It is not very well known that Fred Niblo, who would later become one of the great directors of the silent screen, served his apprenticeship as a film-maker in Australia.
OFFICER 666 is one of the rare complete features of the Australian silent screen, although it only runs 40 minutes.
It is an interesting example of an attempt to adapt a stage play for the silent screen, and, despite enthusiastic performances, I'd have to say it does not entirely work. There is a lot of silent talking - which is pretty pointless - and the action is primarily confined to a living room. Not a good example of telling a story visually - which is what silent movies could do so well.
It is quite fun though - a complicated farce about false identities and disguises. And the director and star is none other than Fred Niblo, an American, who would later direct the magnificent 1925 version of BEN-HUR with Ramon Novarro, the Douglas Fairbanks 1921 version of THE THREE MUSKETEERS and the Rudolph Valentino 1922 classic BLOOD AND SAND. All of these films are renowned for their visual style - so this was evidently something he learnt after 1916!
Niblo arrived in Australia in 1912, with his wife Josephine Cohan, to appear on the stage. They stayed for three years. Cohan was the sister of George M. Cohan - and both the films Niblo directed in Australia were based on Cohan plays. The first was GET-RICH-QUICK WALLINGFORD (1916), and the second OFFICER 666. In both films Niblo also starred, and his co-star was Enid Bennett, who would later marry Niblo and become a major Hollywood star.
For students of racism, there is a Japanese servant, simply called "The Jap" who is treated badly by everyone - I think that this was supposed to be funny.
The print resides at ScreenSound Australia, the National Screen and Sound Archive, in Canberra and is in very good condition.
2 of 3 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?
| Report this