I started back over with my chronological movie watching again, after finishing up with the films of 2017 last week. I still managed to watch one more newer film, but most of what I saw were silent films. Besides the features (and one short film), I also watched the first volume in the Vitaphone Varieties DVD set, 4 discs of shorts from the late 1920s featuring musical performances, vaudeville acts, and other performance pieces. I followed that up with the first volume of FitzPatrick Traveltalks, a 3 DVD set of travelogue short films, shot in color, around the US and the world. Both sets are recommended for fans of the genres.
My choices for best of the week, which only ranked as high as 8/10 for me, include:
The Penalty (1920), one of the breakout hits for star Lon Chaney, featuring bizarre scenarios and a terrific performance by Chaney as the gangster known as Blizzard, whose legs were amputated when he was a boy, so he plots revenge, in between piano sessions where he forces a string of lovely young ladies to lay on the floor and press the pedals for him.
Grass: A Nation's Battle for Life (1925), an ethnographic documentary following a group of nomadic herders in Iran as they move their livestock towards seasonal grazing lands. There are several great sequences here, including a river crossing using inflated goat skins, and a lot of fantastic cinematography. This movie introduced Merian Cooper to Ernest Schoedsack, who went on to make King Kong.
The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926), the oldest surviving animated feature, this one from Germany and featuring fantasy elements out of the One Hundred and One Nights. The silhouette style of animation is very interesting to watch, and I found the whole thing to be vibrant and engaging.
The Great White Silence (1924), an amazing documentary of the ill-fated Scott expedition to the South Pole in 1910. The filmmaker managed to bring his primitive 1910-era camera along for the treacherous sea journey there, as well as filming the expedition members in and around their base camp, as well as the fauna of the area, such as seals and penguins. Luckily for the filmmaker, he wasn't invited along for the actual trek across the ice toward the South Pole, or else he wouldn't have made it. There's some truly breathtaking shots in this one.
As for the others that I watched, here are my ratings:
The Perils of Pauline (1914)
Tillie's Punctured Romance (1914)
The Battle of the Somme (1916)
The Golem (1920)
Ducks and Drakes (1921)
Oliver Twist (1922)
Three Ages (1923)
The White Sister (1923)
Chess Fever (1925)
Little Annie Rooney (1925)
The Monster (1925)
The Vanishing American (1925)
The Squaw Man (1914)
A Trip to Mars (1918)
The Wandering Shadow (1920)
Four Around the Woman (1921)
Shin Godzilla (2016)
And the worst of the week, ranking a 5/10, was Harakiri (1919), a very early work from director Fritz Lang, an adaptation of Madame Butterfly starring Lil Dagover, featuring dull performances, bad makeup, and a turgid pace.