The Last Warning (1/6/29)

Last Warning (1929) Paul Leni & Laura La Plante take their Cat and the Canary shtick to Stage 28’s Phantom of the Opera set, wackiness ensues. A solid ‘Old Dark House’ murder mystery-slash-comedy? but lacking in the snappy dialogue that will eventually become part of the playbook. Instead we get a lot of comic relief characters rolling their eyes to indicate fear, I blame the script writer. There’s a murder, time passes, they finally want to reopen the ‘haunted’ theather and solve the case, they recruit the original suspects – seriously dude you can’t let a theater that size sit closed for 5 years, that’s just not economical.

Leni shows off a lot of artsy lighting and set design while we watch wacky characters wander around backstage waiting to get spooked by the ghost they ALL believe exists. But things really don’t get exciting, both visually and plotwise until the last reel; where after a very theatrical denoument and reveal the villain, in a cape and mask no less, leads the police on a mad chase through the opera house, reminiscent of both Phantom of the Opera and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. (Leni puts the camera on a trapeze this time)

If I were catching it in 1929, it would be definitely worth seeing for nickle or about .75 in todays money I think. But unless you really have the hots for LaPlante or are hunting down all Paul Leni films, you may want to FFWD through this one, but don’t miss the last reel. Apparently there is a recent restoration but as yet it is not on disc: it does look pretty spiffy. The best copy I can find is on Archive.org, it made me throw out my old very bad dvdR. [BTW the New York Police Department’s Women Bureau was created in 1924, you’re gonna need that piece of information for the last shot in the film. ]

 

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