Sunday, April 3, 2011

Phil sees BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum-April 2, 2011

Original Poster from 1925
It's been far too long since I've been to one of my favorite places in the whole wide world: The Edison Theatre in Niles (Fremont), the home of the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum. Every Saturday night, for only a five dollar donation, the museum shows silent films on the big screen with live music accompaniment, the way silent films were meant to be seen. So tonight, I ventured back up to Niles and saw one of the greatest and most influential silent films of all time: BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN.

The show began with two comedy shorts, produced by the great Hal Roach. The first short was YOUNG OLDFIELD from 1924. The film stars Charley Chase as Jimmy Jump, who dreams of being a race car star. He finally gets his chance when he has to get his mortgage delivered by noon. However there are many obstacles in his way. One being he can't drive! This is a great Charley Chase comedy short and he is my all-time favorite comedian from the silent era.

The second short was 1924's OUR CONGRESSMAN, starring Will Rogers as Alfalfa Doolittle. This was the second short of the Doolittle trilogy that Rogers made for Hal Roach during the 1923-24 season. This film picks up where the first installment left off. We see Doolittle rubbing elbows with the elite as he tries to learn to fit in with hilarious results. This was a two-reeler comedy delight, and proved that Rogers is an unsung comedy star.

After a brief intermission, it was time for the main attraction. BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN was made in 1925 by Russian director Sergei Eisenstein and the film is based on historical events. The movie takes place in 1905 and tells the story of the riot that had transpired aboard the Potemkin. What had started as protest strike when the crew being given rotten meat for dinner led to said riot and mutiny aboard the battleship. Eventually this revolution was to be spread back to their home port Odessa, where the infamous massacre took place.

There isn't anything that I can say about that film that hasn't already been said. This film is regarded as one of the most important films ever to be made in the history of the medium, and with good reason. Eisenstein's use of montage, close ups, quick edits, superb editing and directing make this a landmark film, one that after its release 86 years ago, still grips the audience and makes them talk about it. A powerful film that is recommended viewing for silent film fans, film students, or anyone who loves films.

To learn more about the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum and their movie schedule, visit their website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

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