Sunday, April 28, 2013

Silent Sundays: Little Old New York (1923)

The story of Little Old New York takes place in the Bowling Green section of the city in the early 1800s. Located in Bowling Green around this time are Washington Irving who is only a fireman at the time, Robert Fulton who is getting ready to build and run his steam powered boats, and banker John Jacob Astor. Fulton asks Astor to back his steamship Clermont but Astor refuses he only backs real estate not something that he feels will most likely fail.
            Astor goes to a house where a man named Richard O’Day had once lived. O’Day has died and Astor is the read his will. Everyone believes that O’Day’s fortune will be left to his step-son Lawrence Delevan. When the will is read the entire room is shock. All of O’Day’s money has been left to his brother’s heir Patrick since his brother helped to get him to America and begin his business. Larry is only given the house and five hundred dollars a month. But Larry could claim the money if his brother’s son cannot be found exactly a year after his death.
            In Ireland, Patrick is sick and is being taken care of by his sister Patricia (Marion Davies) and their father. People surround the house looking for their payment and begin to take furniture out. Another lawyer for O’Day finds Patricia and tells them what has been left to them. The family has two months to make it back to New York to claim the money.
            The day before Larry is to inherit the money he throws a party with his friends at the house. He has promised Fulton that when he comes into his money he will give him ten thousand dollars needed to back his steamship. Larry’s promise is canceled when Patricia and her father appear. Patricia comes into the house dressed as a boy.
            Patricia’s life as a boy called Pat goes fairly well. A group of local boys come and pick on her because of her accent and for being Irish. She cannot fight them off but luckily Larry and her father come running out of the house to save her in time. Larry is curious why she did not fight back since he thinks Pat the Irish boy should have been able to fight off some American boys. Unfortunately her father dies. Larry comes home from a party seeing her crying from the loss of her father. He puts his arm around her and she cries more.
            Larry and Patricia are guests on Fulton’s first ride of his steamship. Astor still refuses to give her the money but she somehow talks other backers into giving Fulton the money. Larry does not want her to have to pay for anything he said he would pay and says he will have the money for his friend in a few days. The way he thinks he is going to get the money is if he bets in a boxing match. Patricia manages to get her way into the fight. She watches from the bottom of a bell tower in a fire station. The fighting is too intense for her because the fighter Larry bet on is losing. She rings the bell making everyone believe there is a fire and the fight stops. Another lady at the fight points out Larry as the culprit until they see Patricia trying to sneak away. Larry rushes her out of the fire station and back to the house. The hundreds of men at the match come racing over to Larry’s house to get him thinking he is a cheat. Patricia confesses she is the one who rang the bell and that Larry is not a cheat. She is carried by a group of men to the middle of the town square where people are put to a post and punished. One of the fighters starts whipping her. She begs and pleads and finally confesses that she is a girl.
            Larry is not mad at Patricia for lying. He tells her it will be easier for him to be the guardian of a girl. The following day Patricia is arrested for impersonating her brother. At court she explains to the court why she pretended to be her brother: Patrick had been sick and weak even before they left Ireland. On the ship he died. Her father made her promise to make Larry and everyone in New York believe she was Patrick. She went along with her father because he needed her to. The men of the jury find her guilty but only give her a fine which they then decide that they will pay.
            Patricia is told by Astor that she has to go to London. Larry does not want her to leave he will be lonely without her. She does not want to leave because she has no family and she will be lonely without him. Larry then asks her to marry him and he will go to London with her.
            Little Old New York was alright. There were several parts that just dragged and were boring. Marion Davies’ performance was very good. She did not overact at all. The story was somewhat interesting. I think it could have been better had there not been parts that were too long. Little Old New York is a silent film I can recommend seeing but to me it is only worth seeing once.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Mark of the Vampire (1935)

“We must all die. There's nothing terrible about death, but to live on after death, a soul earth-bound, a vampire.”

            Nowadays it seems that people forget that vampires were supposed to be scary monsters. Vampires used to be dead, pale white people who roamed the nights looking for blood to drink. They would terrorize small towns and villages. Vampires were not out looking for sex and able to live on just synthetic blood like True Blood. And neither were they annoying as hell emo teenagers in love with an even more annoying human teenager like Twilight. The original 1931 Dracula with Bela Lugosi as the undead character and Universal set the tone for how vampires would be shown for the next several decades. Lugosi repeated his most famous character to a certain extent excellent made Mark of the Vampire in 1935.
            A small town is terribly superstitious. The people are so superstitious that no one travels by night. A count has been murdered. He has been found with bite marks on his neck. The doctor tells the inspector Neumann (Lionel Atwill) that such things as vampire bites have been recorded. Inspector Neumann refuses to believe this vampires are not real. The count left behind a daughter named Irene and is now under the care of her guardian Baron Otto (Jean Hersholt). Neumann is suspicious of Otto because now that the count is dead Otto will come into a lot of money.
            The doctor is still convinced the count was killed by a vampire. He is completely drained of blood. The official cause of death stated by the coroner is unknown. Irene’s fiancée Fedor comes stumbling into the house. He was somewhere for what felt to him like hours but he was able to get away. Now the whole house is in an uproar over this incident.
            That night there are two vampires, male and female, in the graveyard behind the house. They manage to lure Irene out to them. They do not do anything too bad to her. A Professor (Lionel Barrymore) has come to the house. He looks at Irene and confirms the doctor’s theory about vampires is correct. He mentions the legend of the castle and the name of a Count Moro. The Professor thinks that Count Mora is the vampire. He explains to Otto and Neumann that the victims of the vampire become vampires themselves. Against the orders of the Professor Irene comes downstairs. She says she heard someone calling to her and it the voice sounded like her father’s. Inspector Neumann and Otto go to the graveyard to see if Irene’s father is still in his coffin. The body was not there. The audience is show the count standing next to the vampire Mora.
            The butler and the maid are told to put a plant called bat thorn around the house. The window at the end of the hall was open. They see a bat come in through the window then turn into a man. They identify him as Count Mora.
            Nuemann thinks the Professor is crazy. He takes Otto to Count Mora’s old castle. They see Mora with Irene’s father and they also see Mora’s female companion ,Luna, turn from a bat into a human. The Professor tells both men that vampires can only be killed in their original burial places by the clean swipe of their head and placing bat thorn in the wound. As the Professor and Otto go to Fedor. He was in a deep sleep. The Professor looks at the bite marks on his neck and he finds they are deep. Irene has had a curse placed upon her. The Professor says the curse needs to be broken. The Professor, Otto, and Neumann go to the old castle to find the vampire lair.
            Irene had been terrified the night everything with her father and being lured by the vampire happened. The next night she is not afraid and goes with Luna when she is lured from her room. Luna was just about Irene in the neck when Fedor breaks the window and chases after her.
            I dare not give away the ending to this film. It has two of the best twists I have seen in a film, especially older films. 
          You will see that the vampire of Count Mora has a bullet hole in head that is never explained. Originally there had been a back story of how Count Mora became a vampire but of course it was considered too much was taken out of the film. According to IMDB Count Mora was supposed to have had an incestuous relationship with his daughter Luna. MGM took twenty minutes out of the film that dealt with that storyline and director Todd Browning could not object to these cuts because his previous film Freaks had failed so badly.  
            I really enjoyed Mark of the Vampire. The story held my attention and kept me on my toes. The twist ending really does leave you thinking about everything that happened and how they could happen. Mark of the Vampire is available on DVD in a park of “horror” films. Unfortunately it is not available in full or in parts on Youtube. I watch Mark of the Vampire through TCM. If the channel airs the film again definitely watch it. 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Silent Sundays: Mare Nostrum (1926)

“Between Europe and Africa stretching from Gibraltar to the Syrian coast lies the Mediterranean land locked and tideless known to the ancients as Mare Nostrum- ‘our sea’”

            Mare Nostrum begins in a small town in Spain. The Ferragut family has lived in a small town in the country for centuries. The oldest Ferragut at the time had been sailing for forty years. The man comes back to his home to live out the rest of his days. He sits with his grandson Ulysses and is upset to find that the boy does not know the difference between ships. The man tells Ulysses about Amphitrite the goddess of the sea. The young boy is completely taken with the story and for as long as he lives he never forgets the story of the beautiful goddess. Ulysses’s father wants his son to have nothing to with the sea he wants the boy to become a lawyer.
            Years go by and Ulysses hears the call and pull of Triton. He has his own ship now named The Mare Nostrum. Ulysses is married and has a young son himself now. He receives a letter from his wife telling him to come home or he will ruin his son. He goes home to see his son Esteban. Esteban is the only one who is happy to see his father home. Ulysses’s wife had been chosen for him. She is not happy to see him at all and tells him he has upset the household. She becomes happy when Ulysses tells her he is there to stay.
            One of the crew members named Toni comes to Ulysses to tell him that war (WWI) has been declared and that they will be able to make back the money they had lost while not sailing from the merchants wanting ships for their cargo. Ulysses again leaves his wife and son to work on his ship.
            While in Italy, Ulysses goes to Pompeii. He meets a woman named Freya Talberg who looks familiar. She says she remembers him he had given her a lift to South America once. Ulysses does not remember this at all but that does not matter to him he is so taken with her. they walk together to a Greek temple. Freya comments on a snake they saw must surely be Neptune in snake form. With this comment Ulysses believes that Freya is Amphitrite  from the painting in his old home. For a week the Mare Nostrum has been ready to leave. Toni finds Freya’s handkerchief under Ulysses’s pillow. He tells the crew that while the captain has fun the rest of them are losing a fortune.

            One day Freya tells Ulysses she is an Austrian woman working for her county. He is not upset by this news he has nothing to do with German quarrels he is Spanish and therefore neutral. Freya speaks to his honor and duty to help her and Germany. Ulysses has the Mare Nostrum go back to Spain and he stays behind in Naples. Meanwhile at home, Esteban is missing his father. He gets on a ship and heads to Italy.
            The Germans want Ulysses to lead them to Aventura Bay in the Mediterranean. He agrees to help with their plan. Freya begs Ulysses not to go she believes something bad will happen. Esteban comes to Naples the day Ulysses has left. When Ulysses returns a woman tells him that Freya has left and that his son had come looking for him.
            The Germans sink an English ship in the bay. There were women and children aboard on the sunken ship. The surviving passengers come aboard the French ship that Ulysses is traveling on. He receives news from a fellow Spaniard that a young boy was with him on that the ship coming home from Naples. The boy had been standing by the rail when the torpedo came. Ulysses realizes the poor dead boy was Esteban.
            Freya and a Dr. Fedelmann have moved their headquarters to Barcelona. Freya writes a letter to Ulysses that the death of his son is making her work very hard to bear and she grieves as though Esteban had been her son.
            Ulysses has been ill in his hotel room in Marseilles for weeks. He refuses to return to Barcelona until he finds the Germans responsible for killing his son. Ulysses receives an anonymous letter that if he goes to a certain place he will find something that will make him happy. Freya is at the location waiting for him. He is not happy to see her at all. Freya tells him that Dr. Fedelmann wrote the letter that he received. The doctor has set her up to be caught by the French. Freya stills loves Ulysses and needs him to take her away. Ulysses sees the ghost of Esteban shaking his head “no” about taking Freya away. He runs out of the room. He runs into the colonel of the submarine that sunk the ship Esteban had been on. The two men get into a fight then run out of the hotel out onto the streets. Ulysses runs down the streets yelling that the colonel is a spy. The entire town chases after the colonel. For her involvement Freya is shot to death by a firing squad.
            Ulysses gives the Mare Nostrum to the French to help with the war effort. The same submarine that sunk the French ship sinks the Mare Nostrum. Not long after the submarine sinks in rough waters.
            Mare Nostrum was a good film. The story was different from other films made about World War I before World War II started. I liked it because the main character was not an American he was Spanish. The femme fatale truly did deserve her punishment she was a spy not just a seductress she knew exactly what she was just doing. The underwater scenes were haunting. By haunting I mean they were actually a little disturbing they were eerie but they were also very well made and actually kind of beautiful. Mare Nostrum is not available on Youtube or on DVD. I caught the film on TCM. If the channel airs the film again give it a watch. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

My Love Came Back (1940)

“Go into Swing music? No thanks, Dusty, I'll stick to real music.”
“But look, Amelia, Swing musicians aren't freaks anymore, they're artists with a new mode of music.”

            My Love Came Back is yet another film where the title makes no sense with the story whatsoever. This always drives me nuts.
            Amelia (Olivia de Havilland) is a violinist going to a prestigious music school in New York City. She is late for a concert and she has first chair. After the concert her professor tells Amelia she has been late several times. He will not let her explain her circumstances he just goes on and on. He tries to discipline Amelia but she gets so upset and throws something at the window on the door breaking it. Amelia finally gets to explain that she was giving lessons to make money. The academy forbids their scholarship students to work they need to focus on their music.
            Tony Baldwin works for a man named Mr. Malette at a music distributing company. He has just become the president of the company over Mr. Malette’s son. Mr. Malette is now busy being president of the academy Amelia attends. He saw her perform at the concert and wants to help her. Mr. Malette sends Amelia some records and a new player.
            Amelia’s friends Joy (Jane Wyman) and Dusty (Eddie Bracken) try to convince her to play swing music so she can make some money. She does not like the idea at first then she does after she plays it for a bit. Amelia informs the academy that she is leaving to join a swing band. Mr. Malette is there when she makes her announcement. He wants to give more money towards her scholarship.  Because of Mr. Malett’s kindness Amelia agrees to stay.
            Mr. Malette takes Amelia all over town to hear music. He was supposed to go to a ball with Amelia but his wife caught hold of him and reminded him it was their anniversary. Mr. Malette tells Tony to go to the ball in his place with Amelia. Right away Tony thinks Amelia is Mr. Malette’s mistress and treats her poorly.
            Paul. Mr. Malett’s son, sees that Tony has charged one hundred dollars for Amelia to the company account. He is determined to find out who she is because he is still upset at his father for not giving him the presidency position. When Paul asks Tony who she is Tony does not say thinking Amelia is the boss’s mistress. After this Tony goes to Amelia and talks to her like she is the mistress. He tries to tell her to leave Mr. Malette but she has no idea what he is talking about. Paul makes things even more complicated by telling his sister Valerie that Tony has been seeing Amelia. Valerie like Tony and becomes extremely jealous. Amelia meets with Paul. She tells him that the money that was given to her is for her scholarship and nothing else. Then Paul goes to see Amelia at her place and his father walks in. Now he thinks his father is seeing Amelia and he storms out. As he walks down the stairs Tony is walking up. Tony is upset he walks out of the building without going to Amelia’s.
            Now Amelia is upset because Tony does not want to see her. Dusty gets his swing band a job. Their job is at the Malette house. Amelia thinks Mrs. Malette knows about her. The two women talk and everything is cleared up.
            To make a long story short, Amelia and Tony get together after Mrs. Malette speaks to him.
            Alright so maybe the title does fit to some extent but that happens at the end and the main focus is Amelia and her music not her and some guy.
            Olivia de Havilland gives nothing short of a great performance. She was always fantastic. I just feel bad that she had to come off making Gone With the Wind but hey she was a star in the studio system what could she have done. Eddie Bracken and Jane Wyman were the best parts of the film. They were so funny together going back and forth teasing each other.
            My Love Came Back was an ok film. The story gets a little silly and annoying after a while. I suggest only seeing My Love Came Back for Olivia de Havilland and Eddie Bracken and Jayne Wyman. It is not a film that needs to be seen in a hurry.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Silent Sundays: White Shadows in the South Seas (1928)

“They are like man was before he lost the Garden of Eden.”

            White Shadows in the South Seas is about imperialism and how the white man feels superior to those he conquers. 
            The film begins on an island that over time has been “civilized” by greedy westerners. Dr. Matthew Lloyd lives on the island. He used to be respectable doctor but has become indecent because he is ashamed of what the white race has done to the natives. Some of the natives dive for clams. What they do is very dangerous. Many of them have died from burst veins and lungs from the pressure change. There are also sharks and other large sea creatures. Matthew is called a native coddler. He helps a man with collapsed lungs but unfortunately the man dies. The father of the dead man says he has lost all his sons the same way.
            Someone tells Matthew there is a ship out in the middle of the ocean that has sick people on it. When he gets out there he sees that most of the crew are dead not from measles but from the plague. He says the ship will have to be burned. The men attack Matthew, tie him up, and set the ship to sail. The ship heads into a typhoon. Matthew tries desperately to steer the ship away from rocks. He manages to jump and swim to land. He sees a hut on the other side of the island. He finds a whole native village untouched by white men. When Matthew approaches them they all scatter away. The men of the village are summoned to capture Matthew. The men gather around him, they have never seen a white man before. As the natives examine him, Matthew collapses from thirst and exhaustion. He is attended to by some of the women. One of the women is Fayaway. They massage him to take away his ache.
            The villagers see Matthew as a god and they prepare a great feast for him. He speaks with Fayaway alone and is immediately attacked by the men. An elder tells him that he cannot look at her with love in his eyes even if he is a god because she is a virgin of their temple. The next day Fayaway takes Matthew around the island. They hear a signal that the sea has taken someone’s life. It is a little boy who is in trouble. Matthew tries to save him. At first he is unsuccessful then he remembers what to do and saves his life. The elder says that now Matthew has saved his son and he may look into the eyes of Fayaway. White man and native are soon married.
            Matthew sees they do not collect pearls. His selfishness of his race and greed take over. One of the natives notices that Matthew goes around the lagoon looking for pearls. That night he sets fire to some leaves on the shore hoping ships will see it and come for his pearls. Fayaway asks him if he wants to leave. He realizes he has made a terrible mistake and gets mad at himself he does not want the ships to come. In the day time ships start coming ashore. Matthew tries to warn the villagers the boat is evil it will bring them woe. One of the crew members says they spotted the fire on the mountain the night before. The captain sees a girl wearing a pearl on a necklace. Now the greedy man wants to stay. The villagers think the other white men will be nice like Matthew. The captain is a man named Sebastian that Matthew knew on the other island. Matthew pleads with Sebastian to leave. He gets mad when Sebastian says he wants to open a store and have the villagers dive for pearls. One of Sebastian’s men shoots Matthew and the poor man dies.
            In the end all the villagers become “civilized.”
            I thought Shadow in the White Seas was good but very sad. In school when we learned about imperialism I would always get a little upset and mad how white men just went into lands they thought “uncivilized” and “civilized” the natives. Just because a group of people does not wear or practice something that you do does mean they are uncivilized. The people thinking this are uncivilized. W.S. Van Dyke directed the film. The more I see of his films the more I take notice of how good and creative he was. None of his films I have seen so far have been the same. Some of shots of the islands and the “natives” were beautiful. They reminded me of a Gaugin painting. I loved the feast scene, the food looked amazing! Shadow in the White Seas is definitely working watching.