CineSavant Column

Saturday March 16, 2019


There are lots of new and upcoming discs to get excited about here at CineSavant, but a couple of arrivals from Kino Lorber and the BFI have us smiling: two silent pictures by Anthony Asquith. So far we’ve seen Underground and it will take some explaining to say what’s so special about it — as in his silent film A Cottage on Dartmoor, Asquith utilizes wall-to-wall clever visual short-hand storytelling techniques, like those Alfred Hitchcock used in his silents like The Ring. They seem half-derived from comic strips, and are marvelously creative. The second Asquith title being released at the same time is called Shooting Stars, and we’re seeing it in a couple of days. The street date is far off (April 23), but I’ll be reviewing these a lot sooner than that.

And yet more interesting Silent classic news: on May 28, Flicker Alley will be giving us restored Blu-rays of Universal’s The Man Who Laughs and The Last Warning, films by the great Paul Leni (The Cat and the Canary). Not too many of us have seen The Last Warning, but it has a good reputation; The Hardy Encyclopedia of Horror says it’s about a mysterious phantom in a theater — using the same sets from The Phantom of the Opera. The Man Who Laughs is a played-straight, lavishly mounted historical horror-epic from Victor Hugo; it established some of the classic look of the best Universal horrors of the ’30s, making us wish that Leni had directed Lon Chaney’s Phantom or his The Hunchback of Notre Dame. The Man Who Laughs also stars Olga Baclanova, and as the title character in one of the most bizarre make-up jobs ever, Conrad Veidt.

Some teasing commentators on my review for Frank Tashlin’s Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? took me to task for not praising it enough, calling me a curmudgeon and asking if I chase kids off my lawn. Well, lawns are important, and I was acquitted on all counts.  But wait, high dudgeon curmudgeonliness cuts both ways. After seeing a depressing extended trailer for the new live-action Dumbo, I’ve elected to watch the marvelous, can’t-beat-it original 1941 Dumbo again this weekend. Even recalling bits of music from that great show reminds me of showing it to my daughter at around age 2.5 … it was ‘our’ movie. So strange that it found its way into 1941.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson