Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Fairbanks and Chaney and Veidt (oh my)!

Catching up on some recorded movies while the cable's out (just don't spoil me on True Blood)!

First, we have

The Mark of Zorro (1920)

Most folks already know the mythos, since it's been remade so many times: a masked, Robin Hood-style character defends the common people against corrupt government officials.  Because it's such a familiar story, parts of it that were probably interesting in 1920 come across a bit dull.  However, and this is a BIG however, once Douglas Fairbanks takes over, it's anything but dull!  He plays Don Diego (the daytime alter-ego of Zorro) as strange and effete, constantly pulling little magic tricks in an attempt to impress Lois Lane Lolita (Marguerite de la Motte, who could pass for Dolores Costello).  Lolita is only there because her father wishes her to marry money, and finds Diego boring and awkward.  This only gets worse after a chance run-in with Zorro, who steals her heart.  Little does she know!  *wink wink*

This was the first time I got to see the legendary Fairbanks in action, and oh, those stunts!  Amazing!  At one point I wrote in my notebook "grandfather of parkour".  I was duly impressed by his strength and finesse.  (Hey, that rhymed!)
Silly little thing that I loved:  watch Marguerite de la Motte's hands in the closing scene.  Hee!

I give this one: 

Next one up is

The Ace of Hearts (1921)

A drama with an interesting premise:  a Secret Society exists to rid the world of those who make the world worse instead of better.  The soldier of the Cause, as it were, is chosen via a deck of cards - he who chooses the Ace of Hearts must kill "the man who has lived too long". 

The Society is composed of nine (in numerology, a number of completion) - one woman, Lilith (Leatrice Joy), and eight men, two of whom (Lon Chaney and John Bowers) are in love with her.  She feels no affection for anything but the Cause, until Forrest (Bowers) draws the "lucky" card.   She warms to him and they marry, much to the anguish of Farallone (Chaney, who is just heart-rendingly pathetic in his scenes on the steps).  Love changes a person, however, and suddenly both Forrest and Lilith are unsure of what they're about to do.  Will they still carry out the assassination?  Will Farallone help them, or will his bitterness cause a rift? 

I really liked this movie.  Yes, it was predictable, and hugely overacted (especially by Joy), but it was different than the usual "boy meets girl" plots, and the ending is terrific.   I especially enjoy when Chaney gets to play a man rather than a monster, and uses that beautiful face of his to tell the story just as well as when he's in prosthetic makeup.

I give this one:

The last film I watched before the power went out (of course) was

The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1920)

Aaaaaaand then the lights went out.

At the top of my notebook in big block letters:  CREEPY.

The plot has so many twists and turns that you will get dizzy (in a good way) so I will just say this:  Dr Caligari (Werner Krauss) has a booth at the annual carnival, presenting Cesare the Somnambulist (which literally means "sleepwalker", but in this movie is more like a zombie).  He sleeps day and night but is still able to tell your fortune upon a command from Dr C.  Two young men (Friedrich Feher and Hans Heinrich v. Twardowski) visit the booth and one asks when he is going to die.  "Before dawn tomorrow," replies Cesare (a very young Conrad Veidt).  Sure enough, Alan (Heinrich) is found dead the next morning.   Francis (Feher) rushes to tell Jane (Lil Dagover, who looks like a cross between Theda Bara and Siouxie Sioux), the woman they are both madly in love with, then off to the police.  Meanwhile, we see Dr Caligari feeding a still-sleeping Cesare, sitting up in his cabinet/casket...

So much has been said about the German Expressionist sets, but they really are striking and heighten the sense of eerie claustrophobia. (An aside: "crooked" is often used to describe the occult.)  They make the film, hands down.

I can't describe any more.  You have to see this.  If you are a fan of modern fare by Tim Burton, you will love the sets.  The plot blows away most of today's "horror thrillers".  It is spooky, nightmarish, and absolutely riveting.   Look for the scene where Caligari staggers through the streets while chased by his own horrible thoughts, quite literally.

I give this one: 


Matthew Coniam said...

Interesting. That Chaney one sounds great. I don't think I've ever heard of it before, though the plot is weirdly like a totally unconnected novel I've just finished reading...
Why is the ending terrific? (I don't mind spoilers...)

Flapper Flickers + Silent Stanzas said...

Hi Matthew!

It's terrific because even though you kind of know what's coming, you still don't expect it. That's all you're getting from me ;)

Douglas Fairbanks said...

Thank you ever so much for your kind words. You appreciated not only my stunt work, but my artful distinctions between Don Diego and the Big Zed.

You've got an eye, you!

I note that you later observed:

Chaney, who is just heart-rendingly pathetic in his scenes

Cut out "in his scenes."

The man was just apthetic. A true waste, and just a small, pathetic man. And a damned poor actor, to boot.

We used to watch him in films with the sound . . . not recorded . . . and say rude things.

Anyway, thanks again for your love. . . .

-- Yours.

Douglas Fairbanks said...

Sorry that I typed poorly. You excuse me, I hope; I haven't typed in a long, long time.

Flapper Flickers + Silent Stanzas said...

Mr Fairbanks (may I call you Doug?),

Admittedly I know little about you and your relationship with Chaney, but I'm stumped. I've found him to be a wonderful actor!

Artman2112 said...

i have yet to see Ace of Hearts but i love Chaney and will watch him in anything.
Fairbanks is indeed a hoot in Zorro and its quite a lot of fun to see the contrast between his dashing hero and the eternally fatigued sissy Diego, lol. his stunts really are amazing! now you must see: Robin Hood, The Three Musketeers and The Black Pirate, for that matter also Don Q Son of Zorro, the ending alone will knock you out!
we def part ways on Caligari. while i find it visually fascinating, it really bored me to tears. i had to force myself to finish it. Veidt is a tremendous actor tho! i grabbed the Hands of Orlac off TCM last week and i'm looking forward to seeing that one.

nice post!

Matthew Coniam said...

But that's left me even more confused than I was before!

Ah well.
Nice to see Dougie getting out and about again though.

Flapper Flickers + Silent Stanzas said...

Matthew, check your email. We can't have you confused! ^_^

Little Blue Mouse said...

Hi Jennifer, It's such a long time since I made the apple cosy I'd forgotten what I did, but looking at the tutorial again I think it was something like this:
Cast on 12 stitches
1st row all Purl
2nd row K1 M1 K2 M1 K2 M1 K2 M1 K2 M1 K2 M1 K1 (18 stitches)
3rd row all Purl
4th row K1 M1 K4 M1 K2 M1 K4 M1 K2 M1 K4 M1 K1 (24 stitches)
continue in the same manner increasing 6 stitches on each Knit row to 48 stitches
Purl one row
Knit one row
P2tog P14 P2tog P14 P2tog P14
K2tog K13 K2tog K13 K2tog K13
Continue in the same manner decreasing 3 stitches each row to 15 stitches
cast off
It was a bit trial and error though, so I'm not sure exactly.
Let me know how you get on.

Flapper Flickers + Silent Stanzas said...

Thanks so much, LBM! I'll be sure to let you know how it comes out, for better or worse. ;)