Great! Much More Than 'Tolerable'!
Colin Paterson | Chicago, IL | 03/12/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Watching this film is an amazing experience -- something like a great mixture of looking through the personal scrapbook of someone from a bygone era, hearing a wonderful legend retold, and feeling your own visceral emotions fired with electricity.In making the film, the characterizations and plot were designed in such a way that they are familiar but also unique. The story defies some of what have come to be conventions (stereotypes) for supporting roles. And, it betrays what have always been simpler expectations for a story with a happy ending. While there is sorrow and loss in modern film and earlier film, here they are portrayed without the often contingent silver-linings. Bad things happen in this film...and we are not given the immediate sense that all will be right in the end.The title role is filled admirably by Richard Barthelmess. He did fine work here -- no wonder it led to his making as a star. But for me, the film was made by the principal heavy -- played by Ernest Torrence. What a creep he managed to portray -- a villain with a completely perverted moral sense. And Torrence held nothing back in his postures and expressions. He had this character nailed. A stunning performance.Director Henry King did marvelous work with this villain and all of the film's elements. Portraying an idyllic rural atmosphere which is soon troubled by the arrival of lawlessness (Torrence and two other actors who play the nefarious Hatburn family), he demonstrates an ability to frame a scene with great visual appeal. He also manages to be economical in a sense -- one camera angle captures the majority of a scene's action and this is supplemented by occasional close-up reaction shots. His camera positioning is expert in this. We are given the best angle -- not several lesser angles from which to view.I could not leave out mention of the charming Gladys Hulette who played the sweet romantic lead in this film. As the young girl, Esther, who is a neighbor to David and his family, she gave an incomparable performance. This role called for her to do much more than bat her eyelashes at the camera and she accomplished it with skill.So, yes, this film does end happily...but I'll say no more. It is the sort of film which should be appreciated as something other than a relic from the cinema's past. It is a postcard from an earlier day -- the message isn't as simple as "wish you were here" though. It has much more to tell us than that!"
A Silent David and Goliath
Mr Peter G George | Ellon, Aberdeenshire United Kingdom | 02/22/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Tol'able David is one of the finest silent films which I have seen. It seems more realistic than many silents. This is partly because of the location shooting, partly because the story is neither overly melodramatic nor comic. Barthelmess as the David character gives a wonderful performance while Torrance as the Goliath character is only just a little over the top in his villainy. He was perhaps more suited to the comic monster type of his later Captain Hook. The real revelation though, is Hulette. She is almost completely forgotten now, but clearly had great talent. Her performance is realistic and charming. She is quite simply adorable. The print on this DVD has been formed from separate sources. Thus it looks slightly different from scene to scene. There is some damage, but it rarely detracts. It is however, slightly distracting to see variations in the tinting. It is inconsistent to have one green scene when the rest of the movie uses greys and browns. One of the best features of this DVD is the music, which is a series of wonderful folksy tunes which fit in so well with the action that even David's harmonica playing is included. As an added bonus the DVD includes an interesting interview with director Henry King and some useful, extensive sleeve notes. Tol'able David is not as well known as many silent films, but really it ought to be considered as among the very best."
scotsladdie | 05/20/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Widely considered one of the finest early U.S. action films. Under Harry King's stellar direction, it quickly and quietly becomes a mesmorizing film; it's like watching an antique photo album/scrapbook come to life! David's older brother is killed by the notorious Hatburns, and ironically, the girl he loves is one herself! As the honest, non-violent postal worker, David shows everyone he's no coward, and everything comes out in the wash at the end. I just watched this little flick at the home of my video store-owner friend and I was impressed by this essentially timeless slice of rural Americana which was directed by Henry King (long considered his masterwork). The film contains one of the greatest fight scenes recorded on film, and it's nothing short of revelation watching Torrence as Luke Hatburn, who delivers perhaps the greatest interpretation of villainy in the history of the cinema!"
Much of the same scenery in the film still exists today.
firstname.lastname@example.org | Richmond VA | 07/09/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It may be of interest to film history buffs to know that much of the scenery and buildings in this film still exist today in rural Highland County, VA where the film was shot.It is a credit to the director that he brought a cast and crew so far into the wilderness and captured an authentic backdrop for an accurate depiction of pre-automobile America."