#7- Broken Blosssoms

quick recap: This is a heartwarming tale about a father’s love for his daughter. There are kittens and unicorns and happiness all around. That’s what I told myself at 1 in the morning after watching this movie so that I could actually get some sleep. It’s really about a father who brutally harms his daughter frequently and who later beats her to death. Before dying, a young Chinese man (who is not at all chinese) falls in love with her. Upon discovering the young girl’s body, the man shoots the father and then stabs himself with a sword.

fun (?) fact: Liquor stores in Texas close at 9 so I couldn’t get tequila like I wanted after watching this movie

my thoughts: To say this movie is depressing is an understatement. During the first beating scene, I had the worst knot in my stomach and it didn’t go away after that. The love story between ‘Chinky’ (His nickname in the film. Seriously. Look it up.) and Lucy was really sweet. Also, wow, Lillian Gish was amazing. Beyond amazing. I thought she was sort of odd looking in Griffith’s other films but she is so beautiful and innocent in this film.

making herself smile for her father

The most heartbreaking scene is at the end of the movie when Lucy’s father is getting ready to beat her for being with a Chinese man. Lucy locks herself in the closet and the look on her face and the emotions she showed are so real. And that’s what made this movie so difficult to get out of my mind last night. The scenes were so realistic, save for the drunken father’s Popeye-esque scowl.

not Chinese at all. Kind of ruined his acting for me

Final review: I suppose I should figure out what this part means. I think this will be my opinion, how I felt about the movie and not necessarily how you might feel. In this instance, I give it a 5/5 because of its lingering effect on me.

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#6- The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

quick recap: This is a flashback story about a man named Francis who goes through a terrifying experience. He goes with his friend to a fair and meets. Dr. Caligari who has a cabinet. Thus the title. Inside the cabinet is a somnambulist (sleepwalker) who can see the future, according to Caligari. Francis’s friend asks the sleepwalker, Cesare, when he will die and is told he will be dead by dawn. This comes true later on as well as a few other strange murders. It is revealed that Cesare is doing the killing, under the guide of Caligari. Francis heads to the local insane asylum to figure out some more information and finds out that Caligari is the director. It is also revealed that he is obsessed with a monk named Caligari who controlled a somnambulist who also murdered. After it is revealed that Cesare is dead, the doctor goes insane and is committed to his own asylum. The end? NO! There is a twist!

Fun (?) fact: This movie introduced the idea of a twist ending in cinema.

My thoughts: The very first thing I noticed about this movie is the set. It feels more like a nightmarish play than a movie.

Beware jagged lines!

In many ways, I felt like everyone was trying too hard to be shocking and scary. The makeup was over the top as well as the expressions. On the other hand, it definitely set the mood. If you eliminate all the dramatic elements, the story itself is akin to a Twilight Zone episode. 92 YEAR OLD SPOILER ALERT: turns out, Francis, Cesare, and his fiancee are all residents at the local asylum and ‘Caligari’ is their doctor. It was just a story! I’m a sucker for twist endings, so this gave the movie some points.

Final review: 3 out of 5. The movie is really short so it doesn’t hurt to check it out. It’s interesting to see the birth of a now common cinematic element, back when no one saw the ending coming. I’m talking to you, Shyamalan.

Where I watched it: Netflix instant

#5- Intolerance

Quick recap: It’s about intolerance. The end.

Oh, you want more? It’s actually a movie with 4 different stories spanning thousands of years. It’s still about intolerance though. First story is about the fall of Babylon, second is Jesus because why not, third is the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre and the fourth is a modern story about jealous old women. Or something. Did I mention the theme was intolerance? And just in case you thought this would be fun and light hearted, there is a woman rocking the cradle of Humanity in between scenes.

Have to say this creeped me out a little bit

fun (?) fact– This film was DW Griffith’s response to Birth of a Nation because he totally didn’t think it was racist. Interesting to note that this movie does not feature African-Americans either. Lesson learned?

My thoughts– Ok, so this film was a tad bit preachy. I started watching it at 11 at night thinking that I would maybe watch an hour and then go to bed. Somehow I ended up watching the entire 3 1/2 hours. What can I say? This film is impressive on all accounts. Griffith was so detailed for all 4 story lines, even changing the music to reflect the time period. It was also an easy film to get through because the stories are interwoven. When I started getting a little tired of one, the creepy Humanity lady would come on and I would breathe a sigh of relief. I’ll rank the stories by how they kept my interest:

4. Jesus because it’s been over done. It’s also the shortest story so maybe even Griffith felt he was a little preachy.

3. St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre- I knew absolutely nothing about this and read up on it after the movie

2. the modern story- The Dear One (she didn’t have a name) really knows how to act. She is featured in many of Griffith’s films. It was predictable but also a good lesson, even now

1. fall of Babylon- I can’t believe the amount of detail involved! Each uniform looked painstakingly made and the wall of Babylon was most impressive. Plus, the Mountain Girl was amazing. I could have watched her for the entire 3 hours.

Final Review- 5/5 Watch it. I was hesitant going into this movie because I did not like Birth of a Nation but ended up loving it.

where I watched it: Netflix instant

#4- Les Vampires

Quick recap: Cue the Sad Trombone or Happiness Flute, depending on your preference, but this movie did not in fact contain any vampires. There is a group of villains who do all of their schemes at night though. The ‘movie’ is actually 10 episodes built around Investigator Philipe Guerande and his friend Mazamette. Each part has the criminals plotting something and then Guerande and Mazamette catch them in some way, usually without realizing it.

Fun (?) Fact: This is considered to be one of the longest movies ever made, clocking in at roughly 6 1/2 hours. I dispute this because when it was released in theaters, it was broken up into episodes over a year. It’s more of a mini series than a movie you would watch all at once.

My thoughts: Although it took me over a year to finish Les Vampires, I really enjoyed it for several reasons. First of all, there were some surprisingly violent scenes and an interesting mystery. I could see how later thriller movies evolved from this film. I imagine audiences at the time loved it as well. Secondly, if you are looking for a stereotypical silent movie, this is it. The deaths are long and drawn out, the actors talk for a long time and then the cue cards show one or two words to sum it up and the music guides you. Last reason Les Vampires was interesting:

Irma Vep

Irma Vep is one of the main villains and Musidora, who plays her, does the job perfectly. She is calculating and heartless and so smart. I was genuinely surprised how she is not portrayed as some woman caught up in the mess, but perfectly capable of handling herself.

Final Review: 4/5 If it wasn’t so long, I would totally give it a 5. Episodes are all different lengths so just jump in and watch when you have time.

Where I watched it: http://www.archive.org as well as Youtube