Thursday, October 6, 2016

A Cinematic History of Horror for Hallowe'en On Roku - DAY 06: Spooky Portraits & Faustian Tales (1915-1918)

Welcome back, Boils & Ghouls...

... to 'Day Six' of "A Cinematic History of Horror for Hallowe'en On Roku" in which I shall bring you my next batch of fright flicks from the enormous back-catalogue of macabre movies that have been thrilling cinema-goers for more than a century and can now be streamed to your television sets via the magic of Roku player - so, let's dim the lights... and get set for some frights! :-O

If you read my special hallowe'en blogathon preview - FOUND HERE - which I published last Friday, you'll know that I plan to post one Hallowe'en / Horror related article every day, throughout the month of October, featuring one horror movie per year from cinematic history, starting in 1895 and ending in 2016. This should average out at about four films per day, so you'll have plenty of choice for your macabre movie viewing as we count down the days to Hallowe'en on October 31st! ;-)

On Saturday, to get things started, we went all the way back to the end of the 19th century for some of the earliest horror cinema footage ever recorded. The four movies in that inaugural post were from 1895 - 1898 (inclusive) and featured beheadings, vampires, skeletons and nightmarish dreams. For my second article in this month-long series of blog posts, I shared four more films (one for each year) from 1899 - 1902 (inclusive) and those featured ghostly apparitions, aliens and selenites, plus a visit from the devil to a convent. In my third post, I shared four films (again, one for each year) from 1903 - 1906 (inclusive) and those featured impish devils, demons and ghost brides, plus a man who practices entomology being pinned to a cork like an insect. For my fourth article in this series of posts, I shared four more films (one for each year) from 1907 - 1910 (inclusive) which featured evil spectres, haunted houses, plus the first filmed version of the story of Frankenstein's monster. In my last post, on day five, I shared another four films (again, one per year) from 1911 - 1914 (inclusive) and those were all based on works of literature by either Dante Alighieri, Robert Louis Stevenson or Edgar Allan Poe. Today, I have another four films (again, one for each year) from 1915 - 1918 (inclusive) and these include one about a spooky portrait, one about the victim of a kidnapper, plus a Faustian tale told from a female perspective and another about an artificial creature produced by a mad scientist! As with the films shared previously in this series, bearing in mind the time period during which they were made, they all fall into the silent movie category plus some have visible signs of wear and tear but, despite this, they are all none the less watchable as further examples of early films whose influence can still be seen in far more modern movies from the horror genre...


First up today... is a short film from Russia, directed by Wladyslaw Starewicz, was based on a story by Nikolai Gogol, originally published in the short story collection "Arabesques" in 1835. It was first released in 1915, under the original title of "Portret" (or, "Портрет", if you prefer) which translates as "The Portrait". Unfortunately, only a 7-8 minute fragment of the original 44 - 45 minute film survived the October Revolution, so that is as much of it as I am able to share. On the plus side, what little we do have (from what was the beginning of the full movie) still tells a fairly coherent story, in and of itself... so much so (in fact) that, if you didn't know any better, you may not even be able to tell just how little of the whole story it represents. The film begins with a man, whom we later learn is an artist himself, visiting the shop of an "art dealer" - though, I use the term loosely - and uncovering a painting of what appears, at first glance, to be little more than the portrait of a dour old man. Even so, the artist (known as "Chartkov" in Gogol's novella) is struck by the handling of the subject's eyes... which are incredibly lifelike, and appear to follow the observer around the room - regardless of their position in relation to the canvas. Anyway, after some persuasion by the art dealer, the man buys the painting and takes it home to his bedsit "studio" where he hangs it on the wall and gives it a good clean. However, having removed the grime, Chartkov finds the old man's stare to be intolerably creepy and decides to cover it up before going to bed. Not that it helps, mind you, because Chartkov is then troubled by nightmares involving the painting - all night long!

Portret [aka The Portrait] (1915) [dir. Wladyslaw Starewicz] - PHOTO CREDIT:

As with a lot of these early films, we are fortunate to have copies of them in the public domain... which, for Roku users, means they are widely available on YouTube as well as other free resources for streaming online video. Feel free to watch this movie online, or use the link to cast from YouTube (via Roku player) and watch it on the big screen for maximum shock value! Either way, here it is...

YOUTUBE LINK:- Portret [aka The Portrait] (1915) [IMDB Rating: 6.9]

Our next film today is a feature-length film from Germany, which was directed by Otto Rippert, and first released in 1916 under the original title of "Homunculus, 1. Teil" but, as you may be aware, it was shortened to the simpler form of "Homunculus" in certain other regions. The movie earned it's place in cinema history, as part of the artificial-creature series: Der Golem (1914 & 1920), Alraune (1918, 1928, 1930) plus Metropolis (1926). The film tells the story of Homunculus (Olaf Fønss)... the "perfect" creature, manufactured in a lab by Edgar Rodin (Friedrich Kühne), which - on discovering that it has no "soul" - chooses to avenge itself on mankind by instigating revolution(s) and becoming a monstrous tyrant... all the while, pursued by it's creator "father" - hoping to rectify his mistake!

Homunculus, 1. Teil [aka Homunkulus] (1916) - PHOTO CREDIT:

Homunculus, 1. Teil (1916) [Movie Poster] - PHOTO CREDIT:

As with "Portret"  [aka The Portrait] (1915), this film by Otto Rippert is available online as well as free-to-stream on Roku devices. I'm sticking with YouTube as my means of sharing this film with you. Unfortunately, I was unable to find a version with english language subtitles and/or title cards, although I was able to locate one with a musical score. Please feel free to leave a comment, if you know of a better source for this movie. As before, you can watch this online, or use the link to cast from YouTube (via Roku player) and watch it on the big screen. Either way, here's a link to it...

 YOUTUBE LINK:- Homunculus, 1. Teil (1916) [IMDB Rating: 6.2]

Our third film today is "Rapsodia Satanica" [aka Satan's Rhapsody], a feature-length horror fantasy drama from director Nino Oxilia, produced for Società Italiana Cines in Italy. Released in 1917, it can be considered a female variation on the "Faust" myth - being based (in part) on a poem by Fausto Maria Martini. This movie tells the story of an old woman who makes a pact with Mephisto to regain her youth and, in return, she must stay away from love. Needless to say, right after the deal is made, she meets two brothers who then fall in love with her.... sound familiar? Anyway, despite being yet another Faustian tale to come to the silver screen this is, nevertheless, a fine example of early Italian cinema. Sadly, though, it was also notable for being the last film ever to be made by Nino Oxilia... who was killed in action during WWI, the very same year that the film was released.

Rapsodia Satanica [aka Satan's Rhapsody] (1917) - PHOTO CREDIT:

Rapsodia Satanica [aka Satan's Rhapsody] (1917) - PHOTO CREDIT: The Devil's Manor

Fortunately for us, like "Portret" [aka The Portrait] and "Homunculus, 1. Teil" [aka Homunculus], this horror fantasy drama from Nino Oxilia is also in the public domain and widely available online as well as free-to-stream on Roku devices. As before, I'm going to stick with YouTube for sharing this film with you. Again, please feel free to watch the movie online, or use the link to cast from YouTube (via Roku player) and watch it on the big screen, as suggested earlier.

YOUTUBE LINK:- Rapsodia Satanica [aka Satan's Rhapsody] (1917)  [IMDB Rating: 7.0]

Last up, is another feature-length film from Germany... but, this time, it's directed by Ernst Lubitsch. Released in 1918, "Die Augen der Mumie Ma" [aka The Eyes of the Mummy] is a horror drama in which a girl is kidnapped and held captive in an ancient Egyptian temple. She is rescued and flees to England, but soon finds that her mysterious captor is still haunting her!

The Eyes of the Mummy [aka Die Augen der Mumie Ma] (1918) - PHOTO CREDIT:

Anyway... you probably guessed already but, if not, this film is also in the public domain and, like the other three films in this article, is widely available online as well as free-to-stream on Roku devices. As before, I'm sticking with YouTube as my means of sharing this film with you. Again, please feel free to watch the movie online, or use the link to cast from YouTube (via Roku player) and watch it on the big screen, as suggested earlier in this post.

YOUTUBE LINK:- The Eyes of the Mummy (1918) [IMDB Rating: 5.4]


Anyhow, that's all I've got time for today... but do remember to come back again tomorrow, for more macabre movies from the history of horror cinema, when I serve-up another batch of four films on 'Day Seven' of "A Cinematic History of Horror for Hallowe'en On Roku" right here on this blog. Meanwhile... please be sure to visit the Countdown To Hallowe'en website and show your support for this annual online Hallowe'en extravaganza... PLUS don't forget to use the links you find there and check out all the other 'Cryptkeepers' taking part this year. I know they'll appreciate it if you visit their blogs & share your thoughts on the contribution(s) they've made.


BEFORE I GO: Don't forget that, aside from all the Hallowe'en / Horror-themed ghastliness going on around these parts for the next month, you can always keep up with all the UK Roku action (as it happens) by following the companion Twitter Feed: @ukrokuchannels where you will find that up-to-the-minute info on all things Roku-related is posted on a daily basis (well, almost).

Until the next time, then...

That's all folks !!

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