Silent Classics Collection (Limited Edition Wooden Box) (4 Discs) product details page

Silent Classics Collection (Limited Edition Wooden Box) (4 Discs)

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Reportedly seven years in the making, this silent adventure based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's classic 1912 novel was a watershed mark in special effects filmmaking. Willis H. O'Brien's stop-motion work, which would reach near-perfection in King Kong (1933), was much admired in its day and although primitive by modern standards remains visually engaging. So does Wallace Beery, complete with a theatrical beard, as Professor Challenger, whose theory of prehistoric dinosaurs surviving on a secluded plateau in the Amazonian jungle has made him the target of ridicule. Intrepid reporter Ed Malone (Lloyd Hughes) offers the professor a chance to redeem himself, and with Big Game hunter Sir John Roxton (Lewis Stone) and pretty Paula White (Bessie Love) in tow, they are off on a perilous expedition to South America. Paula, who is returning to the jungle in search of her missing scientist father, falls in love with the handsome reporter, much to the chagrin of Sir John. This triangle drama continues up the perilous climb to the plateau where Professor Challenger's theories are terrifyingly substantiated by all kinds of prehistoric fauna. Soon, a flesh-eating Tyranosaurus is attacking a family of more benign Triceratopses right in front of the astounded humans, who also have to contend with an erupting volcano, the dried-up bones of Paula's poor father, and the bizarre spectacle of stunt-man Bull Montana in a gorilla suit. But with the able assistance of a lovesick pet monkey, the expedition not only makes it safely down from the plateau but returns to England complete with a captured brontosaurus. Unfortunately, the beast is soon loose on Piccadilly Circus (where a theater marquee is advertising The Sea Hawk, 1924, also produced by First National), on Tower Bridge, and in sundry other picturesque London locations before apparently drowning in the River Thames. Originally released in 10 reels, The Lost World was cut to the bone in 1930 and it is this 62 minute version that exists today, beautifully restored by the George Eastman House. Missing, however, are subplots involving Alma Bennett as Lloyd Hughes' demanding London fiancé, Virginia Brown Faire as a Brazilian half-caste tempting Lewis Stone and a rendezvous with a tribe of cannibals. Left intact, however, are a few uncomfortable sequences with comic actor Jules Cowles appearing in blackface as Stone's pidgin-accented servant. Willis H. O'Brien's monsters may not frighten contemporary kids, with today's high special effects standards, but they certainly hold up well in comparison to some of the tacky creatures let lose in the 1950s and early 1960s. Hans J. Wollstein, All Movie Guide

Buster Keaton perfectly balanced romance, action and comedy in his most admired film and personal favorite, a Civil War story about an engineer and his eponymous locomotive. Based on a true incident involving a hijacked Confederate train, Keaton strove to make the film as authentic as possible, shooting on location in Oregon to get the proper track gauge and sinking an actual locomotive engine at the film's climax (in reportedly the most expensive single take for a silent film). The lighting and composition recall Matthew Brady's Civil War photographs, while tracking shots following Keaton's locomotive adventures further displayed his technical expertise. The train became Keaton's supreme comic prop in the two intricately devised, and narratively mirrored, chase sequences involving his efforts to elude Union pursuers; the humorous business accompanying Keaton's retrieval of the General, and girlfriend, sent up romantic fantasies and war heroics. The effort seemed to be for naught when The General received negative reviews in 1927 and failed to make a profit. The General's reputation, along with Keaton's, however, was resuscitated in the 1950s; The General became Keaton's masterpiece, joining Charles Chaplin's The Gold Rush (1925) as one of the greatest silent comedies ever made. Lucia Bozzola, All Movie Guide