ming movie reviews

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For the Love of Old Movies

oldmovies_M_1931I recently read an interesting post at The Best Picture Project which asked: “What is the oldest movie you absolutely love?” — which raises a few interesting questions. When do movies become “old”, and am I really entertained by old movies, or is my “love” for them a type of appreciation?

Older movies, particularly from the silent era may be highly regarded for their technical achievement in the context of their place in the history of film, and may well have been fabulously entertaining in their day. But as time passes, so many of these early gems fail to be entertaining to modern audiences.

While I have long had a fascination with the past, which probably accounts for me being an archaeologist, I have more recently developed an appreciation for silent movies. Though, to be honest, I find that there are very few silent films (especially pre-1920), which are truly entertaining, and that much of the pleasure I get from watching these old films is found in the knowledge of their historical context. This is not surprising, as taken out of context, most archaeological objects have little interpretive value, and as such, are of little interest to archaeologists.

Looking over the almost 500 movies which I have watched/reviewed (that I consider “old” – that is, made before 1960, the year I was born), there are quite a few that I would consider to be truly entertaining, even by today’s sensibilities. Of course, while my biased perception, probably has much to do with my age, there remains a point which I find “old” movies to be more of a historical curiosity than something that truly entertains me.

So, in response to the question, “the earliest films that actually entertain me are the comedies of Buster Keaton” and “the earliest drama which I absolutely love is Fritz Lang’s M (1931) – Peter Lorre is (still) amazing” (Klaus Ming August 2015).


10 comments on “For the Love of Old Movies

  1. Anthony Lee Collins

    I was tempted to go for W. C. Fields or the Marx Brothers, but, much as I enjoy those movies, I never seek them out. So, I’m going to go with Only Angels Have Wings (1939), which I watch on a pretty regular basis. Stagecoach came out the same year, but I don’t watch it as often.

    • Klaus

      I really enjoy all of Fields’ movies as well, and as far as years go, 1939 was a great one for entertaining movies!

  2. alysonkrier

    I”m honored that you took an old post of mine and made a new, thought provoking post here. I have to agree that some of the most entertaining early films are from Buster Keaton.

    • Klaus

      Thanks, Alyson – Anthony pointed me toward one of your other posts: “100 things i love about movies” which is also hugely interesting, and which led me to this one.

  3. TSorensen

    A very interesting post and that got me to thinking as well. I definitely agree that many older movies are more appreciated than loved but I also think that distinction is very fine and sometimes almost unrecognizable. I actually do like the old stuff Melies did, but mostly because it is so quirky. My 5 year old son on the other hand have seen Voyage to the Moon perhaps ten times and is still excited about it. If I should be frank however the oldest movie I would go back to to see and find interesting all on its own would be Das Kabinett des Dr. Caligari. This is genuinely a facinating movie and one I enjoy watching every time.

    • Klaus

      i agree, for anyone who watches enough “old’ film, especially silent era productions – the line does become narrower between appreciate an fully enjoy.

      Caligari is one of the few non-comedy silent films that i have watched more than a couple of times. The other is Nosferatu.

  4. Hoosier X

    I was going to say The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari because that’s the oldest feature film that I watch pretty regularly. But then I remembered Judith of Bethuliah, which I saw for the first time about a year ago and I haven’t had a chance to see it again. It’s so much fun! A bit short for a feature film though.

    When you talk about short films, I love so much Melies! I used to have a bunch of them on VHS that I used to watch a lot.

    Not to mention the Chaplin shorts! They are hilarious! My favorite is The Rink! I can usually find it somewhere on the Internet when I want to see it.

    One rare feature film from way way back that I really like is The Wildcat with Pola Negri. I’ve only seen it once, but I suggest it to anyone who likes really old silent films. Directed by Lubitsch!

    • Klaus

      Georges Méliès for sure – lots of fun to be had there. Comedies are definitely the easiest watch as silent movies. I’ve not seen Judith of Bethuliah or The Wildcat with Pola Negri – I’ll have to look them up – thanks for the suggestions 🙂

  5. nicolaskrizan

    I seldom use the word »love« but very much appreciate some of the movies by Melies, Keaton, Chaplin, and Lloyd.

    Really good silent drama is harder to find, but I would at least vote for Nosferatu, Sunrise, The crowd, and Pandora’s box.

    • Klaus

      I had forgotten about The Crowd (which i really did enjoy), and just about anything Louise Brooks was in.

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This entry was posted on 08/13/2015 by in Other Stuff.
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