16 June 2016 | DLewis
Blind! Blind! Blind!
Richard Bransby (Charles A. Stevenson) heads a successful firm where he employs both Hugh Brook (Robert Barrat) and Stephen Pryde (Philip Merivale) in its South African division; Brook is a former soldier who is the apple of the eye of Bransby's daughter, Helen (Lucy Cotton). Pryde, however, is jealous of Brook, and also desires to win Helen's hand; moreover he is embezzling the company of thousands of dollars and doctoring the books to make it look as though Brook - - a known gambler -- is the culprit. One night, it all comes out, and Brook gallantly breaks his engagement with Helen and pledges that he will not return until he clears his name. Bransby is on to Pryde, though, and forces him to sign a confession to his dirty deeds. However, it all proves a bit too much for the aging industrialist, who expires that evening, leaving the confession in a book which is duly shelved away. Lucy is skeptical about the paranormal, and yet finds herself receptive to what seems to be posthumous messages from her father, reaching out to her from the beyond. After a year or so, and during a time when Pryde is pressuring Helen into what will surely be a loveless marriage, all of the principals converge at the house. Helen and Pryde are both interested in finding the book, but neither of them can remember which one it was. Based on a play which was moderately popular in its time, "Whispering Shadows" sounds much more interesting than it actually is. It is not a horror film, but sort of a supernatural mystery story with no detective afoot. Merivale looks like a young David Letterman who never smiles and has a square head; some of his anxious expressions as his fortunes flag here and there are comical, and are not meant to be. Cotton is attractive in the same way that Francelia Billington was, and while one realizes that in some scenes she is supposed to be in some kind of a supernatural trance, a fair amount of it just seems like bad acting. The search for the book is interminably long, to the extent that one wants to stand up, point to the bookcase, and say, "It's THAT one!" It is, nevertheless, a very early film about the paranormal, and the audience I saw it with was patient with it and seemed to thoroughly enjoy it. "Whispering Shadows" is a very rare movie; it survives in a single 28 mm print at the Library of Congress, and was hardly shown at all upon its first release. It also marked the final screen appearance for Lucy Cotton.