Sunday, August 2, 2020

Lorna Doone (1922)

Out of all the classics in the world of literature, I know just about all of them (a youth well spent!), but I've always had shameful blind spots. One such example is Lorna Doone. Alongside works such as Ivanhoe or =, this is something that I've always known of, but never actually known what it's about. So what better way to expose myself to it for the first time than with a good ol' classic silent film adaption!

In 1600s era Britain, the villages in the country live in relative peace, except from attacks by the bandit family the Doones. During one attack, a travelling party is killed, and a little girl, Lorna, is stolen. The clan leader sees her as a great prize for one of his many nephews, but soon begins to care for her as the years go by. Soon enough, his health is ailing, and he can no longer keep the wolves at bay. But a chance meeting Lorna has with an old friend sees her falling in love, and finding help against this cruel family...

Lorna Doone is a nice enough movie, telling a complete story over is relatively short runtime. It gets off to a dramatic start, introducing its characters well, as well as the film's main conflict.

This isn't to say the film is flawless though. It's absolutely cheesy in places, from Lorna's mother dying from a single/simple push, or to the kidnapped 12 year old somehow forgetting where she's from, and that her 'dad' killed her mother and stole her! This happens because the movie wanted to introduce us to cute little Lorna first, and show a first meeting between her and future soulmate John as kids. The trouble is, Lorna in the book was kidnapped as a baby! It makes total sense there why she wouldn't remember such things, but when she's a kid? What a dope!

The halfway point represents a bit of a strange turning point. In any other movie, you'd expect the hero saving the girl from the big bad's castle to be the thrilling climax, but here is happens only at the midpoint, way earlier than expected. It'd be one thing if the threat was still active, and they had to go back, but nope, the story just moves on and forgets about the Doone's for a while, instead focusing on Lorna's new life, royalty stuff in the big city, and the romance. It's only in the last act when the Doone's finally come back.

The ending is also very rushed. Lorna was previously injured, and the ending is what you'd expect, the hero returning after a final battle to find her ok after all, and they live happily ever after. But the movie blitzes through this so quickly it's like they'd run out of film.

The characters here all work well. They're basic in some respects, but still effective. Lorna is a sweet and likeable heroine, who also does plenty herself, and is enough of of a damsel in other moments. John is your typical hero, busting into rooms full of danger in the name of saving his girlfriend! The psycho Carver is a good antagonist, and gives the story enough urgency, though disappearing for the 3rd quarter diminishes things a little. One of the more interesting characters if Lorna's adoptive father, Lord Enser Doone. He's an asshole who killed Lorna's mother and stole her, with intent to marry her off to one of his kin/relations, but he actually = and becomes devoted to her, treating her alone with love and respect, forbids the overtures of creeps like Carver, and is fiercely protective of Lorna, even when dying. The dude might still be a dickhead, but he's a devoted one, that's for sure!

As far as adaptions go, this is pretty faithful as far as I can tell. Simplified for the big screen, sure, but generally the same story, with no huge alterations or additions. [There are a few change to the book. Certain elements left out that technically don't affect the overall story, so their exclusion doesn't feel unwarranted for a shorter film, especially a silent one, by their very nature less = than talkies. There's also the amusing change regarding the characters ages and first meeting, as mentioned above.

The actors all do fine jobs. The performances are the usual kind, where they deliver heightened performances, to make up for the lack of sound, but aren't too exaggerated, like if they were on fire or anything.

The direction in Lorna Doone is very good, with dynamically filmed shots, great setpieces, and most importantly of all great locations. Filmed on a mix of sets, outdoors places, and =, there's a real authentic feel to the production here, it never looks cheap, and it's often gorgeous!

I watched this film with what I think is a modern day score, and it was quite good! At first it sounded almost surreal and creepy, like an expressionist horror film, but it was good, and the later tracks are really nice, fitting well with the scenes and the tone. Overall it was a nice listening experience, unlike other silent film rescorings I've heard.

If you're a fan of silent films, and of classic literature, this is a good mix of both worlds. And if you're a fan of the book, well I may not have read it yet, but based on what I know I'm like 95% percent sure this won't piss you off, which is a very good sign! Check it out...

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