#48 Blackmail (1929)

For film dorks who’s reading this from the U.K., if anyone happens to ask you which was the first talkie film in your country, you should be saying Alfred Hitchcock’s Blackmail. This drama is about a woman who kills a man in self defense after almost getting date-raped, leaving her in a terrified state of what’s to come when someone discovers the skeleton hiding in her closet. 

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Originally when this film was made, it was going to be mostly silent but then the British Institute gave Hitchcock permission to film a portion of the film in sound. Of course, Alfred Hitchcock was thinking the same thing we would have “Why would we do that?! Let’s make the whole film be in sound!” And that’s just what he did with the exception of the first six minutes being in sound. You can tell that this film was made during a time when if a woman murdered someone for whatever reason, the consequences would be much more dire than if a man were to do it. Do you think that people would have believed her if she said that she committed murder out of self-defense instead of in cold blood? Something tells me if the same situation happened today, women would be less afraid to come to the police if they were the victim making a desperate situation to stay alive. Agree?

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Now who is that to the left? Would that happen to be an infamous Hitchcock cameo? Hitchcock shows of many of his trademarks such as seeing the main character innocently getting into trouble and the main female lead being a beautiful blonde. Here’s something fascinating- Anny Ondra, the female lead, had a thick Czech accent which she wasn’t prepared to show for the sound version so all of her lines were dubbed by English actress Joan Barry- making this the first film where an actress is dubbed. A lot of actors dealt with this challenge during the time talkies were being made when they now had to worry about having perfect a perfect voice and diction that was easy to understand to a wide audience.

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Hitchcock did a great job making this film as chilling and tense as possible. Even in the murder scene, I like how much suspenseful the scene was where the action is hidden behind a curtain and you never hear and see the murder being done. As the camera slowly zooms in, you’re curious what went on behind that curtain until you see her slowly come out with a bloody knife. Ondra does a great job showing her anxiety as she’s being blackmailed and the intense fear that someone could one day find out. You were able to identify with her this way. This is the perfect film to see if you love Hitchcock films, suspense, and finally a classic film with sound.

Watch Britain’s first talkie film and write down your reactions in the comments:

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#47 Pandora’s Box (1929)

Does anyone remember their Greek mythology? Pandora opened a box given to her by the G-ds which released all of the evil in the world. Georg Wilheim Pabst’s Pandora’s Box is about a promiscuous flapper whose sexuality brings danger and harm to those around her.

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When people think of what the women of The Roaring Twenties looked like, they think of actress Louise Brooks. And how can you not? Those flashy dresses and bobbed haircut which she popularized to fit the 1920s trend.

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In her performance as femme fatale Lulu, her eyes bring out so much lust and mystery through each male target she sees. She also brings out her naivety in her obliviousness that the things she does to lure men cause deadly consequences. This film is considered one of the most daring films made and I understand why. There was a lot of sexual content without showing anything. You just knew what she was thinking of doing with those men. Pandora’s Box is also know as one of the first films to have lesbian undertones in which it looks clear that the character of Countess Geschwitz is clearly eyeing Lulu in jealousy as she continues flirting with other men. Funnily enough, the actress playing her didn’t even see it at the time as playing a lesbian. During those times, no one would. It would be too shocking to think of. It was interesting bringing Jack the Ripper into the story later to show how nativity comes at a cost.

Watch the film Pandora’s Box and comment what you think:

#46 The Man with a Movie Camera (1929)

Does anyone reading this blog post want to be a filmmaker or a video editor in the future? Then this film will be your ticket to receiving all of the knowledge you want about early cinematography. This film doesn’t have a story or real characters. Dziga Vertov’s The Man with a Movie Camera is an early documentary style film about the everyday goings on of Moscow, Odessa, Kharkiv, and Kiev using innovative styles of cinematography.

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This is just one of the examples of how this film showed off many inventive forms of cinematography. There were a lot of super imposition shots, reverse shots, slow motion, fast motion, rapid cuts, close-ups, split screens, etc. You saw the working class, people at the beach, playing a game of chess, a man on the side of a moving train, machines at work, and Elizaveta Svilova– the wife of director Dziga Vertov and the editor of this film. What do you think of the way film editing was done back then? I find it very interesting how everything was done on film strips instead of using computer programs to put in the effects. What scene was most impressive to you and entertaining to see?

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Have you ever heard of kino-eye before? It’s letting the lens of the camera be your eyes. What you see, the camera sees. That’s what Dziga Vertov believed in. He believed in bringing non-fiction to the silver screen. His philosophy was to use no actors but real people, real locations instead of sets, no inter-titles, and to have no plot in the film. Sure maybe this documentary didn’t have interviews and it wasn’t about a particular subject but about finding the everyday beauty in your surroundings and filming it. I was impressed the most with the shot where you see a man from above the city filming everything from down below. That’s pretty much what filmmakers do- everything around them is for the taking. Everything about the film was experimental and I believe the experiment succeeded.

Watch Vertov’s ground breaking experimental film and let me know what you think: