Only for the real enthusiasts
Barbara (Burkowsky) Underwood | Manly, NSW Australia | 12/17/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"The two silent films - The Mechanical Man and The Headless Horseman - on this budget DVD have only a few features which would appeal to the silent film enthusiast and/or Will Rogers fans (who stars in The Headless Horseman) and while the material presented is in itself not too bad, the picture quality is a little disappointing, being generally blurry and not as clear as it could be. The main feature, "The Mechanical Man" is an Italian film from 1921, of which only about a third has been found and salvaged. Alpha Video, to their credit, has presented an outline of the plot and added nice new English intertitles which help quite a bit, but the entire remains of the film are less than 30 minutes in length, and probably only serve to give us an idea of what "The Mechanical Man" was really like. My impression is that this early Sci-Fi was probably a very good, interesting and somewhat scary film in its day, with a complex plot, a lot of action and detailed attention to the robot - the mechanical man - which terrorizes a city. Scenes of the robot only amount to about 10-15 minutes, but they are interesting nevertheless, and the accompanying electronic music is actually rather well suited most of the time, in my opinion.
The second film is the full-length (ie about 70 minutes) "The Headless Horseman" from 1922, starring Will Rogers, who appeared in many silent films and is probably best remembered by most for his work in radio and early sound films later on. He plays the role of Ichabod Crane quite convincingly, and the film is overall authentic-looking and well done, but it somehow lacks any special or outstanding features. Perhaps the less-than-clear picture quality and electronic music (which doesn't seem to suit The Headless Horseman as much as it did The Mechanical Man) also detract a bit from viewing pleasure, but otherwise I cannot find much fault with the film. The scenes of the headless horseman are only brief, with the bulk of the story focussing on Ichabod and his relationship with the residents of Sleepy Hollow. No doubt a clearer picture and better music would enhance this film, and we can only hope that the remainder of "The Mechanical Man" might be found somewhere one day, but meanwhile this budget DVD might still satisfy the real enthusiasts.
Robots, villains, fun and chases
Francois Massarelli | La Roche Sur Yon, France | 02/01/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"The improbably famous André Deed, known mainly for his farcical
character of Boireau(in French) or Cretinetti(in Italian)in split-reel
comedies in 1910, became a director once the craze for silly burlesque
film had died away and led to the more artistic wave of feature-length
works that most European filmmakers were prone to create during the
teens. He was, in Italy mostly, considered as a Melies-influenced
artist and it is very easy to speculate, imagine or fancy anything
about his films since they are all, or most of all, lost. So the DVD
edition of the Mechanical Man comes as a very interesting treat for any
historian, any science fiction fan, or even any person interested in
the silent film, even if it is in a much truncated form. Once the
viewer gets accustomed to the poor quality of the transfer, and to the
fact that 55 minutes of the work are now gone forever, what stands out
is the incredible uniqueness of the film: it starts(in the current
form) as any proper serial would do, with suspense, a criminal fire, a
daring escape, masks and chases... then we move to the romantic
subplot, involving an awkward and rather self-consciously Ugly Deed,
who can't pass for a Valentino, nor a Fairbanks. We are directed next
to scenes in which the robot is introduced, triggering much
Nosferatu-like suspense(To protect themselves against the giant robot,
the characters close doors behind them, and feel safe, but they-and
we-all know that the robot will keep on moving forward and of course
will dispose of the door in his own sweet way, rendering any action
against him useless)and the finale is very much in the somewhat
excitingly scary mold of a Méliès-meets-Feuillade-meets-L'Herbier type
of work: dazzlingly original, eccentric, suspenseful and highly visual.
At the end, the heroes learn of the identity of the villain: she is one
of the supposed victims of the robot, and the director has so blatantly
stripped and exposed her in the last robot scenes that we feel her true
identity was probably the only missing piece of the puzzle as far as
she was concerned... this erotic undercurrent is one of the bases for
the artwork for posters that were long the only extant material
concerning this film. 3 years before Aelita, 6 before Metropolis, this
film invents a typically European science fiction and does so with such
vitality , fun and pace that the vision of this museum artifact,
however painful the prints makes it, is really a pleasant experience."
Wondeful curio piece of Italian silent cinema!
James Simpson | USA | 01/17/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The Mechanical Man is an incomplete piece of what was originally an epic,serial like adventure made in the silent era.
Alpha does an alright job(for once) of restoring the image and presenting the film tinted.
However,it is also saddled with an unintentionally,HILARIOUS music score that combines Jazz-Fusion with techno to ridiculous effect.
(My favorite piece of music,that friends and I would sing is the one that sounds like-"I'm the man,ar-da-dork-dork!).
The effects of the Robot are actually pretty cool as is the climatic battle between two mechanical men(!) at a dinner party.
(Which is also pretty funny as we watch the Mechanical Man get drunk and hit on some ladies,which is always good for a few chuckles.)
The film is only a twenty minute fragment,but it's very entertaining,and the footage that does remain appears very far ahead of it's time.
It also proves that Germany did not have a monopoly on fantasy product in that decade.
As a bonus,the DVD also includes the 1922 version of The Headless Horseman(with Will Rogers!),which is a fairly faithful adaption of the Washington Irving story with elements of Comedy and some atmosphere.
The ending is alright,but it's a shame the supernatural elements were not elaborated on.
This DVD is wonderful for the curious fan of the Fantastic,as this offers some cool,interesting rarities for those who can appreciate them."