San Francisco Silent Film Festival - Silent Autumn Recap
I had an enjoyable afternoon at the Castro Theater for the Silent Autumn event presented by The San Francisco Silent Film Festival. Formerly known as the ‘Winter Event” we saw out the official ending of summer with a full program of terrific films. Unfortunately, I was not able to stick around for the evening shows of The General and the newly restored (4K) The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.
The day began with a trio of Laurel and Hardy silent shorts Should Married Me Go Home, Two Tars and Big Business. Should Married Men Go Home features Oliver and Mrs. Hardy enjoying a peaceful afternoon at home. Well, peaceful until Stan Laurel shows up. In frustration, Mrs. Hardy kicks the pair out and off they head to the golf course. They pair up with two girls for a foursome (because it’s only foursomes on Saturday) and mayhem (naturally) ensues and culminates in a mud fight on the links. Insert obligatory deep hole in the water for Oliver Hardy, too. Good fun, not clean, but fun!
Two Tars is one of my favorites in which the boys are on leave, rent a car and pick up two fun loving girls for an afternoon of fun. They meet at a candy store with an uncooperative gumball machine, soon two completely destroyed gumball machines and a very angry candy store owner. Fade out and fade in after a fun day, the four are wheeling back to the town and they get caught up in a traffic jam. It begins by their backing in to Edgar Kennedy’s car and ends with more car wrecks than an auto salvage yard.
Big Business is famous and infamous as the short, as legend has it, they arrived on location and proceeded to destroy the wrong house to be used in the film. Makes for a great story, not convinced it’s true. The film, however, is still hilarious and a great thing to play right at Christmastime. All three films were accompanied by the nimble fingered Donald Sosin. The music was wonderful!
Next on the program was The Son of the Sheik starring Rudolph Valentino and Vilma Banky. Valentino’s final film can arguably said to be his best. I’d argue that point, but, this film is very high on my list. In fact, if no other Valentino film were extant, I’d say you would still be able to see exactly why he was such a big star based on this one film alone. SFSFF boasted this was a brand new restoration and the premiere of a new score by The Alloy Orchestra.
Ken Winokur, who worked on restoring the print and the new score assured me I would enjoy the score. I have to say that I did. This was far more melodic than the usual avant garde scores Alloy is known for. They took a lot of care in using more traditionalist native themes and instruments and did scale down some of the percussion for the love scenes. I did find some of the score a little overpowering but was cheering myself and providing a standing ovation (well deserved) as did the rest of the audience. Alloy is traveling with this film, so if it shows up at a venue near you, I'd say you would enjoy it as much as I did! Don't miss it!
The print was nicely tinted for day/night/interior scenes. I found some of it a little soft and some scenes looked washed out to me. Could have been some focusing problems, as well. Regardless of these tiny caveats, how can you complain to see Valentino and Vilma Banky on the big screen? You can’t, so I sure won’t!
I would also like to thank Ken for his confidence in me to suggest to the SFSFF that yours truly introduce the Valentino film to a captive audience. I hope I lived up to his confidence. Thanks as well, to Anita Monga for the nice introduction of me! It was a real pleasure and an honor to be part of the program.Next was a gift programmed by Bryony Dixon from the BFI, An Evening at the Cinema in 1914. We were treated to newsreels, shorts and odd little bits of film. I think my favorite was Daisy Doodad’s Dial (face). Florence Turner was hilarious as Daisy and makes me want to see out a few more of her comedies. The Dogs for the Antarctic made me sad to see all those poor pups about to head out with Shackelton. Donald Sosin again shined in the Vitaphone song film The Rollicking Rajah. The soundtrack has long been lost, he more than made up for it with his idiomatic playing and jaunty rendition of the vocals. My British pals will have to enlighten me on the charms of Lt. Pimple comedies. Cheap or not, I found a lot of the humor lacking, until we got to the part with the messenger fish.
I had to regrettably bug-out after the 1914 program. So I missed The General and Caligari. I will get the 4k Caligari on DVD, but, it will not be the same as having been there.
I am already looking forward to the 20th anniversary festival program for May 2015. I have great hopes for tons of good stuff!