The 24th San Francisco Silent Film Festival kicked off Wednesday, and lovers of the non-talkie picture form — along with those who like to cosplay like it's 1925 — have four more days and nights to go to the Castro Theatre and see some classic films.
The festival would be a novelty in any city, but at the Castro, and with the aid of live music accompaniment (just like in olden times), this is a truly unique way to experience some early film history, in the manner in which it was intended to be seen.
On Friday, they're screening the 1928 Lon Chaney blockbuster West of Zanzibar, co-starring Lionel Barrymore (Drew's great uncle!) and Mary Nolan, which is sure to be a moody, atmospheric, and baldly racist artifact.
"Hate twists the heart of Phroso the Magician when he finds out his wife is in love with another, and he pursues an elaborate plan for revenge all the way to the Congo," says the film description. "The penultimate collaboration between 'cinema of the macabre' director Tod Browning and shape-shifting actor Lon Chaney, West of Zanzibar was lucky not to get banned outright for adapting the lurid Broadway hit play, Kongo, but a finessing of writer credits and a new title appeased the Hayes Office."
Rotten Tomatoes gives the film 81%, and adds that the "lurid" part comes when Chaney's character "[bankrolls] the girl's convent education [and] brings Anna to his island domain, where he pumps her full of narcotics and forces her into a life of prostitution and all-around depravity."
Below, the theatrical trailer. Get ticket to the 9:20 p.m. Friday screening at the Castro here.