THEY are little-known gems of the silver screen which tell their tales of regal intrigue, family drama and adventurous derring-do without their actors speaking a single line.
And now audiences will once again enjoy the wonders of the cinema as it was before the age of sound as Scotland’s only festival dedicated to silent films gets underway.
Details have been revealed of the programme for the 10th edition of the event, which takes place in the in the B’Ness Hippodrome, Scotland’s oldest purpose-built cinema, during March.
The Mask of Zorro will be screened
Affectionately known as ‘HippFest, the festival celebrates the magic of early cinema by showcasing restored versions of films rarely seen by modern qudiences, each one accompanied by live music, just as they would have been on their original opening night.
Organisers Falkirk Community Trust say this year’s programme is packed with silent films featuring masked crusaders, real-life martyrs and mysterious femme fatales, and will also offer talks, workshops and tours for those who attend.
And, in the spirit of the iconic Keystone Cops of the era, the event will begin with a huge ‘custard’ pie fight among willing participants.
Alison Strauss, Festival Director, said: “We are thrilled to be celebrating our 10th edition, and so grateful to our audiences for joining us on the journey so far.
“Expectations are high but we are confident that this year’s HippFest will be our most successful yet. ”
Among the highlights of the will be the world premiere of a new restoration of 1923 drama The Loves of Mary, Queen of Scots, an extremely rare British historical feature film full of intrigue, betrayal and scandal.
Directed by Denison Clift the film was one of the last made by the major British studio Ideal before the cinema entered a slump in 1924 and many indigenous filmmaking firms closed.
It stars Fay Compton, one of the icons of the British silent scene as Mary, along with Gerald Ames and Ivan Samson.
Fay Compton as Mary, Queen of Scots
Other productions returning to the big screen in Scotland for the first time in decades include The Mark of Zorro, a swashbuckling epic from 1920 starring screen-idol Douglas Fairbanks as the elusive swordsman and original caped crusader.
To get into the spirit of the adventure film, audiences are encouraged to dress up as Zorro, while music will be provided by Scotland’s own mariachi band, ‘Rapido Mariachi’.
Screen highlights during the festival will also include the premiere of Laurel and Hardy’s recently restored Duck Soup from 1927, which was later remade with sound as ‘Another Fine Mess’.
Danish superstar of the 1920s Asta Nielsen also appears in a screen version of Hamlet, playing a cross-dressing Hamlet whose true sex is kept secret to secure the future of the throne.
The festival will start witha custard pie fight
Other international highlights include ‘Ernst Lubitsch’s ‘Lady Windermere’s Fan’, based on Oscar Wilde’s hit play, Chinese silent ‘A String of Pearls’ (1926) based on Guy de Maupassant’s short story The Necklace, and ‘Filibus: The Mysterious Air Pirate’ (1915) an exciting thriller about a Baroness turned jewel-thief and uses an airship.
Actor Paul McGann will to provide live narration of the closing night screening of French film L’Homme du Large (1920).
Sambrooke Scott, Manager of Film Hub Scotland said: “It’s a fantastic showcase of film from another age, brought vividly to new life by a host of wonderful musicians through their brilliant live scores.
“It’s a rare jewel of festival that brings excited audiences from near and afar and this year’s edition promises to be one of the best yet.”
Laurel and Hrdy will feature
David White, Chair of Falkirk Community Trust said: “This world-class festival is packed with distinctive community events and high-profile film restorations accompanied by some of the most accomplished musicians working in this unique field.”
“The organisers have pulled together a programme to appeal to all ages, and reaching right across the community.
“We would also like to take this opportunity to thank our core funders, local businesses, and all the film archivists, artists and musicians who work with the teams at Falkirk Community Trust to make this Festival one of Scotland’s great cultural events.”