|Index||2 reviews in total|
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
No classic play, poem or novel was safe from the grasping hands of the
early film pioneers in their efforts to find elevating, uplifting
stories. Thanhouser made their fair share with "The Mill on the Floss",
"Aurora Floyd" etc and "Cymbeline" was a pretty noteworthy attempt to
retell Shakespeare's complicated play about the Britains and the Romans
encapsulated into 2 reels.
Once again beautiful Florence La Badie is the heroine, the lovely Imogen who secretly marries her love Leonatus (James Cruze) because her evil stepmother is threatening to marry her off to a man she does not love. Leonatus, in turn, is banished to Rome but his boasts of Imogen's fidelity and beauty has a professed friend sneaking to the court to see if he can secretly woo her away from the bragging husband. He steals her bracelet when she is asleep and shows it to Leonatus as proof of Imogen's faithlessness - so of course the incensed husband plots revenge. He lures her to a craggy coastline where he has ordered his servant to murder her but in the true "Snow White" tradition the servant lets her go and, disguised as a boy, she takes shelter in a woodsman's hut where she fails to recognise her long lost brothers!!
When Rome invades Britain she is captured and becomes the Roman general's page - Leonatus has meanwhile joined the Britain army. The battle scenes are not up to much it is true, it looks like the entire Thanhouser stock company is used (which looks to be about 30) but on the plus side the costumes are wonderfully authentic.
This adaptation of Shakespeare's play is certainly dated, but it's not
bad (except for one part) for a two-reeler from 1913. The plot of the
play is rendered well enough and is self-containedit requires no
familiarity with the original source. Some tableau-style relics were
still relied upon, such as the title cards that explain the action
before we see it, but there's some scene dissection. Additionally,
there are a good number of close-ups and, in general, the camera
recorded from rather intimate positions. It's stagy, however, and the
camera positions, settings and busy extras in the background create
confined, cramped spaces, which, unfortunately, were common of
Thanhouser productions at the time. (The studio's 1912 "Nicholas
Nickleby" is even worse in that respect.) The filmmakers at least
attempted some nice lighting effects for the bedchamber scene where
Iachimo steals Imogen's bracelet; as a result, it's the standout
sequence of the film.
On the other hand, this "Cymbeline" also features one of the most pathetic battle scenes I've ever seen captured on nitrate. A clash between the Roman army and British forces is portrayed by maybe a dozen performers who can't pretend to fight at all. Sure, this was 1913 but that's no excuse; see Griffith's battle sequence in "The Battle at Elderbush Gulch" or the Inceville Indian wars in "Custer's Last Fight" and "The Invaders". Or, the filmmakers could've done more to avoid staging the battle, which others did at this stage of the young cinema.
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