A five-person team of gold prospectors in the Yukon has just begun to enjoy great success when one of the members snaps, and suddenly kills two of the others. The two survivors, a husband ... See full summary »
By the Law tells the tale of five people who have set up camp in the Yukon in hopes of finding gold. From the moment one of the gang— Dennin—finds gold, it is easy to tell that he is the outsider; one can quickly foreshadow that he is probably going to do something drastic later in the film. Indeed, soon enough—he does do something drastic: he comes in while others are eating and loses it—he takes his shotgun and shoots two of the five dead on the spot. The other two—husband and wife—are able to subdue him before he can do anything else. They are then left with a decision: do they wait until they can make it back to civilization to give him a trial, or do they take the law into their own hands and conduct the trial and sentencing themselves? This film doesn't have very many action scenes, but the one action scene—the scene where Dennin goes crazy and kills his fellow gold miners—is quite something. Kuleshov's use of montage seems to make the quick paced scene go even faster than it actually does. This one scene of action provides a lot of excitement for an otherwise dull movie. Another thing that stands out in the action scene is the way Kuleshov really focuses on the actors' faces. Their expressions add a whole different emotional effect that would not have otherwise been present. Another interesting part of this film is the fact that even a painting—Queen Victoria— can cause the Kuleshov effect to occur. During the trial Kuleshov flashes the camera back to her several different times and it seems almost as if her expression changes— even though it is very clear that as a painting it has not. Kuleshov does a great job using modernist techniques to give this story life.