiting in an alley, for the precise moment where he can trip an old lady holding her groceries, or throw an angry cat on a priest, or slap Lon Chaney around.  He would do it!   An everything so stupid, so revoltingly jerk-like, so backhandedly backstabbing, and so purely evil could not be place next to how humanly evil this one man is!!!  ...Nawww! I'm just kidding!  The best villain ever is probably the devil from, "A Night on Bald Mountain."  But, I'm getting off track here.

    Lets now talk about, "The Question."  This is the act of forcing a victim to confess to his/her crimes in a court of put it lightly!  What it basically is, is this:  "Did you steal my chocolate, Bobby?"  "Why no, Billy!  I would never take someone's chocolate, you know that!"  "Alright then, Bobby...I'm going to have to whip you until you confess the way that I want you to, okay?"  "Sounds fair to me...OUCH!"  WHY MIDDLE AGES?!  WHY?!  "The Question" is the stupidest thing I have ever heard of!  "The act of forcing someone to confess in a court of law?!"  What about evidence given to prove someone right or wrong?  Doesn't that seem a little less...stupid?!  I mean man!  People in the middle ages were IDIOTS!  

   In conclusion, anyone in their right mind who has seen this film, probably already considers this a classic.  It's all really great stuff, and Lon Chaney is more than just icing on the film flavored cake.  I'm sure that the film wouldn't get the same credit that it does today, if Lon Chaney was not in this film.  I'm sure it would still be good, but he makes it so much better.  This is a very sad film, and ends on a bittersweet note.  It has a, "Phantom of the Opera" feel, where the disfigured are hated and the people on the ground make a mockery of the filth below them.  These two films are absolutely neck and neck when it comes to not only Lon Chaney's performance, but film itself.  I don't know, but when it comes to playing a disfigured, mistreated person that hides in huge places like a cathedral, or an opera house, Lon Chaney is the man.


             Next Review:  A Night on Bald Mountain  1940            

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Vampyr: 1932

   Here we go.  This is it.  Cinema has taken out the big guns!  It's, "Vampyr," a film that has been ranked to be the greatest horror film of all time,  and I wasn't even saving it!  I had no idea this film existed, until today!  That is, of course you researched a film called, "Let the Right one in," then you may already know that this film was the original version of that movie.  This film (to the best of my knowledge) is Danish, with English subtitles.  It is about a man who comes across an Inn, finding evidence of Vampires!  Enjoy.

   "Vampyr" is one of those films where a helpful, normal guy stumbles upon a terrible predicament and can't find it in his/her heart to abandon the situation.  It makes for the scenery and plot to be locked in. That is, until the end, where he runs away with the girl, leaving behind the horror related mishaps that had tormented them not but awhile ago.  I'm going to try my best to review this film without my opinions being altered by popular consensus.  Here we go.

   This was a really good movie, but not by conventional horror film standards.  There are no jump scares, or gruesome effects, or even allot blood (even though this is a vampire movie).  This film scares you in a different way, through the unknown.  Because everyone knows that the scariest things, are the ones that you cannot even seeeeeee.........  And it's true!  When your left in the dark, you are constricted to only four sensory perceptions!  And with a vampire going around feasting only on a diet of fresh neck, it makes it even more frightening if you can't see who it is.  To quote Scream, "THERE IS A VERY SIMPLE SYSTEM:  EVERYONE'S A SUSPECT!"  And that's especially accurate if you can't even see the guy.

   So many aspects about this film are top notch.  The acting is mature and serious, and there is allot of eerie scenery to work with. Almost every scene that takes place out side of the house is shot from inside the house, to give you this closed of, mysterious, and overall unsettling effect.  And it's not like this film has to, because there is so much detail with the structure, furniture, and decor of the house.  Everything about it is wonderfully frightening, without boasting about it.  In, "Psycho," there was a different way of executing this.  In that film, the inn, looked like an inn.  It didn't seem as though anything dramatic was going on in there, and Norman Bates also seemed like a generous and smart person.  It lures you in, the inn symbolizing a beacon of hope in the dark outside world.  But it is the opinion of the customer whether or not the world outside is dark, and whether or not he/she chooses to go into the beacon, tells something about their character.  But when they enter the premise, they are greeted with the very problem they have chosen to evade.  I suppose it means something like that.

   One aspect that I really appreciated from this film was the shadows.  They really mystified me to whether or not some of the characters were actual humans.  There is one scene where you see a man sitting down, and his shadow seemed to be moving around.  Then, when the shadow was finished, it sat down too, thus aligning it with the human.  Then the human stood up with the shadow and walked out of the shot.  It was really cool!  I'm still trying to figure out how they did that.  

   I would not say that this is the greatest horror film ever made.  However, it is a contender for attaining such a title.  It says allot about a film when you don't even see any glimpse of the killer, but enjoy it even more than if you had.  It mixes fiction and reality so well that you could be content looking at it either way.  There is a balance of mature, and serious acting, with a (seemingly) "historical" plot.  You can believe that it has happened, especially with excerpts from a book being told to the viewer in the hope of them learning little by little to what it is the residents of the house are up against. It's a good mystery film, a good horror film, has great suspense, and stupendous cinematic elements.  I liked it.


Next Review: Hunchback of Notre Dame  1923 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: 1920

   In 1984 a man named Robert  Louis Stevenson wrote a novel that would later become a legend in literary work.  The story was about a doctor that attempts to concoct a formula to unleash the dark side of a human being.  The doctor tries it on himself, thus transforming him into the doctor's killer within, Mr. Hyde.  I have not yet read the novel, or seen any remake of this film.  But, with that said, I will have a fresh look on the first adapted film of this so-called, "literary genius ."  Welcome to my review of, "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" from 1920!


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"Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," is an intricate tale of a man torn between oppressive order and chaotic freedom.  Dr. Henry Jekyll was a man who wanted more after being tempted by his fiance's father.  So, basically Henry has chosen the path of the Disney princess, where their care-free life is interrupted by wanting only one thing:  more!  And so, the doctor concocts a drug which fully exposes the evil side of a human being.  And, he actually likes it!  There's no denying anything readers.  There has to be one point in your existence where you have wanted to be pure evil for one  But, what if you could get away with it?  ...That's what I thought...

    There is allot of dialog for this film, especially since this was made in 1920!  I think that they might have been taking some of the dialog from the novel.  I suppose this was a good  idea, but this film might have emulated the novel a bit too well.  The main reason that a book is turned into a film is usually because they want to tell the story in their own way.  I think that they did this, but the fact that the dialog might have been taken directly from the novel is simply a minor flaw.

    Now, in every Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde film there is always a transformation scene.  In the more popular film from 1931 starring Frederic March as both Jekyll and Hyde, they had extra makeup on March's face that would only show up in shadows.  So, there were almost no cuts when the changes to his face were taking place.  It was a really great idea, but this film had a different one.  They used a number of dissolves and and clever movements to conceal each makeup change.  This was also a good idea and, in the finished project, it worked really well.  However, Hyde looks a bit strange, but it's really refreshing to see a different visualization of how Hyde might have looked then.

   Something that was really surprising to look at was Hyde's sensual nature.  I know that this was just one of the qualities that Hyde has, but to see something like this in a film made in the 20's is a little abnormal.  Don't get me wrong, it's nothing to give an R-rating for, and the film does get a whole lot better when Hyde becomes more aggressive, it's just a bit strange that you would see something like this in a film this old.  But, to be honest, I kind of like it.  I gives this film allot of differences when compared to  other films that came around during that time.  It truly makes this movie a special one.

 If you watch this film, you might get a little bored with not seeing Hyde to much in the beginning.  But if you wait a little longer, the chaos simply grows from the very moment Jekyll becomes Hyde.  That's what I enjoyed most about this movie:  the momentum.  From no action whatsoever during the start, there is so much chaos in the end.  You need something like that with a Jekyll and Hyde film.  Jekyll, who was quite content with discussing various topics with Miriam's father in the beginning, ends with Hyde killing him.  And, to be honest, I didn't see it coming.  It isn't every day that you witness a deranged psycho biting a mans neck, tackling him and beating him to death, all while classical music plays.

  You know, I think I might have figured out something about this film that's actually worth writing about.  Chilling organ music is played around Dr. Jekyll, but when Mr. Hyde is on the screen, calm classical music is played.  IT ALL FITS TOGETHER NOW!  After being classified as a good natured human by one of the characters, Jekyll falls into a Disney princes faze, "of wanting so much more" and creates,  "Dr. Jekyll's Super Secret Sinful Serum."  He enjoys being evil.  He likes to set off chaos!  The madness is the one thing that, "calms the shakes."  But you know all too well that whatever it is that does that, is a drug! (BUM BUM BUMMMM!)  Jekyll becomes addicted to his serum, and in a wonderfully ironic twist he transforms into a giant robot as a side effect of withdrawal from the drug, and begins to fire lasers from his eyes, thus destroying the home he grew to cherish.  I'm sorry,that information should not have been given.  You may need to watch the film to find out the ending.  But, seriously, this film was fantastic!  With chilling organ music, frightening facial features and crazy, perverted antics, "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" was truly sublime!  Check it out at the bottom of this review, and thanks for reading!


Next Review:  Vampyr  1931


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Golem: How he Came into the World: 1920

   The Golem is a creature created from Jewish folklore.  This story tells of a Rabbi who, after seeing an omen the stars one night, builds a creature out of clay to protect his people.  He uses his, "Jew-voo-doo" to bring the clay model to life.  The monster rebels, and this is where things get good.  The Golem, is played by Paul Wegener, who also directed the film.  It's interesting to find a German film, re-enacting Jewish folklore.  If it were about two decades later, making something like this, would have been unheard of!  Anyway here is my review of, "The Golem:  How he came into this world."

Wow.  The Golem.  You know, that's all you really need in your city.  Just a huge, lumbering guy who will do whatever you write on paper and give to him, and protect your town from certain doom.  To @#!*% with the national guard!  Just get a Rabbi to go ahead and build one for you!  But little did the people know that a beast like The Golem, would be very hard to tame.  But how could a servant be difficult to keep under control, when his main purpose is to protect the very city he was built in!  Well, that's what you find out in this film.  

   Even though this is a movie that has a subtle, architecturally expressionistic feel to it, I would still put it up against films like, "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari."  When something like that expresses more through all of the mediums of film, this film focuses purely on the characters, and I believe that doing something like that is a bold move.  German expressionism was a form of film that was on a terrifically extreme side of film making.  It wasn't about how much you could explain with dialog, rather how much you could emphasize  in a few seconds of movement.  It truly was the extreme art form of the 20's and 30's.

   Both the lighting and sound are stupendous, especially for a film that is this old.  There are certain qualities that a German expressionist film must require to meet this genre's standards, and good lighting is one of them.  It is very important to cast shadows or create a bright entrance in some areas, even if it is realistically impossible.  The lighting is symbolic to the mood the atmosphere is trying to conduct.  The sound is not that special, and its only for orchestral purposes, but nonetheless, it is a very high quality. 

   This movie has a very real, and gritty look to everything around it.  The textures to everything are very interesting to look at, which is something that I don't find too common in films this old.  And I know that The Golem's hair to the right of me --> doesn't look too real, but that's because he was constructed of clay.  Well, that's one way to take the easy way out with costume design, but I suppose I buy it.  For 1920, this design is pretty convincing, especially coupled with the rest of his body, which is shown in the previous picture. 

   "The Golem" is a very good film.  There is allot of suspense as well as some interesting visuals.  I would rather watch films like Nosferatu or Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, but if those were the first two places in a contest, I would give this film to the third.  "The Golem" is an interesting movie for one simple reason.  This was a German film made to depict Jewish folklore.  That seems really fascinating to me that something like that can exist.  To the best of my knowledge, this is correct, with a few minor flaws, but nothing strays from the point.  I think I would have liked it better if he had a love interest instead of two other people having this whole Romeo and Juliet thing.  You know, both from different sides of conflict, but sharing a forbidden love.  But I suppose having the monster have a love interest would be too much like the Frankenstein monster's case.  These two stories are very different, and judging by the fact that I haven't yet seen, "Frankenstein":  1931 (GASP)  it will be hard to decide which one is better.  But don't worry, I'm saving that one up for next Halloween!  Good-night everybody!


Next Review:  Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde  1920     

Friday, December 9, 2011

A Trip to the Moon: 1902

   At the peak of Georges Melies' film career, he created one of his greatest masterpieces entitled, "Le Voyage Dans La Lune" or, "A Trip to the Moon."  I believe that this was one of his greatest creations.  This was just a small taste of interplanetary travel that only mystified others during the early nineteenth century.  The creativity is so tremendous that, it makes you wonder why nothing like it's ever been remade.  Georges had such a knack for creating this dream-like atmosphere, and it is in this film that this quality is the most prominent.  The fact that you can see everything as though a drawing, is a wonderful concept to behold (and because of the detail, this technique actually works). 

   The story tells of six or so magicians/astronomers/space travelers who take off to land on the man in the moon (literally).  I'll have to admit that it was an incredibly magical concept at the time; going to another planet. And it is this film that treats it as such.  Now, although there is some dream-like sense to this film, there really is no competition when going up next to a film like, "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari."  With something like that, there are too many superior techniques that are present in that film compared to this one, although their concepts and executions are all fantastic. 

I'm glad that this film was made because it sheds light onto one of Georges' dreams.  I think that he may have wanted to visit the moon, and if he was alive today, he may have been disappointed that not all of the ideas that he had in his film  were present in the actual experience of space travel.  Although this is certainly not a realistically scientific film, it was an iconic and creative one at that.  People have always wondered what the future has to hold, but nothing really turns out exactly as you picture it in one year.  

   The only single idea that should be truly believed in, is whats going to happen in 2015.  I can't wait to get my car a hover conversion advertised by Goldie Wilson the third, buy some self tying shoes, a hover board (the Pit Bull, obviously), a self adjusting, self drying jacket, and lets not forget the Grey's Sports Almanac so that I can steal it back from the 1955 counter part of Biff that received it from the 2015 counter part of Biff that stole the time machine in order to create an alternate 1985 time-tangent where he takes over Hill Valley, and burn it, but not after saving the other 1985 time-tangent counterpart of myself playing, "Earth Angel" and "Johnny Be Good" at the, "Enchantment Under the sea Dance", and finally running out of the tunnel that I was in when the Biff from 1955 was chasing me to watch the DeLorean get struck by lightning and receive a letter a few seconds later explaining that doctor Emmett Brown, has accidentally traveled to his favorite historical year, of 1885!!!!!!!!!   

Happy trails readers, in what ever you imagine to get there in.


Next Review:  The Golem:  How he Came Into the World  1920

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Vanishing Lady: 1896

   You could say that Georges Melies was the first magician ever to be captured on film.  His technique of stopping the camera, removing or adding an object, and starting it again revolutionized the film making business and changed the way people thought about movies altogether.  It wasn't about how well you could record reality or visualize a story, but how different you could make film from a live theater performance.  The fact that a human could perform, "real magic" was what made Georges different from other film makers.

   Now with better musical accompaniment, this film focuses mostly on a magic show being performed for Georges' audience.  I think that the fact that a man could accomplish this effect and showcase it for a magic show, tells something about Georges.  I think that just looking at yourself in a film doing the things that he did made him feel powerful.  There was definitely an essence of narcissism with some of his work, but in a different way.  I think that making films like this gave him allot more strength and questions to how much farther we could go when it came to  making movies.  

      It's funny because I've seen some films where this technique is used, but it's used so much worse than this short.  This is basically it.  Just a man making a woman disappear in the most efficient way possible.  By putting a tablecloth over her head and saying, "presto!"  Granted there are other ways, but I think Georges went for the theatrical approach.  However this is not, "strictly speaking" a movie.  There is no plot whatsoever, but I don't think there was supposed to be.  And I don't think that was what Georges wanted film to be in the beginning.  It might have just been there to replace live theater, or at least make it much easier to view such things multiple times.  If your interested in the renovation of magic simply involving a trick camera rather than anything slight-of-hand, I suppose this is for you.


Next review:  A Trip to the Moon  1902 

A Terrible Night: 1896

   Our next film to review is Georges Melies', "A Terrible Night."  This is not to be confused with a film of the same name made in 1913.  This one has to do with a man trying to get some sleep but a rather large bug seems to be preventing him from doing just that.  So, the man must fight the, "bed bug", and the others that follow.  That's it.  Enjoy.

   This certainly was a terrible night (although I've had much worse), and a funny one at that.  I suppose Georges films are meant to be looked at as though a moving picture.  Just an instance in time.  The only one that the viewer might need to worry about.  This film used the simple task of sleeping and gave an issue for the person sleeping to deal with.  Now, I could be wrong with that statement, but what I believe is that film, to Georges, was meant to be something more than a recorded theater act.  This may have been the reason that film was made; to support and visualize creativity and Georges Melies was one of the first people to do that.  

   There is a very unique simplicity to his films that emulates something more to than just living normally.  People like to see other people succeed when watching a film (most of the time), and when your presented with a problem such as a bug, when you overcome it, you can then be at peace.  It is then that you can sleep.  You may have noticed this bug---->        on the right end of the screen.  It is very interesting to see an effect that looks surprisingly real for even today.  To make every other object seem to fit reality exept for this one large bug, raises the wonder to how it came to be in the first place.  At one minuet long, you will never not have time to look at this piece in Georges Melies' collection of films. 


Next Review:  The Vanishing Lady  1896

Friday, December 2, 2011

The House of the Devil: 1896

   Here we have, "The House of the Devil," by the first film genius, Georges Melies.  This film was claimed to be the very first horror film ever made.  I suppose that, "Nosferatu" was the first legitimate horror film and it may have been the very film to perfect the genre, but this was the very beginning.  People should have figured out before hand that someone like this would make films this groundbreaking for the time.  Let us dive right into the very first horror film from the very first creative mind of film making.

   "The House of the Devil" is certainly a reliable candidate to be the very film that started the horror film genre rolling.  It appears as though there are some comedic elements to the films, "plot," such as the confused and frightened residents of the house.  It is very realistic to how these people act.  It's as if these are normal people, in a house, but way too scared to think. You have this guy that breaks into a house and just messes with the people inside it.  I think that it gave Georges an opportunity to utilize his film splicing ability.  There are many instances where Georges takes a character that has, "mystical powers," and puts him in a situation (or doesn't) where he has to use his powers to either reek havoc or entertain the audience.

   The plot is not something that you generally need to focus on with a film made in the 1800's, but I do think that it was this film maker that added something new to the table when it came to the art of film making.  Georges Melies used creative imagery to tell a story.  Instead of trying to tell a story using early sub titles or realism, he chose the extreme alternative.  His films are literally moving abstract pictures.  This film in particular, was the first to depict the Bram Stoker-lore of how vampires worked.  They turn into bats, freak people out, and have cross-fobia.  Georges Melies was a titan in the creative film industry.  May it always stay that way.

To humble beginnings, my friends.


Next Review:  A Terrible Night 1896