Futurism

Charleston Parade

In a nutshell: A bonkers short subject by master director Jean Renoir from 1927 shows an African explorer in a spacecraft discovering a white native woman in a post-apocalyptic Paris, and they dance the Charleston for ten minutes. (5/10)

Metropolis

The plot may be meandering and the political message naive, but the thematic and visual influence of Austrian director Fritz Lang’s exciting 1927 masterpiece Metropolis is rivalled by few in science fiction and in film in general. A great, entertaining, sprawling epic in a future tower of Babylon. (10/10)

Miss Mend

Miss Mend (1926) is quite possibly the best American action film serial of the silent era. And it was made in the Soviet Union. The tacked-on, state-required propaganda elements throw the plot and pacing off balance, but all-in-all this international spy-fi yarn is a breezy, action-packed, impeccably filmed and fun tour-de-force. (8/10)

Our Heavenly Bodies

A forgotten German educational film with strong SF elements, Wunder der Schöpfung takes us on a ride in a spaceship to visit the planets and the stars. Director Hanns Walter Kornblum worked with nine animators and six cinematographers to create astounding special effects that hold up to any other masterpiece made in the twenties. (8/10)

The Death Ray

This 1925 Soviet action film by legendary film theorist Lev Kuleshov is all about editing and light-hearted spy fun in a pre-James Bond era, as fascists and socialists fight for possession of a death ray. Kuleshov’s experimental editing and lost film reels create a highly disjointed viewing experience, and the parts are better than the whole. (5/10)

The Monster

Legendary actor Lon Chaney stars in what may be called the blueprint for old dark house films. This 1925 horror comedy is well filmed by Roland West, and introduced many tropes, like the young couple seeking a phone in a dark mansion after a car accident, the eerie, cowled henchman to the mad scientist, etc. (7/10)

The Crazy Ray

The first feature film dealing with the stopping of time, French experimental movie Paris qui dort is a poetical comedy that uses science fiction trappings to recapture the romanticism of a Paris before the hustle and bustle of the modern speed-crazy world of the 1920s. (7/10)

Aelita, Queen of Mars

∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗ (8/10) Ostensibly Russia’s/USSR’s first sci-fi film, this political 1924 space fantasy lays down a surprisingly intelligent criticism of the communist revolution, once you look past the clunky, propagandistic symbolism […]

L’uomo meccanico

NO RATING: PARTIALLY LOST FILM Partially lost Italian silent sci-fi action comedy from 1921, notable for being the first feature film to revolve around a robot. Comedy superstar André Deed […]

Algol

∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗ (6/10) Sci-fi inspired melodrama with political undertones, this 1920 film is an early, but slightly clumsy, example of German expressionism. Occasionally stunning visuals and camera work are hampered by […]

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗ (8/10) In a career-defining role as Jekyll/Hyde screen legend John Barrymore elevates this 1920 adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel from a run-of-the-mill potboiler to a minor masterpiece. Barrymore’s […]

The Master Mystery

∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗ (4/10) In a nutshell: This 1919 serial starring Harry Houdini is fast-paced, action-packed and well filmed, and features the first robot in a lengthy American feature. A thin, repetitive […]