This Film Is 100 Years Old

Sherlock Jr. (1924)

Sherlock Jr. is a mid-length Buster Keaton film (not quite a short, not quite a feature) that’s pretty much the platonic ideal of Keaton perfection really, full of technical invention, astonishing stunts, creatively staged chases, and lots of good jokes in between as well to tie it all together.

Plot wise here, Buster Keaton plays a daydreaming cinema employee who’s trying to impress his girlfriend. Unfortunately, some other arsehole is also trying to win her heart, but by nefarious means. Appalling!

Of course, this means he tricks everyone into thinking Buster’s an absolute disgrace of a man, even though obviously he’s not. But now he’s banned from seeing his girlfriend, forever. Poor Buster.

Anyway, after this traumatising event, he goes back to work, falls asleep, and then while dreaming climbs into the film he’s projecting, where he spends basically the rest of the film, having lots of fun.

Wonderfully, this film within a film isn’t a parody of some other film you haven’t watched (as is usually the case), but a parody of this very film you’re watching right now, which is nicely circular.

It also allows for a good fifteen minutes of non-stop action and chases at the end, as well as a pretty wonderful recurring joke where he repeatedly fails to recognise his sidekick in his various disguises (all of which are just him wearing a big moustache).

So yeah, I loved this. Hooray for 1924. It’s off to a pretty good start.



1. I watched this on blu-ray, but as ever got the screenshots from youtube.

2. There’s a stunt/trick in the middle of this which is genuinely the best magic trick/special effect ever.

3. Which I won’t spoil here.

4. Cause I’m nice like that.

5. But it really is incredible.

6. And impossible.

7. Although like all the best tricks, its obviously a simple mixture of mirrors, trapdoors and some sort of portal to another dimension.

8. There’s also a bit where snooker is used for comic effect, which might be even more technically impressive somehow.

9. Who knew such a thing was even possible.

10. But turns out it was.

11. Briefly.

12. One hundred years ago.


Film Information

Title: Sherlock Jr.
Director: Buster Keaton
Year: 1924
Duration: 45 minutes
Watch: youtube

This Film Is 100 Years Old

The Marriage Circle (1924)

Directed by Ernest Lubitch in 1924, The Marriage Circle was his first American film, although it’s still set in Europe.

It’s a fairly convoluted but also pretty charming comedy of manners and misunderstandings about a happily married couple who are brought to the verge of divorce because everyone else keeps trying to have affairs with them for some reason.

I suppose that was the style at the time.

Everyone has pretty amazing faces, and they all wear wonderful clothes, and they all definitely seem to be having a lot of fun, which is nice.

I quite liked it, really.



1. I originally watched this on mubi last year (when it wasn’t even a hundred years old!)

2. But then rewatched just now on youtube.

3. Which is where I grabbed the images from too.

4. Weirdly, this was remade by Ernest Lubitch (presumably in sound) in 1932, as One Hour With You.

5. I’ve not seen that, though.


Film Information

Title: The Marriage Circle
Director: Ernest Lubitch
Year: 1923
Duration: 1 hour 25 minutes
Watch: youtube

This Film Is 100 Years Old

The Thief Of Bagdad (1924)

Written by, produced by, and starring (though not directed by) Douglas Fairbanks, The Thief Of Bagdad is an impossibly lavish and incredibly beautiful retelling/remixing/mangling of various stories from The Thousand And One Nights.

Douglas Fairbanks plays the irrepressible and irascible thief who, in falling in love with the princess, finally finds some sense of morality and purpose.

Roughly structured in two parts, the first part involves the thief winning the heart of the princess by a mixture of subterfuge, charm and mightily impressive muscles, while in the second he has to go on a mythic quest to save her from the hands of some nefarious arsehole or other (who might well be good at subterfuge, but lacks the thief’s charm and muscles).

The first half of the film is by far the best, with an exuberance and charm that almost dissipates away at times in the second section.

But there’s still a lot to like there too, including some genuinely incredible terrible monsters that the thief kills with a nicely manic fervour (and some impressive gouts of blood, smoke and what looks a bit like bile occasionally).

That first hour or so is just wonderful in pretty much every way, though, so if for some reason you’ve only got time to watch half of a 2 and a half hour silent film that’s 100 years old now, watch that half).



1. I first watched this on mubi, but it’s not on there any more. I grabbed the screenshots from youtube, where it will presumably be forevermore.

2. I’m not sure I’ve seen Douglas Fairbanks in anything else, but he’s incredible in this.

3. A huge swaggering proto-Brando of a performance.

4. This also has a brief but significant role for the always wonderful Anna May Wong (who was in The Toll Of The Sea) as a treacherous handmaiden (although considering she’s more slave than handmaiden, she’s probably right to be treacherous).

5. I still haven’t ever seen one of those American coins she was on.

6. I still want one.

7. This also has some lovely use of screen tinting (a nice delicate yellow for the outdoor scenes, a cool purple for the indoor scenes, some silvery black and white for the night time, and even green and reds for the forest and fire levels later on).

8. Which all gives it the feel of some 8-bit adventure game at times.


Film Information

Title: The Thief Of Bagdad
Director: Raoul Walsh
Year: 1924
Duration: 2 hours 20 minutes
Watch: youtube

This Film Is 100 Years Old

Go West (1923)

Go West is a 1923 silent comedy short, directed by Len Powers and featuring some chimps dressed up as people, albeit people with fake tails, as was the style at the time.

A father throws his useless wastrel son out of the house, so he hitches a ride on the railroad out west, holds up a clothes store, then gets lynched for his crime.

It’s quite the tale to tell in just under twelve minutes.

Luckily at the end it was all a dream, and the feckless young chimp man can go back to being a useless old drunk once again.



1. I watched this on blu-ray, and took the screenshots from this essentially version on youtube.

2. Not to be confused with the 1925 Buster Keaton film of the same name.

3. Even though I only saw it because it was included as an extra with the 1925 Buster Keaton film of the same name.

4. Like all things with animals dressed up as humans, this was deeply unsettling and upsetting in almost every way.

5. Although the dog sheriff at least looked like he was having fun.


Film Information

Title: Go West
Year: 1923
Director: Len Powers
Duration: 12 minutes
Watch: youtube

This Film Is 100 Years Old

Our Hospitality (1923)

Our Hospitality was the second full length feature Buster Keaton directed, a comedic retelling of the historical Hatfield-McCoy feud, but where most of the feud seems to involve falling off cliffs and being swept down rivers.

Unlike his first full length film (Three Ages, which was basically three short films edited together), Our Hospitality actually has a single full length story that runs through the whole thing. Here, after growing up in New York, Buster unwittingly returns to his home town and discovers that basically everyone wants to murder him, except for his faithful dog, and a girl he met on the train.

The first half hour or so of this is fairly sedate, the jokes being of the good natured but not actually that funny sort that elicit smiles rather than laughs, and if it wasn’t for Buster’s excellent dog brightening things up I’d say this section was kind of poor really.

Weirdly, the second half of the film forgets about the dog entirely, possibly because he’s no longer needed to save the show. Instead we get a non-stop sequence of almost pure Buster Keaton magnificence, stunts, action, charm and even actual funny jokes.

Which is nice (and very good).



1. I watched this on blu-ray, where it looked amazing.

2. But grabbed the screenshots from youtube, where it looked less amazing, unfortunately.

3. I think I’m still struggling with the pacing of Buster’s full length films, where it seems they have roughly the same amout of jokes as his shorts, but spread out three times as thinly.

4. Saying that, the last half hour of this is a pretty breathtaking sequence of ever escalating events that presumably would never have been as amazing if it was squeezed down to the fit into a 25 minute shirt.

5. So what do I know, really.

6. Nothing, that’s what.

7. Also, this really does look beautiful in the blu-ray restoration version.

8. All these magnificent landscapes as wide as the screen can show

9. Which is not that wide, due to 4:3, but still beautiful.

10. This was the final film appearance of the wonderful Joe Roberts, who had a stroke during filming and then died shortly after (about a month before the film was released)

11. It was also the final film appearance of Natalie Talmadge, who didn’t die during filming but married Buster Keaton instead.

12. Finally, this was quite fun to watch simply because here I am in the 2020s watching a film made in the 1920s that’s set in the 1820s.

13. Hopefully this means that in the 2120s someone reviews this hundred year old review of this now two hundred year old film set in this now 300 year old time to complete this exciting sequence of events.


Film Information

Title: Our Hospitality
Directors: Buster Keaton and John G. Blystone
Year: 1923
Duration: 75 minutes
Watch: youtube

This Film Is 100 Years Old

Three Ages (1923)

Three Ages is a 1923 Buster Keaton comedy where Buster falls in love repeatedly throughout time. This was the first full length feature he wrote and directed, although it’s only an hour, so not that full length, really.

This is basically the same story (Buster Keaton is in love, and must win his girl from the clutches of some nefarious rival) told three times across three different ages (hence the title), so we get Buster first as a caveman, then as a Roman, and finally as an American.

This is pretty good, with some pretty wonderful gags here and there, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as a lot of his other films. Maybe partly because this is parodying a film I’ve never seen (DW Griffith’s Intolerance), but also because a lot of it feels like remixes of stuff from other (better) Buster Keaton films.

Then again it does feature a stop motion Buster Keaton riding a stop motion dinosaur, and I wasn’t really expecting to ever see that.



1. I watched this on amazon, but the screenshots come from youtube.

2. This was Buster Keaton’s first full length feature as a director/writer/etc. His first as an actor was The Saphead (1920).

3. Which is another film I’ve not seen.

4. Buster Keaton’s second full length feature as writer/directer/etc was Our Hospitality, released on November 19th 1923.

5. So I better watch that soon make sure I just about watch it in the week of release (plus or minus one hundred years).


Film Information

Title: Three Ages
Director: Buster Keaton
Year: 1923
Duration: 61 minutes
Watch: youtube

This Film Is 100 Years Old

John Bull’s Animated Sketchbooks (1915-1916) / A Prize Fight or Glove Fight between John Bull and President Kruger (1900)

John Bull’s Animated Sketchbook was an ongoing series of animated satire/propaganda from 1915 and 1916, in which postcard illustrator and political cartoonist Dudley Buxton utilised the “lightning sketch” technique (time lapse footage of him drawing his pictures) to deliver political commentary in the manner and quality of Brant.

Most of the sketches here are, unsurprisingly, wartime propaganda (“The British wage ware like this, but the Germans wage war like this!“), but there’s still time for one about Charlie Chaplin choking on a fly in his pint too for some reason.

(Pint not included in screenshot)



1. There were four of these and I watched them all on the BFI website (1, 2, 3, 4).

2. I came across these today because I searched the BFI free site for Charlie Chaplin and this was all that came up.

3. Although the first three of these episodes all appear to be animated by Dudley Buxton, the last one is illustrated by Anson Dyer.

4. Whose work I seemed to be surprisingly furious about in 2019.

5. Poor angry young me.

6. (He is shite though)

7. I mean, obviously most of the political satire is going to fall flat a century later, but if political commentary cartoons are the most “of their time” art form possible, they’re also consistently the worst too. And seemingly always have been/will be.

8. And while we’re on the topic of John Bull, “A Prize Fight or Glove Fight between John Bull and President Kruger” is a two-minute political sketch about the Boer War from 1900.

9. In which Britain and South Africa have a fist fight (and of course only Britain fights fairly).

10. No other way they could ever lose.


Film Information: John Bull’s Animated Sketchbooks
Director: Dudley Buxton
Year: 1915-1916
Duration: 2 minutes to 10 minutes
Watch: Various episodes on the BFI Player: 1, 2, 3, 4

Film Information: A Prize Fight or Glove Fight between John Bull and President Kruger
Director: John Sloane Barnes
Year: 1900
Duration: 2 minutes
Watch: BFI Player

This Film Is 100 Years Old

The Mystery Of Fu Manchu (1923)

The Mystery Of Fu Manchu, the first ever film adaptation of the Fu Manchu novels by Sax Rohmer, was a series of 15 half-hour adventure stories released in 1923 (although only 13 of these still exist, and a couple of those only in truncated form).

The set-up here is fairly familiar, with the two central characters, Nayland Smith (Fred Paul), and his faithful sidekick Doctor Petrie (played by the magnificently named Humberston Wright) basically replicas of Holmes and Watson, while Fu Manchu (Harry Agar Lyons) is their eternal Moriarty, who has a nice line in both utilising endlessly inventive ways to kill his enemies (in one of the episodes he murders people by dropping poisonous cats onto their heads) and fashioning increasingly ludicrous ways to escape the law and therefore carry on to fight another day/episode/series/century (secret doors/exploding houses/falling into the Thames and drowning/running away slightly faster than they can catch him!).

Every episode is essentially the same (a murder! a chase! a second murder averted at the very last moment! an escape!), but there’s just about enough variety to sustain it all. Unfortunately, there’s also lots of strangely inert scenes where the various detectives and policeman have long drawn out conversations we can’t even hear but which are filmed as if we can (the one that ends with intertitle cards saying “I want some milk… and a trowel!” is definitely the high point here).

One of my favourite episodes was The Knocking At The Door, which combined some excellent pseudo ghost story stylings, where a frightful knock, knock, knocking at the chamber door is slowly driving everyone mad, with a secondary tale about Fu Manchu living in Madame Tussauds now.

Q. Why is Fu-Manchu living in Madame Tussauds now?
A. There is absolutely no explanation of events.

But instead there’s an explosion, which is miles better than any explanation would have been.

Except for the frequently excellent (and often beautifully shot) location shots from a now century old London, by far the best thing in the series is Harry Agar Lyon’s astonishingly weird and terrifying performance as Fu Manchu, from the full scale demented fury in the snarling contortions of his face in practically every scene he’s in, to the unhinged and monstrous violence he metes out to his “slave girl” Karamaneh (Joan Clarkson) in as many episodes as he gets the chance to, as he attempts to throttle and beat her into subservience (while only ever driving her to ever greater defiance).

The very final episode is the only one which has its original tinting intact, with the interiors having a fairly standard sepia tone to them, but the exteriors are all an odd green colour, giving London the air of some distant Neptunian outpost (one of the title cards even says the news of Fu Manchu’s demise quickly spreads “across the Universe” so who knows, maybe it is).

There’s even a happy ending, Fu Manchu getting shot in the face about one hundred times. Which is nice. Especially as it means there’s no chance any of us will ever see him again ever in anything at all at any point ever.



1. I watched these all on the BFI Player.

2. And have included the links to the various episodes below.

3. As the first episode is missing, I have no idea how the various characters were initially introduced.

4. Which is a shame.

5. There was a second series of this, The Further Mysteries Of Fu Manchu, released in 1924, but I haven’t dared watch them yet.

6. And obviously am not allowed to for another 10 months or so.

7. But also it seems they no longer exist, which kind of hampers me a little.

8. Then after this, Fu Manchu would go on to appear in just about everything, seemingly forever, for some reason or other (everyone just really loved racist baddies, I suppose).

9. While Harry Agar Lyons would also play Dr Sin Fang, who was definitely not Fu Manchu, in another ten films or so.

10. And then of course there’s Ming the Merciless…

11. Back to these episodes, there’s a lot of scenes in these episodes which are clearly supposed to be set at night but just filmed in full daylight.

12. Which I assume would have been tinted to give them some appearance of night time, but in these versions on the BFI player it just gives a strange sense of surreality to the whole thing.

13. Heightened too by the slightly strange geography they inhabit. Petrie’s house seems to be in the middle of some London suburb from the front, a small terrace in the middle of an entire row, but exits out the back to some quiet country village and a wide expanse of lonely woods.

14. Which may be what London was just like 100 years ago, I do not know.

15. But still seems kind of odd.

16. And in the final episode they somehow go from central London to the outskirts via a single basement staircase and subsequent tunnel.

17. In about five minutes.

18. While following a monkey.

19. I love that monkey.

20. The intertitles in this are also kind of interesting, in that the ones for Doctor Petrie and Nayland Smith are in a normal, boring font, and the ones for Fu Manchu are in a pretend Chinese font.

21. And then in one, where Petrie’s losing his mind with paranoia, they change half way through from his font to Fu Manchu’s font and it’s bloody great.

22. I couldn’t tell you why but it is.

23. And finally, here’s another bunch of screenshots of either lovely London landmarks or strangely wonderful faces.

24. Purely because I took loads of screenshots and want to use them all.

25. And also because if nothing else it’s a very nicely shot series.


Film Information

Title: The Mystery Of Fu Manchu
Director: A.E. Coleby
Year: 1923

Episodes (and where to watch them)

1. The Scented Envelopes (lost)
2. The West Case (wrongly listed here as Aaron’s Rod)
3. The Clue Of The Pigtail (only 12 minutes of this exist)
4. The Call Of Siva
5. The Miracle
6. The Fungi Cellars
7. The Knocking on the Door
8. The Cry Of The Nighthawk
9. Aaron’s Rod (missing, seemingly, although the episode description is listed here, just with the wrong episode included alongside it)
10. The Fiery Hand
11. The Man With The Limp
12. The Queen of Hearts
13. The Silver Buddha
14. The Sacred Order
15. The Shrine Of Seven Lamps

Note: Downloads of 13 of the episodes can be found at the internet archive, but I haven’t watched them yet so can’t vouch for the quality.

This Film Is 100 Years Old This Film Is More Than 100 Years Old

Plymouth’s Pram Derby (1923) / Plymouth’s First Air Mail Test Trip (1923) / Cinematographic View of the Royal Albert Bridge (1901)

Three short bits of documentary film about Plymouth.

Plymouth’s Pram Derby is 3 glorious minutes depicting the titular event from 1923. Wild be-hatted crowds, determined women competing for some arbitrary prize, and finally three surprisingly sweet portraits of the winners. I loved basically all of this.

Plymouth’s First Air Mail Test Trip (also from 1923, and shot, as the pram race was, by G.E. Prance) isn’t half as good, consisting of 2 minutes of bowler-hatted men holding up sacks while looking as proud as can be. I did like the atmospheric shot of a boat arriving at the start, however, which almost made up for the lack of aeroplane action.

The final film here is from 1901, and directed by Sagar Mitchell and James Kenyon (whose documentary footage I’ve included a couple of times here before, although I probably should have watched more). Cinematographic View of the Royal Albert Bridge is five whole minutes of incredibly beautiful footage of ships and coast, taken from a camera mounted on another ship in the harbour, before it eventually arrives at Brunel’s Royal Albert Bridge.

The still pictures don’t really do the footage justice, losing the breathtaking beauty of the parallaxing scroll as the camera smoothly sails across the sea. You can still get a nice look in th epicture below at the weird futurism as these archaic looking ships sail past the massive bridge from some far distant future at the end though (futurism that is doubly weird because the bridge was built in 1865.)

In conclusion, I like ships and boats, I suppose. And the sea.

And prams.



1. I watched all these on the BFI Player. Prams/Planes/Boats

2. I went to Plymouth recently. I hurt my knee, got accosted by some drunk, and then caught covid.

3. Great day out, would recommend.

4. But apart from that it was quite nice.

5. Actually the best bit was where they’d tried to bury any evidence that there had ever been a crazy golf course down by the seafront, so now all the old holes looked like ancient barrows for some long dead sequence of viking kings.


Film Information

Title: Plymouth’s Pram Derby
Director: G.E. Prance
Year: 1923
Duration: 3 minutes
Watch: BFI Player

Title: Plymouth’s First Air Mail Test Trip
Director: G.E. Prance
Year: 1923
Duration: 2 minutes
Watch: BFI Player

Title: Cinematographic View of the Royal Albert Bridge
Directors: Mitchell and Kenyon
Year: 1901
Duration: 5 minutes
Watch: BFI Player

This Film Is 100 Years Old

The Cup Shall Come South! (1923) / Cup Final 1923 (1923) / Getting Ready For Cup Final (1923)

The Cup Shall Come South! is a short series of portraits of the West Ham team from 1923, shortly before they played that year’s FA Cup Final.

The first eleven stand in a line, then look into the camera one by one, some confidently, some nervously. Embarrassment, boredom, maybe even a hint of anger, fury. It’s all there.

Nowadays the form’s so perfected, every player gurning or fist clenching to the camera in choreographed isolation for the on screen line-up imagery that there’s not a trace of personality anywhere at all, no emotion but pre-packaged passion.

But here it still feels real, somehow. A glimpse of an illusion of who they really all are.

I always find these sort of film portraits really moving, for some reason. I couldn’t tell you why. I recently watched the short docuemntary film Portrait, in which a series of Russian farmers stand still and look directly at the camera in a manner similar to this, and thought it was kind of beautiful. And I’ve always really liked Andy Warhol’s screen test portraits.

If I wasn’t such a nervous man I’d ask everyone to let me take a minute long image of them just standing there, looking at the camera, looking right into our eyes, giving us the chance to see right into their souls.

Anyway, unfortunately for West Ham the cup did not come south for them at all, and wouldn’t for quite some time again.



1. I watched these on the BFI Player: The Cup Shall Come South!; and Cup Final 1923; Getting Ready For Cup Final.

2. The 1923 FA Cup final was the first at Wembley, the so-called White Horse Final, where 250,000 people turned up and only that fabled white horse saved the day.

3. Although he doesn’t turn up much in the footage presented here.

4. You do get a shot of his arse but that’s about it.

5. The black horses got robbed really.

6. Especially because the best bit of this footage is when the ref and the West Ham captain are waiting to do the coin toss, and some police come charging past.

7. Which is a genuinely thrilling bit of footage.

8. And not done justice by that still at all.

9. Also a lot of the footage their makes me a bit queasy

10. As wildly overcrowded crowd footage often does.

11. I mean just look at it.

12. I’m just glad everyone was okay.

13. Also all this footage is even more impressive/amazing/terrifying after watching “Getting Ready For Cup Final“, and seeing the absolute state of Wembley a few months before, half built, eerily empty.


Film Information

Title: The Cup Shall Come South!
Year: 1923
Duration: 2 minutes
Watch: BFI Player

Title: Cup Final 1923
Year: 1923
Duration: 5 minutes
Watch: BFI Player

Title: Getting Ready For Cup Final
Year: 1923
Duration: 1 minute
Watch: BFI Player