15 September 2010 | Michael_Elliott
Weak Ending Hurts Film
Secret Game, The (1917)
** 1/2 (out of 4)
Entertaining WW1 propaganda about a Japanese secret service agent (Sessue Hayakawa) who is trying to track down a German (Charles Ogle) who is pretending to be an American and sending back info to his home country. The agent soon finds a young woman (Florence Vidor) who is unknowingly friends with the spy and needs her to help bring him down. This film runs a very quick 67-minutes and I think you'll enjoy the film a lot more if your DVD player shuts down after one hour. The reason I say this is that we've got a fairly good spy flick when out of no where it turns into some over-the-top melodrama that includes a few twists in the story that are downright silly, stupid and rather insulting if you really think about it. Even for 1917 I'm not sure why the screenwriters felt they needed to throw these twists in at the end but they don't work and they really hurt what the film had going for it. I think some more flaws include how stupid the majority of the Americans are in this film even when it's obvious what the bad guys are doing. I'm guessing you could argue this was DeMille's way of telling people to keep their eyes open and not disregard the obvious but the film doesn't play it like this. I think the best thing the film has going for it is the very impressive cast with Hayakawa leading the way. During this period he was without question one of the most popular stars out there thanks in large part to films like Cecil B. DeMille's THE CHEAT but once again he turns in a very strong performance even if his character is the main one effected by the ending. Vidor also does a nice job as the American girl not knowing how much danger she's in and we have Jack Holt adding some fun as another agent. Raymond Hatton has a brief role and Ogle, best remembered today for his 1910 FRANKENSTEIN, is effective as well. The "other" DeMille does a pretty good job with his direction but the screenplay really messes things up for everyone. The brother Cecil served as "Director General" but it's a shame he didn't do something with the ending.