Unimpressive Narrative and Impressive Film Technique
The story (generic social commentary, in addition to carelessly dubious plot lines) and acting (lots of posturing) are unimpressive, but Maurice Tourneur was one of the best directors of his day--here, especially evidenced by some of the cinematography. This website doesn't list the cinematographer of this film, but I suppose it was John van den Broek, who was Tourneur's usual cinematographer until Broek drowned in 1918. The heist scene contains symbolic shots of the criminals through barred windows and overhead shots of them breaking into a bank. The ceiling is absent in the set--rather than the usual problematic missing walls.
I appreciate the variations of lighting and tinting, too, including tinting changes for lights switched off and on. Some moments of humor alleviate from the dull story, such as by the supporting character Red, or a shot of a girl and her dolls praying. The editing is choppy at times, though, which is not unusual for when editors just held the negative to a light and used some guesswork on where to cut. Additionally, it's a bit condescending to place quotation marks around slang in the intertitles. Nevertheless, I'm thankful that some of Tourneur's films--this one lost until 1989--survive for me to see that D.W. Griffith wasn't a complete anomaly of innovation.
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