Faust (1910)

FAUST (1910)
Article 4188 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 3-27-2013
Directed by Enrico Guazzoni
Featuring Ugo Bazzini, Alfredo Bracci, Giuseppe Gambardella
Country: Italy
What it is: Dealings with the devil

Faust sells his soul to the devil for youth and pleasure, and falls for the beautiful Marguerite.

I’m making some guesses on the credits above; the IMDB listing for this has a problem because it mixes up credits for three different productions of the story, and since this is the Italian version from Cines, I picked out the Italian names from the cast, and hope I got it right. It’s probably the most elaborate telling of the story I’ve encountered that predates Murnau’s take on the story. Beside that, I’d say the most striking facet of this version is the extreme theatricality of the acting, especially from the actor playing Mephistopheles; if this weren’t a silent movie, I’m sure all the actors would be shouting their lines at the top of their lungs to reach the rafters. Unfortunately, the theatricality becomes more annoying than fun, and given the fact that the production is somewhat flat, this tends to make it one of the less appealing versions of the story. I wonder what the other 1910 versions of the story were like.

Freitag, der 13 (1949)

FREITAG, DER 13 (1949)
aka Friday the 13th
Article 4174 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 3-7-2013
Directed by Erich Engels
Featuring Fritz Kampers, Angelika Hauff, Fita Benkhoff
Country: Germany
What it is: German “old dark castle” movie

A lord fears that rumors that his castle is haunted will keep him from selling it. He decides to have guests stay in a supposedly haunted room to prove that it isn’t haunted, but the guests disappear overnight…

Here’s another one I’ve managed to retrieve from my “ones that got away” list, and like many of the other foreign films on that list, I was only able to find a copy without English dubbing or subtitling. Fortunately, I was able to find at least a cursory plot description of the basic premise; unfortunately, exactly how the whole story plays out remains a bit of a mystery to me. I will say this much about it; it seems like a German variation on the “old dark house” motif, albeit one that doesn’t involve the reading of a will. Still, those familiar with the basic motif will guess early on the big secret of the room. There’s a few atmospheric scenes, and at least two sequences do manage to entertain despite the language barrier. One cleverly directed scene has a window being closed upon the audience, with the sound quality changing so that it feels we’re listening from the other side of a window. Another moment that comes through is a revelation about an inspector that appears in the middle of the movie; I was able to discern what the joke was concerning him despite the language barrier. Though I can’t give a meaningful review of the movie, my overall impression was that the movie was merely okay.

Flowers and Trees (1932)

Article 4137 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 1-23-2013
Directed by Burt Gillett
No voice cast
Country: USA
What it is: Disney Silly Symphony

Two young trees strike up a romance, but a jealous tree stump, angry at having been rejected, sets fire to the forest.

This is a Disney short from the era when they were the dominant force in cartoon shorts. This was the first three-strip Technicolor cartoon and it netted Disney the first of his 32 Oscars. It’s a charming piece of whimsy, with dancing anthropomorphic trees and flowers filling up the screen. The story is simple, but the story isn’t really the point; it’s the excellent and innovative animation that makes this one, as well as its fine use of music.

Fugitive Apparitions (1904)

aka Les apparitions fugitives
Article 4122 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 1-1-2013
Directed by Georges Melies
Featuring Georges Melies
Country: France
What it is: Magic trick short

A magician makes a woman appear and disappear.

This is another of Melies’s magician shorts, which I’ve discussed before. About the only surprise in this one is that Melies opts for fade-ins and fade-outs for his tricks rather than the substitutions that he usually used. I suspect he may have been experimenting with a new technique or trying to find new wrinkles in an old one. Whatever his intention, this one’s a pretty minor entry of his, and not one of his essential works.

The Frog (1908)

THE FROG (1908)
aka La grenouille
Article 4113 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 12-23-2012
Directed by Segundo de Chomon
Featuring Julienne Mathieu
Country: France
What it is: Spectacle trick short

A woman summons a frog from a fountain, which she then kisses. She takes his place in the fountain, which then turns into a variety of objects, including a giant frog, the head of an old man, and a variety of carousels.

There’s no real plot to this one; it’s basically a premise designed to show a variety of tableaux enhanced by special effects. Chomon may have borrowed many of his special effects tricks from Melies, but he does appear to have his own unique vibe, and I sense that he enjoyed making these movies. This is not one of his better works, but it is mildly entertaining.

The Four Troublesome Heads (1898)

aka Un homme de tetes
Article 4112 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 12-22-2012
Directed by Georges Melies
Featuring Georges Melies, and parts of Georges Melies
Country: France
What it is: Early trick short

A magician detaches his own head three times so he can sing a song in four-part harmony. The results leave something to be desired.

Apparently Georges Melies’s still-attached head is one of the four in question, as he only has three disembodied heads to contend with in this early trick short. It’s quick fun, and, at only one minute’s length, efficient. This is one of his most memorable trick shorts.

The Flower Fairy (1905)

aka La fee aux fleurs
Article 4110 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 12-19-2012
Directed by Gaston Velle
Cast unknown
Country: France
What it is: Magic fluff

A woman waters her windowsill and flowers magically appear, attracting butterflies. Eventually a large flower opens up to reveal the face of the woman, and she bows and makes her exit. Oops, I just gave away the ending…

I don’t really expect much in the way of gravitas when watching shorts from the silent era, especially when they run about one minute long. But even by those standards, this is a piece of airy fluff. It practically dissipates while you’re watching it. I’d say it’s about as close as I’ve come to watching no movie at all for this series, but if you’re keen on flowers, fairies and butterflies, you could do worse.