Thursday, November 3, 2011
11-02-11: The Last Command? SEE IT!
THE LAST COMMAND (1928) ***** 88 mins. D: Josef von Sternberg. Emil Jannings, Evelyn Brent, William Powell.
In late 1920s Hollywood, an old man who does extra work is hired for a specific part in a film. When he arrives he learns that the film is about the Russian Revolution. The man claims to be the cousin of the Czar and had served as a General in the Imperial Russian Army. While being belittled by his fellow extras, he reflects on his past when he was one of the most powerful men in Russia.
This silent film's engaging set up leads to a fantastic story about a powerful man, a feared man but ultimately a kind-hearted man caught up in a revolution. Emil Jannings is mesmerizing as Grand Duke Sergius Alexander. Every emotion, every nuance, every moment is etched on his face that you truly feel for this man who is actually a villain. Jannings won the first Academy Award for acting for this film. It's well deserved.
He falls for a revolutionary, memorably played by Brent, but as is the case things can go tragic at every turn. There are several memorable scenes that Jannings and Brent share that are quite moving and heartbreaking.
There are many fantastic scenes in this film but none can compare or is as powerful or as stirring as its impactful conclusion. An unexpected reunion and circumstance brings all that Alexander had bottled up within him to the forefront. Jannings must be seen to be believed.
If you have the opportunity to see this in a theatre, do yourself a favor and go. Either way this one is well worth seeing.
I saw this at the Silent Movie Theatre with live organ accompaniment. It was a great theatrical experience.
In addition to "The Last Command" two shorts were screened with live organ accompaniment. "Big Business" (1929) with Laurel and Hardy and the animated "Ko-Ko's Klock" (1927.
BIG BUSINESS (1929) ***1/2 19 mins. D: James W. Horne, Leo McCarey. Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, James Finlayson.
Stan and Ollie are selling Christmas trees and run afoul of one homeowner who simply doesn't want a tree. The hijinx escalates from simple insults to mass destruction as they try to one-up each other in the devistation quotient.
Funny and over-the-top almost to the point of overkill. Still pretty entertaining but I don't remember these guys being so sadistically destructive.
KO-KO'S KLOCK (1927) ***1/2 7 mins. D: Dave Fleischer.
In this entertaining Ko-Ko the Clown short, Ko-Ko serves as his master's alarm clock and must find a way to make sure he wakes up in time. It's a very nice blend of live-action and animation.