Im Lebenswirbel 1918

Also known as In the Life Spine

German film with English subtitles

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Marriage between Margit and artist Erik Lind is interrupted by her infatuation with squire *Arvid Sund. She gives up the relationship because of Erik’s illness and death. Arvid’s brother however, brings the two back together.

Director: Heinz Schall
Writer: Louis Levy (screenplay)
Stars: Asta Nielsen, Bruno Eichgrün, Walter Wolffgram

 

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1912)

Mark David Welsh

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1912)‘Help! Help! That monster Hyde is in my master’s study!’

Keen to prove his theories on the duality of human nature, Dr Jekyll experiments on himself with untested drugs and transforms into his deadly alter-ego, Mr Hyde. The monster runs rampant, but the police are quickly closing in…

Robert Louis Stevenson’s cautionary tale of addiction and dodgy pharmaceuticals first hit the movie screen as a filmed stage play in 1908, a version now lost. Many silent adaptations followed and there seems to be some confusion among commentators as to which order they arrived in! However, it seems pretty clear that this short, made for the Nickelodeon circuit, is the oldest surviving example. Nickelodeons were small theatres located in local neighbourhoods that showed single-reel subjects like this 12-minute dash through the classic story’s highlights.

The film begins with a shot of Jekyll’s chosen text for a discussion with a colleague. This…

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Le charmeur 1907

 

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A Brahman stuffs a serpent into a cocoon, and a butterfly woman comes out. She makes more butterflies come out of the same cocoon till a whole crowd of them are swarming the jungle. When the Brahman tries to catch the queen she turns him into the serpent who slinks off into the jungle.

—Tornado_Sam

Director: Segundo de Chomón

Director: Segundo de Chomón

10 lost silent films that I’d love to see

Silents, Please!

As an art form, silent film lasted for a mere 40 years, c.1895-1935. It’s well known that the great majority of films from the silent era are now lost, whether due to destruction (either deliberate, as by many studios, or accidental, as the famous Fox fire of 1937), deterioration, or simple indifference and neglect. Survival percentages vary by country; Imperial Russia fares quite well, with about a sixth of the total production surviving1, whereas it is estimated that less that 5% of Japanese silent film production is extant2; in Australia, less than 10%.3  India has one of the worst film survival rates of all countries; of the 1700 silent films made in India, only 5 or 6 survive complete, with another 10 or 12 in fragments.4

As for the US, in 2013 a detailed study on American feature films was undertaken by David Pierce (also known…

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Tragedy of the street 1927

Also known as Dirnentragödie (1927) German silent movie

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Before road movies there were street films, a distinct cycle within German silent cinema. The essential ingredient – misalliance between bourgeois and slum dweller – is present here, though somewhat displaced by Asta Nielsen’s star persona. She plays an aging hooker who falls for handsome Felix, a student who has rowed with his parents and ventured into the lower depths. Dreaming of a new life, she ejects her pimp and invests her savings in a cake shop. Even without that title, though, you wouldn’t bet on a happy ending. Nielsen is a quite restrained sort of diva, and Rahn likewise soft pedals the melodrama, except for the grand finale. He died soon after making this, his contemporaries regretting the masterworks the cinema was thus denied. Well, maybe. ×

Director : Bruno Rahn
Music composed by : Felix Bartsch
Story by : Wilhelm Braun
Screenplay : Leo Heller , Ruth Goetz

Stars: Asta Nielsen, Hilde Jennings, Oskar Homolka

Sorry no English subtitles

Little Tich and his Big Boot Dance 1900

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Filmed in 1900 and released in 1903, this clip from director Clément Maurice, shows the English performer Little Tich performing his famous “Big Boot Dance”. Born Harry Relph, Little Tich was a 4 foot 6 inch (137 cm) tall English music hall comedian and dancer best known for his seemingly gravity-defying routine accomplished by the wearing of boots with soles 28 inches (71 cm) long. Originally gaining fame as a “blackface” artist, promoters on his 1887 U.S. tour made him drop the act (fearing the British accent would ruin the “illusion”) and so in its place Little Tich developed and perfected his Big Boot Dance, a full 100 years before Michael Jackson would lean in similar fashion for his “Smooth Criminal” music video. Returning to England in the 1890s, Little Tich made his West End debut in the Drury Lane pantomimes and toured Europe before setting up his own theatre company in 1895. He continued to star in popular shows until his death from a stroke in 1928 at the age of 60.