And so it appears that I have now been doing this blog for so long that I am starting to repeat directors. Like with The Unknown (which was my third and final film by Tod Browning), The Docks of New York is the third and final film on the 1001 list by Josef Von Sternberg. Actually this is the fourth Von Sternberg I have seen after The Blue Angel, Shanghai Express and The Scarlet Empress.
In all honesty, I think I peaked too soon with Von Sternberg when I first watched The Blue Angel back in the summer of 2013. Since then none of his films have been able to top it as a full package. The set design in The Scarlet Empress remains one of the most batshit things I have seen.
The Docks of New York is a really simple film. The lead (George Bancroft) is the ultimate stereotype of masculinity who has his head turned by the suicidal tart with a heart (Betty Compson). It’s a pretty standard storyline, but there is a remarkable chemistry between the two of them.
Also of note is the cinematography. A scene that comes to mind is a long pull out shot in the bar where we zoom out from couple having a confrontation and into the bar where a fight is just breaking out. There are also beautifully executed shots of the foggy pier and the sequence where Bancroft jumps off a boat in order to swim back to shore.
I think that when it comes to silent movies I was really spoiled by The Unknown. The Docks of New York was interesting to look at, but I kept feeling my attention wander onto other thoughts and things (a common issue I have with silent movies).