Saturday, March 5, 2011
Seven Footprints to Satan (1929)
A young man longing for adventure end up in the middle of a robbery and trapped in castle like home where some very strange people are wandering about. It all builds as all the "old dark house" conventions are played up to the max before it ends in a manner that is both logically right and completely wrong. I dare not say anything else since this is such fun to watch.
Benjamin Christensen's Seven Footprints to Satan was thought lost for years. During that time it gained a reputation as one of the great lost films. Thankfully the re-emergence of an Italian titled print proves that Christensen had indeed made what is probably one of the greatest "old dark house" thrillers ever made.
This movie is a blast.
There are hooded villains, sliding panels, dwarfs,half humans, gorillas, weirdly shaped people and a sense of fun lacking from many movies of this type. Its a damn near perfect blueprint of how to make a movie like this. The film is also an absolute masterpiece of the directors art. I've never/rarely seen a film that is such a marriage of image and story with camera moves that pure genius. This is a film to study if you want to see how to make a movie. This is a film that in it's way is a whole film school in 90 minutes.
Despite being a great deal of fun, and one of the best old dark house films ever the movie has two problems, one that can be fixed, the other can't.
First the film as it stands now has title cards are in Italian, which makes watching it difficult if you don't read the language. I don't. Only after reading a synopsis of the entire plot was I able to really enjoy the madness that was going on on screen. This of course can be fixed if some company goes through the trouble of restoring the film.
The other problem is that this film, as it stands now, is silent. I had always thought it was purely a silent film, however the entries on IMDB and my watching of the film make me think that perhaps part, if not all of it was filmed with sound. Why do I think this? Because there are sequences that contain a great deal of on screen talking and very little titling. There is so much talk I think there once was more to this film than there is now.
See this movie, if you can track a copy down. This is a masterpiece. Its also a lot of fun.
Now if someone like Criterion or Kino could get their hands on this and set about restoring it we'd all be so much richer.