5 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
F Gwynplaine MacIntyre from Minffordd, North Wales
23 March 2003
W.W. Jacobs was an extremely prolific author, whose works have
been filmed. Surprisingly, his story 'The Money Box' was the inspiration
a Laurel and Hardy movie! Most of Jacobs's short stories were moody pieces
with nautical settings, but his most famous story takes place firmly on
land: 'The Monkey's Paw', a spooky tale which may well be the most
widely-anthologised story of all time. It's certainly a very well-known
ghost story ... made all the more effective because the 'supernatural'
events in this tale remain firmly ambiguous.
The 1923 silent version of 'The Monkey's Paw' adheres very closely to the
plot of the famous story. The most surprising thing here is the casting of
Moore Marriott as the old man who buys the monkey's paw in order to gain
three magical wishes, and who receives only grief for his efforts.
like Walter Brennan and Jack Duffy in America, character actor Moore
Marriott spent most of his long career playing elderly men. He was not yet
40 when he made this film, but his old-age makeup and his physical
performance are very convincing.
More to the point, though, Marriott spent most of his career playing old
in COMEDY films. When I saw him in this grimly serious movie, I was
straight away of Marriott's portrayal of Harbottle in all those hilarious
Will Hay films, and I halfway expected Hay and Graham Moffat to show up.
Marriott gives a skilful performance here, but in hindsight (due to his
later typecasting in comedy roles) he's an unfortunate choice for the
macabre subject matter of this film.
This silent version of 'The Monkey's Paw' reveals one of the shortcomings
silent-film grammar. In an incautious moment, the old man has wished for
dead son Herbert to return from the grave ... then he realises the
consequences if this wish is granted literally. Suddenly there's a knock
the door. With a desperate lunge, the old man seizes the monkey's paw and
uses his last wish to send his son back to the grave. The brilliantly
ambiguous plot of 'The Monkey's Paw' never discloses whether any of these
wishes were actually granted: we never learn if the knock at the door was
really a message from a homesick corpse or merely a visit from a
Here's where the silent-film problem figures into it. Normally in a silent
film, a knock at the door is conveyed by an insert close-up of a hand
rapping at a door, followed by a return to the previous camera set-up as
characters react to the sound of the knock. In this film 'The Monkey's
no such set-up is viable: if we see the hand of the person knocking, we
know once for all if the visitor is a corpse (the dead son, supernaturally
returning) or a more mundane caller. So, in order to preserve that
in this silent film, we never see the knock at the door: we merely see
Marriott and actress Marie Ault doing a sudden 'What was that?' reaction
glancing fearfully towards the door.
Overall, the film is excellent, with a moody atmosphere marred only by a
sarcastic performance by Charles Ashton as the doomed son. John Butt is
excellent as the visitor (a soldier, in this version) who sells the
paw. But this plotline really requires a soundtrack. I'll rate this silent
version of 'The Monkey's Paw' 6 points out of 10.
Add another review