Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Victory / The Wicked Darling A Lon Chaney Double Feature|
Long before he became known as the "Man of a Thousand Faces," Lon Chaney quickly gained attention for being one of Hollywood's prominent character actors as these outstanding early examples of Chaney's unique talents in ac... more »
Lon's Earliest Surviving Double Feature.
Chip Kaufmann | Asheville, N.C. United States | 01/29/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"1919 was a pivotal year for Lon Chaney. His appearance in THE MIRACLE MAN (now lost) was the turning point in his career. It was also the year that he made the two films showcased on this new release from Image Entertainment. This DVD features two of the silent era's greatest directors in Maurice Tourneur and Tod Browning. Chaney's longtime collaboration with Browning would really bear fruit in the late 1920's but THE WICKED DARLING marked the first time that they worked together. Browning's vivid directorial touch is readily apparent in the realistic lowlife settings and the colorful characters who populate them. The film was originally made as a vehicle for Priscilla Dean, Universal's big female star at the time. She was perky, resourceful, and surprisingly modern in her movements and expressions. Virtually all of her films are lost which is why she's forgotten today. This film was long thought lost until a single print turned up in Holland. Although missing some frames and scarred by mildew in places, the surviving 35mm footage looks remarkably good.
The second feature, VICTORY, looks close to how it must have looked when it was first released with a crisp, clear picture and color tints although I wonder if some footage is missing as the film seems rather abrupt in places. Based on a lesser Joseph Conrad novel, the film was directed by Maurice Tourneur who was one of the great visual stylists of the silent era. His use of light and shadow in the scene with Chaney and Wallace Beery anticipates film noir by 20 years (his son Jacques Tourneur would make several notable film noirs in the 1940's). He began his career as a painter in France and created several painting like effects in his movies. Check out his 1920 version of LAST OF THE MOHICANS and you'll see what I mean. Lon gives two very different performances in these movies that really showcase his genius. While both are criminals they are as different in characterization as the make-ups Chaney created for them. DARLING's "Stoop" Connors is a humorless street bully while VICTORY's Ricardo is a deadly killer with a sense of humor. Actress Seena Owen was in D.W. Griffith's INTOLERANCE three years before VICTORY and would be in Erich von Stroheim's QUEEN KELLY in 1928.
Alternating between the languid and the brutally violent, VICTORY is a forgotten masterpiece that deserves to be seen again. THE WICKED DARLING, while no masterpiece, gives us a glimpse of early Chaney and one of my favorite neglected silent performers, Priscilla Dean. It is also extremely well made on a meager budget. An excellent double feature which was put together by David Shepard of Film Preservation Associates and Blackhawk Films. The music score by Eric Beheim is reworked from cue sheets of the period and features several recognizable themes."
A definite treasure
nom-de-nick | United States | 02/09/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"For Chaney fans, it rarely gets better than something like this. Victory has, thankfully, been around for several years on VHS, but you had to look like crazy to find it. Great to have it in a more lasting format! Wicked was, as several have noted already, thought lost until recently. The quality is almost secondary; If you're really into Chaney, ANY newly discovered footage is a gift. Now if only Turner (they're in its library) or WB or someone would release the remainder of his existing films on DVD!
The best advice I can offer: as with all Chaney films, don't read about them first, just watch them. The man was a master."
An important addition for Lon Chaney fans especially
Barbara (Burkowsky) Underwood | Manly, NSW Australia | 01/29/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This very interesting Lon Chaney double feature gives us better insight into the development of Chaney's career of character roles which earned him the title "Man of a Thousand Faces". Although he only plays secondary roles in both these 1919 films, his portrayal of a menacing and vicious criminal in both parts is so striking and effective that he practically steals the show. According to the excellent notes inside this DVD, Chaney made an impressive 116 films in the years 1913 to 1919, but less than 20 of them are thought to still exist. One of those films believed lost is "The Wicked Darling", of which only one print has been found so far, which explains the rather poor picture quality, namely 'snowflakes' for the most part. Otherwise the picture is still good and clear, and no doubt Lon Chaney fans and silent film enthusiasts in general would overlook some imperfections when it comes to rare films previously believed lost. In this film, Priscilla Dean also impressed me with her portrayal of the 'gutter rose', a petty thief of the slums whose love for a decent man motivates her to change her life for the better - but not without opposition from fellow-thief Chaney, whose malicious attempts to interfere in her life cause further obstacles to overcome.
My favourite of the two films is "Victory" which has survived in perfect condition and shows Chaney as a hard-to-kill ruthless murderer on some exotic islands in the Dutch East Indies. The principle characters and story depict a man who tries to follow his father's philosophy of isolation and detachment from society and people, living alone on a deserted island, yet when it comes to a pretty young woman in distress his plans go astray. Yet it takes three rough and murderous treasure hunters (especially Chaney's character with superb make-up done by Chaney himself) to invade his island paradise and threaten the woman to make him realize what is really important in life. Both films are about an hour long and have a very good new musical score by Eric Beheim, and apart from being a treat for Lon Chaney fans, they both feature other good stars in leading roles with interesting stories which are well directed, making this DVD a nice addition to a silent film collection."
So-so features elevated by great star
Anyechka | Rensselaer, NY United States | 01/11/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"These two films from 1919 were made the year that Lon Chaney became a big star (though it wasn't until 1923 that he really became a *huge* star), although he only plays secondary roles in both of them. If it weren't for his presence, both of them would most likely be ordinary films, typical late Teens fare, but he manages to elevate them somewhat and make them more interesting, to the point where his characters are a lot more interesting than those of the supposed heroes.
'The Wicked Darling,' directed by the legendary Tod Browning (well-known for his taste for the macabre), features Lon as "Stoop" Connors, whose career as a bully and criminal is going pretty well until his girlfriend and partner in crime, Mary Stevens, "the Gutter Rose," ends up falling for one of their victims, Kent Mortimer. Adele Hoyt, who just broke her engagement with Kent, has her pearls stolen by Mary, who hides in Kent's house as she's running from the police. Perhaps a bit unrealistically, after Kent finds her and talks to her (unknowing she's the thief), she instantly decides to give up her life of crime and to reform herself, wanting to prove herself worthy of his love and respect. She gets a job in a restaurant and eventually becomes Kent's girlfriend. All seems to be going very well until Stoop gets antsy about getting those valuable pearls (and Mary) back, and begins making life very hard for the two of them in his attempts to take down Kent and draw Mary back into a life of crime and ill repute. Though the main characters aren't as well-developed as I would have hoped for (in particular Kent, who seems kind of dull), and there are some gaps in the plot, I found this film the better of the two. Most feature films from 1919 weren't on the same level as they were even a few short years later, since the movies were still maturing and developing at this time, moving toward a more complex artform.
'Victory' tells the story of Axel Heyst, who has found happiness and fulfillment in living on a desert island, with only one servant and a kitten for company. However, when he goes back to the mainland to close up his affairs there, he meets Alma, a mistreated young woman who works in a musical revue. Although he feels above romance and isn't in love with Alma, he nevertheless takes her back to his island so she can escape from her boss and his wife. Shortly afterward, three strange men (Mr. Jones, Pedro, and Ricardo) show up, and are sent off to Heyst's island, which they are falsely led to believe has buried treasure on it. They don't know yet that they have really been sent there to get revenge on Heyst for having taken Alma. Lon plays Ricardo, one of these mysterious villains, and once again is a much more interesting character than either the bland leading man or the barely-less-bland leading lady. With the presence of these sinister strangers on his island, threatening his life and his woman, Heyst starts to overcome his former disgust for romance and fighting, and to become less passive and more active. I didn't find this film quite as fulfilling and enjoyable as 'The Wicked Darling,' partly because the plot seems to unfold too quickly, with not a lot of believable development in between some crucial events.
Overall, this isn't a disc that would interest someone just getting into silents in general or Chaney's work in particular, but for those who are better-versed in the subject matter, it's worth a look, both to see what types of films were being made in the late Teens and some of the surviving examples of Lon's earlier work, before he had made it to a top-billed star."