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Frank J. Coleman
A returning seminary student goes up against a small New England town when he comes to the aid of a prostitute who has been injured, despite the townspeople's calls for her to be run out of town. His stand endangers his upcoming marriage and his standing in the town where he was to be a minister. Written by
This Cosmopolitan picture contains a lot of melodrama but it also features some rather graphic material that certainly wouldn't have passed the Hayes Code only a short decade later. The story is pretty simple as a future preacher (Lars Hanson) is about to be married in his small town when there's a boat crash and a "unholy" woman (Pauline Starke) washes ashore. Near death, the preacher takes her in, which causes many of the gossiping Christians in town to spread the word that there's something sexual going on between them. Disgusted by the gossip, the preacher and woman board a ship not knowing that the Captain (Ernest Torrence) isn't being honest with them in regards to where it's headed. The plot of a town's gossip isn't anything too original seeing as how even D.W. Griffith was dealing with it a decade earlier but what makes this film really stand out are some great images, nice performances and some rather dirty stuff that wouldn't be in movies many more years. It's funny but if you want to see a more realistic movie then you have to go back to the silents because they appear to be the only films where the hero doesn't have to win in the end and they can also contain darker material. This film deals with rape, prostitution, murder and suicide; all of this in the short 87-minute running time. The movie comes off rather refreshing because we get to see all of this stuff and we also get a rather wild account of the Starke character being raped by her step-dad and then her saying how happy she was when the child died. These pre-code elements certainly separates this film from other melodramas out there and it's one of the reasons this film is worth viewing. Another are for the performances with Starke easily standing out and delivering a very memorable character and performance. She was wonderful early on as the vamp and we believe her transformation into the girl who wants to do good. Hanson, best remembered for playing the preacher in the Lillian Gish version of THE SCARLET LETTER, goes a bit over the top here but he still manages to be quite powerful. Pauline Starke, Torrence and George Fawcett all add nice supporting performances. What doesn't work in the film is the second half when we board the ship. There are some rather wild events that happen and I really didn't believe any of them as they all felt rather forced. I also wasn't as moved by the ending as I'm sure everyone making the film would have liked but with that said, this is still a pretty impressive film for fans of silents.
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