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Nigel De Brulier
Although it starts off seemingly on the wrong foot with one of my favorite heroes, Richard Barthelmess, forced to take part in some embarrassingly farcical scenes with a rain barrel, the movie soon settles down into high drama once the Hatburns come to roost at a neighboring farm. A vicious threesome, ostensibly led by Walter P. Lewis, the Hatburns are in fact dominated by a towering sadist, unforgettably played by hulking Ernest Torrence.
Although director Henry King does a lot of admirable scene setting with both his well-chosen locations and his hand-picked cast, this is a movie in which the minor players are just that: Minor! All play their parts most convincingly, but only Marion Abbott makes a lasting impression. Otherwise, this is strictly (as the script itself makes plain), a David versus Goliath confrontation. Even the sweet little heroine is relegated to the background once the action really starts. But that is all to the good, as that climactic fight-to-the-finish still packs a wallop that is unmatched in the cinema.
The above review, as published in my book, "Silent Films & Early Talkies on DVD", was based on the 94 minutes Image DVD version. I have just seen the 99-minute Grapevine version which is superior in a number of respects. For one thing, it throws more attention on Gladys Hulette who really comes to the fore in the beautifully tinted and toned dance sequence, which Image presents far less attractively in a faded, dull-as-ditch-water tint. And I must admit I greatly prefer the superbly synchronized canned music in the Grapevine disc to Robert Israel's adequate but by no mens riveting original score for Image.
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