Silent Feature Sunday: Waxworks (1924)

While I do watch many new films, and have annual awards and will discuss current cinematic topics. Part of my desire to create my own site was to not have an agenda forced upon me that was not my own. This allows me to discuss films from all periods of history whenever I see fit. Recently my Short Film Saturday posts have been running toward silents more often. I questioned this tactic for a second until I realized that if I really do hope to encompass all of film history then the silent era most definitely should not be ignored. If you mark the silent era from the birth of film (1895) to the first talkie (1927), and I realize it could be argued that the silent era stretched a few years beyond that, and also that there were experiments with sound very early; that’s still 27% of film history at current which was entirely silent. Therefore a weekly post (or, however often I put it up) is not out of line at all mathematically or otherwise.

The good news is that many silent films are available to watch online, and are in the public domain. So I will feature some here.

Waxworks (1924)

I initially planned on including this film as a literal 61 Days of Halloween selection because I have a DVD of it that I’d been meaning to watch. As it happens, after I saw it on the DVD I learned that it is available online so I decided to feature it here. One reason I did is because it’s a good chance to discuss different versions of Silents available. Most of it has to do with image quality. This YouTube version is the newly restored cut but the compression is not as good as a professionally manufactured DVD. Movies Silently has a wonderful, comprehensive post on this very topic that is worth reading.

As for the film, for an anthology it has quite an unusual structure. Two of the stories are in excess of 30 minutes in length, while the last is just 10 or so. However, due to the way the stories are handled it works. The third is the most expressionistic and visually arresting. The entire film uses tinting to great effect. I had not gotten around to seeing Paul Leni’s work, which are few yet highly regarded, and this film is a good start to the viewing. Enjoy!

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