#3 Safety Last!

Watched: July 31 2016

Directors: Sam Taylor, Fred C. Newmeyer

Starring: Harold Lloyd

Year: 1923

Runtime: 1h 10min

Safety Last

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Safety Last! was a new one for us, although the above image of Harold Lloyd dangling from the clock was familiar. This is a classic silent comedy with some laugh-out-loud moments and some very real suspense. There are visual gags, hilarious jokes, neck-breaking stunts (though thankfully not literally), and some good instances of misdirection.

The plot is simple enough. A young man travels to the big city to “make good” before he can marry his girlfriend. He proceeds to fuck everyone over while lying to his delusional girlfriend about his success. OK, that may have been a bit harsh, but let’s look at his actions:

  • He tells his girlfriend he’s successful and makes lots of money
  • He steals(!) his best friend’s phonograph and pawns it to buy a necklace for said girlfriend
  • He doesn’t pay his rent because all his money goes to buying her pretty, pretty pressies
  • He gets his best friend in trouble with the law
  • He constantly brags (mostly about things that are not true)
  • He marries his girlfriend under false pretenses (still keeping up the charade that he is rich and successful)
Safety last 2
Yes, dear, all managers have to climb the buildings they work in. It’s how it is in the city.

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That being said, he is strangely likeable at times. He is very good at thinking on his feet and getting out of scrapes, and like Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, Lloyd was a gifted physical comedian which is the source of many of the funniest moments in the film. The slapstick and minor stunts are often hilarious and compelling to watch. In fact, here’s a song in praise of Harold Lloyd (sung to the tune of Gaston):

Noooo oooone crawls like Harold,

no one squats like Harold,

no one puts on a coat and hangs up like Harold! (watch the movie to see what I mean)

As for the girlfriend, she is completely delusional and actually believes all his insane claims despite all the evidence to the contrary. It is also sad that he feels the need to lie to her and “buy” her love, but it is unclear whether this is her doing or his.

Still, the plot is secondary to the stunts – particularly the extremely suspenseful climb scene towards the end. In fact, when the protagonist climbed the building, my sister could not even bear to watch most of it. It was a very tense moment in our living room, I tell you!

It’s a comedy, so of course there’s a happy ending. They go off to be married, in true Shakespearean-comedy-tradition. Huzzah!

Next time: The Gold Rush (1925)

 

 

#2 Nosferatu

Watched: July 30 2016 (double feature night!)

Director: F.W. Murnau

Starring: Max Schreck

Year: 1922

Runtime: 1h 34min

Liquids consumed: 2 ciders each

 

Nosferatu

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As many of you will know, Nosferatu is an adaptation of Bram Stoker’s epistolary novel Dracula (1897). However, due to copyright problems, the names and places had to be changed. Thus, the vampire is (the now iconic) Count Orlok, portrayed by (the equally iconic) Max Schreck. If there were ever a name more suitable for playing movie monsters, I do not know what it would be. This was one of the films I had on DVD, but it is also available on Youtube (though with the names changed to ones more similar to those in Stoker’s novel).

The plot should be well known to most: a young man (here: a happy-go-lucky simpelton) is dispatched to Transylvania to help a Count buy property in Wisborg/London. At the mention of Count Orlok/Dracula, the local villagers are frightened and beg him not to proceed on his journey. And rightly so. The Count turns out to be a vampire, feeds on the young man and then leaves him prisoner in his castle while travelling to Wisborg/London to eat/seduce his wife/fiancé. There is also a professor who does research on vampiric stuff, but he is not that important in this version.

This is another German Expressionist film, although the sets are vastly different from those in Dr. Caligari. They are realistic rather than stylized, although the director plays a lot with light and shadows (as seen in the picture above) which we also saw in Caligari. There are nods to the epistolariness (is that a word? I’ll pretend it is) of Stoker’s work in that a lot of the intertitles are excerpts from letters and/or books.

Max Schreck portrays a very creepy Count, a far cry from Gary Oldman’s sexy, sexy beast in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 Dracula. Schreck’s character is more about the feeding and less about the ladies, if you know what I mean (although only a woman can lure him to his death). Count Orlok is very batlike (but not like Batman. More like an actual bat) whilst Oldman’s Dracula has more of the wolf about him. A sexy, sexy wolf…

Nosf
Nananananananana BATMAN!

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He is however oddly endearing as he emerges from the ship

Nosferatu2
Helloooo? Iz anyone hier?

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In conclusion, this is an entertaining and spooky bit of cinema that everyone needs to watch at least once in their lives. We also recommend watching Sexy Oldman in Coppola’s 1992 Dracula. Cause Gary Oldman…

Next time: Safety Last (1923)

#1 The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

Watched: July 30 2016

Director: Robert Wiene

Starring: Werner Krauss, Conrad Veidt, Friedrich Feher, Lil Dagover

Year: 1920

Runtime: 1h 18min

Liquids consumed: 1 cider each

 

Das-Cabinet-des-Dr-Caligari-poster

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This was a rewatch for us, of a classic German Expressionist horror film, and as it’s from 1920 it is readily available on Youtube. The protagonist tells the story of horrible events that transpired during his and his fiancĂ©’s dealings with Dr. Caligari and his somnambulist (aka sleepwalker) Cesare.

The make-up is excellently creepy and so are the costumes (good shoes, lady!). However, the biggest visual voice is the set. It is mostly painted canvas, and the lines, angles and sizes are all distorted, adding to the nightmarish quality of the film in general.

There is also some very good use of shadows, which is something we’ll see again in the next film, Nosferatu, if memory serves. And, as always, there are fragile women and swooning.

For a Norwegian viewer, being exposed to German is fun! As we both did French in school, our German has limited itself to such phrases as “Was ist das?” and “Ich bin ein wiener schnitzel,” which are not very useful. But watching this film in the original language confirmed the similarities between Norwegian and German, and we can now add to our German vocabulary such words as “somnambuler” which is sure to come in handy!

Despite this being a silent film, it is not inaccessible nor does it demand too much of the viewer. It shares many qualities with “modern” horror films, and it is a good example of great storytelling. It is entertaining, creepy, beautiful and grotesque, with a disturbing, eerie atmosphere throughout. All in all, we thoroughly recommend it!