Marvellously brooding and atmospheric film of passion in a lighthouse
This film's credits give the date 1930 but it is listed on IMDb as 1931. It has been released on DVD under its original title of CAPE FORLORN. It is a moody, brooding, intensely atmospheric film with some outstanding cinematography, albeit in confined spaces. The film is apparently based upon two separate plays, one by Frank Harvey (1885-1965; the film credits state 'based upon a play by Frank Harvey'), and according to IMDb he also wrote a novel entitled CAPE FORLORN. The other play is by the prolific German writer and director Ewald André Dupont (1891-1956). I am at a loss to know how these were amalgamated. Dupont actually produced and directed the original English film. I see from the internet that Frank Harvey's play CAPE FORLORN was staged at the Richmond Theatre in London in 1930. I can find no trace of any novel of that name by him. Paul Matthew St. Pierre published a book in 2010 about Dupont in which he discusses CAPE FORLORN, so perhaps the whole explanation is to be found in that book, which I have not seen. I see also that Dupont made a German language version of this film starring Conrad Veidt entitled MENSCHEN IM KÄFIG, which means MEN IN A CAGE, but the best translation of which is probably CAGED MEN. This film is listed on IMDb as THE LOVE STORM and attributed to 1930, the year before the supposed release of the film upon which it was based. (But we have seen that the English version was really dated 1930.) The German film's only credited writer is Frank Harvey, though ostensibly from a novel by him, which I believe may never have existed, as I suspect the origin of all this is what the original credits of CAPE FORLORN say, namely, his play. Dupont also made the film in French in 1931 under the title LE CAP PERDU! That is what is known as squeezing the last drop out of a project, to produce three films of the same story! So the facts regarding all of this are rather confused, to say the least. The excellent film SALOON BAR (1940, see my review) was also based on a play by Frank Harvey, described as Frank Harvey, Junior. Harvey also wrote the screenplay for the wonderful PRIVATE'S PROGRESS (1956, see my review). He did the screenplay for the 1956 version of THE 39 STEPS starring Kenneth More, and he wrote the story and screenplay for HEAVENS ABOVE! starring Peter Sellers (1953), as well as NO MY DARLING DAUGHTER with Juliet Mills (1961). Now back to the film itself. It is a highly intense and claustrophobic tale of people cooped up in a lighthouse on a bare rock off the coast of New Zealand. Fay Compton does an excellent job of acting as the hapless new wife of the lighthouse-keeper. She is so convincing towards the latter part of the film where her terror causes her to becomes hysterical. An extremely bizarre fact is that the lighthouse-keeper is played by none other than the playwright Frank Harvey himself! Harvey had directed and also appeared in a silent film in 1915 entitled WITHIN OUR GATES. Then in 1930 in CAPE FORLRN (aka THE LOVE STORM) he returned to acting and over the following 25 years, he acted in 15 more films. In 1934 he was also co-director of the film CLARA GIBBINGS. So he was a versatile bloke! The wife in the story is a waif who has been employed as a hostess in a nightclub, and believes she has been saved by the lighthouse-keeper because he is willing to marry her and give her a home. She believes she will not mind the fact that the home is a lighthouse, and that she must live there for at least three years. But the reality of the situation turns out to be rather different. The keeper's deputy, a rough character played by Edmund Willard, seduces her and promises to take her to Sydney. But before he can do that, there is a wrecked ship in a storm fro which a third man enters the scene, a handsome thief on the run with a revolver in his pocket played by Ian Hunter. He and the wife also become involved. So to say that things are steamy and that tensions are running high is a serious understatement. The film is made effective by the magnificent cinematography and direction. The guilty characters, especially Fay Compton, positively slink and creep up and down the spiral stairs, looking both up and down with dread and apprehension. We get very intense shots reminiscent of the best silent films where we see their haunted faces, sometimes through windows, and the atmosphere becomes suffocating and ominous. This film was made not long after the advent of sound, and so there are numerous scenes where there is little dialogue and the emphasis is instead upon the atmospheric construction of shots and scenes which evoke the tension, as a substitute for much of the dialogue which turns out to be unnecessary anyway. The film really is most remarkable. And the lengthy traveling shot which opens the film is outstanding for its technical achievement and cinematic impact at such an early date. The print is good, and for people who are used to the somewhat feeble sound of the early talkies and do not mind that, the film is an excellent experience.
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