I watched Metropolis over the weekend and now I’m hooked on silent films. Can you guys recommend any good ones? Preferably ones that are netflixable? Thanks!
One Week and Sherlock Jr. starring Buster Keaton are hilarious.
Nosferatu is cool and, I think, available for free at the Prelinger Archives.
Did you watch the recent restoration of Metropolis? It’s awesome! If not, rent it immediately!
Other great silent films:
The Lost World – recently restored as well. It used to be that you only had 70%-80% of the original, but within the past 5 years they’ve put together a version from seven prints (mostly outside the US) plus other material, and the new version is something like 95% complete. Well worth looking up, and far better than even the Eastman House version.
The Thief of Baghdad – the Rohauer version, restored, tinted, and with a score based on Rimsky-Korsakov played by the London Symphony. I’ve heard that even this version isn’t complete, but it’s still long and good. Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. is incredible, and the state-of-the-art effects are impressive.
The General – Buster Keaton’s masterpiece. Our 8-year-old daughter, who doesn’t much care even for black and white films, was captivated by this comedy.
The Phantom of the Opera – again, the newly-restored edition has gorgeopus color sequences, including ones I didn’ even know existed.
The aforemerntioned Nosferatu, although the definitive restored version isn’t yet available, I understand.
All those and Wings, the only silent movie to win the Best Picture Oscar.
At a time like this we really need Eve. My choices run to the fantastic films, which means a lot of mainstream stuff is underrepresened in my choices.
Well, there’s The Birth of a Nation (1915), just to pay your Knowledge of Film History dues. Not uninteresting but way-out-there politically incorrect, of course.
Amarilly of Clothes-line Alley (1918) - Mary Pickford
Daddy Long Legs (1919) - Mary Pickford
I’m not a huge fan of Chaplin, but The Kid (1921) is pretty good.
Robin Hood (1922) - Douglas Fairbanks
Thief of Bagdad (1924) - Douglas Fairbanks
Seven Chances (1925) - Buster Keaton
College (1927) - Buster Keaton
The General (1927) - Buster Keaton. A must-see.
See if you can find Keaton’s Spite Marriage and The Cameraman. I know I’ve seen these on a collection disc. What’s the name of the short where he plays all the roles - Sherlock Jr. ?
I’m not familiar with Lillian Gish or Harold Lloyd, not to mention Harry Langdon, so can’t help you there.
Oh yes I did! The original score is soooo amazing. And the remastered version looks remarkable. My favorite scene would have to be when all the rich men see the exotic dancer for the first time. The way that scene is filmed is so amazing!
One more fantastic film I have to recommend – 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea – truly impressive underwater photography, and the film is not only faithful to Verne’s original (right down to Nemo being an Indian prince, something that wouldn’t show up again in any adaptation until the recent League of Extraordinary Gentlemen), but it tries to do all of The Mysterious Island as well! The Nautilus is a plausible riveted-steel can, if not terifically impressive visually, and the story is really well done.
The original Tarzan of the Apes, with Elmo Lincoln, came out when there was only one or so books, and is almost as faithful to Burroughs as the later Greystoke was. It’s the anti-Weissmuller Tarzan.
There are four silent films in my lifetime top ten list:**Sunrise
The Passion of Joan of Arc
All four of these are some of the greatest masterpieces of all time, not just of silent film.
As far as Chaplin, my favorite of his silents is City Lights.
If you can, see the films of Winsor McKay. He, among others, independently invented the animate cartoon. McKay was himself one of the pre-eminent cartoonists of his day, and his newspaper strips (especially Little Nemo in Slumberland) are awesome. He went into animated cartoons for the love of it, and never cared for the commercial cartoons that came after him. He animated a few tests of characters from Little Nemo, and some centaurs, but his Gertie the Dinosaur is impressive, especially with the correct accompaniment. His several “Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend” are really impressive too, giving the first “Monster on the Loose” movie (“The Giant Pet”) and the first Star Field I know of in film (“The Flying House”).
The Fleischer silent cartoons, with Koko the Clown, and kinda fun, too.
I don’t have any specific movies to add, but if you get Turner Classic Movies on your cable system, they show silent movies every Sunday night. You’ll have to wait until March though as they’ve suspended the silents during their Oscarpalooza.
I wrote a score for a short (20 minutes) silent film starring Stan Laurel called West of Hot Dog. It was the first (and only) silent film I’ve seen, but I really enjoyed it. Let me know if you’d like a copy and I’ll send you one.
I agree. This film is downright haunting in its beauty. I stumbled across it late one night on TCM, and was immediately, utterly enthralled. It’s simply luminous.
The Cabinet Of Dr Caligari - made in Germany and notable for it’s odd camera angles and sets that are best described as bent. I saw it the first time as part of a triple feature, the other two films being Nosferatu and Metropolis
Broken Blossoms and Way Down East, the best known of Lillian Gish’s work
Sparrows for a little Mary Pickford.
That’s a start, anyway.
Let me second everything lissener listed (though I haven’t had a chance to see The Crowd yet, based on his other suggestions it must be good). Passion of Joan of Arc and Sunrise in particular are both incredible.
Buster Keaton’s gotten a lot of postings – just about any of his stuff has something worthwhile. Kino did a great collection of his work.
I’ve seen a few Harold Lloyd shorts, and while there not quite as funny, they were enjoyable enough.
Let me be the first to recommend Abel Gance’s masterpiece Napoleon. It’s almost bizarrely ahead of its time for a silent film – you thought Griffith was innovative!
I’m surprised no one’s mentioned The Battleship Potemkin yet – surely one of the most famous silent films of all time, though I get the impression that lately it’s become a bit unfashionable. Either way, you should at least see the Odessa Steps sequence.
If you liked Metropolis, Fritz Lang also did a silent version of the Ring of the Niebelungen that’s supposed to be good.
Netflix looks like it has a small collection of silents. “It”, the Milestone version, has a good commentary by Jeanine Basinger. The film should make you a Clara Bow fan if you are not already one.
Beyond Netflix, besides what the previous postings mention, are Peter Pan and The Harold Lloyd Comedy Collection. If possible, watch the films on a big screen with a big audience.
If you are prepared to be patient, you can download some of the films recommended here from the Feature Film section of the Internet Archive.
While the quality of the prints used to make these digital files is not always the latest and best, i’ve found that most of them are pretty good. And it’s not just small, crappy video files for watching on your computer; they have high-quality mpeg2 files that can be imported into DVD authoring programs and turned into proper DVDs.
Of the movies mentioned in this thread, the following are available on the website:
A note about downloading: if you download the big mpeg2 files, you’ll obviously benefit from a fast connection. But even then, you have to be prepared to wait because the archive.org servers get a lot of traffic and can be a little slow at times.
The great thing is that they allow ftp downloading, so you can install an ftp client like Smart FTP (free) and throttle your download so you still have plenty of bandwidth for regular web browsing. An ftp client or download manager also allows for restarting broken downloads, so that if you lose your connection half way through downloading a 3 gig file you don’t have to start all over again.
I find that the archive.org servers, especially during the day, often have trouble providing anything more than about 40-50 kilobytes per second (about 320-400 kilobits). I usually set my ftp client’s download speed to about 25-40 kilobytes per second, and just leave it running in the background. This means that a 2-3gig movie can take 2-3 days to download, but it doesn’t inconvenience me and we’ve now got a few really fun movies on DVD.
Zoogirl mentioned Greed, but I don’t think there are any complete prints in existence. However, the TCM version running 4 hours is excellent. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to see it all?
Others I would recommend:
Our Modern Maidens- a chance to see Joan Crawford as a good looking young lady.
Also- The Big Parade. It is arguably the highest grossing silent of all time (most lists have Birth of a Nation).
Also The Wind. It is relentless.
Then perhaps Flesh and The Devil, The Four Horsemen of The Apocolypse, The Torrent… as you can see, I like silent movies.
All these are readily available.
Cecil B. DeMille’s KING OF KINGS (the old pharmacist in IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE plays JC & Ayn Rand & future hubby Frank O’Connor are extras in crowd scenes- she was a CBD’M Sec’y and he was a bit player.)
Are there any modern silent films? Non!