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173 - The Last Laugh (1924) 
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Post 173 - The Last Laugh (1924)
FW Murnau made Sunrise in 1927. here we have another illustration of just how wonderful silent films really can be.

The story is simple. A doorman is fired from his job at the premium "Atlantic" hotel in new York. His life descends from there.

Murnau brings wonderful composition, use of light, depth of field and mattess to create a drama of almost Shakespearean proportions. If you're into german expressionism movies from the twenties this is a distant relative from one of it's great masters

A great 89 minutes! 8/10
Rob


Thu May 05, 2011 11:22 am
Post Re: 173 - The Last Laugh (1924)
Hey Rob,

I saw this a couple of months ago and gave it the same 8/10 rating. I even mentioned your name in my thoughts! Here's what I said in the "Last Movie You Watched" thread:

ed_metal_head wrote:
The Last Laugh (1924 & #178 on that list) is another silent feature from master director FW Murnau. The movie has gained some notoriety because it tells its tale virtually without any title cards whatsoever. The film tells the story of an ageing doorman at a popular hotel. The doorman takes great pride in his work and as a result of his uniform and position has earned considerable respect in his depressed neighbourhood. Eventually, however, he is demoted to washroom attendant because of his age (we learn of the demotion through a letter he receives. This is the first instance of text on the screen). This demotion completely embarrasses the man and fearing for his reputation he steals his old doorman uniform from the hotel and begins pretending that he's still in the same position.

It goes without saying that he can't maintain the ruse forever and at one point things get utterly bleak. At this moment a strange thing happens. Apparently Murnau wanted to end the film right at the bleakest point (the conclusion certainly would have been logical) but the studio forced a happy ending on him. What does Murnau do? He fabricates an unlikely happy ending and and lets us know what he's doing via text (the second and final instance of text on the screen) that reads: "Here the story should really end, for, in real life, the forlorn old man would have little to look forward to but death. The author took pity on him and has provided a quite improbable epilogue."

That, my friends, rocks. I don't know how many other silent films were self referential and acknowledged to the audience that it was a film via title card but if there were others I'm assuming the number is small. Of course, that's not the only delight in this picture. In his review of Sunrise, Robert Holloway said "The camera moves!". Well, in this film (released several years prior) the camera moves more. At one point the camera is positioned at the "mouth" of a trumpet. Suddenly it pulls way back and then...up...high up. I have no clue how they pulled off some of the techniques in this film but most would not make their way into cinema for at least another decade.

Unfortunately, however, the story just isn't all that interesting. It might look good on paper, but in practice the 90 minute run-time is far too much for the material being explored. I probably wouldn't recommend it if it was for story alone but if you appreciate things like framing, unusual visual effects or creative tracking shots then I encourage you to check this out. 8/10.


Thu May 05, 2011 12:06 pm
Post Re: 173 - The Last Laugh (1924)
When I saw the film, calvero suggested I do a write-up in the Great Movies section of the forum. I never did, and now I should. Unfortunately, I do not remember much about the film, other than that it had an old, fat, sad man and no intertitles. I don't even remember the camera movement, though I would now. I owe it another visit.


Thu May 05, 2011 1:37 pm
Post Re: 173 - The Last Laugh (1924)
ed_metal_head wrote:
Hey Rob,

I saw this a couple of months ago and gave it the same 8/10 rating. I even mentioned your name in my thoughts! Here's what I said in the "Last Movie You Watched" thread:

ed_metal_head wrote:
The Last Laugh (1924 & #178 on that list) is another silent feature from master director FW Murnau. The movie has gained some notoriety because it tells its tale virtually without any title cards whatsoever. The film tells the story of an ageing doorman at a popular hotel. The doorman takes great pride in his work and as a result of his uniform and position has earned considerable respect in his depressed neighbourhood. Eventually, however, he is demoted to washroom attendant because of his age (we learn of the demotion through a letter he receives. This is the first instance of text on the screen). This demotion completely embarrasses the man and fearing for his reputation he steals his old doorman uniform from the hotel and begins pretending that he's still in the same position.

It goes without saying that he can't maintain the ruse forever and at one point things get utterly bleak. At this moment a strange thing happens. Apparently Murnau wanted to end the film right at the bleakest point (the conclusion certainly would have been logical) but the studio forced a happy ending on him. What does Murnau do? He fabricates an unlikely happy ending and and lets us know what he's doing via text (the second and final instance of text on the screen) that reads: "Here the story should really end, for, in real life, the forlorn old man would have little to look forward to but death. The author took pity on him and has provided a quite improbable epilogue."

That, my friends, rocks. I don't know how many other silent films were self referential and acknowledged to the audience that it was a film via title card but if there were others I'm assuming the number is small. Of course, that's not the only delight in this picture. In his review of Sunrise, Robert Holloway said "The camera moves!". Well, in this film (released several years prior) the camera moves more. At one point the camera is positioned at the "mouth" of a trumpet. Suddenly it pulls way back and then...up...high up. I have no clue how they pulled off some of the techniques in this film but most would not make their way into cinema for at least another decade.

Unfortunately, however, the story just isn't all that interesting. It might look good on paper, but in practice the 90 minute run-time is far too much for the material being explored. I probably wouldn't recommend it if it was for story alone but if you appreciate things like framing, unusual visual effects or creative tracking shots then I encourage you to check this out. 8/10.



Yup, Ed, another must see great movie.

i did not want to share that wonderful title card - it's a gem of a surprise

Rob


Thu May 05, 2011 3:50 pm
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Post Re: 173 - The Last Laugh (1924)
has anyone seen Murnau's Phantom?


Thu Jul 25, 2013 4:28 pm
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Post Re: 173 - The Last Laugh (1924)
calvero wrote:
has anyone seen Murnau's Phantom?


Yes. I really disliked it largely to a badly miscast Alfred Abel, who drains the life out of every scene he's in, and a plot that really overdoes the melodrama. It's Murnau's only major misstep as a director (in my opinion; the film does have its fans). Abel's good in everything else I've seen him in, but he's about 20 years too old for the part he's playing. The film reminds me of Of Human Bondage, which I hate.

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Thu Jul 25, 2013 11:32 pm
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