My Films of the Week #3: Kill or Cure, The Devious Path & More

As a lifelong cinephile, I have always consumed a copious amount of films. In this new feature, I keep track of the films I watch during the week.

Where Lights Are Low
(Colin Campbell, 1921, USA)

Starring and produced by Sessue Hayakawa, who was a huge star at the time and whose contribution to Asian-American film history continued to be undervalued. A noteworthy vehicle about Chinese human trafficking, tasteful despite slight stereotyping.

Kill or Cure
(Carlo Campogalliani, 1921, Italy)

Kill of Cure shows there was more than epic movies and Maciste productions to the Italian silent film era. This is a comedy adventure with a surrealist edge and one of six films to star Carlo Campogalliani who, for a while, was called “the Italian Fairbanks.” Clever and highly entertaining, inspired by the burgeoning psychoanalytic scene of the time, which it takes a few shots at.

The Apaches of Athens
(Dimitrios Gaziades, 1930, Greece)

Originally Greece’s first sound film, survives only in a silent version. Inspired by a popular operetta of the period, this romantic comedy is noteworthy for its depiction of social class disparities and for its images of the streets of Athens, where most of the film was shot.

The Devious Path
(G.W. Pabst, 1928, Germany)

A lesser-known masterpiece by G.W. Pabst, somewhat less grand than other works of his, yet continuing to affirm him as one of the masters of Weimar Republic cinema. A glorious exploration of sin and morality, driven by a central cabaret scene that is exciting from start to finish. Wonderful performances all around and an uncanny attention to detail that will have you revisiting it again and again.

Showbiz Kids
(Alex Winter, 2020, USA)

A series of conversations with child actors and the Hollywood studio system. It’s interesting but widely appears to fail to add any new information regarding this specific topic.

Unjustly Accused
(Holger-Madsen, 1913, Denmark)

The story of a theater actress forced to quit her acting career upon marrying. Misses an opportunity to be seen today as a feminist flick ahead of its time. It has its moments of visual delight and uses interesting, early cinema effects. Yet, the most delightful thing about the movie remains the lead performance by Rita Sacchetto.

The Serenade
(Will Louis, 1916, USA)

An early flick starring Oliver Hardy that, like many second-rate slapstick shorts of the time, shows inconsistencies, carelessness and finally ends up feeling like a disjointed series of gags.

The Rent Collector
(Norman Taurog, Larry Semon, 1921, USA)

Larry Semon, mostly forgotten today yet one of the major motion picture stars of the time, at his best. A wild collection of gags it may be but somehow, it all holds up together and never misses a beat. Sure, despite the impoverished setting it lacks any semblance of social awareness and is definitely not Chaplin’s Easy Street (1917). But its pace is remarkable — think Harry Langdon on cocaine — and unlike some of Semon’s lesser works from the time, it is consistently fun and amazingly inventive.

(Joe Rock, Scott Pembroke, 1924, USA)

An early flicks starring Stan Laurel, set in the prison. Has a surrealist edge that makes it noteworthy, including a showstealing hanging scene. Yet, in retrospect, is more valuable as a document of Laurel still in the process of finding a distinctive comedic persona.

Moonlight and Noses
(Stan Laurel, 1925, USA)

Moonlight and Noses is directed by, but does not star, Stan Laurel. A spoof on the mad scientist genre, this is a macabre comedy with good intentions but poorly executed and hardly a standout.

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