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Mediocre crime melodrama with Valentino as a hood.

Author: Arne Andersen ( from Putney, VT
11 September 2001

Valentino plays a hood in this crime melodrama of 1920. It's pretty mediocre and creaky and more than a little unbelievable but Valentino, sporting a moustache and looking like an elegant Robert Armstrong, proves his mettle as a character actor. The plot: Eugene O'Brien plays a dual role as a gangster trying to go straight after a jail sentence and a visiting English Lord. Due to a series of mistaken identities, the gangster who is a lookalike for the Lord, winds up impersonating him while the gang has kidnapped the real Lord, hoping to hold him for ransom. There are some excellent special effects with O'Brien playing to himself and even one nifty one where he actually removes a blindfold from "himself" and puts it in his pocket. This is of interest mainly due to Valentino's presence, proving his acting talent beyond matinee idoldom. The print used for Videobrary's video transfer is quite poor, very dark and grainy, but at least it's available for Valentino fans. Videobrary does NOT list this film on their website but they DO have it. Just inquire.

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Valentino's part is tiny; O'Brien takes all the screen time.

Author: F Gwynplaine MacIntyre from Minffordd, North Wales
17 August 2008

'The Wonderful Chance' is even worse than my IMDb colleague Arne Andersen has made it seem. I know from off-site conversations with Arne that he's a major Valentino fan; unfortunately, he perceives this as a Valentino movie, when in fact Rudy has very much a supporting role. Also, Arne too kindly describes the plot of this film as 'absurdist' (as in Ionesco or Pirandello) when in fact it's merely absurd (as in stupid).

Semi-handsome Eugene O'Brien plays a hard-boiled yegg named Swagger Barlow: a safe-cracker who's just gone on the out after a long stretch inside. Barlow has discovered that he's (very conveniently) the exact double of Lord Birmingham, an English peer. (Lord Birmingham is from a wealthy blue-blood family, but evidently they couldn't afford to buy him a forename: he's just Lord Birmingham, in the same spirit as Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Earl Hines. Barlow doesn't seem to have a forename either; maybe they're twins, separated at birth.) Just when we've recovered from that first coincidence, here comes a bigger one. Lord Birmingham is kidnapped ... so Barlow steps into the breach and the breeches. The safe-cracker moves into the Ritz (a Ritz cracker?) and he is straight away accepted as the English peer.

This premise is just vaguely plausible in a silent film, since we're spared the ordeal of hearing a Yank actor attempting a cut-glass English accent. O'Brien merely speaks his lines as needed, and most of the audience probably don't even think about his accent. (In 1920, most American film-goers had likely never heard an English accent: I know that the converse was true.) Still, I couldn't accept that a working-class American, raised in poverty or the lower classes, would be an exact double of an Englishman raised in privilege since birth. I'll rate this mess 4 out of 10, mostly for its sheer audacity.

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Valentino as racketeer in absurdist plot.

Author: Arne Andersen ( from Putney, VT
17 January 2002

Valentino was typically cast as heavies in his early films and here he plays a gangster who plans to kidnap a visiting dignitary and hold him for ransom. His plot is foiled when a lookalike is mistaken for the kidnapped man. Valentino is capable but in no way extraordinary and the film itself is so far fetched as to lose credibility. My earlier review mentioned it was not in the Videobrary online listing and its not - you have to hunt for it, their links are not always helpful. The print here is in terrible shape and considering the inconsequential plotting, acting and production details (the pits), it's worth considering only if you are a Valentino fan. Typical of the dross of silent drama.

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Valentino film survives due to Selznick name.

Author: Arne Andersen ( from Putney, VT
22 June 2001

Valentino's film work for 1920 (six films) only half survives. This is one of the films that does exist, probably due to Selznick's preservation. Prints exist at NYC's Museum of Modern Art and at the George Eastman house, the latter in 16 mm. It was also announced as being available at one time on video from Videobrary, but it is no longer listed in their catalogue.

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