'Bertha, the Sewing-Machine Girl' is as dated and awkward as its title. This film was made in 1926 but seems more typical of the film fare of 1916. The heroine is a working girl (whom heaven will protect), yet who spends just enough time in a sweatshop to justify the film's title. She quickly gives up her sewing machine for better employment as a switchboard operator, and then even better employment as a lingerie model. Of course, this job makes her prey for men with big black moustaches.
The chief villain is one Jules Morton, who lures our Bertha to his yacht and then whisks her off to sea, so she won't be able to walk home when he boards her gunwales. Morton also indulges in a spot of embezzlement, even though he's already filthy rich. (Well, he's filthy, at least.) So far, Morton's villainy has been firmly in the Snidely Whiplash mould. Halfway through the film, he moves into Ming the Merciless territory when henchman William Bakewell incurs his displeasure, so Morton whips out a revolver and kills the guy. How do these evil masterminds manage to maintain a staff of loyal minions? Morton spends much of his screen time poncing about in a yachting cap, so maybe he's the offspring of a one-night stand between Snidely Whiplash and Thurston Howell the Third. The classy and attractive Anita Garvin is excellent as a brunette damsel who has previously fallen into Mason's clutches.
There's a fairly exciting climactic chase, made more interesting because it's a chase between a railway engine and a yacht, with some motorcycles chucked into the mix.
The usually reliable J. Farrell MacDonald and Ethel Wales are less credible than usual as Bertha's parents. Allan Simpson is quite transparent as the leading man. Arthur Housman, nearly always typecast as an inebriate, has a rare chance to play sober here in a brief comic turn. 'Bertha, the Sewing-Machine Girl' is hugely implausible but manages to be entertaining despite this, and I'll rate this movie 6 out of 10.
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