This well done but statically shot late silent shows the out-of-date technique of its director, Sidney Olcott. Olcott was, in many ways, a pioneering talent for Kalem, who produced the first screen version of BEN-HUR in 1907 and the first American feature, FROM THE MANGER TO THE CROSS in 1912.
Unhappily, while this story of love and valor in the face of a native uprising in South Africa is cut at a brisk pace, Olcott's limited range of shots -- about 90% static one- two- and three-shots -- forces editing choices that are occasionally disruptive: two people are standing about, discussing something, and the next shot shows two native warriors in shiny black feather head dresses threatening the audience. The viewer's mind tries to build parallels and fails.
Olcott's shots are all well-composed and his larger group shots are dynamic and interesting, but the movie stands and falls by the vast majority of his compositions, which are all astonishingly similar.
It is often said that there was a wave of firing among screen actors when sound came in, often attributed to the claim that many of the leading stars had voices that belied their silent images. In fact, acting stars usually have short half-lives. Directing talent was supposed to have survived better, but by the end of 1934, half the major silent directors had quit or retreated to B productions, never to raise their heads above cover again, even when they had clearly mastered the techniques of sound as well as silence: shell-shocked veterans like Dwan, who said if you kept low, you lasted forever, and who directed into the 1960s. Only the producers made the transition: they had the money and they kept it.
But here, in Olcott's last movie, we see the problems of obsolescence that touched so much of Hollywood. Olcott's technique was dazzling and inventive in 1907 but so utterly old hat in 1927 that it was silly. It wasn't enough to keep your head low; you had to keep moving.
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