Great intro to a different cinematic world
darren_edwards | Kings Cross, NSW Australia | 05/28/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"If you're not used to silent movies they can be a lot of hard work. I've spent a lot of time watching silent comedies (mainly Keaton, Harold Lloyd and L&H) but Stella Maris was my first drama.One Sunday afternoon I put it in the DVD and tied my wife to the chair to watch it with me...no problem. Within minutes we were both mesmerized and 84 minutes later had experienced a truly wonderful film.I'd read about Mary Pickford, but never seen her and really only bought this out of interest because I was reading Samuel Goldwyn's biography at the time.The end result? An good, solid introduction to silent drama and Ms. Pickford and a good quality DVD to boot. Nicely restored with an understated soundtrack.As a bonus there's some nice home movie stuff and news reels of Pickford at the height of her fame."
PICKFORD'S FINEST PERFORMANCE?
scotsladdie | 11/11/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Confined to bed by a crippling illness, Stella Maris (Pickford) is sheltered to the point that all bad news is kept from her: she looks out on peaceful scenes and is visited by pets, children and a handsome journalist named John Risca (Conway Tearle). Risca's wife, Louise, is a drug addicted alcoholic who adopts a homely orphan named Unity Blake (also Pickford)..... This film is undoubtedly a classic. It could be regarded as a sincere and successful attempt to break through the shackles of melodrama. The fact that it was made in 1917 (it was released in January, 1918) is a tribute to everyone associated with it. The scenerio is intelligent, and although the picture has too many titles, they are all worthwhile. For years, the only surviving print had been a wretched 16mm dupe in which nearly all the quality of Walter Strandling's photography was lost. Fortunately, the Mary Pickford Foundation has restored the film from 35mm materials, and one can now be stunned by ravishing close-ups of Stella Maris, contrasting with the pathetic, distorted face of Unity Blake. Marshall Neilan's direction is of a high order, and although Marcia Manon overplays the role of Louise Risca, all the other parts area acted realistically. Supposedly, in a review from MOVIE WEEKLY, an exhibtor remarked - arriving too late to view the opening titles - "Mary Pickford's great, but she'd better watch out for the one who plays the slavey" (!)."
The Greatest Silent Star In Her Greatest Roles
Mr Peter G George | Ellon, Aberdeenshire United Kingdom | 03/04/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Mary Pickford was not the most beautiful silent film star, but it is perhaps this fact which enables her to portray her two roles in Stella Maris so well. Her looks were somewhat unconventional. It is something else again, something indefinable which enables her to draw the viewer towards her. This film shows that she had acting ability in abundance, but by itself her acting ability cannot explain why it was that Pickford was the greatest silent star, perhaps even the greatest star who ever lived. She was a phenomenon. This DVD contains, as supplementary material, some newsreels of her selling war bonds. Pickford was the greatest draw for the crowds, greater than Fairbanks, greater even than Chaplin.Stella Maris is one of the best introductions to Pickford's films not least because the viewer gets two Marys for the price of one. Her dual role of Stella Maris, a poor little rich girl, and Unity Blake, a Cockney orphan, is astonishing not because they appear on screen together (after all we get a whole cast of Buster Keatons in The Playhouse), but because they look so unalike. Stella Maris is the familiar Pickford persona, the young `girl with the curls'; Unity Blake is something altogether different. A title proclaims that she is Mary Pickford, but otherwise it would be easier to believe she were someone else entirely. Here is an unfamiliar Pickford, without a hint of sweetness. In the end, it is as if she has stepped out of a German expressionist horror story. We are left with an image of her eyes surrounded by shadows, which is more Murnau or Lang than Marshall Neilan. No wonder contemporary audiences found this film difficult. Today it looks like Mary Pickford's best. The picture quality of this DVD is almost perfect. The colour tinting is muted and adds immeasurably to the atmosphere. The score has some fine themes and adds to the action without overpowering it. Everyone who is a fan of silent cinema should have some Mary Pickford films and Milestone should be congratulated for their wonderful collection. It is only to be hoped that they bring out some more soon."
Pickford double role is dark and psychological.
Astrid Morgan | Lilydale, Victoria Australia | 02/18/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Mary Pickford's skillful acting is highly evident in this exceptional film. She portrays two characters which are complete opposites. Stella is the beautiful bedridden cripple and Unity Blake is the ugly duckling of an orphanage.
The character Unity gives Pickford her meatier role, requiring her to take on the villain and be harrassed and beaten. In fact, Unity steals the show. She is a character of such depth that we long to watch her next move, in contrast to the Stella character, whose indisposition, naivety and sheltered existence render her incapable of much action.
No doubt the audience of the period, the unwavering Pickford fans, desired to glimpse the 'girl with the curls' and to this end the Stella character has a function beyond vying for the same man loved by Unity.
The villain in the film is Louise Risca who is a violent alcoholic who gains satisfaction by making others feel pain and unhappiness. Her end is satisfying to the audience because her dark hold on others is broken.A sense of relief is evident in the film.
The film comments on the theory that some characters are more expendable than others. It forces the audience to confront its own values when we do not feel a sense of loss when some characters achieve happiness through the sacrificial actions of another.
'Stella Maris' could equally have been called 'Unity Blake' due to the pivotal nature of the role played by her character.In many ways it is her film and it is her involvement which leaves a lasting effect in our memories.
A film which explores the psychology of its characters, 'Stella Maris', is well worth viewing."