Cinema of Disaster

When the Earth Trembled
R: Barry O’Neil. B: Edwin Barbour. D: Harry Myers, Ethel Clayton, Richard Morris. P: Lubin Manufacturing Company. USA 1913
Print: EYE collection
Dutch titles

When the Earth Trembled
Earthquake Sequence

>>> view this sequence on Vimeo

“In 2015 the San Francisco Silent Film Festival and EYE Filmmuseum collaborated to restore the 1913 feature When the Earth Trembled. Premieres of the restoration were held in Amsterdam in March 2015 and San Francisco in May 2015.
This excerpt presents the film’s re-creation of the great 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire. The musical accompaniment with this clip is performed Stephen Horne and Frank Bockius, and was recorded live at 2015 San Francisco Silent Film Festival.”

When the Earth Trembled
Restoration Demo, comparing different sources

“There are three known surviving copies of WHEN THE EARTH TREMBLED (1913), all of which are incomplete. Elements from all three of these sources were required in order to reconstruct the original three-reel feature. This clip presents a portion of the famous earthquake sequence to demonstrate the differences in the materials, such as the presence (or absence) of a particular shot, variations in length of the same shot, the level of damage, etc. Two of the sources are scanned from b&w preservation negatives, the third (on the right) is an original tinted nitrate print. Videos in this demo are all from raw scans and prior to restoration.
The restoration was completed in March 2015 as a collaboration between EYE Filmmuseum and the San Francisco Silent Film Festival.
Clip Courtesy of Robert Byrne, San Francisco Silent Film Festival.”

“In 1913, early film mogul Siegmund Lubin decided to attempt his first mega-production: a three-reel spectacle titled When the Earth Trembled, or The Strength of Love, which would feature the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire as its centerpiece. At a time when the Lubin Studio was producing two completed films per week, an unheard-of four months were devoted to creating the special effects and collapsing sets that would re-create the disaster.”
Louise Brooks Society

>>> San Francisco, 1906

A Strange Dinner Party

Le récit du colonel
R: Louis Feuillade. D: Alice Tissot, Maurice Vinot, Renée Carl. P: Gaumont. Fr 1907
Engl. titles

“The dinner party is one of those Feuillade social events that develop into utter strangeness. Unlike some social events, this one is not attacked by outside forces – and its guests seem more decent and likable than some of the upper crust party guests who sometimes get attacked in Feuillade. Instead, these likable people turn into a very strange group, all by themselves, without outside prodding. They anticipate the strange luncheon in Bout de Zan vole un éléphant.”
Michael E. Grost

>>> Louis Feuillade’s serial Bout-de-zan

A Tribute to Mabel Normand

Oh, Those Eyes!
R: Mack Sennett. B: Juanita Bennett. K: Percy Higginson. D: Mabel Normand, Eddie Dillon, Dell Henderson, J. Jiquel Lanoe, William J. Butler, Frank Evans. P: American Biograph. USA 1912

R: Mack Sennett. B: Dell Henderson. K: Percy Higginson. D: Mabel Normand, Fred Mace, Frank Evans, William J. Butler, J. Jiquel Lanoe, Frank Opperman. P: American Biograph. USA 1912

A Dash through the Clouds
R: Mack Sennett. B: Dell Henderson. K: Percy Higginson. D: Mabel Normand, Fred Mace, Phillip Parmalee, Kate Bruce, Grace Henderson, Jack Pickford, Eddie Dillon.
P: American Biograph. USA 1912

“Known for her gaiety and spontaneous spirit, Normand appeared in hundreds of films (and directed several of them) and rose to such heights of popularity that she briefly rivaled Mary Pickford as ‘America’s sweetheart’. (…) In 1910, despite her lack of acting experience, she succeeded in getting a job as an extra at the Biograph motion picture studio in New York City. She then worked for the Vitagraph studio until late 1911, when she returned to Biograph. During this period she played both comic and dramatic roles, sometimes under the studio-assigned name of Muriel Fortescue.
While at Biograph, Normand met director Mack Sennett, who would become one of the most important people in her life, both personally and professionally. In 1912 she left Biograph with Sennett to join his new Keystone Film Company in California. (…) Normand charmed audiences with her petite, impish beauty but also participated fully in the rough, slam-bang physical comedy that was Sennett’s trademark. While working on a Sennett film about 1913 she is said to have succumbed to impulse and thrown a custard pie at Ben Turpin, thus creating what soon became a classic film comedy bit.
Normand was the unquestioned female star of the Keystone company when Charlie Chaplin joined it late in 1913, and he learned much basic filmcraft from her. They appeared in 11 films together, mostly one- and two-reelers. She directed him in Mabel at the Wheel (1914), and they later codirected several films, including Mabel’s Busy Day and Mabel’s Married Life (both 1914). Their most famous pairing is perhaps the great Tillie’s Punctured Romance (1914), the first feature-length comedy, in which they were joined by Marie Dressler.”
Encyclopaedia Britannica

367 Mabel Normand

Stenka Razin

Stenka Razin
R: Vladimir Romashkov. B: Vasilii Goncharov. K: Aleksandr O. Drankov, Nikolai Kozlovsky. D: Jevgenij Petrov-Krayevsky. P: Aleksandr O. Drankov. RUS 1908

“Stenka Razin, byname of Stepan Timofeyevich Razin (born c. 1630, Zimoveyskaya-na-Donu, —died 1671, Moscow), leader of a major Cossack and peasant rebellion on Russia’s southeastern frontier (1670–/71).
Born into a well-to-do Don Cossack family, Stenka Razin grew up amid the tension caused by the inability of runaway serfs, who were continually escaping from Poland and Russia to the Don Cossack area, to find land and comfortably settle in the prosperous Cossack communities.
In 1667 Razin made himself the head (hetman) of a small band of landless newcomers and adventurers and established a new Cossack outpost on the upper Don, near the course of the Volga River. For the next three years he carried out daring raids on Russian and Persian settlements, seizing a large Volga River flotilla that was carrying goods owned by the Tsar, capturing (1668) the town of Yaik on the Yaik (now Ural) River, attacking by sea and destroying the Muslim settlements of Derbent, Baku, and Rasht on the Caspian Sea in Persia, and defeating a fleet sent against him by the shah of Persia (1669).
Having acquired great fame and wealth, Razin returned to the Don and in 1670 launched a new campaign against the tsar’s fortress cities on the Volga. With a force of about 7,000 Cossacks, he seized Tsaritsyn (now Volgograd) and Astrakhan. In both towns Razin and his men had engaged in drunken orgies and perpetrated savage atrocities against the nobles and military officers; he also replaced the local governments with Cossack institutions of self-rule. Encouraged by his success, he decided to continue his advance up the Volga, and along the way he incited the peasantry and urban lower classes to join his rebellion against the nobility and bureaucracy (but not against the tsar). He captured Saratov and, with a force that had swollen to 20,000, proceeded to Simbirsk, while his insurrection spread throughout the Volga region into the lands adjoining the Don and Donets rivers and even into some of the central provinces of the Russian state.”
Encyclopædia Britannica

“The Ballad of Stenka Razin”

From beyond the wooded island
To the river wide and free
Proudly sailed the arrow-breasted
Ships of Cossack yeomanry.

On the first is Stenka Razin
With his princess by his side
Drunken holds in marriage revels
With his beauteous young bride

From behind there comes a murmur
“He has left his sword to woo;
One short night and Stenka Razin
Has become a woman, too.”

Stenka Razin hears the murmur
Of his discontented band
And his lovely Persian princess
He has circled with his hand.

His dark brows are drawn together
As the waves of anger rise;
And the blood comes rushing swiftly
To his piercing jet black eyes

“I will give you all you ask for
Head and heart and life and hand.”
And his voice rolls out like thunder
Out across the distant land.

Volga, Volga, Mother Volga
Wide and deep beneath the sun,
You have never seen such a present
From the Cossacks of the Don.

So that peace may reign forever
In this band so free and brave
Volga, Volga, Mother Volga
Make this lovely girl a grave.

Now, with one swift mighty motion
He has raised his bride on high
And has cast her where the waters
Of the Volga roll and sigh.

“Dance, you fools, and let’s be merry
What is this that’s in your eyes?
Let us thunder out a chanty
To the place where beauty lies.”

From beyond the wooded island
To the river wide and free
Proudly sailed the arrow-breasted
Ships of Cossack yeomanry.

Jevgenij Bauer (1)

Sumerki zhenskoi dushi
(Twilight of a Woman’s Soul)
R: Jevgenij Bauer. B: V. Demert. K: Nikolai Kozlovsky. D: Nina Chernova, A. Ugrjumov, V. Demert, V. Brianski. P: Khanzhonkov. RUS 1913
Engl. subtitles

Twilight of a Woman’’s Soul (1913) is Bauer‘’s earliest extant film. It is also the only surviving Bauer film not shot by Boris Zavelev, the cameraman with whom Bauer collaborated from 1914 until the end of his career in 1917. Here Bauer’s cameraman is Nikolai Kozlovskii, who had worked alongside Drankov on the first all-Russian feature film, Sten’ka Razin (1908). The consistency of the visual style in the films Bauer made with different cameramen suggests that Bauer himself devised and controlled this aesthetic aspect of his films. (…)
Technically, Twilight of a Woman’’s Soul is a highly accomplished début. If the opening ball scenes do not exhibit the depth and scale of similar scenes in later Bauer films, they nevertheless show Bauer striving to use space innovatively. In this respect the scenes shot in Vera’s bedroom are particularly successful, and they also demonstrate Bauer’s skilful use of lighting, props and costumes to create mood and highlight aspects of character and theme. A flimsy gauze curtain, drawn right across the screen, divides the set in two and creates depth. It also, however, serves to symbolize Vera’s detachment from the outside world, the sphere of public activity. The space in front of the curtain is in complete darkness; in contrast, the well-lit background where Vera sits appears even brighter, and Vera is bathed in an unearthly light that lends her an aura of saintliness. Her ethereal nature is further suggested by the fragile curtain itself and by the diaphanous gown she is wearing. The whiteness of the curtain and of Vera’s dress also evokes associations of purity and innocence, as do the vases of flowers that decorate her bedroom.”
Rachel Morely: Notes on Evgeni Bauer

Tysiacha vtoraia khitrost’
(The 1002nd Ruse)
R: Jevgenij Bauer. B: Vladimir Azov. D: Lina Bauer, S. Rassatov, Sergei Kvasnitskii. P: Khanzhonkov. RUS 1915
Engl. subtitles

>>> Jevgenij Bauer (2)Jevgenij Bauer (3)

Jevgenij Bauer (2)

Nemje svideteli (Silent Witnesses)
R: Jevgenij Bauer. B: Aleksandr Voznesenskij. D: Aleksandr Chargonin, Aleksandr Kheruvimov, Dora Chitorina, Viktor Petipa, Elsa Krüger, Andrej Gromov, Pjotr Lopukhin. P: Khanzhonov. RUS 1914
Engl. subtitles

“It is impossible for us to see Silent Witnesses today without some degree of hindsight. For this “upstairs-downstairs” drama of life below stairs shows a world that, unwittingly, stood on the brink of extinction. Fascinating also to compare the figure of the porter with Emil Jannings’ famous doorman over a decade later in The Last Laugh. But the film has an undeniable edge to its portrayal of the upper classes and — is this hindsight? — a marked sympathy for its servant class. It also shows Bauer’s virtuoso visual style at its most ornate, using split-screen and subjective shots, as well as the very architecture of the house, to evoke the social structure that is its subject.
A contemporary review noted: ‘Running through the film is the idea that people have still not shed their prejudices over white skin and blue blood. It is impossible not to single out the weak-willed, characterless whimperer exclusively preoccupied with his own pitiful ‘me’: he sees himself as the only thing of value in the world. The vitality of the idea, challenging bourgeois morality, is highly characteristic of both Russian and foreign dramas, and increases considerably the undoubted value of the film.’
[Silent Witnesses, ed. Tsivian et al, London/Pordenone: 1989]”

“In Silent Witnesses the title characters are the servants of Moscow’s sybaritic high society, but they have an independent life of their own, caring and principled. When one young maid has a mind to the advantages of being a rich man’s lady and, after a half-hearted refusal, acquiesces, she finds her position too insecure to protest against his continuing infidelities. In all of Bauer’s films drunken parties and sexual license are the prerogatives of the rich, who are also vindictive, cruel, and without moral values — but they are also dangerously attractive. In Children of the Age a loving young wife allows an aged roué to seduce her and remains with him even after he has reduced her husband to penury by having him sacked. Her options are open, and furthermore she remains sympathetic, though the peasant audiences of Czarist Russia might well have thought that this brutally unequal society ought to be destroyed forthwith. It would be an overstatement to describe Bauer as subversive, but the society he depicts is wholly unadmirable, mortally sick.”
David Shipman
Film Reference

Ditya bolshogo goroda
(Child of the Big City)
R: Jevgenij Bauer. K: Boris Zaveler. D: Manechka-Mary, Elena Smirnova, Viktor Kravtsovt, Mikhail Salarov, Arsenii Bibikov, Emma Bauer. P: Khanzhonov. RUS 1914
Engl. subtitles

“Bauer’s dramas of social realism include Ditya Bolshogo Goroda (A Child of the Big City) (1914), Nemye Svideteli (Silent Witnesses) (1914), and Leon Drey (1915). Ditya Bolshogo Goroda‘s female protagonist is a young woman whose soul has been tainted by grinding poverty. Orphaned from birth and toiling in a sweatshop, she escapes when a wealthy young man falls in love with her and makes her his mistress. But once his money runs out, she leaves him, spurning his suggestion that they live a modest life together. In the end, she has climbed her way to the top. When her former lover shoots himself on the doorstep of her mansion, she steps over him on her way to a fashionable restaurant, the final shot being a close-up of his body.”
William M. Drew

“For many years, pre-Revolutionary Russian cinema was terra incognita. It was as though cinema in Russia had sprung fully formed and fizzing with socialist fervor from the heads of Eisenstein, Pudovkin, Dziga Vertov and their colleagues. Although the industry was a relatively late starter, the first all-Russian feature film, Sten’ka Razin, dates from 1908 and a rich crop of work emerged from the Tsarist years: over 2000 films, of which nearly 300 survive.
After the Revolution, however, these early movies were suppressed and forgotten (but carefully preserved by the state archive Gosfilmofond). Not until the dying days of the Soviet regime did they come to light again. And when they did, they revealed a previously unknown genius of the cinema – Evgeni Bauer. Bauer’s career as a filmmaker is all the more remarkable in that it lasted a mere four years – from 1913 until his death from pneumonia in June 1917 at the age of 52. In that time he directed over 80 films, of which more than a quarter is currently known to survive. From them it is evident that he possessed an instinctive grasp of the language and mechanics of cinema. Bauer had a sense of cinematic space, an insight into the creative use of light and an audacity in the handling of the camera that set him far ahead of more celebrated innovators of the period such as DW Griffith or Victor Sjöström.”
Philip Kemp

>>> Jevgenij Bauer (1)Jevgenij Bauer (3)

Pyotr Chardynin

Domik v Kolomne
(The Little House at Kolomna)
R: Pyotr Chardynin. B: Alexander Pushkin. K: Wladyslaw Starewicz. D: Praskovya Maksimova, Sofya Goslavskaya, Ivan Mozhukhin. Bauten: Boris Mikhin. P: Khanzhonkov. RUS 1913

>>> Peter Cochran’s essay on Alexander Pushkin

Pyotr (Peter, Petr) Chardynin was a prolific silent film director who made over 100 silent films in Russia, France, Germany, and Soviet Union. (…) During the 1890s he was an actor and director in several cities of Central Russia, such as Belgorod, Orekhovo-Zuevo, Uralsk, and Vologda. In 1901 he played the title role in the Shakespeare‘s ‘Hamlet’ in Vologda, then moved to Moscow. From 1908 – 1910 he was member of the troupe at Vvedensky Narodny Dom in Moscow. There Chardynin met Aleksandr Khanzhonkov who invited him to work in movies. Chardynin replaced French directors and cinematographers, becoming the principal director for Khanzhonkov. He also brought in several fellow stage actors, such as Ivan Mozhukhin and Nathalie Lissenko, and made them leading stars of Russian silent film.
Chardynin directed over 30 films for Khanzhonkov. He also appeared as actor in several silent films. (…) As director, Chardynin did not survive serious competition from Yevgeni Bauer, and left the Khanzhonkov’s film company. In 1916 Chardynin with Vera Kholodnaya and several other leading actors joined the D Kharitonov studio of Dimitrij Charitonov in Odessa. There Chardynin made several successful films starring Vera Kholodnaya. After the death of Kholodnaya in 1919, he tried to work for the new Soviet Communist regime, albeit the Soviet propaganda was not exactly his style.
In 1920 Chardynin accepted invitation to work for Dimitrij Charitonov in Rome, Italy. Then he had a brief stint at ‘Gomon’ studio in Paris, then worked for stage projects in Berlin, Germany. From 1921 – 1923 Chardynin lived and worked in Riga, Latvia. There he directed four silent films. In 1923 he was visited by a special envoy from Odessa and was invited to work at Odessa Film Studio. There he directed several costume dramas and epics about the history of Ukraine, such as Taras Shevchenko (1926) and Cherevichki (1928), among his other films. In 1930 Chardynin was censored by the Soviet authorities and was banned from working in films. He suffered from a serious emotional breakdown, and eventually developed a liver cancer. He died on August 14, 1934, in Odessa, Ukraine, Soviet Union (now Odesa, Ukraine), and was laid to rest in Odessa.”
Steve Shelokhonov

Imperial Russia: V. Goncharov

Krestyanskaya Dolya
(The Peasant’s Lot)
R: Vasilii Goncharov. B: Arsenii Bibikov. K: Louis Forestier. D: Aleksandra Goncharova, Ivan Mozzhukhin, Pyotr Chardynin, Arsenii Bibikov, Lidiia Tridenskaia. P: Khanzhonkov. RUS 1912

“The Peasants’ Lot (…) concerns the citizens of a small village and particularly a courting couple. Petr (Ivan Mozzhukhin) is courting Masha (Aleksandra Goncharova) with the help of the local matchmaker. Both fathers agree to the match and a marriage is being planned when disaster strikes. Masha’s family home is burnt to the ground. Petr’s father will not allow him to marry into a ruined family and the wedding is off. Destitute, Masha’s family sells their cow but the money does not last. Wages are low in the country but the city offers better prospects. Masha is sent to work as a maid for a wealthy family. The master of the house notices her and waits for an opportunity. Masha receives a letter informing her that her father is ill. The master sees her tearful demeanor, reads the letter and realizes this is his chance. He counts out a stack of bills. In the next scene, Masha stumbles into her own room with her hands full of money. Her disheveled appearance tells us all we need to know. (…)”
Fritzi Kramer

“A contemporary review acclaimed The Peasants’ Lot as a fine picture on a subject ‘close to the heart of every Russian’. As well as applauding the ‘well-considered and excellent performances’ by Goncharova and Mozzhukhin, the reviewer enthused over its choice of scenes from peasant life: ‘the scene at the races is wonderfully presented, the fire in the village vividly depicted, the pictures of rural life alternate successfully, hopeless poverty contrasting with the existence of a rich family in the capital.’ Here was a ‘balanced’ view of the country, as seen from the city, which followed Goncharov’s solidly traditional approach, echoing the view of rural life familiar from Russian 19th-century literature. A film that clearly answered the urgent demand for ‘national’ images that confirmed the increasingly unstable status quo.”
Milestone Films

(The Brigand Brothers)
R: Vasilii Goncharov. B: Vasilii Goncharov, based on the poem by Alexander Pushkin. K: Aleksander Ryllo. D: Arsenii Bibikov, Ivan Mozhukhin, Vasilii Stepanov, Dolinina, Aleksandra Goncharova. P: Khanzhonkov. RUS 1912
Begun 1911, but never released.

“Subtitled ‘cagily’ as ‘scenes from’ the eponymous romantic poem by Alexander Pushkin, this was one of the Khanzhonkov studio’s (and its veteran director Vasilii Goncharov‘s) patent efforts to make their films look more Russian by basing their stories on Russian history and Russian literary classics. Two brothers are reduced by poverty to crime, but their moving love for each other redeems all their killings in the reader’s (and viewer’s) eyes.
By then already a full-time performer at Khanzhonkov, Mozhukhin was successful in both comedy and dramatic roles. This was one of the finest films of his early career. Note his first attempts at ‘psychology’ (which would become Mozhukhin’s trademark in years to come), and the touches of Grand Guignol realism in the direction the protracted death pangs of the first victim, and the heart-rending scene at the open grave. Note also Aleksander Ryllo‘s tour-de-force photography, particularly of a shallow sandbar on the Moscow River, used as the location for the convicts’ escape, visually the most memorable scene of the film.”
Yuri Tsivian
Cineteca del Friuli

R: Vasilii Goncharov. K: Vladimir Siversen. Bauten: V. Fester. D: Vasilii Stepanov, Aleksandra Goncharova, Andrei Gromov. P: Khanzhonkov. RUS 1910

Rusalka, based on Pushkin’s play about a prince and a mermaid, followed in Goncharov’s resolutely ornate style, with Fester once again creating a decor based on the popular narrative painting of the time. The film’s trick effects and surreal underwater set are less typical of Russian production and may reflect the popularity of Pathé’s trick films at this time. By 1911, when the unreleased ‘Brigand Brothers’ was started, Goncharov’s pantomime style seemed dated. Yet with the future star Mozhukhin already showing his quality, and superb locations around the Moscow River, he managed one of the most expressive of all early classic adaptations – in this case Pushkin’s epic poem.”

Ein Märchen aus Deutschland

Hänsel und Gretel
R und K: Heinrich Ernemann (?). P: FITA Film. D 1908 (?)

Im Firmenlogo des 2. Bildes dieser Kopie präsentiert sich die Produktionsfirma FITA.

“The company FITA FILM has produced several short fairytale films for children. Together with the BING company for toys (based in Nuremberg) they have produced sort of home cinema kits for children like displayed in the Nuremberg toy museum (…) The company FITA FILM itself was based in Dresden and founded by the camera pioneer Heinrich Ernemann.”
Andreas Krinke
Lost Films

Die Datenbank The German Cinema Database weist allein für die Jahre 1907 und 1908 vier Filme mit dem Titel Hänsel und Gretel nach, darunter einen als “Drama” gekennzeichneten Film der Produktionsfirma Heinrich Ernemann (1908), aufgeführt in einer Zusammenstellung von Märchenfilmen der Fita-Film. Desgleichen ein Tonbild der Messter Film, aufgeführt am 23.11.1907 im Elektrophon-Theater, Hagen. verzeichnet des weiteren für 1907 einen Film Hänsel und Gretel der Firma Internationale Kinematograph- u. Lichtbild-Ges., Berlin. Ferner einen gleichnamigen Film von Oskar Messter von 1897 (!).

Das BFI nennt unter “Fita Film” darüber hinaus für das Jahr 1908 den Film Schneewittchen, für 1910 Dornröschen – alle ohne Credits.