Written by: Carroll Jenkins on January 26th, 2009
Theatrical Release Date: USA, 1926
Director: William Beaudine
Writers: C. Gardner Sullivan, George Marion Jr., Winifred Dunn
Cast: Mary Pickford, Roy Stewart, Mary Louise Miller, Gustav von Seyffertitz, Charlotte Mineau, Spec O’Donnell, Lloyd Whitlock, Billy Butts, Monty O’Grady
DVD released: September 21st, 1999
Approximate running time: 84 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 4:3 Full Frame
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English
DVD Release: Image Entertainment
Region Coding: Region 0 NTSC
Retail Price: $29.99
Synopsis: A human monster runs a ‘baby farm’ for child labor in the middle of a swamp. When he participates in the kidnapping of a baby from a rich widower, the plot thickens.
This film sent patrons screaming from the theaters in 1926. It is one of the most effective horror shockers of the silent era – at least the equal of Phantom Of The Opera. Mary Pickford, known for her “Little Mary” persona, plays the pigtailed girl one last time (at age 34), but she wanted to produce a serious art film. And serious it is, both thematically, and in terms of production values. With the full weight of United Artists behind it and some of the best art direction and Germanic cinematography ever captured [and preserved], this film is mesmerizing from beginning to end.
Gustav von Seyffertitz does an amazing turn as the heartless hunchback, who with his wife and son mercilessly exploit and torment the poor waifs entrusted to their care. Mary is the eldest of the group of ten – twelve children. Mixed with the melodrama are thrills and chills, and a strong religious undertone.
This is a beautiful DVD (4:3, of course) from an excellent 35mm print. The intricate miniature work is crystal clear, and the ethereal environment is astonishing. The atmospheric and doom laden organ score is a perfect accompaniment for this landmark of genre film.
Even if you don’t usually partake of silent cinema, this film is so visually and thematically captivating you should never notice the absence of sound. A timeless masterpiece.