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The Sea Beast (1926)
This is not Melville, but it IS Barrymore!
This rousing adventure romance is very loosely based on Herman Melville's Moby Dick. A few plot elements are taken from the novel and fashioned into a completely different story. The film is a showcase for John Barrymore, whose transformation as Ahab is reminiscent of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde.
However, the new Televista DVD release is recommended only for silent film collectors (like myself) who must have this movie in their libraries. Much of the spectacle of the original is lost due to the poor quality of the print used for this DVD. It is identified as a print held by the George Eastman House which originated from the Henry A. Strong collection. Although it may be the best available print, it is pretty bad. Details are blurred and grainy, some inter-titles are difficult to read, and when letters are held up to the camera, they are completely unreadable. The Televista DVD is priced at $15, but the quality is no better than Alpha Video DVDs available for $5 or $6.
The Mysterious Lady (1928)
A delicious silent film!
A memorable tale of romance, espionage, and suspense with a luminous Greta Garbo as Tania, a Russian Mata Hari, and Conrad Nagel as Karl, the Austrian officer who falls under her spell. The film is flawlessly directed by the under-rated Fred Niblo (Blood and Sand, The Temptress), who adds sparkling effects that had me tracking back to watch them again.
If you believe that sensuality in silent films was implied or off-screen, watch the scene on the TCM Archives DVD in chapter 4, 18:20-19:40. In Tania's home, Karl grabs her and begins to kiss her, but she pushes him away. He bows his head in shame and prepares to leave. Standing in the doorway, he apologizes to her. She motions to him to come to her and an expression of joy and excitement lights up his face. He walks to her as she stands with her left hand cupping her left breast. He kisses her extended right hand, places his right hand on the hand she holds over her breast, and they dive into a passionate kiss. Steamy stuff indeed for 1928! The surprising plot twists in the final 10 minutes had me laughing in amazement right up to the end. An excellent score by Vivek Maddala adds to the enjoyment of this cinematic gem.
Smouldering Fires (1925)
A spectacular performance!
This is the first Pauline Frederick movie I have ever seen and, since very few of her films survive, it might be the only one I ever have an opportunity to view. This film changes gradually from a romantic comedy to a romantic tragedy. A very good cast, including Malcolm McGregor, Laura La Plante, and especially Tully Marshall, provides excellent support, but my rating is based on the performance of Ms. Frederick, which is nothing short of breathtaking! I have seen many silent movies and I don't believe I have ever seen an actress achieve the extraordinary emotional range that the 41-year-old Ms. Frederick did in this film. It makes one mourn for the loss of most of her screen work. Very highly recommended.
Hoodoo Ann (1916)
Mae Marsh shines!
I enjoyed this movie much more than the other reviewers. Obviously produced as a showcase for the very talented Mae Marsh, the supporting actors are uniformly good and believable. Ms. Marsh is so convincing as the rejected orphan yearning for acceptance and love that she makes you ache to hold and comfort her. There are many fine touches by D.W. Griffith: the spectacular orphanage fire, the two bedtime kiss sequences, the off-screen first kiss, the extended movie-within-a-movie, and the final wedding scene where a nervous Ann asks her groom, "Is it over?" All in all, a very engaging and entertaining combination of pathos, romance, comedy, and murder mystery. I highly recommend this one!
Dynamite Dan (1924)
Poor movie, DISMAL DVD
Dynamite Dan is a poorly-acted, unfunny comedy. The only attraction is a very young Boris Karloff, but his role is small. The plot is unbelievably stupid and trite. There is a wimpy amateur detective known as Sherlock Jones (groan!) who spends the entire movie being kicked, beaten, thrown around, locked in a gym locker, and having his hat pulled down over his eyes. There is an ugly woman who elicits the same horrified, exaggerated reaction from every man who sees her and this gag is used about a dozen times! There is a bit about a ladder being moved to a different window which is also used multiple times. The movie is only 57 minutes in length, but I couldn't wait for it to get over!
I watched an Alpha Video DVD of this movie. Alpha Video isn't known for high quality DVDs, but this one is really atrocious. The quality of the picture is so poor as to be barely discernible during some scenes. I only paid $5 for the DVD, but it was still a complete waste of money! Avoid this DVD at any cost!