The Sheik (1921) / The Son of the Sheik (1926)

Directors: George Melford, George Fitzmaurice By Roderick Heath This essay is offered as part of the Allan Fish Online Film Festival, a festival founded by Jamie Uhler and hosted by Wonders in the Dark, held to honor the memory of the late cineaste extraordinaire Allan Fish. Rudolph Valentino. Over ninety years since he died aged …

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Waxworks (Das Wachsfigurenkabinett, 1924) / The Man Who Laughs (1928)

Director: Paul Leni By Roderick Heath Paul Leni’s name might not be as instantly recognisable to movie lovers as his fellows in the legendary days of German "Expressionist" cinema, Fritz Lang and F.W. Murnau. Nonetheless, Leni stands with them as one of the major creative figures of that style, of the budding horror film genre, …

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Metropolis (1926)

Director: Fritz Lang By Roderick Heath The title resolves amidst intersecting geometries that coalesce and create a cityscape, ranged with neo-Babylonian techno-ziggurats: Metropolis, instantly a statement worthy of Ozymandias. A super-city where trains and cars shuttle along spanning bridges and aircraft buzz between sky-nudging structures. A great machine that explodes and morphs into a dark …

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Wings (1927)

Director: William A. Wellman By Roderick Heath F.W. Murnau’s Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927) might have won the perhaps more elevated “Most Artistic Production” Oscar amongst the first year’s roll of award winners, but Wings, which took the award for “Best Production,” has been inscribed in posterity as the legendary precursor of every …

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Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler (Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler, 1922)

Director/Coscreenwriter: Fritz Lang By Roderick Heath The shadow of Fritz Lang’s early work still falls heavily not just upon many filmmakers, but also upon a swathe of modern pop culture. The remarkable run of movies he made before he was driven to leave Germany by the Nazi ascension helped define, if not originate, a handful …

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The Phantom Carriage (Körkarlen, 1921)

Director/Screenwriter/Actor: Victor Sjöstrom By Roderick Heath The Phantom Carriage has a power which almost defies description, a sense of an overwhelming darkness crowding the edges of the frame and corroding the very flesh and spirit of the characters on screen. It’s a tale of damnation, for whatever remains after death but also on earth too, …

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Die Nibelungen: Siegfried / Kriemhild’s Revenge (1924)

The Days of High Adventure: A Journey Through Adventure Film Director: Fritz Lang By Roderick Heath The ancient Germanic and Scandinavian tales of Siegfried or Sigurd were vital building blocks for much middle and northern European folk culture. This was true long before Richard Wagner conflated them for his delirious, impossibly long, musically ostentatious opera …

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Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927)

Director/Coscreenwriter: F. W. Murnau By Roderick Heath Early cinema had no shortage of great innovators whose names roll off the tongue of any film lover, but D.W. Griffith, Sergei Eisenstein, and Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau stand as perhaps the signal triumvirate of the medium’s formative influences, with Griffith as grammarian, Eisenstein as architect, and Murnau as …

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