Last week, we took a look at four classic scary silent movies to get you in the Halloween spirit. If you’re already eager for more, here are four more sure to frighten, shock or spook you, even without spoken dialogue!
London After Midnight (1927)
If you’re new to the world of silent film, save “London After Midnight” for when you’ve become familiar with it. Although “London After Midnight” is a great film, it only survives in a severely truncated form. The last known print was destroyed in an MGM fire in 1967, but in 2002, the folks at TCM commissioned a reconstructed version to be made. This 45 minute version recreated the murder mystery using existing still photographs and a new soundtrack. It also features one of the most iconic costumes the legendary Lon Chaney ever donned– his own concept of an outrageous vampire.
The Man Who Laughs (1928)
Our friends Conrad Veidt and Paul Leni return to the list in this, the second to last film Leni directed before his tragic death. Based on the novel by Victor Hugo, Veidt stars as Gwynplaine, a man who becomes a sideshow attraction following his disfigurement as a child at the hands of King James. Thanks to his Glasgow smile, Gwynplaine has become known as The Laughing Man — a position that has earned him a living, but garners him attention that he hates. Really, the film is a tragic love story, but its German Expressionist feel and atmosphere, and the unsettling disfigurement of Gwynplaine, give it the feel of a horror film. Veidt’s appearance as Gwynplaine actually served as inspiration for The Joker.
The Lodger (1927)
In addition to its Jack the Ripper-inspired plot, “The Lodger” is notable because it is one of the first films ever made by legendary director Alfred Hitchcock, and is considered the first true Hitchcock film. This murder mystery follows a Jack the Ripper-style serial killer known as The Avenger who has gone on a rampage, killing blonde women in London. Daisy, played by the actress June, is undeterred by the rampage and refuses to hide her blonde locks. But when a mysterious lodger shows up to rent a room from her parents, he is suspected of being the Avenger. This is the first Hitchcock film to contain many of the common themes that would occur again and again in his future works.
The Penalty (1920)
Once again, the incredible Lon Chaney makes our list, this time for his incredible depiction of a deranged amputee. After losing his legs needlessly after a childhood accident, Blizzard becomes a San Francisco mob leader, seeking revenge on the surgeon who amputated his legs. Although his harness was so painful that he could only wear it for 10 minutes at a time, Chaney’s performance was so convincing that the studio actually tacked footage of him descending a flight of stairs onto the end of the movie to prove that he was not an amputee.
Want to dive deeper into the world of silent film? Keep up with my posts over on Curtains or on Chicago Nitrate.