26 January 2008 | mukava991
superior acting by Evelyn Brent
Evelyn Brent was a marvelous and smolderingly beautiful actress of the silent screen who made a staggering number of films from 1915 to the 1940s. This film is worth seeing for her alone. Her performance as a small town vamp holds up completely by 21st century standards and that's not common. James Cruze has a good reputation and it's easy to see why from this film. The action moves briskly, scenes do not linger unnecessarily but only when emphasis is needed. Intimate moments are handled skillfully and believably. Set pieces are convincing. Here is a movie where someone scrubs a floor and really does the kind of work you have to do to scrub a floor, though I was a bit surprised to see Renee Adoree sloshing the entire contents of a water basin directly onto the linoleum during the rinse phase. It really annoyed me that she became distracted and let the puddle (or lake, really) remain and if I had been Thomas Meighan's character I would have been much more upset than he seemed to be. Meighan seems a bit wooden and but I think he was trying to play a simple farming man with a tough exterior.
I am not the only one who noticed that the women's costumes and hair styles (not to mention the automobiles) were way too modern for the time period presented, 1919. Cloche hats did not make their appearance that soon after World War I. Another element that cannot be ignored are the palm trees in this town, which suggest that the action takes place in southern California, but when the Meighan character decides to find an off-the-boat immigrant to marry, he travels to Ellis Island, thousands of miles to the east, even though he is a struggling farmer. Then presto! He's back in Southern California with the newfound bride and her parents who look no worse for wear than if they had been trucked in from a neighboring county. To be fair, these jolting progressions seem to be standard fare in early films and are also used quite a bit in early talkies. But for us sophisticated 21st century viewers they do stretch credulity and get in the way of our serious involvement in the proceedings.
One strand of the plot involves a KKK-like organization called "The Order." But this is not the KKK we're all familiar with this group of hooded vigilantes rounds up local men who are perceived to be less than honorable to the town's womenfolk and whips them on posts until they repent and agree to behave in a more chivalrous manner! To contemporary audiences this comes across as a very funny joke.