24 April 2017 | AlsExGal
A mystery dressed up as a horror film
Essentially this is part "Cat and the Canary" and part "Phantom of the Opera" - also silent Universal properties. It has some slack parts but the visual atmosphere helps to cover them up, and it has some very inventive title cards where the writing may be initially blurry and come into focus, or the writing may start up clear and then appear to melt down the page, or it may appear to be underwater.
The film is about an actor, John Woodford, in a theatre on Broadway, who dies suddenly when he gets to the part of the play where he is backed into the fireplace by another actor and picks up a candlestick. The lights go out, and when they come back on there is Woodford dead on the floor. The police come to question everybody who was present, then Woodford's body disappears before the coroner gets there. It is discovered by the police that Woodford and another actor, Richard Quayle (John Boles) were arguing in actress Doris Terry's (Laura LaPlante's) dressing room, and both were suitors of hers.
So without a body, the investigation cannot go on, the theatre is closed, and the papers are shown having a field day with the "love triangle" that is insinuated to have something to do with the killing. Several years later, Woodford's close friend (Montagu Love as Arthur McHugh) decides to reopen the theatre with the same cast as the night of the killing and the same play. Why does the entire cast return? Because to not return would make them look guilty.
But somebody does not want the play to open. Heavy scenery comes crashing down. Smoke bombs go off. Threatening letters are written to members of the cast that they perform at their peril, and some mysterious masked figure is running and jumping about the place and even stealing Doris' purse and putting her personal possessions in strategic places to make her look like she is in on all of the strange happenings. Is it the ghost of John Woodford trying to avenge himself? Well of course not. But it might be the real John Woodford, having faked his own death, and still mad at Boles and LaPlante for his romantic rejection. Watch and find out what is behind all of this.
The visuals are just great here. The opening scene reminds me somewhat of 1929's Broadway with all of the pictures of the Broadway nightlife of 1929. Also, the theatre, from the outside, looks like the face of some frightening creature complete with eyes, a nose, and mouth. I just wish better prints were available.