Director: Boris Deutsch

Directors: Lois Weber
& Philips Smalley

MOONLAND. 1924-26
Directors: Neil McGuire
& WIlliam A. O'Connor

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

LullabyPainter Boris Deutsch only ever made one film, the quarter-hour Lullaby (1929), drawing on Jewish lore & the cruelties of peasant life in Russia, developed in the expressionist mode of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920).

A young servant rocks a baby. A young man plays an accordian. Three men & a woman are sitting around a table eating.

The servant nods off to sleep & for a moment dreams of demonic faces. The child's mother rouses her so that the baby will nurse. The man of the house beats the young woman servant.

The maiden moves through the house as though through a nightmare. Then suddenly she awakens & is beside her husband or boyfriend. It was indeed only a nightmare.

A scary tramp (Sam Kaufman) is lurking around the house in the one-reel silent thriller Suspense (1913). A young mother (Lois Weber) is alone, her husband (Valentine Paul) working late at the office.

SuspenseShe calls her husband's office for help, as the tramp gains entry to the house. With three-way split screen we see what all three main characters are up to at once, an advanced technique for 1913.

Her husband steals a car to get home fast. The police chase after him as a car thief. Meanwhile the tramp with butcher knife stalks up the staircase & bashes in the bedroom door.

Saved in the nick of time, it's quite a cliche of a story, already old hat in 1913, but interesting even so for the pioneering split screen & many tense & intense moments that precede by decades techniques of film noir.

It's also interesting for representing the work of the forgotten but prolific silent film director Lois Weber, the first woman to film a feature-length movie. There is additionally the possibility that a second tramp glimpsed briefly during the chase sequence is Lon Chaney in an uncredited role.

Art nouveau set design becomes increasingly ornate when young Mickey toddles off to bed & begins dreaming of a fantasy world, in the one-reel short Moonland (1924-6).

Awakened by the whistling face of the moon, Mickey's spirit rises from his body. Leaping upon a hobbyhorse & clutching the spirit of his puppy, he journeys to the moon.

Too obviously inspired by Little Nemo, Mickey encounters various unusual individuals in strange settings remiscent of the more macabre animation of the Fleischer brother or Ub Irwerks.

The secondary influence is The Wizard of Oz. Mickey like Dorothy brings a little dog, & the Man in the Moon manifests in much the same way as the Wizard. Ending similar to Nemo's & Dorothy's adventures, when a menacing claw appears, Mickey wakes up startled from his dream.

Moonland can be found on Volume 5, Disc 1 of Cinema Avante-Garde (2007). Lullaby, Moonland & Suspense are all included in the anthology Inverted Narratives: New Directions in Storytelling (2005) which is Disc 4 of the set Unseen Cinema: Early American Avant Garde Film 1894-1941. There are many other excellent short fantasies on this latter disc, such as Sredni Vashtar (1940-43) & The Bridge (1929-30)

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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