Free for all: 1922 films available for free online


NEW YORK — By 1922, the motion picture industry, which had begun to migrate from the East Coast to Hollywood about a decade earlier, was well established and thriving. A century later, many films released that year have perished. But some have survived while others have been rediscovered or restored.

Below, in alphabetical order, are capsule reviews of six notable features that have reached their centenary and can be viewed for free online. Unless otherwise noted, the Catholic News Service classification for each is A-II – adults and adolescents. None have been rated by the Motion Picture Association.

“Beyond the Rocks”

Director Sam Wood’s adaptation of Elinor Glyn’s 1906 novel is notable as the only film to co-star screen legends Gloria Swanson and Rudolph Valentino. Swanson plays a young Dorset country girl whose gentleman father (Alec B. Francis) lives in reduced circumstances. To help improve the family’s fortunes, she reluctantly agrees to marry a newly wealthy middle-aged millionaire (Robert Bolder), although she is already attracted to Valentino in the guise of a dashing young nobleman. The plot puts an interesting and selfless twist on the eternal tale of love versus duty, but the mood is rather overheated. Still, given that this romantic drama was considered lost for over 90 years, it ranks as a recovered treasure. Mature themes, including potential adultery.

“Blood and Sand”

The idea of ​​making Rudolph Valentino the bullfighter protagonist of Vicente Blasco Ibáñez’s 1909 novel, presented here on screen by director Fred Niblo, must have hit the folks at Paramount like money in the bank – and it proved. The artistic value of the resulting film is another question. The same goes for its resistance. The exotic atmospheres outweigh the slow-paced story as Valentino’s swaggering but kind toreador is acclaimed in the ring and domestic bliss with his childhood sweetheart (Lila Lee), only to see his professional success as well as his tranquility personal life threatened by the tricks of an amoral nobleman (Nita Naldi). Those willing to excuse the hypocritical tone of the indigestible intertitles – which condemn both dangerous cruelty to animals and the marital infidelity on which the picture itself otherwise thrives – can take this as idyll in the sunny Spain of yesteryear. Implicit adultery and conjugal sensuality.

“Dr. Mabuse the Player”

The contest between the title’s master criminal (Rudolf Klein-Rogge) and the public prosecutor (Bernhard Goetzke) hot on his trail becomes the centerpiece of this sprawling four-hour panorama of German society at the height of the Weimar Republic. There’s also a gothic tinge to director and co-screenwriter Fritz Lang’s adaptation of a Norbert Jacques novel as the villain uses hypnotism to control some of his victims. Indeed, his haunting eyes are a sight that cannot be invisible. Enduring viewers will be rewarded with a texture-rich experience, even if it’s not suitable for children. Maybe acceptable for older teenagers. Stylized shooter, occult activity, drug use, implicit cohabitation, some profanity, some crude expressions.

The Catholic News Service classification is A-III – adults.

“Flesh and Blood”

Not even Lon Chaney’s formidable talent can save this sappy melodrama in which he plays a wrongfully convicted prison escapee whose plan to exact revenge on the businessman who framed him (Ralph Lewis) is complicated by the love of her virtuous daughter (Edith Roberts) for her nemesis son (Jack Mulhall). Chaney’s fugitive takes refuge in Chinatown in an unnamed town, which is portrayed as both exotic and sinister, its darker side presided over by a painfully caricatured gang leader (Noah Beery). Add to that the fact that the young heroine works in a slum mission and is thrown into a rapture of melancholy by her unknown father’s rendition of “Love’s Old Sweet Song” on his violin and the hopelessly dated nature of the proceedings, led by Irving Cummings, become too apparent. Ethnic stereotype.

“Crazy Women”

Erich von Stroheim wrote, directed and starred in this lavish drama in which he plays a con man and serial seducer posing as a Russian count in Monte Carlo. Plotting with two accomplices posing as his equally aristocratic cousins ​​(Maude George and Mae Busch), he sets his sights on the naive wife (Patricia Hannon, credited as Miss DuPont) of an American diplomat (Rudolph Christians) with the intention to compromise her and then extort money from her. The fact that it also targets a mentally challenged underage girl (Malvina Polo) demonstrates that, while in some ways tame by today’s standards, this Carl Laemmle production, overseen by a young Irving Thalberg, retains its sinister hue. Catholic viewers will nonetheless appreciate the providential turn of events whereby one of the villainous protagonist’s plans is foiled. Considered the first film with a budget of $1 million, its elaborate visual spectacle is accompanied by a score by operetta composer Sigmund Romberg. Maybe acceptable for older teenagers. Mature themes including potential sexual abuse and adultery. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III – adults.


The horror classic loosely based on Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’ novel centers on the vampire count (Max Schreck) who leaves his sinister castle in the Carpathians to sail on a doomed ship bringing him to Bremen in 1838 where his dark deeds are undone by a brave youth. woman and the first rays of dawn. Directed by FW Murnau, the German production is most notable for its disturbing depiction of the vampire in footage that seems to personify evil and terror in a film even more notable for being filmed primarily on location rather than within the controlled confines of a studio. Stylized violence and threat.

Mulderig is part of the Catholic News Service staff.


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