Movie reviews for movies released theatrically in 1928.
1. The Last Command, directed by Joseph von Sternberg (10/10)
Though the plot is slightly ridiculous (well, one element of the plot is) and some of the “dialogue” (on the cards) is pretty terrible, this is a remarkable Hollywood film, and it is no wonder that it was made by a German (well, Austrian). First, there is the metaness of the whole project. Is this the first Hollywood film about Hollywood? Then there are the shots, some of which are amazing for their era (on the other hand, the toy train is pretty bad) and most of which show a level of composition rarely seen in the 20s outside of German cinema, Chaplin or Keaton. The modern score wasn’t very good, but I can hardly blame the film for that, can I? As classic as a silent film can get.
2. The Passion of Joan of Arc, directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer (10/10)
This is quite the impressive film. It is probably the source of the European art film cliche of endless closeups. As such, it might be the biggest promoter of the closeup of the silent era. Dreyer has some great shots/angles and great movements. And the score that has been written after the fact is pretty damn great as well. A must-see for silent movie geeks.
3. The Circus, directed by Charles Chaplin (9/10)
In retrospect, I worry that I underrated this film in relation to some of the other films of the time. I think that it is Chaplin’s most technically adept film to date (only ever surpassed in his career, perhaps, by Modern Times) and so I worry that maybe I have overrated The Gold Rush or Sunrise or something like those in relation to this. But I would have to watch all again to find out. The scene with the mirrors is particularly amazing.
4. The Fall of the House of Usher, directed by Jean Epstein (9/10)
Atmospheric…possibly the definitive version.
5. Steamboat Bill Jr., directed by Chas. F. Reisner (9/10)
Hilarious and it’s like a class in slapstick, so many of these jokes have become de rigeur for physical comedy. It feels like it’s the source of much great slapstick.
6. The Man Who Laughs, directed by Paul Leni (8/10)
The origin of the Joker? Seriously, I think so. The main character has a permanent smile on his face. And that’s one reason to see this film. The movie itself isn’t that compelling. The best part about it is the pretty insane use of sound (for a pre-talkie). You can tell they were almost on the verge of syncing things up and it’s impressive to see those two scenes where voices are included on the soundtrack.
7. Sadie Thompson, directed by Raoul Walsh (7/10)
I don’t really know why this was saved, except for historical reasons. This movie is hardly anything to write home about. It’s fine, there’s nothing wrong with it; but it’s not like it’s some long unseen masterpiece that we can now view almost completely courtesy of the restoration. It is merely a standard silent dramady (to use a more recent term). It’s fine, that’s all.