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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

The Last Warning (1928)


Starring: Laura La Plante, Montagu Love, Margaret Livingston and John Boles
Distributor: Eureka Entertainment
RRP: £20.99


Certificate: PG
Release Date: 15 February 2021

As part of the Masters of Cinema, Eureka Entertainment releases the classic silent movie The Last Warning for the first time in the UK on Blu-ray, using a 4K restoration. This is part of Universal’s ongoing silent restoration initiative. The Last Warning is adapted from the Thomas F. Fallon 1922 Broadway play of the same name, which is itself based on the story The House of Fear by Wadsworth Camp. This film was the last offering before his death of Paul Leni (The Man Who Laughs, The Cat and the Canary), considered to be one of Germany’s great filmmakers of the past. The plot follows an unsolved murder which takes place during a live Broadway performance of a play. To further complicate matters the body goes missing, the theatre adopts a reputation for bad luck and reported sightings of the ghost of the victim, and finally the building falls into disrepair and is condemned. Now, years later, a mysterious new producer steps forward to restage the play with the original cast and crew. But is this a publicity-seeking stunt or murder-mystery police procedural...?

Aside from Leni – said to be at the peak of his career, the film is also a showcase for Universal’s leading lady of the era. Laura La Plante of The Cat and the Canary, and Skinner’s Dress Suit. Also worth a mention is the production design of Charles D. Hall. There was a worldwide search for the film’s available elements, working with materials from the Cinematheque francaise and the Packard Humanities Institute Collection in the UCLA Film and Television Archive. The clean-up is remarkable, but there are still signs of damage. The first print run of 2000 copies incorporates a Limited Edition O-card Slipcase. The score by Arthur Barrow consists of themes and set-pieces which range between the drama and farce, and that pretty much sums-up the balance of the movie. Extras include: a Video Essay by film historian and author John Soister on Leni’s final film; a Rare Stills Gallery (don’t expect any more than two or three in each category); a Collector’s Booklet featuring a new essay by Philip Kemp and a short essay by Arthur Barrow on his composition for the film; and…

The brand new audio commentary by horror and fantasy writers and reviewers Stephen Jones and Kim Newman is both entertaining and informative, with Jones trying to make himself heard over Newman’s infectious loud enthusiasm. As for the film itself, it’s eminently watchable. What you have to remember is that The Last Warning dates back to 1928. Because it’s a silent movie the movements and expressions are purposefully over-exaggerated. Two-thirds of the running time is setting of the scenes, introducing the characters and exploring their backgrounds and motives. It isn’t until the last third that everything happens at once. What begins as a mystery, with everyone rather suspicious, turns into a one-time creepy another time humorous run-around. I’m not sure the comic elements work, but it would almost certainly have been part of the balance in the real Broadway version of the tale. When we get to see the mysterious masked figure for the first time, it’s very well done, and even more reminiscent of Gaston Leroux’s The Phantom of the Opera. Secret passageways, red herrings, manic activity and a centre-stage denouement with climatic reveal… It all comes together and the film is over before we get the chance to take stock of events. No epilogue scenes in those days.

Whatever you think about the merits or otherwise of this movie, it’s great to know that cinema history is being kept alive using the latest technology.


Ty Power

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