Beau Brummel (1924)

Article 4129 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 1-10-2013
Directed by Harry Beaumont
Featuring John Barrymore, Mary Astor, Willard Louis
Country: USA
What it is: Biopic

A military officer loses the woman he loves because he has no rank or fortune. He decides to take revenge by winnowing his way into the court, becoming a dandy and an avatar of fashion, and living a life of scandal. But things take a turn for the worse for him when he falls afoul of the Prince of Wales…

The last movie I saw from 1924 was HOT WATER, and like that one, this one saves all of its fantastic content for the last few minutes. But then, I didn’t really expect it to have much; after all, this is mostly a love story/biopic about George Bryan “Beau” Brummel, and with very few exceptions (movies about Rasputin, for example), these don’t really fall into genre territory. It’s an entertaining movie, though it gets a bit confusing and dull in the middle, but this may be partially due to the fact that my print isn’t complete; it runs only 80 minutes, whereas the full film ran two hours and fifteen minutes. It’s anchored by a solid performance by John Barrymore, and one thing I do admire about him as that even though he was considered one of the most handsome men in Hollywood, he wasn’t afraid to have himself made up to look decrepit; the final scenes where Brummel has become senile are played with real gusto and feeling by Barrymore. The last scene is also the most touching in the movie, especially when he is visited by his former manservant, who manages to break through the man’s senility at least for a few minutes. The fantastic content is that ghosts of several of the important characters appear in the last few moments; they may be part of someone’s imagination, but they are there in the movie nonetheless.

Billy’s Seance (1911)

Article 4078 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-14-2012
Director unknown
Featuring John R. Cumpson and Charles Arling
Country: USA
What it is: Comic revenge short

After attending an impressive seance, Billy decides he wants to hold one himself, which makes him the butt of jokes from his friends. Billy then plans revenge…

The seance has the table going pretty wild in the opening scenes, which is the part of the short that features the fantastic content. After that, it’s mostly a pretty thin slapstick gag involving people being shocked by electricity, the same sort of gag that popped up when I saw LE COURANT ELECTRIQUE. It’s all pretty ordinary and not particularly memorable.

The Brahmin and the Butterfly (1903)

aka La chrysalide et le papillon d’or
Article 4052 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-7-2012
Directed by Georges Melies
Featuring Georges Melies
Country: France
What it is: Trick short

A Brahmin lures a caterpillar into a cocoon, where it transforms into a butterfly. However, he makes the mistake of trying to capture the butterfly for his own.

I was expecting little more than another Melies trick short here, but it actually, in its own bare-bones way, tells a story about the error of trying to catch for ourselves what we cannot have. The tricks are a little offbeat this time, such as the effects for the giant crawling caterpillar and the flying butterfly. Though it’s certainly not one of his best, I rather enjoyed this simple little short.

Bob Kick, the Mischievous Kid (1903)

aka Bob Kick, l’enfant terrible
Article 4049 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Georges Melies
Featuring Georges Melies
Country: France
What it is: Trick short

Bob Kick drinks a bottle of booze and has hallucinations. He then jumps through a hoop and vanishes.

When you’re watching a silent three minute short, you don’t really expect much in the way of a plot. Still, this one seems rather random and pointless, with the first part setting up a situation that then plays no role in the second part of the movie. As a trick short, it all seems rather routine; Melies had already done the same tricks before, and this one adds nothing new. This isn’t one of the better examples of Melies’s oeuvre.

Bury Me an Angel (1972)

Article 4046 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-1-2012
Directed by Barbara Peeters
Featuring Dixie Peabody, Terry Mace, Clyde Ventura
Country: USA
What it is: Biker flick

A young woman vows vengeance when her brother is killed by an unknown gunman.

You can thank “The Motion Picture Guide” for having steered me towards this biker flick; for some reason beyond my understanding, they misclassified it as horror. I fully expected there to be no fantastic content to it, as none of my other sources list it. However, there is some; at one point in the proceedings, the characters encounter a witch who does appear to have some mystical powers; she can hold her hand in a fire and not get burned. The movie itself is mostly notable for having been directed by a woman and featuring a strong central female character, which was definitely a rarity for a biker flick. It also tries to have some meaningful psychological underpinnings. Unfortunately, the movie is a misfire; it’s badly written, poorly acted, and more than a little bit silly, especially during the scenes where it’s supposed to be serious. Nevertheless, the movie does appear to have a certain cult following, at least partially for its colorful ad line, “A howling hellcat humping a hot steel hog on a roaring rampage of revenge!”, which is certainly an awesome arrangement of artful alliteration. Still, in terms of its fantastic content, it’s marginal.

The Blasphemer (1921)

Article 4041 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 9-26-2012
Directed by O.E. Goebel
Featuring George Howard, Augusta Anderson, Irving Cummings
Country: USA
What it is: Christian morality tale

A stock market tycoon, intoxicated by his financial success, rejects God and claims that he himself is the agent of his own fate. However, he soon finds out that he is not quite as much the master of his fate as he thought…

I went into this Christian movie (produced by the Catholic Art Association) under the assumption that the fantastic content would involve some overt Christian miracles, but, as it turns out, the hand of God here mostly seems to work in the realm of melodramatic and unlikely plot twists; it would have been possible to tell the same basic story with all of overt Christianity removed, and it would have fit just fine into the “fall and reformation of a scoundrel” genre. The movie might have moved along quicker as well; the copy on Amazon Instant Video runs an hour and 48 minutes, and at least part of the reason it gets boring on occasion is that it will bring the action to a screeching halt so that it can deliver some messages. Hardly anything happens during the first half of the movie, and the flat, dull direction does little to hold the interest. However, the worst problem I had with the copy I saw wasn’t the fault of the original filmmakers at all; the musical soundtrack is one of those that feels as if it was carelessly slapped on without care or appropriateness, so you end up (for example) with sprightly happy music during a scene where a woman is being kidnapped by an Oriental white slavery racket. Even a weak silent movie deserves better care than that.

Still, since the movie lacks the overt miracles I was expecting, the question becomes whether it really qualifies for this project in terms of its fantastic content. It depends somewhat on how you interpret one scene; the tycoon-turned-derelict sees the martyrdom of a saint reenacted in a painting that comes to life. Is he imagining it or actually seeing it? The movie isn’t quite clear in that regard, so I suspect that this movie is at best only marginally fantastic. It’s probably best classified as a drama.

The Black Imp (1905)

aka Le diable noir
Article 4040 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 9-25-2012
Directed by Georges Melies
Featuring Georges Melies
Country: France
What it is: Tumbling imps in haunted hotel rooms

A traveler tries to settle in for the night in a room at the inn, unaware that the place is already home to a mischievous black demon who doesn’t care to share.

This short combines a couple of Melies’s favorite subjects; namely, that rooms at inns are hotbeds of paranormal activity and that all the troubles in our lives can be attributed to evil tumbling imps. There’s some fun to be had with this one, especially when the traveler finds himself being chased around the room by multiplying chairs. This is probably one of Melies’s funniest shorts.