Phantom Of The Opera (Dir. Rupert Julian, 1925) (Screening format – not known, 103mins) A title that needs no introduction, ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ has spawned many remakes, remasters and sequels. This original film version, produced with moments of early Technicolour, sees Lon Chaney, the ‘Man of a Thousand Faces’ perform one of his most iconic roles. His ghastly make-up and outrageous performance made this title a benchmark in the American silent film era. The film was a critical and commercial success upon release, and still stands as an important film in cinematic history to this day, with press quotes from the time labelling the film an ‘ultra-fantastic melodrama’ (New York Times), ‘produced on a stupendous scale’ (Moving Picture World) and ‘probably the greatest inducement to nightmare that has yet been screened’ (Variety). The mysterious phantom (Lon Chaney) is a vengeful composer living in the catacombs under the Paris Opera House, determined to promote the career of the singer he loves (Mary Philbin). Famed for the phantom’s shock unmasking, incredible set designs and the masked ball sequence, it still packs a punch. Find out more at Wikipedia. With live musical accompaniment by acclaimed musicians Minima. Quorn Village Hall, Quorn, Leicestershire Link
The Wind (Dir Victor Sjostrom, 1928) (Screening format – not known, 95 mins) Innocent and naive Letty Mason (Lillian Gish) moves from her Virginia home to Sweet Water on the western prairies to live on the ranch of her cousin Beverly (Edward Earle) , his wife Cora (Dorothy Cumming) and their three children. Letty quickly learns how inhospitable the environment in Sweet Water is, the most obvious feature being the incessant wind. But equally inhospitable are the unrefined way the people in Sweet Water live to which she is unaccustomed, and Cora, who believes Letty has come to steal Beverly away from her. As a result, Cora orders Letty out of her and Bev’s house. With no money, Letty is forced to accept one of the marriage proposals she receives, from Lige Hightower (Lars Hanson), a man who she does not love. But greater terrors loom and the incessant wind brings with it the prospect of madness. Despite being a critical and popular failure on its release, The Wind is now considered a classic, featuring one of Gish’s greatest performances. But it marked the end of an era being the last silent film starring Gish, the last directed by Sjostrom, and the last major silent released by MGM. Find out more at silentfilm.org With live musical accompaniment by Meg Morley. Guildhall, Litchfield Link
Napoleon (Dir. Abel Gance, 1927) (Screening format – DCP, 332 mins) Gance’s epic biopic of Napoleon traces his career from his schooldays (where a snowball fight is staged like a military campaign), his flight from Corsica, through the French Revolution (where a real storm is intercut with a political storm) and the Terror, culminating in his triumphant invasion of Italy in 1797. The film ends here because it was intended to be part one of six, but Gance was unable to raise the money to make further episodes. The film’s legendary reputation is due to the astonishing range of techniques that Gance uses to tell his story ( including fast cutting, extensive close-ups, hand-held camera shots, location shooting, point of view shots, multiple camera set-ups, multiple exposure, superimposition and under water shots) culminating in the final twenty-minute triptych sequence, which alternates widescreen panoramas with complex multiple- image montages. This is the most complete version of the film available, compiled by Academy Award-winning film-maker, archivist and historian Kevin Brownlow who spent over 50 years tracking down surviving prints from archives around the world since he first saw a 9.5mm version as a schoolboy in 1954. Find out more at BFI and Wikipedia With recorded Carl Davies orchestral accompaniment. Picturehouse Cinema Oxford, Link
Napoleon (Dir. Abel Gance, 1927) (Screening format – DCP, 332 mins) For film details, see above. With recorded Carl Davies orchestral accompaniment. Quad, Derby Link
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