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Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Most Dangerous Game (1932) - Irvine Pichel

The Pest is a movie that I saw when I was like fourteen. That movie was the first to entertain the thought of humans hunting humans, at least to me. I like this storyline, I think that aside from The Pest most of the movies have done it right. If you catch my drift... So when I came across this movie on my Netflix account, I was pretty excited.

I really enjoyed this movie, I was throughly entertained by it. I love that in this movie you have a real hero of a hunter and a real villian of a hunter. I did find Fay Wray kind of annoying in this. But that was just a small thing, it didn't ruin it. I like how the entire movie was shot on the King Kong sets, that was due to be released the following year. The movie also has its scary parts, and hilarious parts. All and all I would have to say that I recommend it.

The movie is about a mad hunter on some island. Who is making people's ships crash and he is hunting the survivors. The movie is a comedic thriller mostly, but there are a few really choice scary scenes, and the special effects really arn't that bad. The movie has a Schwarzenegger feel to it. Well at least to me, No one else gets that for some reason. I see it though, like if I remade this I would do it with Arnie and John Malkovich... Well maybe not.

I thought that the scariest person in this movie would have to be the beastly man servant. He was terrorizing and he looked like the worst creep I have ever seen! Well he is going to carry this movie to an 8 for me. I was really happy with it and again I recommend it, enjoy.

Ike hunt
  • The actor playing "Ivan the Cossack" was Noble Johnson, a multi-talented African American who was a childhood friend of Lon Chaney. This is the earliest known instance of a black actor working in "whiteface" to play a Caucasian character.
  • Most of the standing sets from King Kong (1933) were used in the making of this film, including the King Kong (1933) gate (which was eventually burned down in the "Burning of Atlanta" sequence of Gone with the Wind (1939)). This film and "King Kong" were shot at the same time, though "Kong" was released later (probably due to the special effects required for "Kong").
  • Filmed in Hollywood!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Island of Lost Souls (1932) - Erie C. Kenton

This is quite possibly the best adaptation of the H.G. Wells classic story The Island of Dr. Moreau. I am a fan of movies that create a kind of controversy, and this movie did just that. The movie was banned in the UK due to animal cruelty laws. Although I am very much on the side of the animals here, I am very intrigued. Also I am pretty sure that the movie doesn't really harm any animals. 

The movie is about a man who gets stranded on a boat that is on its way to Dr. Moreau's Island. This mad Dr. who looks like Hitler, experiments on animals turning them into some sort of man beasts. There is also a sexy panther woman who is used to seduce men into Dr. Moreau's clutches. The island is not on any map and the evil doctor likes to keep it that way. He has created an entire tribe of man-beasts, which he controls with the crack of his whip.

The movie features some pretty eerie stuff, mostly just monsters in great make-up creeping around in the dark. The Island of Lost Souls is a chilling and terrifying telling of this classic tale. Like I said above this is probably the best telling of it, they tried and failed in the 90's with Val Kilmer and Marlon Brando. 

It is a very entertaining movie that anyone can enjoy. Its not tremendously scary by today's standards but you should still be able to enjoy it. Bela Lugosi has some pretty laughable makeup, he is supposed to be a dog or something... I'm not too sure. 

ARE WE NOT MEN!!!
  • The movie was given an X rating in the UK
  • Filmed on Catalina Island
  • A lot of the actors that played beasts are uncredited even today.

Vampyr (1932) - Carl Theodor Dreyer

There is a large gap between the height of expressionism and this French-German, Danish directed mock silent picture. Vampyr, otherwise known as Not Against The Flesh, is a fantastic post-expressionist film. In that manner, that the art is very dark and the shadows  do their jobs to the settings. You can really feel the pre-war Germany in this one. They even reference the silent era by sneaking Title Cards in during the non existent dialogue. 

This is a beautiful film about a town terrorized by Vampyrs that lure people out of town to commit suicide. This turns out to be a clever ploy to enhance the numbers of Satan's army. Allen Gray is a wanderer that studies the occult and gets folded into this tale of mystery and the macabre. This really interesting film held my interest all the way through and left me wanting to recommend it to anyone wanting to listen. If you liked Cabinet of Dr. Caligari or any pre-war Germany expressionist pictures like Metropolis, then you will most likely love this.

The movie has a pretty strange history as it was not well received in Nazi Germany when it was released. It was panned and sent into obscurity for some time. It became a cult hit with classic film buffs and vampire enthusiasts and should be appreciated more than Twilight. Perhaps if Twilight was shown in Berlin on election night in 1932 it would have done far better than this. 

I cant go on!

  • This was the first sound picture for Carl Dreyer who had to make sure that it was translated into three languages. 
  • Nicolas de Gunzburg portrayed Allen Gray under the screen-name Julian West.
  • Filmed on location in France.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

White Zombie (1932) - Victor Halperin

So I am watching this horrible VHS copy of White Zombie that I bought at the Goodwill for a dollar. I think it was a dollar well spent even though the sound and picture are as questionable. I will try to power through it. 

The movie is about a girl and her fiancee who are due to be married upon arrival to an old plantation in Hati or someplace like that. They stumble  across a which doctor who serves as the antagonist for the rest of the film.  People are risen from the dead and they attack the living. That plot device crowns White Zombie as the first zombie movie ever made. What about Frankestein or the Mummy? Weren't they dead and resurrected too? Well this Zombie is made of Black Magic or Voodoo. Spell and enchantments are put on the bodies to make them rise. It is the first voodoo zombie film, I'll give it that. 

The acting in this movie is way off. I know it's an independent feature but it is really bad. It is a victim of it's own time and features white actors in black face too. It is pretty strange to look back and see that kind of thing. Anyway, from looking at it you could tell that they didn't have much in the way of money when they were making it. They had to get creative with the effects. I think this adds to the creepiness. 

I am still pretty early in the Bela Lugosi kinda stuff. I think that he is a phenomenal actor, he is just stuck with the Dracula persona so much that it looks to be affecting his roles. 

Surely you don't think she's alive, in the hands of natives
  • The movie got sued because, there was a play that came out the same year in New York called the same thing. The movie won.
  • Voodoo Zombies just in case you were wondering
  • The movie shows a great deal of black actors who are given really stereotyped roles.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Freaks (1932) - Tod Browning

Freaks is one of the most talked about horror movies of the 1930's. Tod Browning's sideshow horror flick offended many and melded many specifics from Grindhouse/Exploitation and Mainstream Horror. Fresh off of Dracula, Browning still has that flair and streak that gets lost in many mainstream artists. It feels like he made enough money with Dracula to afford making this masterpiece. Like a pet project that he finally got to work on.

It's not the most well acted film and its certainly isn't cinema at its finest. It features actual sideshow attractions from clowns, strong men, and bearded ladies to little people, quadriplegics, and pinheads. That alone was enough to drag in audiences. The storyline behind it is nothing to shake a stick at. It has teeth all on it's own and actually shines through as the best piece of the film, the screenplay.  

The plot revolves around a lady trapeze artist who marries the leader of the circus. However, she is really sketchy. Is she faithful? Does she have a plan? Well of course she has a plan, if she didn't their wouldn't be a movie now would there. She is having an affair with the strong-man of the circus, and the two plan to kill the little guy. The movie teaches you not to judge by looks as the real "Freaks" are the two most normal people in the movie. So lets just say, the tables get turned, watch and enjoy.

One scene that is burned into every one's mind, that has seen the film. Is the scene where all of the freaks are sitting around a table, eating dinner and drinking wine. They genuinely accept the trapeze artist as one of them and sing a song for her. "We Accept Her! One of Us! We Accept Her! One of Us! Gobble, Gobble! We Accept Her! One of Us!" They sing this over and over and over again and it is so damn scary for some reason. 

One of Us!
  • Tod Browning was actually in a circus when he was young
  • The movie uses a pretty gruesome ending, but they also filmed a "Happy" ending. 
  • Filmed in Culver City, CA
  • The film was banned in quite a bit of places including the UK.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Drums of Jeopardy (1931) - George B. Seitz

The Drums of Jeopardy is a revenge horror/action picture. It stars Warner Oland as a mad scientist that is taking revenge on a Bolshevik family that murdered his daughter. The movie explores different themes, obviously with revenge but also with black magic. In the film the Petroff drums are a tool, used to kill people by infecting them with some sort of black magic or poisoning after being received in the mail. Oland's character, Dr. Boris Karlov (no relation to the actor) sends these drums to each of the family members. 

This movie walks the fine line of horror and action/suspense, on paper this movie seems like a great scary movie. A mad scientist exacts revenge on a family that murdered his daughter. The problem is that the film lacks the terror needed for a good horror flick. You can't really identify with any of the characters. They all seem nefarious, the family, the doctor, everyone seems guilty of something. The only pure and innocent person is the daughter that dies at the beginning. Warner Oland does a good job of being a psychotic and merciless killer. 

The movie is really interesting on its own. The copy that I had watched came from Archive.org and had a number of scratches. However, it was really interesting and did a good job of looking fantastic. One flaw was that the film masked a lot of the action with shutting the lights out. This happened on a couple of occasions. When it was on the lighting is interesting, the Doctor's laboratory was the most interesting. They did a good job of setting the scene with that set. 

"Which one of you is responsible for this? You do not answer? A man of the people has no right to ask who caused the death of his daughter? If you do not tell me then I will have to kill you all!"

  • This is a remake of the lost film The Drums of Jeopardy (1923)
  • Running time of 1 hour and 5 minuets. 
  • Also known as The Mark of Terror.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Murder by the Clock (1931) - Edward Sloman

Murder by the Clock is a dull who-done-it murder film. With a really thin story and dead-end acting. The story is about an old woman that passes on. She is buried in a tomb with an alarm system that would go off if she were buried alive. A group of distant relatives gather at her estate for the will to be read and to collect their inheritance. However, before the Will can be read people begin dying of strangulation. They must survive to get their inheritance right!? Who is running around killing the other family members? The mentally unstable guy that has an obsession with strangling people and killing? Is it the black widow femme fatale? 

The movie feels like it lasts much longer than it actually does. It only runs for an hour and fifteen minuets, but it feels like it runs for well over the two hour mark. Most parts of the story feel forced and contrived. Others are neat and well done. Lilyan Tashman did a great job of playing the Queen Bee pulling all of the strings of the relatives around her. She just couldn't carry the film all on her own.

"You are either a genius or a murder - I find that your both!"

  • This was produced a few years before 1931. However, it went through different hands until it was finally released. 




Monday, June 17, 2013

The Mad Genius (1931) - Michael Curtiz

John Barrymore and Marian Marsh did such a good job in Svengali that they were brought back one more time this year for another feature. John Barrymore continues in his portrayal of a manipulative antagonist that tries to ruin the lives of everyone around him. While the hero is played by Donald Cook and the love interest is Marian Marsh. Both do a great job.

The movie is about a dancer named Fedor and his overbearing guardian and instructor Tsarakov. Tsarakov is a successful ballet instructor that is highly misogynistic and very manipulative. He plays with the lives of his adopted son Fedor and the love interest Nana. He forces them together and forces them apart. He is a tyrannical monster and is the scariest part of the movie.

The acting is pretty over the top, but it is still pretty amazing. John Barrymore is a master. He controls this movie like through and through. I couldn't expect any less from him. What an actor. Donald Cook does a weird job. His performance wasn't bad. However, it wasn't good either. It was very bland.

This is an obvious pre-code film that takes its liberties heavily. Swearing, sex, and the mistreatment of women are all tools in the horror tool-box here and they are used to scare the audience. Sort of like shocking the audience by exposing them to that. I am sure that it was pretty shocking to see some of the things in this movie.

I will create my own being: that boy! That boy will be my counterpart, he shall be what I should have been...

  • Based on a play from 1929, that made its rounds on the smaller stages. It never made it to Broadway. 
  • Boris Karloff has an un-credited scene. 

Friday, June 14, 2013

The Phantom (1931) - Alan James

The Phantom was built on the escaped felon and old haunted house storyline. The same storyline that Old Dark House and The Bat Whispers follows. However, The Phantom comes up short when compared against the two. It's a feat to actually make it through this movie attentively. 

It revolves around a small group of people that are being terrorized by an escaped masked killer known as The Phantom! Literally that is the entire movie. It is as thin as the film it is printed on. In the beginning of the movie you get to watch the "daring" escape from prison. It is the worst escape in history. It is far from the same jurisdiction as Shawshank's escape. 

My advice? Skip this movie and move on. 1931 had some real gems and apparently some real lumps. The Phantom is just a lump. A useless talkie that re-hashes some of the same-old same-old. Not worth it. 
  • Released on November 1st 1931. Even the date was boring. 
  • A guy on IMDB said that he really liked the beginning scene. Some guy. 
  • Filmed on 35mm.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Svengali (1931) - Archie Mayo


Svengali is a really weird "Horror" movie that is just really creepy, thanks to a great performance from veteran thespian John Barrymore. I had a really good time watching the really eerie performance and catching all of the stuff that was left in the film since this was released in that weird period before the Film Code. Marian Marsh is really hot in this movie, and she should be, since she is playing the love interest.

The acting alone makes this movie stand out, but the art and set direction is amazing. Sets, beautiful. Cinematography, beautiful. This is almost a perfect black and white, early Hollywood movie, I just cant put my finger on what is not so great about it.

The movie is about a girl, Trilby, who comes to Paris to make something of her life. She meets a few artists and begins to fall in love with one of them, but Svengali swoops in. Svengali is a composer and magician who entrances Trilby and sweeps her away and out of the Artists life. The artist will desperately try to find his lost love even if he has to go through... SVENGALI!!!

This is a real treat for those who love John Barrymore, don't fret though. This isn't the last time you get to see this great actor take the reigns of horror. I will be getting to the next movie that he made this same year real soon.

Svenjolly
  • The Thomas Dunn English poem Ben Bolt is featured in a song in the movie. 
  • When Svengali and Billie are having champagne at the café in Cairo, Svengali drains his glass. They exchange a few more words as Svengali is being introduced, then when he stands his glass is somehow full again.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Dracula (1931) - George Melford




The original English language Dracula from 1931 stars Bela Lugosi and gained all of the favor after it's release. The film has become iconic in horror movies and is an undeniable classic among film fans. The movie elevated Universal Pictures to the franchise name for Horror. It also elevated Carl Laemmle to production greatness. However, the Dracula that everyone knows and loves was filmed right alongside a Spanish language version with an entirely different cast. This Dracula from a parallel dimension was directed by George Melford and starred Carlos Villarías. In many ways it is superior to the English version.

Let me give you a little background: When the original Dracula (the English version) was being filmed the studio decided that it would be a great idea to film a second version with an all Spanish speaking cast. The English version went on to get all of the fame, money, and girls. The Spanish version was left by the wayside, but upon viewing with scholars eyes, you will notice where this movie is stronger than the other. This version had problems with filming. They could only film at night and they didn't have access to the "major" effects. This is where good directors can really show-off and solve the problems ahead of them. The darkness isn't really a hindrance. It works really well with the subject matter and actually gives it a darker tone. The lack of effects just means that they had to spend more time being creative with how they explore these scenes in the movie. George Melford does it really well. 

The movie's main focus is on the character Conde Dracula. Say that with me class, Con-de. Other characters went through a similar ethnic name change process as well including Juan Harker and Eva Seward. Dr. Van Helsing stayed the same though. I urge you not to dismiss this movie just because it is a forigen film; its not in English and they changed the names of some of the most well known characters in Gothic horror, but its still a fantastic film. From a film-makers perspective and consumers perspective this movie is really entertaining and stands on its own as a great piece. Its a wonder why they didn't just go ahead sand dub over the original English version. It seems to me that they could of saved a lot of money that way. However, they did a great job and parts of this film surpass its English counterpart.


Director: George Melford
Producer: Paul Kohner & Carl Laemmle Jr.
Starring: Carlos Villarías, Lupita Tovar, Barry Norton, Pablo Álvarez Rubio and Eduardo Arozamena
Studio: Universal Pictures
Release date: April 24, 1931
Country: USA
Did Ya Know: This Spanish version runs a half hour longer then the English version. Parts of the movie were missing for years until they were recovered in Cuba. There are a few minor plot differences between the original and this version, one being Renfield is bitten by Dracula's brides instead of Dracula himself.






Sunday, June 09, 2013

Dracula (1931) - Tod Browning


Dracula is the cornerstone of Horror. The most successful Vampire movie of all time. Bela Lugosi will always be associated with his role of the bloodsucking noble. This was released before Frankenstein and did quite successful. It began the Universal Horror brand that has lasted for decades. It is such a classic and well done film. Directed by Tod Browning, this spectacular piece is incredibly creative. Of course it takes liberties with the Bram Stoker novel, it's hardly surprising with a Hollywood Blockbuster like this one. 

This film is so iconic and unique. It was made right along side a Spanish language counterpart, that is just as interesting as this one. The cast and crew is spectacular. Like I said above, Tod Browning and Bela Lugosi. However, we have Dwight Frye, Edward Von Sloan, and Helen Chandler as Mina. The acting is tight and keeps you entertained the entire time. 

The story is about Dracula reigning his horror on England. He creepily stalks around sets. Bites girls on the neck and evades Dr. Van Helsing. Browning does a great job of using light in this movie. Dracula's eyes are terrifying. The movie is written so well too. Garrett Fort wrote the screenplay and it flows so seamlessly. This is really a superior picture and it should be required viewing in Film Appreciation classes. 

This is a really easy movie to recommend. The movie is really easy to get into for those that feel like they would be bored by a black and white movie. Especially one from the thirties. The movie is also really entertaining and can be appreciated for a quick horror movie night. In short, if you want to find something to watch then seek this out. It should be easy to find. 

There are far worse things awaiting man than death.

  • Universal Studios commissioned a new musical score from composer Philip Glass. It premiered at The Brooklyn Academy of Music on 26 October 1999. 
  • The large, expansive sets built for the Transylvania castle and Carfax Abbey sequences remained standing after filming was completed, and were used by Universal Pictures for many other movies for over a decade. 
  • Bela Lugosi played the role of Dracula on Broadway in 1927 before touring the country with the show. The American performance of the British stage actor Hamilton Deane's adaptation of the book was a smashing success. Soon after the play began touring Universal started to express interest in the script. 

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Frankenstein (1931) - James Whale


This movie is the quintessential Frankenstein piece. The Monster is so iconic and the story is timeless. Everything that follows this is just a copycat. Boris Karloff puts out a great big masterful performance as the powerful and destructive monster. While other actors including Dwight Frye make this film so interesting and greatly acted introduction into "Talkie" horrors.  I mean acting with sound was brand new. Only in it's infancy. Its really amazing if you stand back and look at it.

I was always taught growing up that I should not fear the monster, but I should feel bad for him. Admittedly, I really feel bad for the poor guy. It seems to me that he is just a misunderstood zombie-esqe type dude who just wants nothing more than to fit in. Unfortunately he doesn't know his own strength, and he is clumsy. Its kind of like the Gorilla with a kitten thing where the Gorilla is given a kitten and he loves it and loves it until he squeezes it to death. The Gorilla isn't a horrible animal because of this, it just doesn't know its own strength.

Universal Studios, and more specifically, Carl Laemmle are the real heavyweights in the horror cinema world at this time. The era of Universal Monsters had begun. This is one of the Plank Owners of horror movies. 

Now i know what it feels like to be God!


Friday, June 07, 2013

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931) - Rouben Mamoulian

This movie is really creative with its various camera shots and sweet angles. There are a few scenes that really stand out on the creative angle, the first is the opening shot. We see Dr. Jekyll in his chores before a lecture at his university. There is a scene where he is looking into a mirror that really stands out because you were essentially looking at yourself as Dr. Jekyll. There was a transformation scene that was really cool too, well at least the first transformation scene.

I really chap pretty hardcore on Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde because I see these as being really pretty boring. Its just me though I suppose, because everyone I know loves the story. This movie though was a little different from the original story and the creativity held me in my seat and kept me awake. I will tell you that I wasn't a fan of the look of Mr. Hyde in this, but I really did enjoy Dr. Jekyll... weird huhh?

I personally think that Universal was winning the scary world here and Paramount had to jump on with a movie of their own, here we are with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I really enjoined the movie from a creative stand point but didn't really like the movie on a scary angle. I liked the edginess of the film but not the monster itself. I am giving Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde from 1931 a 6 out of 10.

I will now drink the concoction! AHAHAHAHAHAA

S!D

  • This film was made before the film code and features some really intense sexual scenes for its time period with the prostitute Ivy Pearson.
  • The film features some really interesting creativity with the camera.
  • The film is a bit different than the book, which is probably what boosted it up in ratings for me.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

The Bat Whispers (1930) - Roland West


I had to go back a few years and re-watch this movie. The review is from 2009 and I re-wrote some pieces. Enjoy.

The Bat Whispers is one of the more thriller heavy horrors flicks. The movie focuses on the crime side of the narrative; Quite a bit heavier than its horror side. However, it does have its spooky moments. A lot of the movie was in questionable condition. I had to turn my television all the way up past eleven just to hear the damn thing. The movie has some amazing shots and even better sets that make it look just like a noir comic book.

For sets, the producers use everything from trick photography to scale models. They really put everything into this one. The movie is very dark and has this almost freakish tone that really sets the mood. The film about a caped theif/killer called 'The Bat' who terrorizes the occupants of an old mansion. It follows the "Old Dark House" narrative.

The art in the movie is superb, the audio sucks but it was the 30's. This is a depression era movie so it gets a pass. Pretty impressive for its time. The acting is pretty bad, then again the depression was afoot so people were... depressed. This is also a very strange time for film. This is our first talkie and the actors were still getting used to that new format. This movie serves as a precursor to great noir films like The Killing and Vertigo. The latter was directed by Hitchcock. I cannot wait to get into some of his stuff.

The scariest part of this movie would have to be its dark tone and lack of soundtrack, both make for one creepy, dark movie. The premise is mostly mystery but the tone makes it horror. The use of light, or lack thereof, is amazing, it really adds something to it. I am going to give The Bat Whispers a 5 out of 10. The movie is great but the thrills are just two few and far between. The action is great and the film is well done but that doesn't make it a great Horror movie.

Who am I? Who do you think I am? W.T. Jones. Super-sleuth of Oakdale County

  • The film's action scenes were filmed in 35mm. 
  • The film was transfered to 65mm safety tape. 
  • The film was remade in 1959.

The Man Who Laughs (1928) - Paul Leni

This is a very dark dramatic period movie. However, I made the executive decision to watch it and classify it as horror. The Expressionistic dark shadowy tones are more than enough to creep you out on a late night. It also stars our good friend Mr. Conrad Veid as Gwynplaine the disgraced and infamous "Laughing Man." His face is quite horrific and sticks in your mind. I can see why Bill Finger and Bob Kane used his character as an inspiration for the Joker, Batman's nemesis. 

The film is pretty mediocre at best. It has its moments of triumph but overall just feels like filler. The story is a saving grace. It is the tale of a man that is disfigured as a boy when his father refused to kiss the then king's ring. When he is grown up the man travels as a sideshow act and falls in love with a blind girl named Dea. Happiness doesn't last forever and the now Queen of England, Queen Anne, plots against Gwynplaine and Dea. Of course in any situation like this one love has to triumph above all obstacles. 

Paul Leni's directorial work is top notch. The creative angles and lighting are enough to push this movie into one of the best of the silent era. However, like I mentioned above it drags in some parts. I would like to see this movie expanded upon or at least redone well. Paul Leni did a great job of setting the un-settling tone of the movie though. This is definitely one to pick up. If you are a fan of Batman or just a fan of silent horror pictures. Then this movie is for you. Watch it with its original soundtrack or watch it with the soundtrack to Planet of the Apes (2001) either way is really good. 

  • The movie featured the song "When Love Comes Stealing," by Walter Hirsch, Lew Pollack, and Erno Rapee.
  • Lon Chaney was the director's first choice to play Gwynplaine. However, he was under contract to another company. 
  • Conrad Veidt wore special dentures in his mouth that pulled back the corners of his lips to create that smile. 

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

The Fall of the House of Usher (1928) - Melville Webber & J.S. Watson Jr.


This American short film of the Edgar Allan Poe story is not as complete or concise as its French predecessor. In fact this storyline seems to be a little more skewed and definitely more experimental. It is really interesting that these movies have been pretty much forgotten. They are really well made and the directors really took some leaps with the camera. While the story is not as well portrayed the avant garde nature makes this film entertaining and original.

I highly recommend this movie to anyone that is going to film school. It is one of the best examples of creativity in the silent era of American cinema. There is virtually a new effect in every scene that tries to drive home the surreal feel of the story, it just becomes a gimmick at one point. Not horrible, just overused.


Country: USA
Style: Short

Did ya know...
This is one of many adaptations of Edgar Allan Poe's Fall of the House of Usher. Over fifteen! 

Monday, June 03, 2013

Le Chute de la Maison Usher (1928) - Jean Epstein

Le Chute de la Maison Usher is one of two interpretations of the Fall of the House of Usher that were released in 1928. This French version, directed by Jean Epstein, is a creepy Avant-Garde feature that experiments and has its roots in early German cinema. The soundtrack and cinematography are captivating as well as the overall feel of the movie. It has tremendous flow and feels more like an early Twilight Zone episode than a silent film. The version that I screened came from Archive.org and had crude subtitles in French and Italian. The bonus was definitely the French narrator, translating the title cards into English.

Another film based on an Edgar Allen Poe story. The difference here is that this one is actually creepy. It follows Roderick Usher, who literally paints his wife to death. He steals her body and is haunted by it for the greater part of the film. The movie experiments with shadows and overlays. It looks like the director really put a ton of work into this one. It reminds me of something that Ingmar Bergman would remake.

Overall this is a really creepy short film and I highly recommend it. I am kind of surprised that I hadn't heard about this film until I stumbled onto it. I really enjoyed it and it was pretty easy to follow, and thoroughly entertaining. The running time is short but it fits the movie and keeps it perfect and concise.


  • This is director Jean Epstein's most revered work. 
  • The late Roger Ebert had included this on his great films lists. 
  • Running time of 63 minuets.