Critically derided during its premier as technically flawed. An all-talkie, it was reported to have a inconsistent sound level between close-ups (in which the actors appeared terrified) and long shots. The players spoke their lines haltingly, apparently trying to catch a swinging boom microphone. See more »
... thus it is impossible to rate. All that exists of it is a silent trailer that was part of the Flicker Alley production, "Fragments", which is exactly what the production consists of - remaining reels and trailers of partially or, in this case, completely lost films. The selling point of the film, according to the trailer, is that you will see the murder committed and the actual murderer revealed in flashback through the testimony of a witness. The trailer made me rather excited about the film and sad that I would never see it because it is lost.
Pauline Frederick, a veteran of the stage was top-billed, but apparently Vitaphone's rather sexist tendencies - it tended to warp female voices in a somewhat comical way - made her fine stage voice unintelligible and raspy. One film I personally know of, made three years later when the transition to sound was complete, "This Modern Age", shows what a good voice she really had. The rest of the cast apparently did no better since reviews of the time mention the terrified and distorted facial expressions on the players' faces whenever they spoke.
At any rate the film had terrible reviews, was considered claustrophobic even for a courtroom drama of the early talkie era in which that much motion is not really necessary, and caused newspapers to print in reaction - "Sooner or later Warner Brothers must go outside." It even caused Jack Warner to declare that their future films would be 75% talking, 25% silent, which, coincidentally was the mix in the very successful Singing Fool from September 1928. Since Warner Brothers is still in business, obviously this strange declaration did not stand.
Warner Brothers early talkies and part talkies have one of the worst survival rates of any of the early studios - almost all of them are lost. That's a shame since even though they may be and always were dismal as art it's a window into film history that is lost to us forever.
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