Who on Earth was Lon Chaney?

We just watched the documentary, Lon Chaney: A Thousand Faces (2000), and now we’re convinced Lon Chaney was one of the greatest performers in early Hollywood. Now, you may not be familiar with Chaney, and that’s OK. We’ll try to present our case as best we can. First, let’s sort out some biographical data. Chaney was born in 1883 in… Continue reading Who on Earth was Lon Chaney?


Director Leni Riefenstahl: Artistry and Propaganda

At the start of the documentary, Triumph of the Will (1935), we watch German Chancellor Adolph Hitler from the back of his open-air car. He is being driven through the streets of Nuremberg while spectators cheer like he’s a rock star. He stands in the front passenger side of the car, surveying the throngs while the camera… Continue reading Director Leni Riefenstahl: Artistry and Propaganda


Orson Welles Takes on William Randolph Hearst

In 1939, Orson Welles signed a contract to make two films with the Hollywood studio RKO. This was no standard-issue movie contract. Nay, this contract likely made other filmmakers a bit envious: RKO guaranteed Welles complete control over his projects. This, even though he had never before made a film! And he was only 24 years old! RKO… Continue reading Orson Welles Takes on William Randolph Hearst


Climbing Everest, 1950s Style

Climbing Mt Everest is a remarkable, albeit insane, accomplishment. Look at this from the British Mountaineering Council: “As of February 2014, there had been 6,871 ascents of Everest by 4,042 different climbers, meaning some climbers, most of them Sherpas, have reached the top multiple times.” Multiple times?! Summiting Everest is more common than it used to be, and… Continue reading Climbing Everest, 1950s Style


Better Living Through 3D Viewing

If there’s one thing we love, it’s discovering rare footage that deserves a cult following. One such film is The Adventures of Sam Space (1960), a “puppet cartoon” about two boys and a scientist who travel on a shiny rocket to a distant planet. Not only does this animated short have a nifty robot named “Robo”,… Continue reading Better Living Through 3D Viewing


The Man with the Movie Camera

There is a surprisingly moving sequence in the vintage Soviet documentary, The Man with the Movie Camera (1929). The film, about life in a Soviet city, features a scene where a bride climbs out of a carriage; she dressed in modest white and clutches a bouquet of flowers. Then we are shown a funeral procession; a man’s corpse lies on a stretcher that is… Continue reading The Man with the Movie Camera

Comedy · Documentary

Stealing the Scen(ery) from Buster Keaton

Buster Keaton may have been one of the most coordinated people on earth. His early film career is testament to his athleticism and physical sense of humour. The brilliant 1926 film, The General, for example, has you holding your breath as Keaton performs stunts on moving trains. Sometimes you can hardly watch because of the danger, but he’s… Continue reading Stealing the Scen(ery) from Buster Keaton


War, American Style

Sometimes we wonder if modern documentaries have become the film equivalent of the old guy who chases kids away from his lawn. Not that modern documentaries aren’t beautifully filmed or capable of stirring people to action. They’re all that and a piece of cheese, too. But we didn’t fully realize how the nature of documentaries had changed until… Continue reading War, American Style