This would have been a really bad opener if not for one film:
1. Dva-Buldi-dva / Two-Buldi-Two (1929, Nina Agadzhanova, Lev Kuleshov)
Decent, but at times laughable Soviet propaganda, including silly looking people shouting "you red losers!". Not quite reefer madness, and there actually is some nice tension and even emotion here, but it was still extremely disappointing given Kuleshov's involvement, - however it seems he played a very small role in the production. We follow the older Buldi, in a father and son set of clowns called Buldi. There's some decent enough tricks, but the son is a red and quickly gets in trouble - it is 1919, in the midst of the civil war you see. Essentially we see the older clown grow to support the reds through his love for his son and the callousness of the whites. This is extremely thin, but at least we get some suspense. 5/10
2. Iz-pod svodov mecheti (1928, Kazimir Gertel)
Possibly butchered, so I won't be too unfair, but this is such a poorly constructed and shot adverure film with very little to offer. 4/10.
3. Be My Wife (1921, Max Linder)
I always thought this film was lost, only surviving in fragments: I'm so happy it is finally out (and has been for a little while without me realizing it). It is far from as creative, clever or masterly as Seven Years Bad Luck or The Three Must-Get-Theres, and essentially feels like the set up of three separate short film ideas merged together - but it is still absolutely hilarious, and on-par with the general fare pushed by Chaplin and Keaton in the early 20s.
The set-up(s) are simple - boy courts girl - boy marries girl - married man gets in trouble - and the ideas and production values really keep increasing by the act. There is also a fantastic and hilarious dog
. Some of the puns in act 1 (the weakest) seem a little basic, but with Max needing to constantly out-wit the aunt, but most importantly the dog, it ends up getting better and better. Act 2, featuring some extremely rauchy dance moves had me in stitches, and act 3 really goes all-out. It feels basic compared to the two most known Linder films, but still a great and extremely fun experience. 8/10.
Oh, and you can see it here:
4. Die Tango-Königin / The Tango Queen (1913, Max Mack)
Very much a non-experience. 4/10.
5. Der Tunnel (1915, William Wauer)
I appreciated just how straightforward this film is, and that it in many ways is just a chronicle of a great step in future progress (a tunnel from Europe to America). In fact I would have appreciated it far more without the extremely flimsy and silly material around the world's richest man, and melodrama. The strikes and investment elements had some decent drama, but what really made the film standout were the underground digging scenes, filled with so much tension. It could have been a 1915 Le Trou but they wasted it is what I am trying to say I suppose, and in the end it was just a decent film. 5/10.
6. Mädchen am Kreuz / The Crucified Girl (1929, Jacob Fleck, Luise Fleck)
I went into this blind and was very surprised it was a film tacking the topic of rape and in such a direct way. It plays it a little too conventionally for the time, but as with so many German social dramas of the time the message and heart really is in the right place despite some heavy-handedness, and an unnecessary side-story of our lead's father and step-mother, played for semi laughs, semi-sleaze, semi-melancholy, which especially in retrospect seems completely out of place. Note, this is a great recent restoration, and the shots look absolutely lovely. 6.5/10