No matter how good this silent movie is, it could never make up for the horribly tragic deaths of several extras due to an indifferent director and studio. When I saw the incredibly spectacular flood scenes, I couldn't help but think about this...as three died to make these scenes.
The film is not exactly a film about the flood. Like DeMille's first "Ten Commandments", the Biblical tale is only a small portion of the film--and much of the rest of the film is a heavy-handed contemporary story that only tangentially relates to the Bible. The bulk of the story is about WWI and the film compares this to the flood(!)--about how man's inhumanity that lead to the flood is the same as what lead to the war. And, like the promise of no more earth-covering floods, the film makers were bold enough to promise that with the end of WWI that there would be no wars!! They go so far as to say that the death of over 10,000,000 in the war was NOT in vain! Wishful thinking...especially in light of WWII and countless other wars since! On top of this, the WWI sequence is filled with one amazing one in a million occurrence after another--such as George O'Brien meeting his bestest buddy on the battlefield AND accidentally killing him only minutes later AND having the friend (Guinn Williams) die in his arms! The coincidences were too many to believe and are the result of bad writing--a problem through much of the film.
The film goes back and forth several times from the time of Noah to the present. It also throws in several Bible stories that occurred AFTER Noah--and I assume this is because the writers didn't do their homework. There are also one crazy spectacular scene after another--great to look at but poorly written as well, as much of it was just confusing hogwash.
A few things to look for (other than amazing special effects for 1928) are the idea of the same characters in WWI playing the sons of Noah and one of their wives. The most prominent of these women is played by Delores Costello--a huge silent star who became one of several wives for John Barrymore (and grandmother of Drew). Also, the scene where O'Brien looks up to Heaven as the rain falls is used on Turner Classic Movies' intro for Silent Sundays.
For the most part, the special effects are THE movie. The story itself is confusing, preachy and nonsensical at times. But, in a bizarre way it's all still very entertaining...but hardly a film for the general public. Christians may well object to the fast and loose way the film mixes up the Biblical account as well as creates a lot of back story for Noah's children--from where it got this, I have no idea. Atheists, on the other hand, probably won't like the film because of the whole notion of a world-wide flood and God. So, as a result, much of the potential audience for this film is negated in the process! Overall, confusing, weird yet pretty exciting at times.
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