Sunday, April 12, 2015

Silent Sundays: House of Hate (1918)

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“Pearl is the only person in this castle who does not think about or wish for my death. That is why I made her my heir.”

            Today marks a very special day in the land of Une Cinephile. Today I have reached my 1,000th post! It is very fitting that my 1,000th post be a silent film since my first post back on September 23, 2010 was also a silent film entitled Sadie Thompson starring Gloria Swanson. Sadie Thompson was the first silent film I ever completely sat through and enjoyed. At the time I was still an undergrad at Montclair State University. I was in a music in film class which had absolutely nothing to do with my Art History major but my roommate had taken the class the semester before (she was a law major and it was part of a requirement. Go MSU) and I did all her homework since she did all my French homework. My teacher for the music in film class scored Sadie Thompson in 1987 when it was released on VHS. I could not get over how amazing not only the score was but how amazing the story was and how beautiful Gloria Swanson was. I had no one to talk about old movies with and I was always bursting to get my emotions, opinions, and thoughts out about them. That was when I decided to start this blog. I needed to get my feelings and thoughts out about Sadie Thompson and all the other classic films I watched.
            Une Cinephile has since become a blog where I discuss every movie I watch be it classic or new, comedy or horror, drama or westerns, foreign or domestic. This blog is essentially my movie diary that everyone can read. I once had a great teacher for a health class at MSU who was incredibly encouraging and inspirational. He loved the fact that I ran a blog and that I was so passionate about movies. He told the class that after 10,000 hours of doing something you become an expert. Well, I think I definitely have over 10,000 hours of movie watching behind me but I would not say I am an expert. There is so much I do not know about movies that I cannot wait to discover yet there is so much that I do know. I love film history about the studio system and I also like the technological side of film history. I go crazy when I see old film equipment it is big and bulky and gorgeous. The more movies I watch the bigger my appetite for knowledge about the industry’s history and the craft and work that goes into making them becomes.
            My journey as a cinephile (which mean “cinema enthusiast” in French) has brought me great opportunities and people into my life. My passion for film history lead two of my friends telling me about the Fort Lee Museum in Fort Lee, NJ where they were borrowing some film memorabilia for an exhibit and the people at the museum quickly became some of the most wonderful people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. Through these wonderful people I got to experience seeing my first silent film in a theater. The film was House of Hate and I got to see it at the incredible Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens, NY.
            House of Hate begins with a masked intruder entering a castle home through a secret passageway. The castle belongs to a weapons manufacturer Winthrop Waldon. He is apparently the only one who knows of the secret passageway in the castle. This intruder, later to become known as the Hooded Terror, leaves a threatening note to Winthrop that they know a family secret and the real heir will seek their revenge.  

            Also living in the castle is Winthrop’s illegitimate daughter Pearl (Pearl White), his brother Ezra and Ezra’s son Haynes and daughter Naomi. Winthrop does not trust his brother, nephew, and niece especially since the letter appeared. He names Pearl as his heir since he knows she is the only one that has not wished him dead.

            Unfortunately, Winthrop is murdered by the Hooded Terror that night. After he is stabbed the murderer throws the knife at a portrait of Pearl to indicate she is next. The uncle and his children have a great deal of motive to want her dead. With every scene we made to believe we absolutely know who the Hooded Terror is and then our false knowledge is shattered.
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            I did not realize going into this film that it was a restored print of a serial of several short films. Think of your favorite show where all the episodes were just strung together without commercials and just kept continuing one right after the other. That was what House of Hate was like for an hour and a half. I waited and waited all that time to see who the Hooded Terror was and it just kept going. It finally stopped but it was only part one. After a while I got a little frustrated because they would always be so close to unmasking the Hooded Terror and then the scene would end and a new story/scene/scenario would begin. Once I was told that it was all made up of serials all the cuts and skips in stories made more sense.
            House of Hate was filmed entirely in Fort Lee. The Fort Lee Museum in their film section has an entire case dedicated to Pearl White. She made all her films in Fort Lee. They love her there. I cannot even begin to tell you how many objects they have of Pearl White and her film in their collection. And Lucky me got to go through them all last summer organizing them (and the ENTIRE storage area) as part of my graduate internship. I remember seeing lobby cards for House of Hate all over the place. I am not a native of Fort Lee. I do live in New Jersey just down by the shore (yes I live near Sleazside, no I have never met or seen the Jersey Shore cast, and no I have never watched the show). Despite not living very close to Fort Lee and not knowing the area too well, I loved seeing the town as it looked almost one hundred years ago. It was so open and so clean. Today it is a congested nightmare with some nice areas like all northern Jersey towns. I swelled up with some Jersey pride. If it had not been for the weather and some other factors New Jersey would have been the movie capital of the world. All the major studios began there.
            The film was restored from reels found in Russia. It was shown to that audience in 1925 in a condensed form. It was digitally restored with assistance by Rutgers University film professor Richard Koszarski. He is an expert on silent films. He is one of several people I have had the pleasure to meet in journey as a cinephile. The professor knows his stuff he is fascinating to speak to about films. The restoration looks incredible. I hope the copy becomes available to purchase on DVD eventually.
            I can only hope that one day House of Hate will be available for wider viewing. The acting was so-so much of Pearl White’s acting was the overdramatic silent film acting. But do not let that kind of acting discourage you from seeing House of Hate whenever it becomes available to see. Do not even let the time discourage you from seeing it. The story from the several short films pieced together keeps you on your toes and wanting more to see who will be revealed as the Hooded Terror.
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            I would like to thank so very much to Tom Meyers at the Fort Lee Museum for taking me along today to experience seeing a silent film in theaters and for the experience of going to my first film museum. I would also like to thank The Museum of the Moving Image for leaving literally star struck and making my head spin in excitement over their displays and collections. Today was the first time I had ever been to a film museum before. I was in heaven. There was memorabilia, props, costumes (I LOVE film costumes with such a furious raging passion), cameras going back to Edison’s first camera, editing equipment, TVs, radios, and so much more. I felt right at home as a cinephile as well as a museum professional. Even before I visited the museum today I have always wanted to work there. I am constantly applying for jobs openings there. I have a degree in Museum Registration. It would be a dream come true keeping track of and just constantly being around film paraphernalia.

            Oh and an absolutely HUGE thank you to everyone who has ever stopped by and read my reviews. It means more than you will ever know. My sentence and grammar and punctuation are not the greatest. Obviously I am not a film critic in the traditional sense. It just means so much that people that have read my opinions and possibly enjoy them and find them interesting. Thank you, thank you, thank you so very, very much. Here is to another 1,000 posts. I am ready for the next chapter of journey as Une Cinephile.