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The Toll Gate/His Bitter Pill
The Toll Gate/His Bitter Pill
Actors: Mack Swain, William S. Hart, Anna Q. Nilsson, Louella Maxam, Ella Haines
Directors: Fred Hibbard, Lambert Hillyer, Mack Sennett
Genres: Westerns, Classics, Comedy
NR     1999     1hr 33min

In "The Toll Gate" (1920, 73 min.), William S. Hart stars as Black Deering, a gunfighter and outlaw who, upon escaping from the authorities, flees into the wilderness. Hiding in the cabin of an abandoned woman and her youn...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Mack Swain, William S. Hart, Anna Q. Nilsson, Louella Maxam, Ella Haines
Directors: Fred Hibbard, Lambert Hillyer, Mack Sennett
Creators: William S. Hart, J.R. Lockwood, Lambert Hillyer, Mack Sennett
Genres: Westerns, Classics, Comedy
Sub-Genres: Westerns, Silent Films, Comedy
Studio: Image Entertainment
Format: DVD - Black and White
DVD Release Date: 04/20/1999
Original Release Date: 04/30/1916
Theatrical Release Date: 04/30/1916
Release Year: 1999
Run Time: 1hr 33min
Screens: Black and White
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 1
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

A Wonderful Western!
Barbara (Burkowsky) Underwood | Manly, NSW Australia | 06/13/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Although I've never been a fan of Westerns, I'm glad I decided to get this great DVD because when it comes right down to it, the story and its message are what counts, regardless of the genre. I thoroughly enjoyed "The Toll Gate" for it's theme of the outlaw who isn't all that bad after all, tries to prove it and reaps the rewards. Right from the start, you already feel sympathetic towards the leader of the outlaw gang, and there's considerable suspense as the story unfolds, making you want to cheer him on to a happy outcome. It's a good storyline and it is presented quite well, but it's a shame that some parts of the film, notably the last 10-15 minutes are in rather bad condition. Still, if you focus on the excitement of that part you can almost overlook it and still thoroughly enjoy the entire film with its morale and message at the end.
The 20-minute parody "His Bitter Pill" is a nice way to finish one's viewing, having a simple but entertaining theme, so altogether I'd recommend this DVD, even to non-Western fans like me who would still enjoy a quality story in the silent film medium."
"They might call you Black Deering, but you're all white."
W. L. West | 05/27/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)

"A poetic and moralistic Western; True to the spirit of the West because it's told by those, most notably Hart, who knew it firsthand."
Loved the movie, but not the sound track
W. L. West | Santa Clarita, CA USA | 02/26/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)

"I can't add anything beyond what has been said about the movie. Bill Hart was a great actor for his time, and I really enjoy the few movies still available.

I was a little disappointed in the quality of the accompanying score... it sound rather like a synthesizer set to sound like an organ throughout the movie. I have heard other versions of this movie with orchestral soundtracks which are better. Also, the tinny synthesizer sound starts to grate after a while.

One other slight nit: I have a tough time seeing "His Bitter Pill" as a parody on Hart, like the packaging says. The main character is nothing like Hart in any way, and it seems that a parody should have some comparisons.

Nevertheless, the Bitter Pill movie is OK and the Hart movie is wonderful... I just wanted to toss in a couple small complaints."
Good silent Hart western
Steven Hellerstedt | 10/23/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)

"THE TOLL GATE - Engaging 1920 silent western starring William S Hart as hole-in-the-wall gang leader Black Deering, a good/bad-guy who wants to give up the outlaw life but who, against his better judgment, allows the gang to talk him into one last heist. That decision leads to capture, escape, and multiply chases as the hunted Deering is, in turn, chasing his treacherous former first lieutenant. Things change radically when Black Deering meets an abandoned prairie wife and her young son.

If you're like me and think Hart's movies are, like Gene Autry and Roy Rogers westerns, geared toward the adolescent set, rethink it. THE TOLL GATE is dated - it's melodramatic, moralistic (By his fruit shall ye know, reads one title card) and a touch racist (Let me die like a white man, reads another card) - but it's also thoughtful and intelligent. Hart had an expressive, lean, weather-beaten face that was more than capable of carrying a movie. In fact, the only jarring note, a minor jar, occurred whenever Hart held his guns on some varmint. Since John Ford reinvented the western with `Stagecoach' movie cowboys have been aiming their six-shooters from hip height. Hart holds them at a point just above shoulder height, and leans into them so that he looks, in profile, bent like a question mark. Anyway, I laughed the first time I saw it, but on reflection it's not a totally ridiculous pose. Bobbing your head like that decreases the size of the target you present, even if it does make you look a little myopic.

The movie's good and worth the investment of a western movie fan's time, but the print is in less than pristine condition. Some scenes are washed out, some muddy - the typical stuff you'd expect from a 90-year-old silent movie.

HIS BITTER PILL - The second feature on this disk is this Mack Sennett two-reeler (20 mins.)
Mack Swain plays the `Big Hearted Sheriff' who loses his girl to an unrecognizably young Edgar `Slow Burn' Kennedy, `His Rival.' The disk bills this 1916 release as a parody of William Hart westerns, but it bears little relation to the big movie on this disk. Swain loves Louella Maxam, Kennedy tries to steal her away. I'm familiar with Swain as the portly heavy in some Charlie Chaplin movies. Swain is probably best remembered as Big Jim McKay in Chaplin's `The Gold Rush.' More interesting than laugh inducing.