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Films are in descending order by IMDb user rating as of 12/2/14.
Die weiße Hölle vom Piz Palü (1929)
Slow but pretty "mountain" film
You just have to know a character is doomed when she is mountain climbing while wearing a skirt. Sure enough this one bites the dust within 5 minutes of the start of the picture. The hero has a grip of iron but the rope breaks. The hero's heart is broken and he spends his lonely life wondering the alps. Later he meets up with a young couple (Leni Riefenstahl and Ernst Petersen). Despite the hero's obvious death wish and the ominous weather, the couple decide to join him in an attempt to conquer the mountain's dangerous North Face. They are, of course, trapped by avalanches. Leni Riefenstahl glows with athletic beauty and the scenery is magnificent. Other than that I found the movie somewhat tedious.
I was fascinated with the attitude towards women. Although Leni refused to be left behind by the men and at least did not attempt to climb in her skirt, she did almost nothing to try to get the little group rescued even though she was the only uninjured member of the party. It wasn't like there was much to do. It mostly consisted of calling out and waving objects around but she didn't even do that.
Frau im Mond. (1929)
Fun silent science fiction film
AKA "Woman in the Moon" This is a fun film about a journey to the dark side of the moon to see whether there is gold in them thar hills. It's one of those movies where you talk to the screen throughout, laughing about some of the ideas about space exploration. I was particularly taken with two of the astronauts' matching sweaters. At the same time, the conception of the rocket and rocket launch were eerily prescient.
The film also contains a nifty subplot about how international bankers will stop at nothing to gain control of the moon's gold. The chief thug employed by cartel is portrayed by Fritz Rasp who played the pharmacist's assistant in "Diary of a Lost Girl". He is rapidly becoming one of my very favorite screen badies.
Unfortunately, this movie runs almost 3 hours. Trimming an hour could only have improved it. I found myself editing in my head as the movie played on and on.
Valahol Európában (1948)
Well it's about time somebody commented on this hidden treasure
I didn't know that this was produced by Hungary's young Communist Party until I read about it on IMDb but it was obvious from the beginning that we were going to be treated to some pretty heavy propaganda. It took about 20 minutes for it to dawn on me that it was going to be some really well-made sincere propaganda. The film features a gang of war orphans and runaway teens and children in the last days of WWII who rampage through the countryside plundering what food and wine they can get their hands on, while being persecuted by nasty Nazi Hungarians. Since they were stealing from people almost as poor as they were, the gang didn't entirely get my sympathy. They are fortunate to make a raid on a ruined fortress occupied by a world-renowned conductor who, after being more or less tortured by the little hooligans, feeds them, teaches them "La Marseillaise", and turns them into comrades and freedom fighters. It all may sound, and be, trite but there is tremendous energy and heart in the film. Some of the group scenes with the children are masterful. Recommended (warning: animals (a pig and some chickens) were harmed and killed in making this film).
The Land Beyond the Sunset (1912)
This Film IS Available on DVD
You can see this and other terrific rare and vintage movies on THE TREASURES FROM AMERICAN FILM ARCHIVES DVD. I highly recommend this 4 DVD set. The short film itself is a sad tale of a poor street urchin who takes fairy tales too seriously.
Snow White (1916)
This Film IS Available on DVD
You can see this and other rare vintage films on the "Treasures from American Film Archives" DVD. This is a feature film, about 60 minutes, long. The highlights for me were the seven dwarves and the wicked witch. The film jumps around a little bit but is well worth seeing.
Bernadette Peters in Concert (1998)
Well-Made Concert Video
I liked this a lot, though I was surprised that Bernadette Peters was so much a grand diva in it. She sings well, though I could not understand the lyrics most of the time if I was not already familiar with the song. More than half of the numbers are by Stephen Sondheim. If you love Peters and/or Sondheim, you will probably enjoy this.
San Pietro (1945)
A U.S. Army Documentary but Maybe the Greatest Anti-War Film Ever
This film is available on DVD -- as part of the "Treasures from American Film Archives" collection released this year. The collection has lots of gems on its four disks but "The Battle of San Pietro" alone would make it worth the price.
I watched this 30-minute documentary of one of many battles in Italy shortly after having viewed "All Quiet on the Western Front" for the first time. I thought the Milestone film was brilliant but it was this Huston documentary that made me cry. I don't know whether it is the matter-of-fact narration (by the director), the sight of all those G.I.s, or the Italian children that got to me but the sum of it all was almost overwhelming. Very highly recommended. 10/10
Pather Panchali (1955)
A Journey to Another World
For sure this is a beautiful and haunting movie. I can only echo the comments of other viewers who rate it a masterpiece. Those who are looking for action should stay away though. This is a fascinating look at life in rural India, but also has a lot to say about the human experience. All aspects of film-making are outstanding but, for me, the Ravi Shankir score made the film.
Jeux interdits (1952)
Moving view of war and death through childrens' eyes
Jeux interdits is the story of a 5 or 6 year-old girl whose parents and dog are killed before her eyes as the family is trying to flee the fighting (World War II) in a refugee convoy. The girl is taken in by a peasant family and befriended by their young son. The children very movingly try to find a way to cope with death. Although the subject is serious, the film has many light moments provided by a cast of great character actors. Brigitte Fossey, who plays the heroine, is exquisite -- certainly the finest performance by a child-actor I have ever seen. The film hooked me from the opening credits and never let go. The scenes of the refugee convey on the bridge and the bombing are unforgettable, without being gory. The B&W cinematography is gorgeous throughout. Highly, highly recommended.
I was ready and willing for the magic and poetry to do its work on me based on the glowing reviews here and elsewhere. It just didn't happen for me. I thought that the film was choppy rather than impressionistic and it dragged at only 90 minutes. But my real problem was that I found Michel Simon's character and acting incredibly irritating.