Archive for Thelma Todd


Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , on August 20, 2021 by dcairns

Got two preview discs from Masters of Cinema’s first EARLY UNIVERSAL set — possibly a must! William Wyler’s THE SHAKEDOWN (1929) was the only film known to me, and certainly he’s the best-known director of the bunch. I reviewed the movie a decade or so ago when I had a bootleg with attractive Italian intertitles. Now the film, which is excellent, looks MUCH nicer.

But I want to talk a bit about SHIELD OF HONOR (1927), also in the set, the first film I’ve seen directed by Emory Johnson, and a very fine job. I’ll have to see what else I can locate by this guy. The main cast was largely unknown to me but key supporting floozy Thelma Todd is introduced with a rushing track-in and a suggestive intertitle.

Now, I ask you, was it REALLY necessary to split the word “dictation” so the first syllable stands alone?

The movie begins with a gushing tribute to the courage and self-sacrifice of the police force, which I’m afraid I wasn’t ideally conditioned to appreciate as I’ve been listening avidly to Five to Four, “a podcast about how much the Supreme Court sucks,” which includes numerous accounts of truly egregious police misconduct. And, to be honest, this is a fairly routine cop show in essence. But delivered with a lot of panache and groovy 1927 production values including great miniature shots. The hero is a FLYING COP (in an aeroplane), giving the FX department a work-out — I think there are more special effects shots than actual flying ones by a factor of ten to one.


Johnson’s last film as director (he had an acting career that continued in small roles until the forties) is on YouTube but I haven’t checked it out yet. The title, THE PHANTOM EXPRESS, is enticing.

When Saturday Comes

Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 22, 2018 by dcairns

On Saturday we’ll be in Bo’ness at the Hippodrome Silent Film Festival. Time and budgetary constraints mean I’m not seeing any of the shows before then, since I’d have to travel through by train and then bus and that can get expensive in addition to the (reasonably-priced) cost of the films themselves. But to compensate for that, on Saturday we aim to see EVERYTHING.

10.30 a.m. SAVING SISTER SUSIE with Dorothy Devore, and THE KID REPORTER with Baby Peggy. Neil Brand at the piano.


13.30 FEN DOU (STRIVING). This one’s a gamble because I haven’t been blown away by the little Chinese silent cinema I’ve seen (not even the acclaimed THE GODDESS), but when else will I get a chance to see it? Plus the music, by Stephen Horne & Frank Bockus, is sure to be excellent. The movie itself could be a masterpiece, and is almost certain to be better than hanging around on a cold Saturday in Bo’ness until —

16.30 DER SCHATZ (THE CASTLE). Music by Alois Kott. Pabst’s first feature and one of his most expressionistic films. Should be awesome on the Hippodrome’s big screen.

18.30 Dinner at the Bo’ness Railway Station (home of vintage steam trains that appear in nearly every British period movie) and a screening of THE GREAT K&A TRAIN ROBBERY with Tom Mix on the station platform.

20.00 Double-bill of THE PENALTY with Lon Chaney and Benjamin Christensen’s SEVEN FOOTPRINTS TO SATAN (pictured) with Thelma Todd, for which I’ve written the programme notes. Graeme Stephen & Pete Harvey will be accompanying the former, with Jane Gardner & Roddy Long (THE NORTHLEACH HORROR) scoring the latter.

And then, hopefully, we get a lift home, or at least as far as the Linlithgow train station…

The Sunday Intertitle: The Mute Todd

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , on March 11, 2018 by dcairns

Delighted to be writing screening notes for this year’s Hippodrome Festival of Silent Film — this time, I’m covering a horror double feature of Lon Chaney in Wallace Worsley’s crime-shocker THE PENALTY and Thelma Todd in Benjamin Christensen’s surreal nightmare comedy SEVEN FOOTPRINTS TO SATAN, at last visible in a pristine restoration. It’s revealed as a very beautiful piece of work, raising the cinema of sensation to gloriously absurd heights. (The version I’ve quote from here is much sharper than the YouTube source, but it’s not the new cleaned-up print.)

I’m guilty of something of a misstatement in the video essay for Dreyer’s MICHAEL I just completed. I say that Benjamin Christensen’s Hollywood films lack the weirdness of HAXAN. Not true in this case!

I’ll republish my notes here after the show if that’s OK with the Hippodrome.