Thursday, May 10, 2007

great Public Domain movies

I was talking to my friend Nick the other day about the Lon Chaney classic "He Who Gets Slapped," about a man who goes insane and becomes a circus clown when his life comes apart, and it reminded me how many awesome movies you can see at the click of a button on Google Video and Internet Archive because they're all in the public domain.

"Public Domain" refers to a legal status for artistic work when it's copyright expires 20 years after it's filed, and isn't renewed. This can happen for a variety of reasons, and once it does the work is considered public property. Unfortunately a lot of companies have gotten smarter about this in recent years, so the number of PD movies after the 70s sort of trickles down into nothing.

The internet makes checking these films out easier than ever! You've probably seen a lot of them cheaply repackaged by small companies over the years for a quick buck, even on DVD. Around 1993 I remember purchasing "Night of the Living Dead" in MPEG form on CD-ROM and thinking it was just a neat novelty.

If you've been to film school you may have seen some of these screened and discussed before, because it doesn't cost the school any licensing fee to screen them, duh! Your tuition at work. It's surprising how many well known classics are actually public property, which is why you see some of them sampled a lot in other media.

In some cases Google Video will charge you a couple bucks for the only available links to certain movies, but I've yet to do that. Here are my favorites so far, well known or otherwise:

silent horror
The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (Robert Wiene)
Nosferatu (F.W. Murnau)

talkie horror
White Zombie (Victor Halperin)
The City of the Dead / Horror Hotel (John Llewellyn Moxey)
Night Of The Living Dead (George A. Romero)
The Last Man On Earth (Ubaldo Ragona & Sidney Salkow)

silent comedy
The Kid (Charlie Chaplin)
The General (Clyde Bruckman & Buster Keaton)

silent drama/thrillers/noir
M (Fritz Lang)
He Who Gets Slapped (Victor Sjostrom)

talkie drama/thrillers/noir
Scarlet Street (Fritz Lang)
Detour (Edward G. Ulmer)
D.O.A. (Rudolph Mate)
Rashomon (Akira Kurosawa)

roger corman irreverence
The Little Shop of Horrors
A Bucket Of Blood

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