I have a confession to make. There’s a lot of films I haven’t seen. GASP! I know right? I am a huge cinephile but I also have to confess that the majority of my film-watching appears to be films made from the 60s onwards, which leaves me with huge amounts of blind spots in the early days of cinema.
But now I want this to change! I’m not aiming for any kind of time-frame on this because I tend to crumble under the pressure of the film challenges I set myself, but instead I will slowly work my way through 50 films made before 1950 to try and fill in some of these cinematic blind spots. After putting out a call on Twitter, I now have my list of some 50+ movies to get through and will update this post as I go with mini reviews; most recent watches appearing at the top.
Join me on this journey as I go where apparently every film fan apart from me has gone before…
The 39 Steps (1935)
Expertly crafted and perfectly executed spy thriller with a compelling lead performance from Robert Donat. Hitchcock’s use of light, shade and shadow perfectly fits this tale of double-crossing and deceit. I was surprised by how funny this film was as well; a perfectly timed quick cut from a woman screaming to a train whistling was nothing short of genius. Perhaps not as layered as some of Hitchcock’s other films, The 39 Steps however does stand out for its simplicity, and for this it should be commended. ★★★★☆
Things to Come (1936)
I actually knew nothing about this film before going in to see it, but sometimes that can go in a film’s favour. With promise of being one of the seminal sci-fi films of early cinema, this film had all the makings of something I would really love. And it was, and it wasn’t. I found the first half of this film to be incredibly slow, as it showed the war years of ‘Everytown’ and the inevitable decline and rise of civilisation. Everything from the year 2046 onwards was wonderful, but sadly this made up such a small chunk of the film that it wasn’t enough to save it. Still, this film’s special effects hold up remarkably well with the model work in particular being fantastic. The production design and costumes are also exquisite, and the messages still surprisingly relevant. Worth a watch, but not one I would plan to revisit. ★★★☆☆