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Reviews Written by
Rick M. Pilotte "Author, artist, and solver of ancient mysteries" (Victoria BC Canada)
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   

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Old Oregon Trail  / Revenge on the Range
Old Oregon Trail / Revenge on the Range
Price: CDN$ 8.99
13 used & new from CDN$ 4.68

4.0 out of 5 stars blatant anachronistic goofup / first simulsound recording?, April 17 2014
The box says 154 minutes. it's actually about only 45 minutes.(did I miss something?...I saw all the features mentioned on the box...?) I had a horrific time loading this movie. the first time it took about 8 tries to get it to load, the second about 30 tries. The music for the feature film is all over the place...just anything that they can use, all sorts of jingles and tunes... but never really distracting.
The first movie has pretty good quality example and all in sepia tone. The anachronism is the hero and heroin meet on the Oregon trail in the late 19th century. then they meet again with 1920's cars in the picture and 1920's farm machinery, not aged a minute!..and the girl still single? The movie is a bit interesting in seeing farm work and machinery in use, even though only for a short bit. The story is OK. but with the typical coincidental meetings of people that happen... just in time.
The second "movie" (about 9 1/2 minutes) was a bit of a shock and a real hoot. The shock was it looked about 1930-35 with narration, but it's 1925! I mean They made a record to be played simultaneously with the movie! Isn't that what they did with Al Jolson and "Mammy"?...considered to be the first talkie?, But this movie is a year or more older! It was an ok story, but the sound effects I thought were funny. Ok there weren't many ..maybe just the horse hoofs, but I thought they were a scream. There are no talking cards, just narration, a real different sort of "silent" era movie.

Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots
Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots
by Deborah Feldman
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 13.71
53 used & new from CDN$ 3.23

3.0 out of 5 stars Rejecting a sect is one thing, putting out dirty laundry is another, April 7 2014
As a Gentile or "Goya" and grasping that Jews are either God's Blessings or examples to the nations(For example 25% of Nobel prize winners are Jewish though only representing 1 10th of 1% of earths population) , yet not having not heard of Hasidic Jews before, I read a little bit of this book at a friend’s place, and next visit I just kept reading. It was interesting to hear about a segment of Jews that turn out to be similar in the bottom line to semi Christian groups that break away from mainstream branches with their own heretical private versions or interpretations of the bible.

Like Jehovah Witness that refuse the Godhead of Christ, Catholics that put Mary as Queen of Heaven, and intercessor instead of Christ and The Mormons complete replacement of the bible with their own non biblical fantasies and traditions(Book of Mormon), these Hasidics reject the Torah’ clear statement of Aaron’s Priesthood in favour of someone I’d never heard of before to justify Priests and Rabbi’s that don’t come from Aarons lineage. And like these other segments of Religious society, they come up with sectarian and cultic practices that further distinguish their religions from mainstream groups, often in extreme ways. And as is all too often the case with Religions that don’t quite align with the biblical word, adherents become increasingly frustrated with what become blatantly obvious flaws in the religions they are forced to adhere to and eventually reject them wholeheartedly, often throwing out the baby with the bathwater in the process. So in this way this book was fascinating to see from a Jewish Woman’s perspective.

However from her marriage point onward this book went downhill fast, and got downright bothersome. Though the names were changed to protect certain people spoken of, it would have to be painfully obvious who she was writing about to those that knew her. Her distasteful dragging through the mud of her husband and his relatives was little more than shallow vicious gossip. It was an attack with the most private segments of married life laid bare for all to witness under the guise ‘informing’ the public. She could have put the practices and beliefs out there without the dirty laundry, But instead it came across like whining and making excuses for her behaviour and “poor me’s” trying to justify to we who read her rejection of her lifestyle, and comes across worse than Feminists attacks on all men. And indeed she ends up identifying herself as a feminist. I wonder if twisted religious beliefs around the world, along with selfish men in the secular business world, combined with Hollywood, haven’t turned so many women away from Faith and men, in favour of hateful rebellions attacks toward the same.

Though she appears to have the opportunity to compare her Hasidic religious roots to the alternatives Jewish segments out there, she chooses rather to reject it all in favour of “freedom”, not grasping that lives of sin or Secularism, are every bit as enslaving too, becoming slaves to our desires instead. She does however note that she has to bring up her child in orthodox ways in order to keep him and I would hope at some point she would compare various Jewish lifestyles and beliefs to her former Hasidic lifestyle and glean valuable truths and values from them.
She also does make interesting observations of how her getting American secular clothing and mingling with secular American women and then consequently finding no differences in how women in general perceive and revolve around the things and status’ in their lives despite religious or non religious views.
Thus the latter half of the book in general undoes any positive comprehension of the Hasidic Jews the first half makes clear as we get repulsed by her whining and laying out of dirty laundry to justify her own direction and divorce.

The Bat [Import]
The Bat [Import]
DVD ~ Louise Fazenda
Price: CDN$ 7.76
14 used & new from CDN$ 4.26

5.0 out of 5 stars Batman fans must get this movie! secret rooms, hysterical maid, Moidah, and even the apparent origin of BATMAN!, April 4 2014
This review is from: The Bat [Import] (DVD)
I'm guessing some people would think this movie is a bit lame, but I liked it plenty. It has a nifty silent era feel to it. The hysterical maid was a bit overdone and it always seemed to be her that saw important stuff no one else did...almost standard fare for this type of movie. This is supposedly a "Horror" but it's not, it's more of a mystery just set in a spooky old house with what appear to be 20 foot ceilings in some places!

There's a bank robbery and the money is never found. There's secret identities, who done it, and why so many possible villains?... to keep us in the dark and always guessing.(I didn't figure it out either) The calm cool matron of the house was a neat character too. The doors of this mansion are bordering on ridiculous in their height.... lots of little things to enjoy in the background. There was a point when someone sneaks into the house with three or four people in the room...not too likely. The music generally was fitting...though it started out with overbearing organ music but thankfully that was abandoned quickly.

What soon became apparent, was the similarity between the Bat and stuff surrounding him and the famous can't be a coincidence. I have to think Bob Kane had this movie in mind when he created the Batman a dozen years later.(reading some reviews after writing this confirmed this observation) Even the silhouette or shadow of the bat and Batman in the early issues was a dead ringer. Bat signals and everything, the connections are unmistakeable. If you are a Batman fan this movie is a must see.

There are a bunch of miniature sets as backdrops for scene changes or for continuity sake, that though are obviously miniature, are still well done and a real neat addition to this cool film.
Once again do NOT read the back of the box before you watch the movie, as it just gives away too much of the story, not to mention it also made the mistake of saying the loot was $20,000 when it was $200,000.oo.
The lighting was good too as it was never too dark to see what was going on even though the entire movie was almost all set in a gloomy house. Apparently this was all shot at night so the lighting in that case is amazing.

This a full length silent at 88 minutes so it's a good deal that way too, as often they are only about an hour. The quality of the finished movie print was better than average with only a few film breaks here and there with very little damage to the film as well, generally a very nice surviving example.

The Mark Of Zorro (1919) [Import]
The Mark Of Zorro (1919) [Import]
DVD ~ Sr. Noah Beery
Offered by Vanderbilt CA
Price: CDN$ 18.39
8 used & new from CDN$ 13.90

5.0 out of 5 stars you can't go wrong with this one, April 2 2014
Even though I'd seen this one before, it was still great to watch it again. I was temporarily confused by the entry into the movie as I didn't realize it had loaded. but soon figured that one out. This is a classic and one of the best silents around. Though I think the musical score was different from the one I'd seen before, I really don't know, as I hardly noticed the music as the story is that full and attention grabbing.
If you don't know Douglas Fairbanks and his being renown for his athleticism, this is fun even on that level. Though they don't quite come under the classification as Stunts, well if climbing the side of the building is normal, he is fun to watch for many reasons. Very clever sequences through out the movie.
I've seen a recent version of Zorro and it was every bit as good as this one. Even though this is silent it is NOT boring for even a minute. OK maybe I'm so used to silents say compared to explosions and nastiness of the modern screenplays so if your looking for that well maybe this movie will only be fun.
The unveiling is everything you could hope for and more, from the look on the heroin's face to the reason for the unveiling. If you are unsure of silents this is a great place to start.

Abraham Lincoln: The Man and His Faith
Abraham Lincoln: The Man and His Faith
by G. Frederick Owen
Edition: Paperback
23 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars bordering on hero worship for the first third, March 7 2014
This I think is an essential look into one of America's and indeed the worlds hero's. It's an important aspect of his life that few people consider or remember that was an integral part of his character. Of course all know him as Honest Abe, but few these days link that important charachter with his Mother's faith which eventually became his own faith. I've read other Abe Lincoln biographies and this aspect is overlooked or minimized. So in that regard it is important that it is focussed on in this book.

However I found the authors almost groveling hero worship through the first 1/3 of the book a bit annoying. Almost idolatrous reverence of the man as indeed he was just a normal man who's upbringing and personal integrity just meant he was courageous enough to take on key issues and not waver in his standards despite opposition. Something all men can do if they have a principals worth fighting his overdone lauding of the man I thought was a bit nauseating at times.

I also thought the book fell short in relating some of the humorous anecdotes of this mans character as well. There were a few of course, but it seems this was such an integral part of his personality as much as his honesty. Thus it seemed to me overly weighted in some areas and sadly shy in others. So you couldn't get the whole flavour of the man either, as it was so heavily weighted in the spiritual aspect of his life. I personally didn't think it was a particularly balanced approach. So that's more of what to expect than saying this is 'bad' or 'good'.

One thing I thought particularly key was his quoting Abraham's ten principals for his life...something every politician in the world should read and consider in this world of ridiculous debt that will cripple the worlds finances for years to come.

Another way I thought this book fell short was in just stopping the story with his funeral. I thought at least a synopsis of how his policies that changed the country and indeed the world for years to come should have at least been given a short synopsis to see not only the man, but his legacy. Oh sure we have a sense of it, but he didn't say how The south reacted, or how his policies were implemented or anything. So The book had a pretty narrow focus, his Faith and the bare bones of his rise to the man he was and eventually the presidency. From all accounts it seems to me Honest Abe was a man that would be fun to know from many perspectives and somehow this book failed to convey this feeling to the reader, probably because of his over reverence of the man as though he was far too far above us, so his more down to earth nature got lost in this perspective I thought.

Tarzan and the Golden Lion [Import]
Tarzan and the Golden Lion [Import]
DVD ~ James Pierce
Price: CDN$ 7.78
12 used & new from CDN$ 4.97

4.0 out of 5 stars don't buy it for Boris Karloff, but for Tarzan, Feb. 19 2014
I'm not specifically a Tarzan fan but a silent movie fan, so take that with a grain of salt. The big billing on the cover lists James Pierce (Tarzan) and Boris Karloff (Chief of the natives on the bad side, but not in charge) , but Boris' part is really only a bit part and seen only in a few scenes, they are just using his name to sell the DVD.
The film quality is quite high, though a bit grainy, but by high I mean very easy to watch, even the dark scenes are crystal clear as to what's going on. The editing is good so you are never lost. At one point I thought you could almost dub this with speaking as it's almost talkie quality in some ways. The movie is very typical Tarzan and indeed quite predictable, in fact in one aspect just plain dead obvious where they are going. There's a point in the movie where the bad guys clearly have guns, yet later on the good side uses the sound of the guns to scare the other side away, so pretty lame in some ways. Another key character looks like an ancient man but later he looks far younger (shaved) than he was portrayed, so there's some pretty lame goings on, but it's still fun to watch. There are two ladies in the show, "Jane" and "Jane's sister". They are both very pretty so they make it nice to watch if that helps. The movie is only 59 minutes long and that's all you get, no bonus short or clips, so there's that to think about. If you are a Tarzan fan it's worth the price, but don't get it for Boris Karloff, unless you are a completeist. As a silent...? well I mean...It's Tarzan... in a contemporary scenes... so you're on your own there.

Haunted Castle (1921) / Wolf Blood (1925) (Silent) [Import]
Haunted Castle (1921) / Wolf Blood (1925) (Silent) [Import]
DVD ~ Arnold Korff
Price: CDN$ 7.78
11 used & new from CDN$ 5.24

3.0 out of 5 stars the back-up movie saved this DVD, Feb. 12 2014
First the movie is poorly named. I thought I was going to be watching a 1921 version of a horror film or a haunted house movie. . Hardly!. It's about a guy accused of murder but acquitted and thus ostracized because everyone thinks he did it. It's his way of dealing with the issue. The entire movie seems like it was copied from a VHS recording...I've heard other people says that about other movies I thought were just fine, but this was pretty bad. It does have a unique feature in that the dialogue cards are in both German and English, so it is a way to learn German a little bit anyway. But the whole movie was fuzzy and poor contrast and difficult and tiring to watch. And difficult to comprehend to some extent. They refer to some "jokes" the principal character is playing and I scratch my head..."Jokes?" Is this the 1921 version of hi jinx? They used a word "Allusions" which isn't in my dictionary. Perhaps the translation is off? The music was pretty bland piano. It was melodramatic, well at least the girl seemed ridiculously melodramatic if no one else was. Then it was over and I'm a bit lost. I did catch onto it as time went on, and in fact in hind sight it is a bit clever. But it was just so difficult to watch, I don't know if I want to watch it again, except maybe on a different TV where I can adjust the contrast. . I have to give this movie a 2 stars at best..I could see it being a 3 star with a better example.of the movie but I just seemed to be straining to view it the entire show.

Fortunately there was a bonus feature as this sure needed one. I will say there are conflicting reviews on this as it seems some people are reviewing a restored version or a shorter DVD and a tinted second feature. This entire DVD is 122 minutes long...all black and white. not 55 minutes...the first movie is 55 minutes.
Even before I watched the second Bonus movie I thought it just had to be better than the first and would probably salvage the DVD.... Boy it was that in spades!

The back-up Bonus movie "Wolf Blood". DO NOT READ THE MOVIE DESCRIPTION on the box for this movie! it gives 90% of the entire story away! I will tell you it's about two logging companies, the good guy and the bad guy, but it goes WAYYY beyond that! fortunately I did not read the box and fortunately I miss-read the time on the box so when I thought the bonus movie was going to be over soon it just kept going on! In fact the bonus movie was longer than the main feature! It was also a bit fuzzy like a VHS recorded flick, but much easier to view with much better contrast, though at times the faces were quite washed out in the bright sun light shots but all the action was fairly easily viewed. , and the movie was great!...unfortunately there are no tints like one person mentions on the site. First it had that neat silent era make-up on the hero, which gave it a neat flavour right off the bat. Frankly It should have been the feature movie! It wasn't until after I thought the movie was supposed to be ending did I even figure out why it was given that title! It just was a complete surprise to see where this was going. I mean it was a crime and a romance and a... sci-fi? so I was just completely in the dark as to where it was going and I wont tell you! But the back up movie definitely makes this disk worth buying. The two movies average out to a 3 star, but the first is a 2 star and this is a 4 star only because the quality of the reproduction was a bit low, but definitely a pleasant surprise...but why did that guy say it had beautiful tinted scenes! IS alpha putting two different quality movies in the same box and chance gets you one version or the other?

Broken Blossoms [Import]
Broken Blossoms [Import]
DVD ~ Lillian Gish
Price: CDN$ 7.80
14 used & new from CDN$ 4.30

4.0 out of 5 stars mixed in quality, Feb. 11 2014
This review is from: Broken Blossoms [Import] (DVD)
First as a movie, this is actually a bash against a lot of pillars in society. It's a bash against marriage, a bash against Missionaries both Christian and Buddhist and a bash against corporal punishment beyond belief. This makes the world seem a terrible place to be from many perspectives.
So one needs to consider that in it evaluation as a movie. Lillian Gish said in a interview about the movie, The original producer didn't think the movie would be any good because of the final outcome of the main characters, and thus was going to abandon the project, So Griffith bought it to finish it. it becomes a bit of a look into what makes Griffith Tick.

Then there is the fact that this example of the movie is lacking the tints: It's all in sepia. I have a copy that is from the Rohar (if I spelt that right) collection that shows three tints, Blue for outside shots, yellow sepia for indoor shots and some purple tints for other oddball shots. So it was a disappointment to find the tints missing, as I bought this second copy to overcome my diminishing quality of my recorded example. But in having two versions I discovered that this one has about 8 minutes of footage at the beginning that's missing from my tinted version. But my tinted version is actually longer! meaning this version is missing bits here and there from later on in the movie. So I ask the question: Why can't packagers get more then one version and complete these movies rather than relying on a single copy of the movie to make these productions from? I've seen this on other movies too where one has stuff another example is missing and visa-verse. Obviously there are some movies where only one example has survived and that isn't an option, but clearly for the sake of the silent media preservation, using all existing examples to complete the movie should be standard practice. "Greed" originally 8 hours is about 2, A New Leaf (Matheau) was cut to shreds, Even Frankenstein should have it as originally screened. For some Chaplin movies many examples exist and show a complete movie if you have two or three of the same movie from different packagers.

Back to This movie...A lot of the acting is not particularly convincing. Donald Crisp is far too exaggerated in his attitudes portrayed and it becomes tiresome to watch. Though Griffith loved the bit with Lillian pushing a smile onto her face with her hands, it really is only a visual trick to show the effort it takes for her to smile and another way should have been strove for to show this effort: this I thought was lazy. Gish though, generally speaking does make the film worth watching. Barthelmess is the other extreme; He is too limited in his emotions used and when it comes to the crux, his acting borders on silly, but realistically I might be accused of being over critical of Barthelmess. It's a tough call.

One odd part: there is a picture on the box that is not from this movie, and the cover is artistic license at that. And once again the movie description on the box give three quarters of the movie away. The people that box these movies need some imagination so they don't give the plots as a rule I never read the boxes before seeing the films and I never give too much of a story plot away in these reviews. I'm slowly reviewing all my silents (278 at this point and found more to buy when I can afford them. )
But all said it is still a well done and memorable movie, if a bit depressing and again I state it is a bit of a bash against many pillars of society. I love the oft used scene of the china town with it's arches. Nice visuals here as well as other scenes so the photographers cannot be faulted in this film that's for sure. if only the tints were there to complete the atmosphere.

The Cat and the Canary
The Cat and the Canary
DVD ~ Laura LaPlante
Price: CDN$ 7.78
12 used & new from CDN$ 4.28

5.0 out of 5 stars a nifty haunty look and feel to the entire film, Jan. 21 2014
This review is from: The Cat and the Canary (DVD)
It's interesting to see this type of film evolve over time. It's a mystery in a spooky house revolving around an inheritance and I wont say any more about the about plot.(One thing you can be sure, I never give key points of these movies away to spoil the movie for you if you get it. There is nothing worse than giving the movie key points away as so many reviewers do. Have you been to movies and someone said 'so and so' did it. I mean why watch it after that B S has been done to spoil it. On that note, don't read the DVD box until after you've watched the movie as once again the box gives away too much story. In fact this practice is so rampant that I make it a rule to never read the boxes until after watching the movies. They seem to assume that since this is a real old movie everyone must know what's it's all about. )

This movie is quite similar in so many aspects and details to the shorter (53 min.) silent "Midnight Faces" from the previous (1926) year, that much of this review takes the two films as virtually the same show, with slight differences, with this one being an improvement (at least in the aspect of suspenseful nature and length) over the other. It was complete with secret passages, a weird servant, rampant suspicions and insinuations, and cloak and dagger goings on, yet is something of a more serious attempt to create a suspenseful mystery than "Midnight Faces". This time the motive is plain, but the guilty party was, in my mind anyway, impossible to spot...maybe a second look would make it clearer.

It starts out with quite degraded, though not unwatchable footage, that is actually quite quaint in its grainy scratchy quality for the particular scene seen in it's duration (Scratchy graininess quickly fades and then diminishes over the period of the film so as to be completely absent at the end.) There is an interesting artistic bit of double exposure camerawork at the beginning. The finished footage is at times so dark as do be difficult to impossible to see clearly what is transpiring at time, which can be a nuisance with new (non HD) TV's that don't seem to allow you to adjust the contrast. But it's not a fatal flaw here by any stretch, as there were only a few sequences like this. I didn't notice any cropping or difficulty in reading text screens, so it appears properly formatted to ordinary TV screens. I felt the music was fine, thought not particularly spooky, and seldom if ever overdid it or didn't match the scenes.

The "action" was sometimes so turgid over such a long period of time that I started to nod off, yet it was still more suspenseful overall. This was a bit of a mix of clay and steel, in that actions were often at odds with apparent characterizations, which served to obscure solution to the watcher. But it also meant that, in retrospect, some of the actions were illogical. Some acting was so lame and campy as to be laughable.There was an imbalance of exposure to some of the characters in the mystery too, which also made solution to the watcher virtually impossible. Indeed there were some actions that took place that were never really understood or explained in the grand finally. There is a person in the film who looks hilariously frightful when first spotted, but I wont say any more as it would give important plot bits away. Admittedly then there are story weaknesses, but they don't seem to detract from the movie in the final analysis.

Overall I quite enjoyed this feature length (101 minutes) film immensely as it had a neat suspenseful flavour, even if almost ludicrously so, right from the beginning, and a nifty haunty look and feel to the entire film.

Silent Comedy Classics: 12 Classic Shorts (Fluttering Hearts / Mighty Like A Moose / The Caretaker's Daughter / Be Your Age / Forgotten Sweeties / Late to Lunch / The Locket / Judge Jones / Laffin Gas & More) [Import]
Silent Comedy Classics: 12 Classic Shorts (Fluttering Hearts / Mighty Like A Moose / The Caretaker's Daughter / Be Your Age / Forgotten Sweeties / Late to Lunch / The Locket / Judge Jones / Laffin Gas & More) [Import]
DVD ~ Charley Chase
Price: CDN$ 7.77
13 used & new from CDN$ 5.16

3.0 out of 5 stars starts good then goes down hill, Jan. 20 2014
Though you get a dozen movies on this only about five or six are of the better variety. (The movie selection business was a bit illogical and tricky to figure out...I had to go through it afterwards to see if I had actually watched all the movies.)

The Charley Chase movies are probably the reason to buy this set. You get five of his movies and I'd never seen him before, but they were all of the better quality humour. Mind you there was a definite sense that he was similar to Harold Lloyd in his mannerisms. Still the 5 were worth the price of admission.

Then you got a newer (1987) silent. First, when you clicked on it you ended up about a minute into the movie and had to back track to get to the beginning. The movie was OK and did have some genuine silent era flavour to it in places. But it was clearly a newer sort as the technology, though they tried to mimic old footage problems, still had a new flavour to it. It was obviously a low budget affair too as one clue was the deliberate avoidance of street scenes. Only one vintage car was shown and on a private driveway. Still it was genuinely fun, but it's didn't quite capture the real feel of the older silents.

The 1913 "The locket" was only about 10 minutes long, which explained why the story and solution was so simple and straightforward. They had to get the story done by the end of the one reel. So the solving of the mystery was incredible in it's luck. But what do you expect for a 1913 one reeler. It was fun, but short.

The two Chaplin offerings,) "Laffin Gas", and "Face on the Barroom Floor" were I think the first I'd seen either of these movies, but was real annoyed with the sound effects they added. It appears they were added in 1961, so you can't fault the packagers, but the sound effects were just plain stupid and took the fun right out of watching them. Perhaps in 1961 this was supposed to be funny, but I thought it was awful, and distracting.

Then you get "Post no Bills" and "Prince Pistachio" The first of these was limited in it's repetitive gag which was also limited in it's humour, but they kept on with the same gag the entire show with no real story or plot and it ends abruptly. About the only thing about it that's interesting is the real city settings. The humour was lame, childish, repetitive and nothing different was offered.

The latter, "Prince Pistachio", though I'd heard of it, I thought it might therefore be a good one. It started out pretty good like a classis silent comedy, and how he got to Persia was a bit of a laugh, and some of the names given the Persian people were funny, but the "pulling the strings" and the other stuff just I thought fell a bit flat and then the end. It was just a farce that stretched beyond the limitations of any sort of plot with things to happen because they might be funny. I don't know, I wasn't too impressed with this one either.

The last offering was a dull" Documentary" about the Fox 23rd annual convention(1925). With distance shots of people in suits...I guess they had to put it somewhere, but it was anticlimactic for this set....and generally speaking very dull. So the last half of this set was just downhill.

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