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Hangman's House (1928)

Passed  -  Drama | Thriller  -  13 May 1928 (USA)
6.5
Your rating:
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Ratings: 6.5/10 from 264 users  
Reviews: 6 user | 2 critic

Victor McLaglen, an exile Irish patriot, risks his life by returning to Ireland and helping a young couple. John Wayne is an over-enthusiastic spectator who smashes a picket fence.

Director:

(uncredited)

Writers:

(adapted by), (scenario), 3 more credits »
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Title: Hangman's House (1928)

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
Citizen Hogan
...
Connaught O'Brien
Earle Foxe ...
John D'Arcy
Larry Kent ...
Dermot McDermot
Hobart Bosworth ...
Lord Justice O'Brien
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Storyline

As "Hanging Judge" James O'Brien approaches death, he prepares for his daughter's welfare by arranging her marriage to the wealthy John Darcy, whom she despises. Meanwhile, an exiled patriot named Hogan returns to Ireland to kill the man who caused his sister's suicide. That man is Darcy. Written by Jim Beaver <jumblejim@prodigy.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Victor McLaglen in the role of an avenging soldier of the Foreign Legion, in a colorful romance of action.

Genres:

Drama | Thriller

Certificate:

Passed | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Release Date:

13 May 1928 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Den smilende Hævner  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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User Reviews

 
"Such a little place, to be so greatly loved"
9 July 2009 | by (Ruritania) – See all my reviews

Hangman's House is one of a number of sentimental slices of rural European life to come out of Fox Studios in the late-silent era. This time round the focus is on dear old Ireland, and so who better to produce and direct than renowned blarney-merchant John Ford? Ford's approach to this one is very uncluttered, in that there are none of the improvised comedy diversions that decorated (or bogged down) many of his features. This is perhaps not surprising, since the story and characters being as they are, Ford probably saw no need to inject any further twee "oirishness". Ford's directness is helpful, because the plot is a bit of a muddle as it is. It's not entirely clear whose story we are supposed to be following, as equal weight (albeit different emphasis) is given to three different arcs. Ford probably didn't regard this as a problem though – for him the main character is simply the Irish people, and he photographs each individual as if they were the protagonist.

Ford's economy of expression is much in evidence. A typical Ford shot is the introductory one of Hobart Bosworth, he of the eponymous house. In the centre of the frame we see the man as he is now, elderly and frail. The portrait on the wall behind him shows us what he was, whereas the flames that underline the image hint symbolically at where he may soon end up. This is not to say Ford's shot compositions were overly complicated. For most of the picture he uses simple, delicate arrangements that focus us on the important elements. This is often achieved with soft-focus photography, which also adds to the sweet, romantic look of the images.

One of the characteristics of the late-silent period is the freeing up of the camera, with pictures such as Sunrise having the lens whiz about all over the shop. By contrast Ford wisely limits himself in this respect, and there are only two significant camera moves in the whole of Hangman's House. The first is at the end of the opening scene, a version of the much-imitated pull-back-across-a-long-table shot that was originally done in 1925 Valentino vehicle The Eagle. This is mirrored towards the end with a dolly in on villainous Earle Fox. Besides these examples the camera is "invisible", in that it only moves to follow an actor or an action. Ford would maintain this pattern of camera movement throughout his career, throwing in just one or two noticeable moves per pictures to draw attention to a key moment.

It's a pity the auteurists focused so much on Ford's "themes", because they draw attention away from his restrained and to-the-point command of cinematic technique. To be honest, there is far more going on on that front than there is in the story of Hangman's House, which is clichéd, unfocused and above all boring. Ford's tender shot compositions for the intimate scenes compensate for the so-so acting, and his imaginative coverage of the horse race provides us with a rousing mid-film high point. But pretty though the imagery may be, Ford's pictures of this period were not very interesting. He is one filmmaker whose style would be revitalised by the coming of sound.


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