In 1913, the noted German actor and director Paul Wegener was making a film in Prague when he heard the legend of Rabbi Loew, who created a golem to protect the inhabitants of the Prague ghetto from persecution.
For those of you who thought F. W. Murnau's 'Nosferatu' was his greatest film, I have news for you: his 'Faust' blows it out of the water.
So vast is the shadow cast by the MGM production of 'The Wizard of Oz,' so indelible are its characterizations, so perfect its music, and so assured is its cinematic immortality, that most people think of it as 'The Original.' In fact, it isn't.
A generation before, it had been sagebrush and coyotes; a generation later, it was a burgeoning movie town. But for that brief idyllic time in 1910, Hollywood looked like the perfect place for a successful writer to settle down, build his dream house, and maybe do some gardening.
1925's 'The Lost World' is... really, everything a dinosaur movie should be. Like a dinosaur, this classic was once extinct too, existing as mere fragmentary footage and stills, but cinemaphile fossil-hunters have painstakingly excavated bits and pieces from obscure archives and assembled them into a nearly-complete animal.
Back when the concept of organ transplants qualified as science fiction, novelist Maurice Renard wrote a thriller called 'Les Mains d'Orlac.' Call it a bastard offspring of 'Frankenstein;' its plot revolved around the old theme of Science Giving Us Stuff We Shouldn't Have - in this particular case, restoring severed body parts.
Despite what you hear about the publishing industry being a fixed game that you can only get in if you know somebody, I'm here in person to tell you it ain't so. If your stuff is really any good, sooner or later some editor will take a chance on you.
According to Jewish legend, only the very wisest and very holiest rabbis had the power to make golems, animated servants of clay. Strictly speaking, the golem is not in the same class with Frankenstein's monster, because the golem is neither alive nor dead. He is, rather, the ancestor of all robots.
For all its flaws, 'The Hands of Orlac' really is a seminal film, and if you're partial to that particular B-movie subgenre of Demon Body Parts, you really ought to see it.
I saw the Kino print of 'The Man From Beyond,' but apparently a superior new print has been produced by Restored Serials. Maybe a few snippets of missing footage will close up some of the plot holes, but I have my doubts.
In 1916, Universal Studios released the first filmed adaptation of Jules Verne's novel '20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.' Georges Melies made a film by that name in 1907, but, unlike his earlier adaptations of Verne, Melies' version bears no resemblance to the book.
Let's say you need a perfectly obedient servant who never gets tired, never needs to be paid, and is virtually indestructible. If you're in a galaxy a long time ago and far, far away, you'll just fly off to the local droid auction and pick up one of those shiny gold models with lovely manners.
If you want to see what stage comedians did to get laffs a century ago, watch the 1910 'Wizard of Oz.' I hope you have a high tolerance for pratfalls.
People who like to fume about the manner in which Disney changed beloved classics are often ignorant of history, not to mention the realities of show business.
We who grew up with 'drop and cover' drills know all too well what wonders science can bring us, and we like to see the guy in the white lab coat suffer a little. Or a lot.
What has 'The Patchwork Girl of Oz' got in its favor? Quite a lot, from our point of view in 2009. If you want to see how Oz's creator envisioned his own work, here it is.
Written and directed by French showman Georges Melies, 'Le Voyage' features one of the most indelible images in cinema history: the wounded Man in the Moon bleeding like a particularly runny Brie, grimacing in pain with a space capsule protruding from his right eye.