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Ancient Rockets: Treasures and Train Wrecks of the Silent Screen

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From Metropolis to the pre-technicolor Oz, this fantastical retrospective takes readers through the wildest frontiers of silent films. Glorious landscapes are explored from Tarzan's jungle and Dr. Frankenstein's laboratory to the Adventures of Prince Achmed and 20,000 Leagues under the Sea. Highlighting the earliest and cheesiest special effects, Kage Baker reviews 49 cine From Metropolis to the pre-technicolor Oz, this fantastical retrospective takes readers through the wildest frontiers of silent films. Glorious landscapes are explored from Tarzan's jungle and Dr. Frankenstein's laboratory to the Adventures of Prince Achmed and 20,000 Leagues under the Sea. Highlighting the earliest and cheesiest special effects, Kage Baker reviews 49 cinematic odysseys with acerbic wit and historical acumen. Contrasting the tour de forces with the utter train wrecks of the silver screen, these sci-fi movies are affectionately viewed, giving special recognition to the flimsy plots, terrifying fiends, and the best and worst directors that inspired generations of fans and filmmakers alike.


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From Metropolis to the pre-technicolor Oz, this fantastical retrospective takes readers through the wildest frontiers of silent films. Glorious landscapes are explored from Tarzan's jungle and Dr. Frankenstein's laboratory to the Adventures of Prince Achmed and 20,000 Leagues under the Sea. Highlighting the earliest and cheesiest special effects, Kage Baker reviews 49 cine From Metropolis to the pre-technicolor Oz, this fantastical retrospective takes readers through the wildest frontiers of silent films. Glorious landscapes are explored from Tarzan's jungle and Dr. Frankenstein's laboratory to the Adventures of Prince Achmed and 20,000 Leagues under the Sea. Highlighting the earliest and cheesiest special effects, Kage Baker reviews 49 cinematic odysseys with acerbic wit and historical acumen. Contrasting the tour de forces with the utter train wrecks of the silver screen, these sci-fi movies are affectionately viewed, giving special recognition to the flimsy plots, terrifying fiends, and the best and worst directors that inspired generations of fans and filmmakers alike.

48 review for Ancient Rockets: Treasures and Train Wrecks of the Silent Screen

  1. 4 out of 5

    John Defrog

    I’ve never read Kage Baker before – not exactly. Back in the Stone Age I started a Wattpad version of her first Company time-travel novel, In the Garden of Iden, but didn’t get far because, frankly Wattpad was a terrible format for e-books. I liked what I read enough to be open to trying her again, and as it happens, my first opportunity to do so wasn’t her fiction, but this collection of silent film reviews. Baker wrote these for Tor.com in 2009 – which, sadly, turned out to be the last year of I’ve never read Kage Baker before – not exactly. Back in the Stone Age I started a Wattpad version of her first Company time-travel novel, In the Garden of Iden, but didn’t get far because, frankly Wattpad was a terrible format for e-books. I liked what I read enough to be open to trying her again, and as it happens, my first opportunity to do so wasn’t her fiction, but this collection of silent film reviews. Baker wrote these for Tor.com in 2009 – which, sadly, turned out to be the last year of her life before she died of cancer in January 2010. It’s a neat premise – Baker was a cinephile who noticed that many silent films drew heavily on SF/F sources, and started a blog series reviewing whatever SF/F silent films she could find copies of. Méliès’ A Trip To The Moon is the obvious starting point, and Metropolis an obvious example, but as the series goes on, she expanded the criteria of SF/F to include anything involving vampires, dinosaurs, magic, Oz, horror and Tarzan. Anyway, Baker does a good job of highlighting how so many silent filmmakers were poaching Verne, Wells, ER Burroughs and Poe for material, if only because of the visual possibilities. Her reviews are blog-style – i.e. punchy, snarky and opinionated. But she does a good job of not only summing up the plots and evaluating the good and the godawful, but also giving advice on where to find copies of them and (more importantly) which copies to watch, as many surviving copies of these films are missing reels (leading to incoherent narratives) or are in poor condition (though of course that info is likely outdated). If nothing else, her fan-girl enthusiasm for the better films is genuine enough to make you actually want to look for some of these (provided you like silent films).

  2. 5 out of 5

    Kara

    As Kage Baker was dying of cancer in 2009, she wrote this series of love letters to the original sci-fi and fantasy movies that started so many tropes and inspired so many future story tellers. It was astonishing, to me at least, that there were enough silent films in these genres to be able to create an entire series of essays, reviewing all of them in her uniquely snarky tone both on their own merits and how they fit into a bigger historical context. Also, she is a true professional, giving no As Kage Baker was dying of cancer in 2009, she wrote this series of love letters to the original sci-fi and fantasy movies that started so many tropes and inspired so many future story tellers. It was astonishing, to me at least, that there were enough silent films in these genres to be able to create an entire series of essays, reviewing all of them in her uniquely snarky tone both on their own merits and how they fit into a bigger historical context. Also, she is a true professional, giving no spoilers to the films’ plots, dangling a carrot of mystery to the reader, encouraging them to go out and seek these movies themselves, to see what happens…

  3. 5 out of 5

    Steven Shinder

    Kage Baker wrote these summary reviews of silent films throughout the year 2009. She passed away in early 2010, so her sister got this published for her. The reviews sometimes feel of their time, with Baker mentioning upcoming DVD releases of Up and the 70th anniversary edition of The Wizard of Oz. When talking about The Thief of Baghdad, she even mentions how something like Disney's Aladdin could not be made today, which is kinda funny now that we're almost a year removed from the Disney remake Kage Baker wrote these summary reviews of silent films throughout the year 2009. She passed away in early 2010, so her sister got this published for her. The reviews sometimes feel of their time, with Baker mentioning upcoming DVD releases of Up and the 70th anniversary edition of The Wizard of Oz. When talking about The Thief of Baghdad, she even mentions how something like Disney's Aladdin could not be made today, which is kinda funny now that we're almost a year removed from the Disney remake. The reviews themselves are pretty amusing, complete with gag captions under still photos. Most of the films listed are films that I have not seen. The first selection, A Trip to the Moon, was one that I was only aware of because it was a huge part of the film Hugo (based on the novel of the same name). I was actually surprised that she did not love Metropolis in any form. I actually love that film (even the version with the Georgio Moroder soundtrack). Despite my disagreement, I respect her opinion and was not put off by her assessments. I'm also intrigued that she found Faust to be better than F.W. Murnau's earlier film Nosferatu. Being a big fan of that vampire movie, I am actually curious and might check out Faust at some point. It's also an interesting perspective viewing Siegfried and Kriemhild's Revenge as precursors to The Lord of the Rings books and films. When reading about Gertie the Dinosaur, I also surmised that perhaps Gertie from Marvel's Runaways is named after this film since she actually has a dinosaur. While some may have their own ideas of what the earlier films about Oz, Tarzan, Frankenstein, etc. might have been, this book brings attention to earlier gems (or disasters, depending on how Baker viewed them). This book actually makes me want to go back and watch some of these somewhat obscure selections. As such, this might be a good primer for anyone looking to venture into silent film viewing experiences.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Hubert Taler

    Read it slowly and try to look the movies up on YouTube and internet archive. Most of them are easy to find. The book is a great read for science fiction movies fan.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kyle

    Where did I hear about this book? In my office I have a framed image from the 1916 silent film Intolerance hanging on the wall. A new employee noticed it one day and it turned out he was also a silent film buff. He mentioned that I needed to watch a French silent film called Le Voyage dans la Lune. At that point I remembered that Kage Baker, the author responsible for turning me into a silent film fan, used to write a column about science fiction silent films called Ancient Rockets. While searchi Where did I hear about this book? In my office I have a framed image from the 1916 silent film Intolerance hanging on the wall. A new employee noticed it one day and it turned out he was also a silent film buff. He mentioned that I needed to watch a French silent film called Le Voyage dans la Lune. At that point I remembered that Kage Baker, the author responsible for turning me into a silent film fan, used to write a column about science fiction silent films called Ancient Rockets. While searching for this website I saw that her articles had been compiled into this book. Why did I decided to read it For me, Kage Baker and Silent Films are like peanut butter and jelly. So what did I think? Great stuff! Baker is hilarious and she really brings it as she lambasts some of the silly plot devices (she takes Metropolis to the wood shed). It's really cool to see the origins of some of the movie cliches still used today. After reading this I have a ton of silent films I have to see and I can't wait to get started.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Danijel

  7. 4 out of 5

    Marilyn

  8. 4 out of 5

    Elliot Morris

  9. 4 out of 5

    Leah Estrin

  10. 4 out of 5

    Darren Wilkin

  11. 4 out of 5

    Marie

  12. 4 out of 5

    Dantee

  13. 5 out of 5

    Michael Parker

  14. 4 out of 5

    Tachyon Publications

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ronny Corral

  16. 4 out of 5

    Allison Hansen

  17. 4 out of 5

    OTIS

  18. 4 out of 5

    Kay

  19. 4 out of 5

    Tomasz

  20. 5 out of 5

    Cull

  21. 4 out of 5

    Igraine

  22. 5 out of 5

    Snail in Danger (Sid) Nicolaides

  23. 4 out of 5

    Mike

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kam Yung Soh

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ingrid Geibel

  26. 5 out of 5

    Marrella

  27. 5 out of 5

    Yenni

  28. 5 out of 5

    Robert Glover

  29. 4 out of 5

    Chelsae

  30. 5 out of 5

    Momma

  31. 5 out of 5

    Melissa Pack

  32. 4 out of 5

    Christopher

  33. 4 out of 5

    Denise

  34. 4 out of 5

    Raven Forrest

  35. 4 out of 5

    Cathy

  36. 5 out of 5

    Sammy

  37. 4 out of 5

    E.A.C. Klemann

  38. 4 out of 5

    Chiemi Ahrenberg

  39. 4 out of 5

    Dannie

  40. 5 out of 5

    Katharina

  41. 5 out of 5

    Mark

  42. 5 out of 5

    Dione Basseri

  43. 5 out of 5

    Larry Clark

  44. 4 out of 5

    Alexander Pico

  45. 4 out of 5

    Mavrades

  46. 5 out of 5

    Juan Pablo

  47. 4 out of 5

    Leah

  48. 4 out of 5

    Nora

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