Farnum and Santschi had originally choreographed the fight with the director as Farnum was scheduled for two pictures at Paramount immediately thereafter. According to the actor he told Santschi, "Go easy, Tom. I've got to be pretty next week." Farnum misjudged Santschi's first swing and it caught him flush in his nose, breaking it. According to Farnum's own words, "I'm ashamed to say that I thought he'd hit me hard on purpose, so I waited for an opening. Then I let him have it. After that we were both punch drunk. The people on the sidelines - those were silent pictures remember - yelled 'Stop them! They're killing one another.' He caught me over the left eye, and I spurted blood like a stuck pig. I leaped at him, and he bent double, but he straightened up. He was a big man, and I landed twelve feet away. Dear old Tom! We got to be great friends afterward. We smashed a bookcase - I found myself inside with Tom on top of me, and then it went over - it should have killed us. I've never been quite the same man since that fight. Besides the broken nose. I had two bent ribs and a crushed sinus in my cheek that gave me dizzy spells for years. At the end I got a good shoulder lock on Tom, and I bent him back and back and back until I heard him groan, 'For God's sake, Bill!' Then I had enough sense to let go. When it was over, messy and bloody as we were, Tom and I went to a Turkish bath and stayed for three days." See more »
At the top of the comments page is a request: if you've seen this title, please write a review for others. But there is so much to explain about this movie before a useful comment can be made, that it becomes a meaningful problem.
First and foremost, this is a silent picture in black and white. This means that, at the time I write this review, perhaps one person in ten thousand would be willing to see it at all. The prejudice against black and white movies is, I feel, foolish, but silent movies pose an even greater problem to the modern moviegoer. As brilliant as they may be, it is usually only the great comedies that make any sense to modern moviegoers. Silent movies are rewarding, yes, but they are not meant for the passive moviegoer who sits down and says "Entertain me!" You must pay attention. You must understand that you are dealing with a society that is long gone. Are there a hundred people alive in 2005 who saw this movie ninety-one years ago?
The last and foremost problem is that this is not a movie such as you are used to, a series of pictures that tell a story with occasional titles to convey dialogue or scene-setting. No, the titles tell the story and the movie illustrates it. This movie-making technique was dying out when this movie was made.
If you are willing to put in the work to look at this movie, here are some of the things you might wish to look for.
First, the prints available seem to be in good shape, but there seem to be issues with the continuity. Perhaps someone went back and edited the movie to make it shorter, and did a bad job. Perhaps when this print was assembled, there were technical issues with the cutting continuity. The acting is primitive, even by the standards of the era.
Despite those issues, the movie was such a success that it made its lead, William Farnum, a major star and made its production company, the Selig Polyscope, a lot of money -- always an important issue for commercial art. The good points of this movie are that it is much more complicated than later versions of this often-filmed movie. It hints at the complexity and philosophic issues of the Rex Beach novel it is based on. True, this makes characters appear out of nowhere and vanish just as suddenly, but such issues are not restricted to movies more than ninety years old.
It also has some beautiful cinematography, particularly the early, ship-bound sequences which seem to have been filmed on actual ships of the era. And once the action gets going, it gets moving fast, with explosions and fistfights aplenty.
So, is this movie worth your time? I'm afraid you'll have to look at it and tell me.
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