Monday, April 29, 2013

Prospero's Essential Movie Guide Part 2

Director Tod Browning
Right up there with Science Fiction, Comedy and Drama, Horror movies played as much a part of early films as they do today.

Lon Chaney, "The Man of a Thousand Faces" was THE star of silent horror and his contribution to the genre is immeasurable. I was lucky enough to attend a screening of Phantom of the Opera at the Princeton chapel (really a Cathedral) with a live organ accompaniment, using the film's original score. The organist was a true professional, never skipping a beat when almost an entire reel was accidentally replayed. Chaney made an astounding number of silent genre films, including The Hunchback of Notre Dame; He Who Gets Slapped; The Unknown; London After Midnight (directed by Browning) and two versions of The Unholy Three (the original also directed by Browning). Chaney's son, Lon Chaney, Jr. had a lucrative career playing The Wolfman in the 40's and 50's, though he never rose to the height of his father's fame.

Sadly, not much footage remains from London After Midnight:

Luckily, Browning went on to direct two of the genre's iconic films: Dracula (Uncle P's introduction to horror) and the once-banned Freaks, both of which are readily available.

Of course there are those (Uncle P included) who think the Mexican Spanish Language version of 1931's Dracula (shot at night on Browning's sets) is superior in both tone and technical fimmaking:

I'll be moving on to more "talkies" in the next installment. Again, if you've never seen these films, I urge to seek them out.

More essentials, anon.

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