Der Golem – Wie er in die Welt kam (1920)

Paul Wegener made no less than three silent films about the Jewish legend of the golem, the monster created from clay and animated by magic. Opinions differ as to whether the films form a trilogy, or if they are different tellings of the same story. But it hardly matters much anymore, because two of the films are considered lost. The only surviving one, and probably the best, is Der Golem – Wie er in die Welt kam (The Golem: How He Came into the World).

Paul Wegener's Der Golem - Wie er in die Welt kam / The Golem - How He Came into the World (1920)

The film begins with a great scene where a man is observing the night sky in order to tell the future. The man is Rabbi Loew, apparently a historical person, and he senses danger for his people. When the Holy Roman Emperor orders that all Jews must leave Prague, Loew is already working on a bold plan to awaken the Golem, the monster made of clay. The plot becomes more complicated as the emperor’s messenger falls in love with Loew’s daughter.

Much of the film’s imagery seems to draw from Mediaeval sources, although technically speaking The Holy Roman Empire had entered the Renaissance by Rabbi Loew’s time. Ah, but who cares? This is hardly a historical costume drama anyway. It is more in the domain of fantasy and legend.

Mainly linked to from this post is an 85-minute version with fairly good image quality and an excellent score. Unfortunately (for some) it only has German title cards. Available at the Internet Archive is also a 101 minute version with English title cards, a different score, no tinting and not as good image quality. Pick the one you prefer.

This film is best enjoyed for the fantastic sets and costumes. It was released in the same year as Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari, and it shows in the expressionistic, sometimes surrealistic, images. The story and script of Der Golem are not as tight as those of the other film, but it compensates by good actors and by many novel ideas.

Paul Wegener's Der Golem - Wie er in die Welt kam / The Golem - How He Came into the World (1920)

Der Golem – Wie er in die Welt kam
Download link
Year: 1920
Running time: 1 h 25 min
Language: German (no subtitles)
Director: Carl Boese, Paul Wegener
Stars: Paul Wegener
Image quality: Acceptable
Resolution: Medium (785×578)
Soundtrack: Excellent; synchronized with the images
Sound quality: Excellent
Best file format: MPEG4 (1.9 G)

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The Adventures of Robin Hood (1955 – 1959)

Compared with some other classic characters, like Sherlock Holmes or Zorro, fairly little Robin Hood material appears to exist at the Internet Archive. There is Douglas Fairbanks’ classic 1922 film, but apart from that my only significant find is parts of the 1955 British TV series The Adventures of Robin Hood.

The Adventures of Robin Hood was the second ever Robin Hood TV series. The first was a six-part live production from 1953, also of British origin. But that first series has no complete preserved episodes, making The Adventures of Robin Hood the oldest Robin Hood TV series still in existence.

Archie Duncan as Little John and Richard Greene as Robin Hood facing off in the episode Dead or Alive from The Adventures of Robin Hood (1955)

The series lasted for four seasons, until 1959. There were some changes in the cast along the way, but the title character was played all the way through by Richard Greene, an actor who I do not associate with any other role.

Richard Greene may not have the charm or charisma of either Douglas Fairbanks or Errol Flynn, nor does he have half of their skill with a sword. But he is not a bad actor, and carries something personal and unique to the role. Greene’s Robin is perhaps a bit more thoughtful and calculating than most other interpretations, though he can still get that mischievous gleam in the corner of his eye.

The complete series is 143 episodes. The following list contains those that I have found at the Internet Archive. There may be more that I have missed. The episode numbers given at the Internet Archive is often at odds with those in the episode guide at Wikipedia. I have here used the numbers from Wikipedia.

      1. The Coming of Robin Hood
      2. The Moneylender
      3. Dead or Alive
      4. Friar Tuck
      5. Maid Marian
      6. The Inquisitor
      7. The Knight Who Came to Dinner
      8. The Challenge
      9. Queen Eleanor
      10. Checkmate
      11. The Ordeal
      12. A Guest for the Gallows
      13. The Highlander
      14. The Wager
      15. The Betrothal
      16. The Alchemist
      17. A Husband for Marian
      18. The Jongleur
      19. The Brothers
      20. The Intruders
      21. Errand of Mercy
      22. The Sheriff’s Boots
      24. The Ladies of Sherwood
      25. The Deserted Castle
      26. The Miser
      27. Trial by Battle
      28. The May Queen
      30. The Vandals
      31. The Byzantine Treasure
      33. The Youngest Outlaw
      34. The Traitor
      35. Tables Turned
      36. The Thorkill Ghost
      37. Secret Mission
      38. Richard the Lion-Heart
      39. The Scientist
      40. The Prisoner
      41. Blackmail (3D version)
      42. A Year and a Day
      44. The Goldmaker
      47. The Hero
      48. Isabella
      50. Outlaw Money
      55. The Dream
      57. The Final Tax
      59. The Bandit of Brittany
      60. The Goldmaker’s Return
      61. Flight from France
      62. Fair Play
      63. The Secret Pool
      65. The York Treasure
      66. The Borrowed Baby
      67. The Black Five
      68. Food for Thought
      72. The Little People
      93. A Village Wooing
      126. Goodbye Little John

As with any series, the quality of the episodes vary. The first half dozen or so are all good, so if you are looking for a few episodes to try out, I would recommend starting from the beginning.

The series became very popular, both in Britain and in the US, and it spawned several similar series. At least two, The Adventures of Sir Lancelot and The Adventures of William Tell, can be found at the Internet Archive.

This series is best enjoyed if you like vanilla Robin Hood. There are no surprises here in the characters’ portrayals or backgrounds.

Richard Greene as Robin Hood, Archie Duncan as Little John, Alexander Gauge as Friar Tuck and Bernadetet O'Farrell as Maid Marian in the episode Checkmate from The Adventures of Robin Hood (1955)

The Adventures of Robin Hood
Download link (episode 1)
Years: 1955 – 1959
Running time: Approx 25 min per episode
Directors: Ralph Smart, many others
Stars: Richard Greene
Image quality: Acceptable for most episodes
Resolution: Medium to High for most episodes
Sound quality: Acceptable for most episodes

Robin Hood (1922)

The origins of the Robin Hood legend goes back to mediaeval times, and is shrouded in the veils of time. Robin may or may not have been a historical person, and he may or may not have been a rebellious fighter for the justice of the poor. Side characters such as Little John and Will Scarlet may or may not have been part of the original story, whereas Friar Tuck, Alan-A-Dale and Lady Marian are probably later additions.

By 1922, Douglas Fairbanks was making great leaps in the advancement of filmmaking. Two years before, he had made The Mark of Zorro, the first true romantic adventure movie, and in 1921 he followed it up spectacularly with The Three Musketeers. This year it was time for the making of the next classic movie adventure, Robin Hood.

Douglas Fairbanks in Robin Hood (1922)

While Fairbanks’ Robin Hood was not the first screen version of the character, it was the first feature-length film, and it seems to have been an important step in bringing together many of the characteristics of the modern Robin Hood.

Many accounts associate Robin Hood with Robert of Locksley, a historical character, though it is by no means proven that he has any real connection with the Robin Hood of legend. The early accounts are in agreement, however, that Robin Hood was a yeoman, a free man below the nobility in status. Fairbanks, however, makes Robin into one of King Richard’s most trusted advisers, before voluntarily becoming an outlaw in order to better be able to rebel against Prince John. In this version, Robin Hood is the Earl of Huntingdon, an identity that was ultimately derived from a 17th century play.

One of the most influential Robin Hood tales in popular culture is Sir Walter Scott’s novel Ivanhoe. Fairbanks shows that he is influenced by Scott’s work, not only by the Lionheart connection, but even more clearly by having King Richard appear as an anonymous knight after his return to England.

Robin Hood remains an excellent picture, over 90 years after its premiere. The sets are splendid and majestic. In fact, the mediaeval halls and castles were never so spectacular in real life as they are in Hollywood. Fairbanks weaves legend and fairy tale, and he does so with an elegance that few later Robin Hood accounts can match.

This film is best enjoyed for Fairbanks’ athletic version of Robin Hood. There are a good many nice stunts, especially towards the end of the movie.

Douglas Fairbanks as Earl of Huntingdon and Enid Bennett as Lady Marian in Robin Hood (1922)

Robin Hood
Download link
Year: 1922
Running time: 2 h 12 min
Director: Allan Dwan
Stars: Douglas Fairbanks
Image quality: Good
Resolution: Medium (640×480)
Soundtrack: None
Best file format: MPEG4 (1.7 G)

La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc (1928)

Motion pictures today is very much a man’s world. Sure, there are many strong women in popular movies, but they are always sexy and usually there is also a strong man somewhere in the background to help out when needed.

This has not always been so, however. It may perhaps surprise some to learn that in the days of silent cinema, strong and independent female characters where not at all uncommon.

Renée Jeanne Falconetti (Maria Falconetti) in La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc aka The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)

With La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc (The Passion of Joan of Arc), director Carl Theodor Dreyer created a film which is so powerful, so naked and so immediate that it still, over 85 years later, will take your breath away.

The film was made in France, with actress Renée Jeanne Falconetti (usually credited as “Maria Falconetti”) in the title role, but the director is Danish, and it was also first screened in Denmark.

The director’s own copies of the film were destroyed by fire (a fate shared with many a silent film) and for many years only inferior copies, not approved by the director, were available. But in the 1980s, a single remaining original copy surfaced in Oslo, Norway.

In my opinion, there is only one problem with this film. Dreyer based the film very closely on historical transcripts of Joan of Arc’s trial, but gives us next to no background. In the beginning, only the title tells us who the central character is, and we are not informed of the place, the time, or any other characters. In a way, this beginning strengthens the force of the narrative, but since Dreyer binds himself to telling the story in strict linear fashion with no apparent deviations from actual historical events, the viewer is left even at the end with next to no knowledge of why anything in the movie happened in the first place. The viewing experience is totally dependent on whether you know the background or not.

In spite of this, La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc is a must see for every cineast. It is one of the most important films in the history of silent cinema, and it is a powerful experience.

This film is best enjoyed as a celebration of International Women’s Day, the 8th of March every year.

Carl Theodor Dreyer's La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc aka The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)

La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc
Download link
Year: 1928
Running time: 1 h 22 min
Language: French (no subtitles)
Director: Carl Theodor Dreyer
Stars: Renée Jeanne “Maria” Falconetti
Image quality: Good
Resolution: Low (384×288)
Soundtrack: None
Sound quality: Excellent
Best file format: Cinepack (700 M)