1920’s and earlier

[6.5] Of the handful of silent films that still have shelf life, Nosferatu is perhaps the most popular. It’s the cornerstone of the entire horror genre, as well as the first time audiences ever saw a vampire on film. It’s an adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, but for legal reasons, the character names have been changed. The pacing, like most silent films, requires a little …

[5.0] A London couple begin to suspect their new lodger might be a serial killer who preys on blonde women. And it just so happens their daughter is blonde. And dating one of the detectives on the case. Even though it’s a short film, I had trouble keeping alert throughout The Lodger — maybe I’m just not accustomed to watching many silent films.  Still, I …

[4.0] To give credit where credit is due, The Broadway Melody was the first sound film from MGM Studios, the second-ever Best Picture Oscar winner (the first with sound), and the first film in history to feature dance numbers filmed to pre-recorded music. It was the biggest money-maker of 1929 and spawned at least four sequels over the course of the next decade. It just …

[4.5] The Marx Brothers made their feature film debut with The Cocoanuts, a filmed version of their popular vaudeville act of the same name. The scenario is centered around a Florida hotel where the brothers try to swindle people in a real estate auction, complicate a jewelry theft, and facilitate a wedding. Highlights include Groucho and Chico’s “why a duck” routine and Harpo’s bizarre craving …

[7.5] Director William Wellman took a full year to shoot it and was nearly fired for his perfectionism, but the gamble paid off. Wings was a huge success at the box office and became the first ever Oscar-winning Best Picture. At two-and-a-half hours, it runs a little too long, but it’s well paced and very well acted. The spectacular aerial battle sequences are what the …

[10] Fritz Lang directed and Thea von Harbou scripted this grandfather of science-fiction films about violent class warfare in a futuristic city. The hero of Metropolis is Freder (Gustav Fröhlich), a privileged playboy who enjoys a life of luxury until a chance encounter with the beautiful Maria (Brigitte Helm) brings him to discover the city’s entire working class is living in the harsh underground to …