Paul Leni

Sog.: dal romanzo The House of Fear di Wadsworth Camp. Scen.: Alfred A. Cohn, Robert F. Hill, J.G. Hawks. F.: Hal Mohr. M.: Robert Carlisle. Scgf.: Charles D. Hall. Mus.: Joseph Cherniavsky. Int.: Laura La Plante (Doris), Montague Love (McHugh), Roy D’Arcy (Carlton), Margaret Livingston (Evalinda), John Boles (Qualie), Mack Swain (Robert), Slim Summerville (Tommy). Prod.: Carl Leammle Jr. per Universal Pictures Corp. DCP. D.: 78′. Bn.

T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

Merrily rifling through a whole bag of tricks, from animated intertitles to careening camera movements, director Paul Leni seems to anticipate the cinematic exuberance of Orson Welles in this comedy thriller from the tail end of the silent era (although the film was released with a score, sound effects and a dialogue sequence, the print that survives, and has been beautifully restored by Universal’s in-house digi- tal team, is the silent version Universal provided for theaters not yet equipped for sound).
A veteran of the German expression- ist cinema in its humorless hard core years (Hintertreppe, Waxworks), Leni revealed a lighter side when he arrived at Universal in 1927 to direct the ‘old dark house’ comedy thriller The Cat and the Canary. The Last Warning features the same star, Laura La Plante, in a similar context, though this time the murder mystery is set backstage at a haunted Broadway theater – Leni’s imaginative redressing of Universal’s already-venerable Phantom of the Opera stage.
Secret passageways, trapdoors, a masked villain, clutching hands – The Last Warning has them all, served up in high style by Leni and cameraman Hal Mohr. Even the identity of the killer is, by the standards of the genre, a delightful surprise. Sadly, it would prove to be Leni’s last film – the director died of sepsis a few months after its release, at the age of forty-four.

Dave Kehr

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