This film concerns a fiendish attempt by an ageing writer to manipulate a young couple into tragedy in order to provide the material for his last "masterwork". As the young man concerned is himself a writer and ends up writing the book, it is quite a strong story even if the plot as written is highly improbable. It owes something to George Du Maurier's late Victorian classic Trilby which had been filmed several times but most recently (1915) by Maurice Tourneur. It also provides an opportunity for Montagu Love to play a double role (as both hero and villain) although the doubling is not in the least necessitated or indicated by the plot.
Appearing in 1919, however, it provides a useful yardstick for comparing the US film output at this time with the strongly emergent and more innovative German film industry. This film absolutely cries out for a more "expressionistic" treatment and one can very easily imagine how it might have been made by one of the German directors then coming to prominence. Here however we have the US filming style (heavily backlit, conventional continuity editing) that had become standard and was a template for producing mediocre films, and the plot is treated simply as old-fashioned melodrama. As the hunchbacked villain, Love gives a performance somewhere in between Fred Sterling in a Keystone Comedy and Tod Slaughter in the revived melodramas that were already popular on the London stage (the films appeared in the thirties). This melodrama style would later strongly influence the post-Whale style of the Universal "horrors" but, in between, the German film industry developed a far more interesting approach to a genre more normally referred to in Europe as the fantastique (or fantastisch).
Unfortunately the file on the EYE site seems to be damaged and the last few moments of the film (where the book is burnt) are missing.
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