Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Phantom in The House|
Actor: Henry B. Walthall Ricardo Cortez
Director: Phil Rosen
PHANTOM IN THE HOUSE - DVD Movie
Similarly Requested DVDs
"There's a touch of comedy in it isn't there?"---Boyd Milbur
mwreview | Northern California, USA | 01/16/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
Despite the title, this 1929 film is not a horror film with a ghost flying around. It is a murder drama--I wouldn't even put it in the mystery category. Ricardo Cortez is given top billing in this film, but Henry B. Walthall, my favorite actor, really has the leading role. Walthall is Boyd Milburn, an inventor who can't catch a break. His wife, Peggy, tries to gain the assistance of a man who can help her husband in exchange for her "friendship" (whatever that means). When the man gets fresh, she kills him. Boyd takes the blame for the murder and serves 15 years in prison, during which time he sends his wife illustrations of his inventions for her to patent under her name (which she's changed).
After he is paroled, he returns to find his wife living high off the hog in a posh hotel thanks to the money earned from his inventions. He also sees his daughter, Dorothy, who does not know he is her father. Wanting to protect his daughter from the knowledge that her father served time as a murderer, Milburn is introduced to her as Mr. Boyd, a friend of her father who she believes died as a war hero. Judge Thompson, who sent Milburn to prison and has since been a friend and protector of Peggy and Dorothy, tells Milburn he should leave his family for good so that his daughter will never know the truth about him. Milburn refuses, especially when his wife threatens to take away Dorothy's inheritance if she marries her true love, Paul (Cortez), a man of whom her mother disapproves because he does not have a fancy title. Milburn's wife learns to accept Paul (well, Boyd had to threaten her at first), but Judge Thompson is set on stopping the marriage. He schedules a meeting with Paul and tells him Dorothy's father was a murderer. He threatens to tell her the truth if Paul does not cancel the engagement. The judge turns up dead and Paul is accused of the murder. Will Boyd Milburn take the fall again?
The acting is typical of the early talkies. For the most part it is stilted, although Walthall shows himself the consummate pro with his subtle style and I thought Nancy Welford, who played Dorothy, was quite good as the spunky girl who could see right through the melodramatic wealthy suitors chasing after her. Speaking of overly melodramatic, Grace Valentine as Peggy overacts on many occasions. The quality of the film is fair. Sometimes the mouths and voices aren't in sequence, there are audio problems at the end, and there are some scenes with vertical lines running through. I have a version put out by another company with similar problems, so it is probably a rough master copy that is to blame, but it is better to have a film released in fair quality than to never have it released at all. The DVD runs just under 58 minutes while my other copy is over an hour. I noticed the ending where Dorothy kisses the cop was edited out, I am not sure which other scenes are missing. The quality of the packaging, as is the quality of the other DVDs released by this company, is excellent. There are colorized pictures of scenes on the back cover, a nice pic of Walthall on the disc which is very easy to remove from the case.
I am a fan of this film because I am a fan of Walthall, but, as films go, it is probably only worth it to those curious about the early talkies. One interesting scene is when Milburn is leaving prison after his parole and the warden gives him a bill. "Money's shrunk a bit," Milburn comments. The warden replies, "That's the new money, just half the size and you'll find that it just buys half as much." I didn't know paper currency was a different size back in the day. Just another thing you learn from old films (not to mention the strange furniture with the funky chairs with no backs). Well, a ten dollar bill will buy you this DVD, and that's a pretty good deal."