Saturday, September 23, 2006

On Silent Films

I was going to leave this blank, and only post with the title, but I figured only my dad would get the joke, and he doesn't read my blog. So on with the (non-silent--quite wordy, actually) post....

I think I'm pretty safe in assuming that none of you in my general audience are old enough to have experienced silent movies first-hand--none save one. I know my Grandpa reads this, and he just might have been old enough to remember them. Anyway, I certainly had never seen a silent movie until a few weeks ago. I pulled a movie from our shelves that I had never watched. It was a dollar movie I picked up over a year ago at the grocery store. The blurb said it was "The Ring" by Alfred Hitchcock, a 1952 movie about a man who gets out of the slums by boxing, and has to work to regain respect from his dad. Sounded fine to me, so I stuck the DVD in the player.

My first impression was of the quality of the movie, and how it reminded me of a VERY old film. It was black and white, lots of dust and things coming across the screen, and the motions were really jerky, like those "0ld-timey" movies that didn't get the film speed right. I kept expecting Alfred Hitchcock to make his traditional appearance, and things to return to 1952 normal, but they never did! After being quite confused for several minutes, I finally realized the blurb on the DVD was for the wrong movie. This was "The Ring" by Alfred Hitchcock, a 1927 silent film where a man rises in celebrity as a boxer, and has to fight to keep the love of his wife.

All in all, it was a great film! Alfred Hitchcock did not make his appearance, and it wasn't even a mystery. I'm not sure when he began directing, but I would assume this was one of his first films. However, the shots were excellent, and the angles very well thought-out, just as in his later films. The characters mouthed lots of conversation to each other, very little of which was "subtitled" for the viewer. But I was surprised that I was able to follow the plot all the way through. I didn't realize how little conversation I actually needed to hear to know what's going on.

It was more tedious to watch this film than modern films, but it was neat to imagine that, until recently, this film had probably never been seen outside of the big screen. This was a movie about the 20s, for people from the 20s to watch. The depiction of the roaring 20s was a little different from what I've seen in my history books. The Charleston was a lot more lively than I've ever known it to be!

Somehow I felt a little of that realization that the "here and now" is not all there has ever been. It was a neat experience, and I would recommend anyone who hasn't seen a silent film to see one. And if you're at a loss of where to start, try "The Ring" by Alfred Hitchcock.


  1. Whatever happened to good scary movies? (I'm not saying that your silent movie was scary, just thinking about other Hitchcock movies.) When I first read "The Ring," I thought, so that stupid horror movie that came out a few years ago about the kid watching the video... that was a remake?

    Speaking of remakes... does it seem that Hollywood is out of ideas? Sometimes a remake goes over well... we've got better technology and stuff for better effects. But most of the time, the original movie was much better.

    What if Hollywood brought back the silent movie??

  2. Great post! How did you get the film frames onto your blog?

    I like silent movies, too, and it IS amazing how little you need sound effects. Makes our modern films, like our lives, seem too noisy!


    I'VE NEVER SEEN ONE, BUT THEN I'M ONLY 80 ..........


  4. Grandpa, you've never seen one? I thought if anyone had, it would be you. I realize that you were a tiny little guy in the 20s, but you never know!

    I got the film frames from a website, through a Google search.

    And if Hollywood brought back the silent film, it would be a total flop. Even I, who like watching old movies, couldn't watch silent films on a regular basis. I'm a true American, who believes that movies are all about putting your brain in neutral. :)

  5. Wow Lydia, what a neat experience. How cool to have something so unique for only a dollar. Glad you enjoyed it so much!

  6. Joe and I have done this too. You never know what you'll find at the grocery store. Our first experience with with Gregory Peck, I think, in "The Snows of Kilamangaro" or something. It was horrible. Just bad and slow all the way around.

    Then we also watched an OLD John Wayne movie, probably one of his first, and one of the first talkies. It was black and white with the hurky jerky movements, but the story was fun and corny and the sound effects were horrible, but it was a lot of fun.

    But, as with Lydia, I like most of today's films. A lot are too loud and too laiden with noises and action, but I love 'em all the same.

    I'd like to also take the time to recommend "Dear Frankie." It's a great little movie with a good story line and just a feel-good ending.

  7. That sure was a lot of words about silent film(s). You should have just used pictures...that would have been cool! Pictures with a few black screen captions. SWEET.

  8. @Leanna: I saw "Dear Frankie' and loved it! I think Gerard Butler is good in it, but not as good as he is in "Phantom of the Opera" .

    I like classic movie, musicals both old and new, romantic comedies, psychological thrillers, and war movies. I don't like horror, sci-fi, or music videos.

  9. No way! That guy was the Phantom?? Crazy!