Silent film festival Hippfest has returned

There’s just seven days until Scotland’s only silent film festival will return to the Hippodrome in Bo’ness.

Having begun on Wednesday. 16 March, Scotland’s oldest purpose built cinema is hosting the Hippodrome Silent Film Festival 2022.

The star-studded programme is jam-packed with films featuring some of the biggest names of the silent era – Buster Keaton, Laurel & Hardy, Lon Chaney, Joan Crawford, and more.

Saturday morning begins with the HippFest tradition of the Jeely Jar Screening; a double-bill of classic comedy shorts, with 2-4-1 tickets when you bring a clean jam jar and lid. Charlie Chaplin plays an overworked stagehand who gets a shot at comeuppance in Behind the Screen (1916). Followed by Buster Keaton at his very best, as a sleepy cinema projectionist in Sherlock Jr. (1924). Both films will have live piano accompaniment from Neil Brand.

City Girl (1932) (Photo: Park Circus / Walt Disney Studios)

British screenwriter Lydia Hayward, is rightfully given the spotlight in Saturday afternoon’s programming, as Curator of Silent Film at the British Film Institute National Archive Bryony Dixon highlights Hayward’s outstanding contribution to some of the era’s most widely enjoyed films, and introduces her comedy short The Boatswain’s Mate (1924), with John Sweeney providing musical accompaniment. Followed by Hayward’s delightful rom-com, Not For Sale (1924), with musical accompaniment from Stephen Horne (piano, flute, accordion).

Saturday’s screenings finish with two bumper feature films. In the early evening The Dodge Brothers and Neil Brand perform the Scottish premiere of their new live musical accompaniment for F.W. Murnau’s lyrical and ravishingly beautiful drama, City Girl (1930). Rearranged from the 2020 programme, this is sure to be a highlight of HippFest’s 12th edition. And Stephen Horne (multi-instruments) and Elizabeth-Jane Baldry (harp) will premiere their musical collaboration on The Fall of the House of Usher (1928); a brooding and impressionistic adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s creepy Gothic tale of obsession and madness. This screening and performance will be reprised at the Barbican, London, on Sunday 10 April.

Sunday eases into the final day of the Festival, with a triple-bill from iconic comedy duo Laurel and Hardy; the recently re-discovered and restored Duck Soup (1927); classic comedy The Two Tars (1928); and the people’s choice as voted by the Hippodrome’s audience in 2020, Liberty (1929). Jonny Best on piano and Frank Bockius on percussion will be accompanying the pair’s cuckoo antics.

Tod Browning’s jaw-droppingly macabre drama starring box office sensation Lon Chaney and superstar-in-the-making Joan Crawford feature on Sunday in The Unknown.

Chaney demonstrates his unparalleled flair for gruesome on-screen physical transformation with his performance as Alonzo the Armless – a knife-thrower in a travelling circus, madly in love with glamorous assistant Nanon. A love-triangle like no other and probably one of the most bizarre and dramatically grotesque films you will ever see.

Guaranteed to send shivers down your spine, this penultimate screening of HippFest 2022 is not to be missed.

One of the earliest Chinese features finally gets a showing at HippFest on Sunday afternoon; A String of Pearls (Yichuan Zhenzhu) (1926) is based on Guy de Maupassant’s short story The Necklace, offering a fascinating look at rich, Westernized life in 1920s Shanghai. Introduced by Dr Julian Ward, with John Sweeney on piano.

Actor Paul McGann is coming to Hippfest (Photo: Big Finish Productions)

This is followed by the much-anticipated finale from 2020, L’Homme du Large (1920) with musical accompaniment from John Sweeney (piano), Frank Bockius (percussion), and mesmeric live narration by Paul McGann.

The Hippodrome Silent Film Festival 2022 will take place at the Hippodrome Cinema in Bo’ness, Wednesday 16 to Sunday 20 March. For full programme information and tickets visit

The Hippodrome Silent Film Festival is organised by Falkirk Community Trust with key funding from Falkirk Council, supported by Film Hub Scotland part of the BFI’s Film Audience Network, and funded by Screen Scotland and National Lottery funding from the BFI.

This event has been supported by the Year of Stories 2022 Community Stories Fund. This fund is being delivered in partnership between VisitScotland and Museums Galleries Scotland with support from National Lottery Heritage Fund thanks to National Lottery players.

The Hippodrome Silent Film Festival (aka ‘ HippFest ’) was launched in 2011 and has since become a key annual event in the cultural calendar, drawing audiences from across Scotland and beyond, and generating significant interest internationally.