18 Cinema Lane received 95 followers last week! To all of my followers, thank you for helping me achieve this milestone! Your interest in this blog means a lot to me. Because I now have 95 followers, I can review a film that was released 95 years ago (in 1924). One day, when I was scrolling through Turner Classic Movies’ (TCM’s) schedule, I discovered a film called Wild Oranges. Before choosing this movie for this post, I had never heard of this title. In fact, the only silent film I’ve seen prior to the aforementioned movie was The Kid, starring Charlie Chaplin. So, I thought this would be a good opportunity to expand my cinematic horizons. According to the pre-movie commentary, Wild Oranges was one of the first movies to be filmed on-location as well as having a smaller cast. These facts interested me into seeing how they would work within the overall context of the film. Before I begin this review, I would just like to share that I actually ate oranges while watching Wild Oranges (I thought it would appropriately fit the occasion).
Things I liked about the film:
- The acting: Because Wild Oranges is a silent movie, the actors have to rely on body language, facial expressions, and actions/behaviors to portray what their characters are saying and feeling. All of the actors in this cast accomplished their goal of doing just that! The acting performances in this movie played an essential role in telling this story, helping to fill in the blanks when words were not available. These performances were also well-rounded, adding to the intrigue and investment of the film. Looking back, I believe the most memorable performance in this movie came from Charles A. Post as the film’s antagonist, Iscah Nicholas! Despite the unheard dialogue, Charles effectively conveyed the nasty and disturbing nature that his character contained. This performance truly added a sense of suspense and dread whenever he appeared on-screen.
- The scenery: As I mentioned in the introduction, Wild Oranges was one of the first movies to be filmed on-location. According to TCM’s pre-movie commentary, this movie was filmed in Georgia and Florida. Filming on-location was the right decision, as it gave a sense of realism to the movie. The natural elements of the scenery, from the forests to the dilapidated home of the Stope family, added a haunting feel to the overall atmosphere. Even the beauty of the beachfront was captured very well within the lighter moments of the film. This element made Wild Oranges a wonderful sight to see!
- The use of title cards: While the body language, facial expressions, and actions/behaviors of the actors helped carry the story, there were times when title cards were necessary. In Wild Oranges, title cards were used to not only highlight the dialogue between the characters, but also to transition between scenes. These title cards provided some depth to the narrative, as it explained things that the acting performances couldn’t. Having the title cards be presented on illustrations of oranges trees was very creative. It also fit with the continuity of the film.
What I didn’t like about the film:
- A limited amount of title cards: While I liked the use the title cards in Wild Oranges, I thought that the amount of them was fewer than I’d expected. Some scenes were accompanied with very few title cards to support the dialogue or other details within the narrative. This left me guessing as to what was going on in the film. It also debunked my personal stereotypical view of title cards in silent films, where title cards are used to explain everything. Wild Oranges definitely could have benefited from the use of more title cards.
- The run-time: At an hour and twenty-eight minutes, I felt that Wild Oranges was a little too long. Sometimes, there were scenes that went on longer than they should have. Two examples of this are a fight sequence between the antagonist and protagonist as well as a boating scene. If these scenes were a little bit shorter, it would have had a big impact on the overall run-time. In my opinion, this movie should have been, at least, an hour.
- An unclear connection between Nicholas and the Stope family: While watching this movie, I was really confused about the connection between Nicholas and the Stope family. Sure, Nicholas was in love with Millie. However, Nicholas was allowed on the Stope family property without any issues. Even though Millie revealed more about Nicholas’ character to John Woolfolk, it didn’t explain what his connection was to her family. The only thing I was able to do was guess this connection as I continued watching the film.
My overall impression:
The silent film genre is one that I don’t watch often. The two reasons for this are 1.) Silent films are not as easily available as other genres and 2.) The on-screen events might be confusing to decipher without dialogue. Despite these concerns, I ended up having an enjoyable experience watching Wild Oranges! Part of this has to do with the fact that I was able to provide my own personal commentary to the film. Besides this, the movie itself stands on its own, thanks to the merits found in the film. The various creative pieces came together to tell a cohesive story. The historic choices that were made, such as filming on-location, ended up working in this film’s favor. It gave the project a special uniqueness that helped make the film so memorable. If you haven’t seen silent films before and would like to give them a chance, I think Wild Oranges is a good introduction to the genre!
Overall score: 7.6 out of 10
Have you seen any silent films? Would you want to give silent films a chance? Put your thoughts in the comment section!
Have fun at the movies!