Two films by Paul Leni

Flicker Alley has released two new Blu-rays of silent films by Paul Leni, a German director who also worked in the United States. They are The Man Who Laughs and The Last Warning. DVDs are also included.

I recently watched The Last Warning and Flicker Alley has done a great job. The film has been restored as much as possible and the disc has excellent supplements. I haven’t watched The Man Who Laughs but I have seen the old Kino Lorber release. I don’t think The Last Warning has been available on any form of home video in the US before.

The Man Who Laughs is watched by characters in Brian dePalma’s The Black Dahlia.

The Magnificent Ambersons is on TCM tonight

The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) was directed by Orson Welles. It’s on TCM tonight at 10:00 ET. RKO made major changes to the film before it was released and tacked on a happy ending. It’s flawed but still a great film with some magnificent shots and a terrific performance by Agnes Moorehead.

The Criterion Collection recently released it on Blu-ray and DVD. I haven’t watched it yet but Criterion always does a great job.

Brief review by Pauline Kael

Hollywood portrait photographs

There was a great exhibit of these photographs at the Museum of Modern Art in 1980-1981.

More pictures of the exhibit are here.

I also recommend the books by John Kobal.

Criss Cross (1949) is coming to Blu-ray

Criss Cross will be available on July 23, 2019.

This is great news. Criss Cross is one of the best film noirs. It stars Burt Lancaster, Yvonne De Carlo and Dan Duryea as members of a love triangle. It was directed by Robert Siodmak and written by Daniel Fuchs.

Here’s an article on it.

The Great Buster

The Great Buster (2018) is an excellent documentary directed by Peter Bogdanovich that was released on Blu-ray and DVD on April 2,2019. It covers his life and work through film clips and interviews by artists that were influenced by him. The film clips are very comprehensive and cover not just his well-known shorts and features from the 1920s. There are numerous clips from later works even including commercials. The best part is the last section which focuses on his ten independently produced features.

The bonus features are the trailer and a poorly recorded appearance by Bogdanovich after a screening of the film.

My first experience with Keaton films was a great series run by the Carnegie Institute Film Section in Pittsburgh in 1972. For several weeks, they ran his features and shorts with live piano accompaniment.

Most of his independent films have been released on disc (some several times with upgrades by Kino Lorber. It sounds like the Cohen Media Group will upgrade and re-release the films again.

Where to start?

The General is his most highly regarded film and I would begin there. Of his other features, my favorites are Steamboat Bill, Jr. and Our Hospitality.

The General is set during the Civil War. Our Hospitality is based on the Hatfield-McCoy feud which seems like an unlikely basis for a comedy but Keaton finds humor there. Steamboat Bill, Jr. is one of Keaton’s funniest films and features amazing scenes in a hurricane.

For the short films, try Cops and One Week.

Cops is simple – mostly chase sequences of Buster being chased by the police. One Week is based on Buster building a house from a kit but his romantic rival has renumbered the boxes to sabotage him. The house turns out to be a wreck.

There are versions of many of his films on YouTube.