The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg

Hippfest 2018: unveiled!

It’s that time of year again, when we get to delve into the Hippfest programme. The Hippodrome Silent Film Festival in Bo’ness, Scotland, is the most welcoming event in the early cinema calendar, with one of the most glamorous venues. The lineup is always an enjoyable mix of the classic and obscure too, so I await this announcement with more interest than most.

You can read the full lineup and schedule on the Hippfest website, but here are some selected highlights – and yes, I am terribly, terribly biased.

Der Schatz (1923)
Der Schatz (1923)
  • Pabst! So much Pabst around these days, which is great. The Hippfest is showing GW Pabst’s first film, the most traditionally expressionist of his career, Der Schätz, with live accompaniment written and performed by acclaimed German composer and musician Alois Kott.
  • More Pabst! On 22nd March, yours truly will be giving an illustrated “Cuppa Talk” lecture entitled Lost Girls and Goddesses, all about women in Pabst’s silent films. Brooks, Garbo, Nielsen, Helm … all will be in (virtual) attendance.
  • Galas! The opening night screening has already been announced as The Last of the Mohicans with live accompaniment from David Allison.
  • On the Friday night, get yourself glammed up for a date with The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg starring Ramon Novarro and Norma Shearer, with live music from the maestro Neil Brand. This silent comedy, directed by Ernst Lubitsch, is perfect in practically every way. And Brand, yeah he’s a bit of a legend too.
Lon Chaney in The Penalty
Lon Chaney in The Penalty
  • Lon Chaney swings by on Saturday night. You can watch him play “the master of the underworld” in The Penalty with a new score, commissioned by the festival, from Graeme Stephen and Pete Harvey on guitar and cello.
  • Stick around after The Penalty for an ideal late-night movie: Benjamin Christensen’s loopy Seven Footprints to Satan, with a live score from the always excellent Jane Gardner and Roddy Long. This film has to be seen to be believed!
  • Sunday night closes with two screening of recent BFI silent restorations. First, the sumptuous Indian romance Shiraz, accompanied by the wonderful John Sweeney, and then Anthony Asquith’s Underground, accompanied live by the dream team of Stephen Horne and Frank Bockius.

Saving Sister Susie
Saving Sister Susie
  • So much comedy – it wouldn’t be Hippfest without Laurel and Hardy, and there’s a Sunday afternoon triple-bill scheduled so you can get your fix. But there are also some female comedy stars on show. Dorothy Devore stars in the hilarious Saving Sister Susie, and the wondrous Baby Peggy appears in a film I am hugely looking forward to: The Kid Reporter.
  • A rare chance to see Chinese drama Striving, newly restored by the China Film Archive and accompanied by Stephen Horne and Frank Bockius. Plus, a Cuppa Talk by Professor Paul Pickowicz on In Search of the Modern Marriage: Chinese Silent Cinema in the 1920s. 
  • Down at the town’s gorgeous steam railway station on Saturday evening John Sweeney will accompany a truly exciting Tom Mix western The Great K&A Train Robbery.
  • All this plus a night devoted to a woman I need to know more about, the amazing Isobel Wylie Hutchison (1889–1982) – a Scottish filmmaker, botanist and writer, as well as an intrepid Arctic explorer. Scottish singer-songwriter Gerda Stevenson will perform her own musical settings of Hutchison’s poems, with accompaniment by Rob MacNeacail. Japanese composer Atzi Muramatsu will also perform his own musical composition inspired by three of Hutchison’s films.
  • And then there’s a Cuppa Talk on Scottish silent comedy star Billie Ritchie, the New Found Sound schools event, and workshops on classical Indian dance and mixing the perfect cocktail.
  • The festival takes place 21-25 March 2018 at the Hippodrome, Bo’ness. For more details and to book tickets, visit the Hippfest website. I will see you there – and I really hope you can make it to my Pabst talk on the Thursday. Here’s a little hint!
Brigitte Helm in Abwege (GW Pabst)
Brigitte Helm in Abwege (GW Pabst)

Lost Girls and Goddesses


£6.60 incl. tea/coffee & cake

VENUE: Hippodrome Cinema, Bo’ness

Austrian director G. W. Pabst worked with many of the most talented, glamorous and notorious women of silent cinema. They included Louise Brooks, Greta Garbo, Brigitte Helm, Asta Nielsen, Lucie Mannheim and Leni Riefenstahl. This talk will introduce some of the most fascinating actresses who starred in

Pabst’s silent films, and also explore the stories that he told about female lives, from tales of fallen women to encounters with dazzling seductresses.

1h 30m incl. Q&A.

Performing live: Mike Nolan (piano)


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