The Artists: The Best of Kino's Silent Classics, Vol. 1 [7 Discs] [DVD]
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Overview

Synopsis

Broken Blossoms
Based on "The Chink and the Child", a story by Thomas Burke, Broken Blossoms is one of D.W. Griffith's most poetic films. Richard Barthelmess plays a young Chinese aristocrat who hopes to spread the gospel of his Eastern religion to the grimy corners of London's Limehouse district. Rapidly disillusioned, Barthelmess opens a curio shop and takes to smoking opium. One evening, Lillian Gish, the waif-like daughter of drunken prizefighter Donald Crisp, collapses on Barthelmess' doorstep after enduring one more of her father's brutal beatings. Barthelmess shelters the girl, providing her with the love and kindness that she has never known. Crisp, offended that his daughter is living with a "heathen," forces the girl to return home with him. In a terrible drunken rage, Crisp beats Lillian to death. Barthelmess arrives on the scene, kills Crisp, then kneels beside Lillian's body and takes his own life. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Thief of Bagdad
Douglas Fairbanks is at his most graceful and charismatic in one of the classic silent films of the 1920s. As the thief of Baghdad, his movements are dance-like -- nothing like the athletics he performed in most of his other films. In this Arabian take, the thief ignores the holy teachings and sneaks into the palace of the Caliph (Brandon Hurst). All thoughts of robbery slip away, however, when he sees the beautiful princess (Julanne Johnston). Princes have come from many faraway lands to win the princess' hand (and it's amusing to watch her face growing ever more alarmed at their arrival, because each one is uglier than the last). The thief disguises himself as a prince and the princess falls in love with him. After having a pang of conscience, the thief confesses all to the Holy Man (Charles Belcher), who sends him to find a magic chest. He braves many obstacles to get it, and when he returns he discovers that the Mongol Prince (Sojin) has taken over the city. Using the chest, the reformed thief creates armies of men out of nothingness and recaptures the city. He then uses the cloak of invisibility to spirit the princess away on a magic carpet. Fairbanks stole some of the special effects for his film from Fritz Lang's Der Müde Tod, which he had purchased for American distribution. The Thief of Baghdad, with its look of unrealistic beauty (courtesy of art director William Cameron Menzies), was not fully appreciated in its day. Because of its huge cost (two million dollars -- a real fortune in those days), it made little money. After that, Fairbanks stuck closer to the swashbuckling persona he felt his audience wanted. Available now on DVD, the remastered film features a new score by Carl Davis. ~ Janiss Garza, Rovi

Blood and Sand
Both animal and human nostrils flare, and passion reigns in this classic romantic tragedy with Rudolph Valentino. Valentino is Juan Gallarde, an aspiring bullfighter, married to his loving childhood sweetheart Carmen (Lila Lee). But as his fame rises as a matador, so does his hot Spanish blood, and he succumbs to the passionate embraces of the sultry Doña Sol (Nita Naldi). When Juan is gored by a bull, his bullfighting fame is cut short, and Carmen returns to his side to nurse him back to health, and, as he struggles to regain his strength and make a comeback in the bullring, Carmen is there for him. At last he returns to the bullring, but in the stands, Juan sees Doña Sol with another lover. His attention distracted, a furious bull charges him and he is killed, dying in the arms of Carmen. ~ Paul Brenner, Rovi

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
In 1920, filmgoers were treated to no fewer than two different film versions of Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In this one, John Barrymore plays the humanitarian Dr. Henry Jekyll, who becomes obsessed with the notion of separating the good and evil impulses within every man. To this end, he develops a potion which unleashes his own darker side: the demonic Mr. Hyde. This was the adaptation which established the cliché of having both a "good" and "bad" leading lady, to parallel the doppelganger aspects of the Jekyll/Hyde personality. Martha Mansfield is the good girl, while Nita Naldi, wearing costumes that were daring indeed in 1920, is the bad one. The adaptors also borrowed the character of Lord Henry from Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray in order to provide Jekyll with an evil mentor/blackmailer. Sadly, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde proved to be one of the last starring films for leading lady Martha Mansfield: she died horribly during filming of The Warrens of Virginia (1924) when her costume touched a discarded match and burst into flame. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Metropolis
It
The General
Buster Keaton plays Johnny Gray, a Southern railroad engineer who loves his train engine, The General, almost as much as he loves Annabelle Lee (Marion Mack). When the opening shots of the Civil War are fired at Fort Sumter, Johnny tries to enlist -- and he is deemed too useful as an engineer to be a soldier. All Johnny knows is that he's been rejected, and Annabelle, thinking him a coward, turns her back on him. When Northern spies steal the General (and, unwittingly, Annabelle), the story switches from drama and romance to adventure mixed with Keaton's trademark deadpan humor as he uses every means possible to catch up to the General, thwart the Yankees, and rescue his darling Annabelle -- for starters. As always, Keaton performs his own stunts, combining his prodigious dexterity, impeccable comic timing, and expressive body language to convey more emotion than the stars of any of the talkies that were soon to dominate cinema. ~ Emru Townsend, Rovi

Dr. Pyckle and Mr. Pride
Even before he teamed up with Oliver Hardy, Stan Laurel's solo films were often quite funny, especially when he spoofed a famous film such as The Spoilers (the Laurel version is called The Soilers) or Blood and Sand (which became the two-reel Mud and Sand). One of the funniest of these "travesties," as they were called in those days, was Dr. Pyckle and Mr. Pride, in which Stan lampoons Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. As the kindly Dr. Pyckle, Laurel is experimenting to discover a drug that will separate the good from the bad in man. When he finally has an elixir, he drinks it with trepidation. After a satirical sequence of comic spasms, the horrific Mr. Pride reveals himself and proceeds to terrorize the town: he chases a little boy down and steals his ice cream cone, he cheats at a game of marbles, and he explodes a paper bag behind a little old lady, startling her. Worst of all, he tricks one of the town's leading citizens into getting caught in a Chinese finger trap! The whole town is up in arms at these evil acts but Pride manages to take the antidote before they can catch up with him. He goes through yet another transformation before his assistant (Julie Leonard) catches him. Devastated over what he has done, Dr. Pyckle decides to poison himself, but instead of the fatal brew, he mistakenly drinks castor oil. ~ Janiss Garza, Rovi

Clara Bow: Discovering the 'It' Girl
Clara Bow's heartbreaking personal life and successful Hollywood career are recalled during interviews with her son, as well as film expert Leonard Maltin and author Budd Schulberg. Singer/actress Courtney Love narrates this program that also features clips from some of Bow's many movies, including It and Parisian Love. As this video reveals, Bow spent many of her last years struggling with emotional problems in various institutions. ~ Elizabeth Smith, Rovi

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