Friday, January 24, 2014

Jason goes to Niles Film Museum for a 9th anniversary celebration

Okay, really it was mostly like any other Saturday night in Niles. A couple of shorts, an intermission, a feature. But this marked 9 years of playing silent films with live accompaniment every Saturday night, the place was packed, and the movies were pretty awesome. So let's get to it:

MABEL'S STRANGE PREDICAMENT (1914): We're also celebrating 100 years of Charlie Chaplin in the movies, and featuring films from his first year at Keystone. This is one of them, and here's what I wrote the last time I saw it:
Chaplin's first role wearing the Tramp outfit (he said he didn't know what he was doing when he put it on, but new the character by the time he got to the set). We see him as a drunk (his "inebriate" act was a favorite in his Music Hall days) who chases Mabel Normand around a hotel after she gets locked out of her room. And her predicament gets stranger when she hides under another guest's bed.

BRONCHO BILLY AND THE BANDIT'S SECRET (2013): Our homegrown, brand-new silent film. This is the final screening of the work print (with all the intertitles added) so the next time anyone sees it it should be the finished print from the lab (with, for example, the light levels balanced.) Anyway, here's to recycling my old reviews:
The story starts--much as G. M. Anderson did before he was Broncho Billy--with a great train robbery. Broncho Billy (our own Bruce Cates) is on the train but instead of running away he pays careful attention to the robbers. Enough that he--along with his crew at the Essanay Studio--can assist the sheriff in catching the bad guys. Lots of adventure, and when it's all over Anderson has a great idea for a movie and it all ends with a proud Anderson and an embarrassed sheriff watching the movie-within-a-movie (that is actually an actual Broncho Billy movie.)

Then an intermission, and on to the feature film.

THE MARK OF ZORRO (1920): Another classic, another one I've seen before (at the SF Silent Film Festival in 2012) so another chance to recycle my review:
What's not to love about Douglas Fairbanks being heroic and athletic as Zorro and hilariously weak and foppish as his alter-ego Don Diego Vega. But what I didn't know before the introduction by Jeffrey Vance is how much of the iconic Zorro trademarks (especially the famous Z cut with his sword) actually originates with this movie and not the Johnston McCulley story (but then McCulley included it in the sequels he wrote after this movie.) I also knew that a young Bob Kane was a fan and based his most famous character on Fairbank's portrayal of Zorro. The mask, the double identity, even the hidden lair all came from Zorro and became iconic of Batman (so remember that when you watch THE DARK KNIGHT RISES next weekend.) And heck, this movie still totally delivers.
Wouldn't change a word.

Total Running Time: 150 minutes
My Total Minutes: 347,569

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