Dumptober Part 2: Silent Horror

As I mentioned in my previous post, a significant chunk of the month was dedicated to a video compilation project. The theme was silent horror and I admittedly have zero editing knowledge. I've made mash-ups using a VCR and a dvd recorder but anything that involves even the most limited software is lost on me. Despite these things, I was determined to put something awesome together. I knew I could learn fast, and so I did.

photos of the actual projections at Sip.

The project was meant to be simply a collection of visually stimulating scenes from silent horror. A friend of mine hosts a monthly event and wasn't quite sure the direction she wanted to take since it fell so close to Halloween. When I suggested silent horror I knew I was taking on a enormous task. I wanted it to be historically accurate above all. While nodding to demi-gods such as Caligari and Orlac, I did NOT want to simply make a loop of the most popular films. The goal was to only use clips from the dawn of cinema (1892) to the end of prohibition (1933). I spent weeks extracting snippets and ended up with clips from twelve feature films and fifteen shorts. There's a collective romanticism from films of the period. Effortlessly haunting. Naturally I gravitated to German Expressionism.

My favorite new discovery from my research was a film called From Morn to Midnight (1922). Possibly one of the most effectively stylized movies of the era. It's about a depressed banker who decides to heist the money and flee to pursue his passions. While he lives the lap of luxury he's constantly haunted by the face of death. Without being able to escape his own guilt he eventually goes mad. The film is so beautifully designed I dare say it reaches a level of expressionistic perfection that makes Cabinet of Dr. Caligari look restrained. The story might not stack up but the images are profoundly arresting. I can't help but wonder if it didn't influence some of my favorite films. Baron Prasil, Ubu Roi and Forbidden Zone all have shades of From Morn to Midnight. I could have just put the film on a loop and called it a day!


Secondly, I finally watched one that's been on my list for a while. Satan's Rhapsody. Italy had an interesting silent wave, especially in fantasy and horror. While not the shadowy nightmare world that German Expressionism embodied, there's an ornate quality that it possess. Lavish with an attention to detail. The use of tinting film also feels important as it helps you really open your eyes and notice patterns and textures that define the region and atmosphere. I was drawn to this film from the alluring poster. As it turns out, it's Faustian tale of an aging actress who sells her soul to the devil to be young and beautiful. It's a bit old fashioned at times (uses mostly stationary camera angles in the first half) but the end sequence is just oozing with phantasmagoria.

Her first encounter with Satan.

Being fabulous in her beautiful clothes.

The last feature that I really want to touch on is Robert Wiene's Genuine: A Tale of a Vampire. She's more of a sexual vampire than a literal vampire. A siren, if you will. After painting her portrait, the artist dreams that she emerges from it. She was found in mysterious tribe, worshiped like a goddess then sold as a slave at the market. She possesses the power the drive men insane with desire. Wiene made Genuine the same year he did Caligari, which I think has a lot to do with it being overshadowed. Fern Andra as Genuine is a perfectly creepy vixen. Her clothes are borderline insane. There's the dramatic uniformity of clothes and set design in German Expressionism and then there's Genuine. Allow me to show you with a series of screen shots.

Sexy floral/lacy bodysuit.

Interesting painted/graffiti-esque outfit that matches her room.

This one's maybe my favorite. Strappy gothic almost dominatrix swirly thing. I can't even really figure it out, but it has a matching cape.

I can't figure out what's on her coat here but I know that I want it.

lol, she's the best.

A little more traditional, but beautiful none the less.

This little bloomer number is killin' me.

Both costumes and production design by famous painter Cesar Klein.

For some reason Genuine doesn't have a sterling reputation amongst German Expressionist fans (by that, I really just mean Cabinet of Dr. Caligari fans) and I'm really not sure why. Just because it isn't the greatest movie ever made doesn't mean it can't simply be a great movie. It's certainly one of my favorites.

Here are some other screen grabs I took while working on the project.

Ace of Hearts

Warning Shadows

The Hands of Orlac

Legend of a Ghost

Some Segundo De Chomon short, I forget which.

Had to grab this one because I can relate on so many levels. From Warning Shadows.

Red Spectre

Some magical underwater mermaid world by Segundo De Chomon. Reminds me of Ernst Haeckel.

My favorite scene from Haxan: Witchcraft through the Ages

Cool-ass title card from Nerven.

Hans forever.

Nazimova's Salome

I just about spit up my drink when these guys came on screen. LOOK AT THAT. JUST LOOK.

The End!

That's all for now. I fully intend to do this again. I'll be sure to recap all future video projects here on the blog!