Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Fire Brigade (1926)

Eager to see The Fire Brigade since Kevin Brownlow used scenes from its climax to open his 13-hour Hollywood documentary 29 years ago (!), I was very glad to see it shown at this year's Cinevent film convention.

The Fire Brigade exemplifies for me the sort of stirring, glossy, serious, but leavened with humor, big-budget (yet sensitive to small, sentimental details) movie that MGM excelled at in the '20s - a specific kind of atmosphere that was lost when sound came in. A tribute to firefighters everywhere, The Fire Brigade hones in on a Irish family of multi-generational firefighters, headed by the young Charles Ray.

The film is unsparing in its depiction of the costs and bravery involved in fire fighting. The depictions of building contractor negligence and governmental corruption, though somewhat simplified, are as relevant today as then. And the showpiece sequence, involving the rescue of orphans from a burning, collapsing building looks amazing - one can only imagine how it played in 1926.

The Fire Brigade was accompanied at Cinevent by Phil Carli (
http://www.philipcarli.com/keyboard.html), whose thunderous yet subtle piano playing served and elevated the film.

The Fire Brigade is not available on DVD or VHS.

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