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Lon Chaney, the "Man of a Thousand Faces," has but one face in this tepidly plotted melodrama about Raoul Challoner away from the woman he is to marry as she is being cruelly coerced into marriage by the landlord's son - seeing her aging and deathly father has not paid anything for the last two years. Add to the mix Lewis Stone, a Canadian Mountie who loves Nanette but she loves Raoul. Such is the premise behind Nomads of the North, and while not a wholly unsatisfying story - it is a certainly incredible one. Too much is asked of the audience to believe. Nonetheless, the timing and pace of the film oozes energy. Some of the cutesy moments with the bear and dog were entertaining(though does grow old quickly). Chaney wildly overacts and gives none of his customary pathos to this earlier role. He is pretty one-dimensional to be quite frank. Stone fairs much better actually having some range, and the female lead Betty Blythe is credible. There are some terrific action scenes culminating with the raging(real) fire in the woods that did indeed give Chaney, Blythe, and Stone real burns and landing them in the hospital for weeks. Those were the days of film-making when lives were deemed cheaply in order to make a good film. Nomads of the North is certainly not a great film but definitely is an entertaining film. Most people tracking it down today are doing so to be Chaney completists(guilty as charged) and would/should find this one of his most lackluster, weak portrayals.
This is definitely not one of his better films.
He is cast as the "hero", and a rather bland hero at that. It simply did not offer the incredibly talented Mr. Chaney enough "to do", so he chews the scenery through most of his scenes.
Point to note in this film, the stars were nearly killed in the big fire scene when their escape route was cut off. All three wound up in the hospital.
If you are a Chaney fan you will watch this and enjoy it regardless, but it will not be anyone's favorite Chaney film.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This film is included on a DVD which also includes another Lon Chaney
film, "The Shock". Both are very schmaltzy and old fashioned yet both
are also wonderfully entertaining. I think I was still able to give
this film a 9 in spite of its problems as, for 1920, it was an
excellent film and such excessive sentiment was quite normal--though by
today's standards it's quite old fashioned.
In some ways, this film plays a bit like an episode of "Dudley Dooright"--as it features the mustachioed baddie, a damsel in distress and the heroic Mountie--but it also features a lot more. The film takes place in the far reaches of Northern Canada. Betty Blythe plays a sweet woman named Nanette and she is relentlessly pursued by the cur, Buck (Francis McDonald). However, her heart is Raoul's (Lon Chaney) and she refuses Buck's obnoxious advances--waiting for the long-overdue Raoul to return. However, Buck devises a scheme--to both force Nanette's sickly father to accept his proposal or get off his land AND have a stranger tell Nanette that he saw Raoul die!!! Reluctantly, she agrees to the marriage but just as she's in the process of marrying Buck, Raoul returns and saves the day. But, Buck and his equally horrible father cannot accept defeat. What will happen next and why will the honorable Corporal of the Mounted Police (Lewis Stone) become involved? Tune in and see.
This film is a melodrama that plays a lot like a movie serial--as there are so many action scenes, twists and plot elements that it seemed like a much longer film! In addition to the plot above (that only accounts for the first half of the film) there are forest fires, jail breaks, a dog mauling a baddie, a pet bear and so much more! In fact, there is so much that the film lacks some realism--but it's also so entertaining and sweet that it's hard not to love the film in spite of this! Chaney was wonderful in a rare romantic lead, but everyone in the film was great--including the bear! See this one! By the way, there is one mistake in the film but perhaps this is because part of the film might be missing (something that DOES happen with films this old). What happened to the sickly father?! He was very important to the film but about midway through the movie he disappeared and no explanation was given for what happened to him! I assume he just died, but since nothing more was said, it did leave a HUGE dangling plot thread.
A film that is similar to "Valley of the Giants"(1919) and Universal's later "The Ice Flood"(1926). Lon Chaney doesn't appear in this movie until almost a quarter way in. This is one of the more pleasant silent 'north-country' films that has come down through the years from the silent era. The photographpy is absolutely sharp(in the print I viewed!) and the wonderful score Milestone put on the video is in tune with the action on the screen. these are how silent films are supposed to be presented. The animal sequences with the dog & bear cub are cute & winsome. There are several animals to be seen in this film ie a dog, a bear, puma-w/cubs, foxes, bees. The outdoor scenes are so well captured on film that you hardly remember the story comes from a written source, a novel by James Oliver Curwood. In addition to the scenery another pleasantry to the eye is Betty Blythe, one of the most beautiful women in silent pictures. She is eye candy extraordinaire and not afraid to get her hands dirty in the story. Chaney's French-Canadian trapper makeup is convincing though at times he looks like a Pony Express rider. Two Chaney film regulars appear in this film, Melbourne Macdowell(Outside the Law) and Spottiswood Aitken(The Wicked Darling). Lewis Stone shows up as a Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman and has nothing really to do but ogle beautiful Betty. Handsome Francis McDonald is the villain/foe of Chaney's character Raoul. A crony of McDonald's called "Marat" is played by one Gordon Mullen, an actor who bears a dead ringer resemblance to today's Jake Gyllenhaal. Enjoy this picture, a wonderful pleasing silent movie experience. Directed by David Hartford , released by First National Pictures.
This movie shouldn't be looked at for any redeeming social value or higher meaning. It's a rip-roaring melodrama that makes you cheer the good guys and boo the bad guys. Chaney overacts horribly (but deliciously) as Challoner and Stone is suitably stoic as the Mountie forced to track Chaney down. Macdonald is the man who tries to steal Blythe's virtue. It looks like they had a lot of fun making this one. They just don't make movies like this anymore: they either make the lampoon too obvious or take themselves too damned seriously.
Lon Chaney stars as the handsome hero in this one (was The Penalty the film that started him down the path of playing villains and monsters?). A fur trapper who was stuck up in northern Canada for a year longer than he had planned, he returns home, some 300 miles south, to find his fiancée (Betty Blythe) about to marry the villainous son (Melbourne MacDowell) of the man who runs the town. Chaney gets into a fight and kills a man, but escapes with the girl. A while later, MacDowell finds the couple settled in the wilderness and enlists an honorable Mountie (Lewis Stone, who would go on to co-star in Grand Hotel) to bring Chaney to justice. It's a pretty standard melodrama from this period, but it's entertaining. The forest fire climax is quite well done. There's a lot of emphasis on Chaney's pets, a dog and a bear. Near the beginning, they get separated from their master (tethered together - you expect them to die horribly), and even have dialogue with each other. It almost turns into a silent Homeward Bound for a while!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Hammy acting, mustache twirling villains, a damsel in distress, a super
nice hero, cuddly animal sidekicks, and MELODRAMA, MELODRAMA,
MELODRAMA. Yes, Nomads of the North (1920) is not a classic nor is it
an ideal film to show to a modern audience that already sneers at films
made before 1990. Leading man Lon Chaney isn't at his best either,
overacting wildly. The story involving a man framed for murder by the
villain after his girl is about complex as an episode of the weakest of
Saturday morning cartoons.
However, if you (like me) have a guilty pleasure for creaky melodrama and don't mind rampant silliness, then you might enjoy this one. Otherwise, only Chaney completionists will be interested.
This is one of those films made before Chaney became a great star and is, sadly, just another potboiler. Chaney himself overacts wildly and you might be forgiven for thinking this movie was made ten years earlier. Betty Blythe is no more than homely.Lewis Stone acts with dignity and is understated throughout, though scenes of him looking for Chaney are too obviously posed, a little like the much mocked "catalogue" pose. Greatest credit goes to Brimstone and Neewa who consistently maintain their standards throughout the film. There is a rather feeble use of miniatures in the storm at night scene, but the great forest fire is obviously genuine and there are some wonderful shots of the northern landscape which, on my copy, are backed by a fairly suitable classical track-it may be Tchaikovsky, but I'm not certain.
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