Sunday, June 3, 2018

Jason goes to SilentFest--Day 4

Another full, full day of films, starting with NO MAN'S GOLD (1926) starring Tom Mix and, of course, Tony the Wonder Horse! As part of the Niles gang, my heart will always be with Broncho Billy, but I totally understand how Tom Mix surpassed him in popularity (hey, when you're the first, no one can take that away. When you're the best, someone will always eventually come along and surpass you.) Fast paced action with adventure and comedy. A man is shot while riding back home to stake his claim. He's found a huge vein of gold, and in his dying words he gives three parts of his map to the three men who find him. Little does he know one of them is the villain who shot him, Frank Healy (Frank Campeau.) The others are hobo Lefty Logan (Harry Gripp, basically playing the same character he played in Mix's GREAT K&A TRAIN ROBBERY in the same year,) and of course Tom Mix as "Tom Stone." Eva Novak joins the cast as the love interest who can also ride a horse, and Micky Moore (who went on to have a great career as a second unit director, including the silent-serial inspired Indiana Jones movies) as Jimmy Rogers, the young son of the miner who was shot. Anyway, non-stop action ensues, and it's a great pick-me-up for the bleary-eyed 10 a.m. audience.

Donald Sosin and Frank Bockius kept things humming along briskly, including opening it in appropriate Saturday morning style, with a sing-a-long of the movie's theme song...written just minutes before by Donald Sosin. Awesome!

Tom Mix puts Mickey Moore to bed. He will sneak out and join in the adventures, of course. Still courtesy of SFSFF

MARE NOSTRUM (1926): Next up was a melodrama of seafaring and WWI, directed by Rex Ingram (THE FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE) and starring Antonio Moreno as the Spanish sea captain Ulysses Ferragut. In the opening scene, young Ulysses is pulled between his uncle Triton--who encourages him to continue the family tradition of seafaring and find the mystical sea goddess Amphitrite--and his father, who wants him to abandon the sea like he did, and become a lawyer. I guess I already revealed that the sea wins out. But more importantly, although he becomes a captain and husband and father, he falls for a woman he meets in Italy, Freya Talberg (Alice Terry.) She happens to look just like his uncle's old painting of Amphritite. But she also happens to be a German spy, and she (and her network) convinces the otherwise neutral Spaniard to help refuel a German U-boat. Terrible consequences ensue, of course. Loosely based on the Mata Hari case, it's a gripping and exciting action-drama.

And Stephen Horne performed brilliantly again in accompaniment, assisted and once again Frank Bockius on percussion.
A breech of a U-Boat's hull. Still courtesy of Photoplay

The next show started with the 9 minutes that probably had the most local anticipation SAN FRANCISCO AFTER THE EARTHQUAKE (1906): Recently rediscovered and restored, I saw the digital restoration in Niles just a month and a half ago. Well, this was the 35 mm premiere, which is basically the same footage, but on an order-of-magnitude larger screen, and with the final sequence tinted red. There's basically a reprise of A TRIP DOWN MARKET STREET, showing a similar hustle-and-bustle but now with destroyed buildings and people hustling to rebuild. Then there's footage of refugees leaving from the ferry building to rebuild elsewhere (or at least, stay elsewhere until they can return.) And finally there are scenes of them dynamiting the remaining precarious structures so they can rebuild. I guess rebuilding is the theme. Still amazingly cool.

TRAPPOLA (1922): And then the feature was a fast-paced comedy from Italy. Italian diva Leda Gys stars as Leda Bardi, a young lady living in an orphanage run by nuns, and getting into all sorts of trouble. Effervescent doesn't begin to describe her, as she goes from orphan to runaway, to accused thief, to hero, to movie extra, to movie star, to avenger of her friend (whose betrothed turned her away in favor of a film diva,) to traitor to her friend, back to friend when she realizes the guy she fell for was a completely different Claudio. All in a light 62 minutes. Whew!

And the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra kept pace with their score, and Amanda Salazar had probably the toughest job reading all the Italian intertitles in English without falling behind.
Leda Gys praying to the Madonna to get her the heck out of the Catholic orphanage. Still courtesy of Cineteca Milano

THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES (DER HUND VON BASKERVILLE) (1929): Then a little something for the Sherlockians in the audience, a recent restoration of the last silent Sherlock Holmes film. Long thought lost, then found in the basement of a Polish church, this was pretty exciting.  Carlyle Blackwell stars as Sherlock Holmes, and  George Seroff co-stars as Dr. Watson, in pretty much the first film that treated Watson as more than part of the set dressing. The story is familiar to any Sherlockian, and to my poor memory this adaptation is more or less faithful. It's definitely got the German influence (including, inexplicably, never getting that Baskerville doesn't have an S at the end.) But it's got action, humor, mystery, and of course Sherlock Holmes being brilliant. Oh, and it's got a scary looking hound. Cool.

The brilliant accompaniment was courtesy of the Guenter Buchwald Ensemble, consisting of Guenter Buchwald, Sascha Jacobsen, and again Frank Bockius--who just had to work all day today!
Holmes and Watson wrap up the case. Still courtesy of Deutsches Filminstitut
THE SAGA OF GÖSTA BERLING (GÖSTA BERLINGS SAGA) (1924): And finally, we ended the day with a bit of a Swedish epic (complete with a half-hour intermission.) An incredibly playful epic, while still being dramatic and moving. Lars Hanson stars as Gösta Berling, who is introduced as a cavalier (may I say, that term is a little distracting during the NBA finals, as our local team is playing the Cleveland Cavaliers) leading a band of carousing cavaliers. In the opening sequence they're enjoying their Christmas feast when Gösta announces a toast to the 13th partier, which confuses them since there's only 12 of them. Soon enough, Satan himself barges in, ranting about how their beloved mistress keeps her riches by promising the soul of one cavalier every year! He is, of course, soon revealed to be the inn-keeper playing a joke. That's the sort of playful epic this is, even at times when it gets awfully dark. Anyway, we learn Gösta's entire saga, from when he was a priest who liked the drink a little too much and was defrocked. To his time as a tutor--and how that was a weird inheritance plot by the madam of the house. Up to his time as a cavalier and the strange, soap-opera-ish entanglements that ensue. Including with the lovely Elizabeth Dohna, wife of the son of the house who will someday inherit it all. Oh yeah, she's played by Greta Garbo, in her first starring role. Despite the playful nature of the meta-narrative, there's enough drama, deceit, and cruelty that you never know until the end if it will all turn out alright. It's an epic melodrama of human weakness and human forgiveness.

This is the movie that not only brought Garbo to Hollywood, but also director Mauritz Stiller--although his stint in Hollywood was nowhere near as successful. Mostly, he's known as the guy who discovered Greta Garbo, and allegedly came up with her new name (Greta Gustafsson just didn't work as a screen name.)

And the Matti Bye Ensemble accompanied brilliantly, of course. They're representing Sweden, too!
It would make more sense to show Lars Hanson as Gösta Berling, but how can you not show Greta Garbo in her first co-starring role? Still courtesy of the Swedish Film Institute

Total Running Time: 498 minutes
My Total Minutes: 481,663

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