The MoFo Top 50 Pre-1930 Countdown: The List

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Both The Cameraman and He Who Gets Slapped are very enjoyable in different ways and were in contention for the lower reaches of my list but unfortunately both got cut in the later stages.

Seen: 28/28
My list:
19. Häxan (Benjamin Christensen, 1922) [#25]
20. Broken Blossoms (D.W. Griffith, 1919) [#34]
25. Helen Of Four Gates (Cecil M. Hepworth, 1920) [1-ptr]
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2018 • • • 2019 • • • 2020 • • • Summer • • • Noms


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Bright light. Bright light. Uh oh.
They didn't make my list but two highly-watchable classics, Forgive my long-windedness.
I have seen The Cameraman at the theatre and a couple of times on cable since then. I've also watched it twice in the last two days. I really don't consider it a Buster Keaton Classic but it does have many classic scenes. One of the reasons I can't consider it a "Buster Keaton Classic" is because some of the best scenes involve the monkey which never would have happened in Buster's independent flicks. Now, I want to make it clear that monkey is damn funny but it is an example of how this is less a Buster movie and more an M-G-M movie. One of the reasons why M-G-M pimps the Buster movies is because they not only seemed to hire Buster to make movies for them but they apparently bought much of his catalogue to reuse for remakes. In this case, it wasn''t necessary since M-G-M made The Cameraman, but they basically retooled it for Red Skelton and called it Watch the Birdie. Before that, they used several gags from Keaton's Our Hospitality and The General in Skelton's A Southern Yankee.

As far as what I consider classic scenes, the wonderful, if all-too-brief, bit at Yankee Stadium would have made a good short if it were stretched out. Anyone who loves and understands baseball can see that Buster knows the game inside and out, and his body language and eye movements are picture perfect. Hopefully you baseball fans will know what St. Louis team was in the American League in 1927, just as my wife Brenda did. Just in case anybody is unclear that the film is set in 1927, the film begins and ends with references to Charles Lindbergh and his historical solo crossing of the Atlantic Ocean during that year and subsequent ticker tape parade in NYC.

As is usual with a Keaton flick, the romance is very sweet, and leading lady Marceline Day (The Beloved Rogue, London After Midnight) is very attractive and lovable as Sally. She shows up right at the beginning of the film and is very helpful in getting him switched over from selling tintype photos for a dime to trying to become a professional newsreel cameraman. However, some of Buster's early work isn't too good, although he seems to invent a technique later used by Leni Riefenstahl in Olympia (!!) and also accidentally incorporates some double exposures in his footage. Unfortunately, this makes him a laughing stock amongst everyone but Sally.

There are other "classic" scenes including the one where Buster and Sally go to the indoor swimming pool (it was called the plunge when I was growing up). Buster has to share a dressing room with a much larger man and ends up in the wrong swimsuit. Then he loses it in the water at just about the time he's surrounded by several young women. Actually though, I'm not sure if anything in the movie tops the Tong War scene near the end which is fast-paced and hilarious at the same time. I can't for the life of me understand why the internet doesn't seem to have tons of images of that scene.

Anyway, I'm already starting to feel as if I'm going overboard here so I'd better stifle myself. I will say that the musical score on my DVD included excerpts from a few famous songs later written but overall it wasn't all that distracting although it seemed to mostly consist of synthesizers or modern keyboards. I do like The Cameraman, but I don't think it ranks with the top tier of Keaton. Those films would include Our Hospitality, Sherlock Jr., Seven Chances, College, Steamboat Bill, Jr., and The General. Now, I'm certainly not trying to turn off anybody from watching it because it's a fun movie and hopefully a stepping stone to some of his other films for some of you. It's just that I give it
, but if you know me, that's definitely a positive rating.

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The Cameraman is the second one that I missed on this countdown that I would have voted for. I didn't log that as a watch on my flickchart either. And that one I really liked quite a bit too!



3. Diary of a Lost Girl (#31)
4. The Birth of a Nation (#38)
5. The Crowd (#29)
7. The Unknown (#28)
8. He Who Gets Slapped (#23)
10. Way Down East (#43)
15. It (#27)
16. The Cameraman (#24)
17. Broken Blossoms (#34)
22. 7th Heaven (#32)
25. 3 Bad Men (#30)

Thank you Nostromo for recommending He Who Gets Slapped.



He Who Gets Slapped was my #19. Said this in Pre-30s HoF:

He Who Gets Slapped

Just a bit better than Laugh Clown Laugh, but I wish I hadn't watched them back to back because they are very similar in plot and that can get boring. There are little things in this movie that I think are more well done than Laugh, Clown, Laugh, like Lon Chaney's character, who seems more noble and good. The lion scene was pretty creative although much too long drawn out as well. I actually didn't dislike a single actor in He Who Gets Slapped, they all seemed to suit their roles pretty well. So while it is clearly flawed and will never be a personal favorite, I'm glad it was nominated and it will likely be going on my Pre-30s countdown ballot.

Seen: Seen: 11/28

My List:
8. It (#27)
13. 3 Bad Men (#30)
14. The Adventures of Prince Achmed (#26)
19. He Who Gets Slapped (#23)
22. 7th Heaven (#32)
23. The Man Who Laughs (#48)
25. The Unknown (#28)



The Cameraman was on my 'to watch' list but I didn't get to it before the deadline. With Buster Keaton I'm sure it's a good one!

He Who Gets Slapped was #15 on my voting list. What a uniquely cool+weird+artistic film!



Think you used enough dynamite there, Butch?
Cameraman is unknown to me but now on my Watchlist.
HE Who Gets Slapped was #18




HE Who Gets Slapped

Laughter - the bitterest and most subtle death to hope...

If I had not thought so, after seeing the number of Lon Chaney films I have, it is a definitive aspect of the characters that he played the tortured soul with powerful empathy and this is one of them.
At times you can see the tormented soul dangle between insanity and cruel lucidity.
While at times a bit over the top, the nuances of Chaney's many characters and the ordeal that pass over his features cannot be denied.

Harsh self-abuse of a man who, having been laughed at after betrayal by his wife and a friend/investor; dives deep of being slapped and laughed at by becoming a clown in a circus.

Even in his final vengeance, there remains a haunting depression to the viewing of his character and what he puts himself through. and is played out quite powerfully.

As I've stated previously, I had only scene Chaney in make-up with such tragic figures as Quasimodo and the Phantom of the Opera, and now, now I see the torture revealed far more, having the heavy make up removed to see what was merely hinted at previously.

Wow.


MY LIST: Seen 13 out of 28 (46.43%)
5) 3 Bad Men (#30)
6) 7th Heaven (#32)
8) The Hunchback of Nortre Dame (#41)
13) It (#27)
14) A Dog's Life (#39)
16) The Man Who Laughs (#48)
18) HE Who Gets Slapped (#23)
22) Underworld (#47)
24) The Adventures of Prince Achmed (#26)
25) The Iron Mask (One Pointer)
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Diary of a Lost Girl, The Unknown, He Who Gets Slapped, The Cameraman, and Haxan were all on my list. I watched DOALG for the first time in anticipation for this. Brutal movie. Hard to say I loved it, but it hit me hard.

Haxan was my no.1. Dark & unique with some offbeat humor and simple, still relevant commentary on torture.

He Who Gets Slapped may have become my favorite Chaney movie. Indicative of the era's effective simplicity in tragedies, and a killer climax.



Glad to see Haxan so high! Very fun watch

My List:
4.Häxan (1922)

Others Seen
Blackmail-
-
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923)-

A Dogs Life- -

Steamboat Bill, Jr-

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Yeah, there's no body mutilation in it



Wings is a nice watch with some lovely aerial scenes and was in the running for my list but ultimately was another that missed out in the end. Intolerance is truly epic though with it's multiple storylines and did make it, and all the way up at my #7 no less, as my favourite of D.W. Griffith's output that I've seen.

Seen: 30/30
My list:
7. Intolerance - Love's Struggle Throughout the Ages (D.W. Griffith, 1916) [#21]
19. Häxan (Benjamin Christensen, 1922) [#25]
20. Broken Blossoms (D.W. Griffith, 1919) [#34]
25. Helen Of Four Gates (Cecil M. Hepworth, 1920) [1-ptr]



We'll be entering the Top 20 tomorrow - anyone care to posit a guess as to which 20 fillums made the upper echelons of the list?

A few stats (that probably won't help in the slightest but might be of interest to someone):
  • In total 192 individual titles from the period were nominated, covering no less than 124 different directorial combinations and receiving a grand total of 9,183 points shared amongst them.
  • 91 titles made an appearance on more than one ballot, with 67 of those accruing the required 25 points to qualify as eligible for the Countdown.
  • On an impressive 21 occasions the individual placement of a title on a ballot matched that of its final place in the Top 25 on the Countdown.
  • No less than 13 of the Top 20 received at least one #1 vote but perhaps surprisingly not all of the Top 10 did.



Bright light. Bright light. Uh oh.
Wings is my #16. The action and flying scenes are terrific and so is Clara Bow. Intolerance is Griffith's apologia for The Birth of a Nation and is another huge epic which didn't make my list but deserves to be on here.


Seen 30/30
My List
1. Entr'acte
2. The Goat
6. The Adventures of Prince Achmed
10. 7th Heaven
15. The Last Command
16. Wings
19. The Circus
25. The Wind



How the hell did I forget to put Intolerance on my list? I love the set design.

1. (Will Make it)
2. (Will Make it)
3. (Will Make it)
4. (Will Make it)
5. Prince Achmed
6. (Will Make it)
7. (Will Make it)
8. (Might Make it)
9. (Will Make it)
10. (Might Make it)
11. (Nope)
12. (Nope)
13. (Nope)
14. (Nope)
15. The Great Train Robbery
16. (Will Make it)
17. (Might make it)
18. (Nope)
19. (Will Make it)
20. (Nope)
21. (Nope)
22. (Might make it)
23. (Nope)
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Intolerance was my number one. To be honest my top 10-15 are pretty interchangeable, but I made the decision to put this at number one because I remember first watching it and just being blown away. It is the definition of epic and absolutely cinema magic, astonishing that something so ambitious was created when it was. Imagine hardly seeing a film before and going into the cinema and seeing this, I was astonished and I've watched over a thousand films. The editing in it is something to behold, master storytelling cutting across different storylines to generate suspense. Amazing imagery, a powerful human story, such an important influential film on the entire world of cinema. I don't think it's really been matched in terms of achieving something as ambitious as it attempted.

Wings looks good and I love the two Wellman films I have seen so far (A Star is Born and The Ox-Bow Incident), Haxan was also on my watchllist and looks great so will try and get to that soon.
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3. Diary of a Lost Girl (#31)
4. The Birth of a Nation (#38)
5. The Crowd (#29)
6. Intolerance (#21)
7. The Unknown (#28)
8. He Who Gets Slapped (#23)
10. Way Down East (#43)
11. Wings (#22)
15. It (#27)
16. The Cameraman (#24)
17. Broken Blossoms (#34)
22. 7th Heaven (#32)
25. 3 Bad Men (#30)



Seen neither, thought I really want to see Intolerance.

Seen: Seen: 11/30

My List:
1. (Will Make it)
2. (Will Make it)
3. (Will Make it)
4. (Will Make it)
5. (Will Make it)
6. (Will Make it)
7. (Will Probably Make it)
8. It (#27)
9. (Will Make it)
10. (Will Make it)
11. (Might Make it)
12. (Probably Not)
13. 3 Bad Men (#30)
14. The Adventures of Prince Achmed (#26)
15. (Might Make it)
16. (Definitely Not)
17. (Will Make it)
18. (Definitely Not)
19. He Who Gets Slapped (#23)
20. (Will Probably Make It)
21. (Definitely Not)
22. 7th Heaven (#32)
23. The Man Who Laughs (#48)
24. (Definitely Not)
25. The Unknown (#28)