Flashback story of an escape from the lonely, high-security Dartmoor Prison. A jealous barber's assistant is enraged by the attentions that his manicurist girlfriend pays to a customer. He threatens the customer with an open razor and lands in jail.
Visually and technically impressive with solid narrative
Sally lives in a cottage on Dartmoor when, on a dark and quiet night, a man breaks into her home having just escaped the high-security prison across the moors. That man is none other than Joe, a former barber's assistant at the place where Sally used to be a manicurist. As they connect eyes, the audience flashback to the times where Joe and Sally once worked together and he had tried to woo her at the beginning of a series of events that now brought them to this place.
The BBC's summer of British films this year turned out to be better than I expected it to be because, instead of wheeling out Zulu, Dam Busters and all the usual British films, they actually screened lots of films that I had not seen or, in some cases, heard of. Of course this meant that some of them were not any good but at least it was an attempt to fresh up the idea of what British cinema is. A Cottage on Dartmoor is a good example of this as it is rare for silent films to be screened on television and far more rare for them to be British silent films. I had never seen this and I enjoyed it a great deal.
Narrative-wise the film opens with an element of fear and tension before jumping back to more of a comedy and romance. As this builds back to where it started again for a good finish. The film is maybe 15 minutes too long for the material to sustain but otherwise it is well delivered. The funny bits are amusing, the tense bits tense and the romance nicely melodramatic and tragic, however it is the delivery that makes the film specifically that of Asquith and his cinematographer. Visually the film matches the tone of the film really well opening and closing with sharp shadows on the moors, and enjoying a bright and carefree air early in the barbershop scenes. The images are sharp and really well formed with plenty of clever shots. Mirrors are used well, conversations represented by stock footage, flashbacks delivered within flashbacks and a great scene where we watch a cinema audience reacting to a film they are watching. Visually and technically it is very impressive and I enjoyed it a great deal.
Deserves to be screened a lot more than it is and be seen by more people than it is, but credit to the BBC for showing it recently.
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