Saturday, October 13, 2012

A Modern Monte Cristo

Eye for an Eye (Thanhouser / Pathé Gold Rooster Play, US 1917). D: W. Eugene Moore, Jr.; P: Edwin Thanhouser; SC: Lloyd F. Lonergan; DP: George Webber; C: Vincent Serrano (Dr. Emerson / Gen. Fonsca), Helen Badgley (Virginia Deane at age 6), Thomas A. Curran (William Deane), Gladys Dore (Virginia Deane at age 18), Boyd Marshall (Tom Pemberton), H.M. Rhinehardt (aviator); orig. l: 5 rl.; 35 mm, 1156 m, 56' (18 fps), col. (tinted & toned); print source: EYE Film Institute Netherlands, Amsterdam. English intertitles. Cinemazero, Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone (Thanhouser), e-subtitles in Italian, grand piano: Bruno Gratini, 13 Oct 2012.

David Robinson: "Thanhouser’s gifted scenarist (and brother-in-law) Lloyd F. Lonergan conceived a present-day variation of the Dumas story: the modernity of the resulting revenge drama is stressed in inserted documents prominently displaying the date “1916”. Lonergan also introduces a favourite stock theme of early silent cinema: the ship-owner who sends an unseaworthy but heavily insured vessel to sea, unaware that his nearest and dearest is aboard. The trade press received it as a fairly routine melodrama: “This picture will suit the patrons of a theatre catering to average patronage” (New York Dramatic Mirror); “The feature will hold thrills for the less discriminating fans” (Variety). The Thanhouser company had always excelled at maritime scenes, and the film contains two dramatic storms and a shipwreck, convincingly filmed at Block Island, off the coast of Rhode Island. A novelty is the aerial rescue from a desert island."

"For the leading role of Dr. Emerson, Thanhouser turned to a Broadway artist who had made only one previous film, for Famous Players – the 1915 Lydia Gilmore, starring Pauline Frederick. Vincent Serrano (1866-1935) had enjoyed early stage success as Lieutenant Denton in Arizona (1900), a role which he was often to revive, and here proves an effective screen actor in the internalized Thanhouser style – despite his reported indignation at being submitted to aquatic dousings. He was to make several more silent films, and his stage career lasted until the long-running Rio Rita (1927). His arch-enemy is played by the Australian Thomas A. Curran (1879-1941), who ended his screen career in numerous uncredited walk-on roles – the last as Teddy Roosevelt in Citizen Kane. Boyd Marshall (1884-1950), whom the company publicized as “the handsomest man in the movies”, made 100 films, exclusively for Thanhouser, between 1913 and 1917, but then returned to his modestly successful career in vaudeville and musicals. Playing the child, Helen Badgley (1908-1977) was perhaps the company’s longest-serving actor, appearing in 105 films between 1911 and 1917." – DAVID ROBINSON

AA: A completely new story with some links to the Monte-Cristo story (= lifelong revenge, new identity). There is a strong and dramatic opening: at a dinner table Dr. Emerson tells about the strange challenges that doctors can face in their profession. Today he has been offered $5.000 by an inheritor if the operation for a patient is unsuccessful. The patient dies, and the ship-owner William Deane denounces Emerson to the police, lying that Emerson has told him that he planned to let the patient die. Emerson fakes suicide. Six years later Deane plans an insurance fraud, planning a shipwreck of a heavily insured ship of his. But unbeknownst to him, his six year old daughter Virginia has hid herself in the ship and is about to die, but a sailor who is "a doctor-man" (Emerson) saves her life. The ship drowns but Emerson and little Virginia are saved on a desert island (Greble Island = Dutch Island). There Emerson finds a lot of pearl mussels. A test pilot discovers them, and as there is room for only one passenger on the plane, Virginia is rescued. 12 years later: "General Fonsca, the wealthiest man in Brazil" appears as Deane is about to face absolute ruin. Fonsca wants to marry the now 18 year old Virginia, but she is in love with the young Pemberton, and she recognizes Fonsca as "my doctor-man".

In Thanhouser style the approach is sober to the story with many wild turns.

The image is at times beautiful and the sepia toning charming in a print of variable visual quality.

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