Wednesday, October 31, 2012

HALLOWEEN SPECIAL: Top 10 Silent Horror Films

In the early days of motion pictures, films were silent; without sound, music or spoken dialogue, and there are millions of moviegoers today who have NO idea what they're missing! Back in the early 20th century until the late 1920's, film was truly art. Before the age of the "talkies" after 1927, synchronized sound was available during that time, but due to the technical challenges involved, they were very costly and impractical. Although many American film companies were producing silent films, some of the best examples of silent film came out of Europe. While most silent films focused on adventure or romance, filmmakers found that the silent film was perfectly suited to the horror genre. With the advent of the German Expressionism movement, films like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) and Nosferatu (1922) set the standard of what silent horror films had to offer. If you consider yourself a horror movie fan and you have never seen any of these films than think again. Until you experience these films you have no idea what TRUE horror is! CHERNOBOG'S BLOG Proudly Presents: The Top 10 Silent Horror Films!
#10 Frankenstein (1910) - Directed by J. Searle Dawley, This Thomas Edison produced, one-reeler was the first motion picture adaptation of Mary Shelley's classic novel. Only 16 minutes long, the film starred Augustus Phillips as Dr. Frankenstein, Charles Ogle as the Monster, and Mary Fuller as the doctor's fiancée. This film features one of the most original creation scenes as Frankenstein makes the creature from a skeletal being in a vat of chemicals which was filmed in reverse.

#9 The Golem (1915) Directed by  Paul Wegener & Carl BoeseThe Golem was featured in a series of three films portraying the ancient Jewish legend of The Golem, an artificial man created by a rabbi to protect the Jewish people.

#8 The Monster (1925) - Directed by Roland West, The Monster is a film with an odd mixture of horror and comedy. An aspiring detective happens upon a mad scientist: Dr. Gustave Ziska (Lon Chaney), who inhabits an abandoned sanatorium, performs insane experiments on his patients.

#7 Faust (1926) - Directed F.W. Murnau, this was the first film adaptation of the legendary tale of  Faust, a man who makes a deal with the devil. Starring Gösta Ekman as Faust and Emil Jannings as Mephisto, the film was one of the most complex and expensive productions by the UFA. The "Bald Mountain" scene served as the inspiration for the "Night on Bald Mountain" sequence in Walt Disney's 1940 animated film Fantasia (also the inspiration for Chernobog's Blog and my wbesite: Chernobog's Lair!)

#6 Häxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages (1922) - Directed by Benjamin Christensen - Häxan is a Swedish/Danish, pseudo-documentary about the history of witchcraft in Europe. Inspired by the director's interest in the occult and his studies of the Malleus Maleficarum, a 15th century guidebook for witch hunters, the film features disturbing imagery along with graphic depictions of sex violence, and Satanic rituals. The film was censored and banned in several countries including the United States until it was re-released in 1968 with a dramatic narration by author  William S. Burroughs.

#5 The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) - Directed by Robert Wiene and starring Werner Krauss as Dr. Caligari and Conrad Veidt as the somnambulist (sleepwalker) Caesar who he uses to commit murder. The film has the most striking examples of German Expressionism in cinema with art direction by designer Hermann Warm.

#4 Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920) - Directed by John S. Robertson and starring John Barrymore as Dr. Henry Jekyll/Mr. Edward Hyde, based on the novella by Robert Louis Stevenson, the film features one of the most unique transformation sequences in film history as it was achieved mostly with no make-up, only the ability of Barrymore to contort his face. The final appearance of Mr, Hyde is especially disturbing as he dons a pointed head. The film has been remade a number of times, most notably later in the 1931 version starring Fredric March.
Lon Chaney in London After Midnight
#3 London After Midnight (1927) - Starring Lon Chaney as a fake vampire. This film is considered amongst one of the many lost films of the silent era as no existing footage of the film is known to exist. In 2002, Turner Classic Movies commissioned restoration producer Rick Schmidlin to produce a 45 minute reconstruction of the film, using surviving production photographs.

#2 The Phantom of the Opera (1925) - Directed by Rupert Julian and starring Lon Chaney Sr. as Erik, The Phantom. The original Phantom of the Opera is considered to be the most popular and most successful silent horror film of all time. Based on the French novel by Gaston Leroux, the production was plagued with problems from the start between the director and the cast. Later famed producer  Carl Laemmle assigned Edward Sedgwick as the director to re-shoot much of the film including a new ending. The highly original and influential make-up effects created by Lon Chaney himself (as with The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923)) was inspired by the novel and wounded soldiers from the first World War. The film features a short scene where The Phantom appears as The Red Death which was filmed in two-color "Technicolor", which was revolutionary for the time. The film sparked a new era for Universal Pictures as hey embarked to produce some of the most iconic horror film monsters ever including Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy and The Wolf Man. Lon Chaney was set to play Count Dracula, but due to his untimely death in 1930, the studio finally chose Bela Lugosi. The Phantom of the Opera has been remade many times including the 1943 Universal version starring Claude Rains and the recent 2004 version directed by Joel Schumacher and starring Gerard Butler.

#1 Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror (a.k.a. Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens, 1922) - Directed by F.W. Murnau, and starring Max Schreck as Count Orlok, Nosferatu is one of the single-most innovative and influential silent horror films today. Produced as an unauthorized adaptation of Bram Stoker's novel Dracula, the vampire was renamed due to copyright laws. The film contains THE most visually shocking vampire in the history of cinema, which was also the inspiration for the TV movie adaptation of Stephen King's Salem's Lot (1979). The film was later remade as Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979, a.k.a. Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht) by director Werner Herzog, and starred Klaus Kinski as Count Dracula. The story of the original film's production was fictionalized in the film Shadow of the Vampire (2000) directed by E. Elias Merhige starring John Malkovich as director F.W. Murnau and Willem Dafoe as Max Shreck/Orlock.
Clips from Silent Horror films (I'd turn OFF the sound if I were you!)