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Kino on Video presents
Manslaughter & The Cheat (1915, 1922)

Dan O'Bannon: Rather a moist party for a little girl, Lydia! Don't you think you'd better put on the brakes before life does it for you?Lydia Thorne: Whose little 'gloom' are you, Dan? Modern Girls don't sit by the fire and knit!
- Thomas Meighan, Leatrice Joy

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: April 01, 2002

Stars: Fannie Ward, Sessue Hayakawa, Thomas Meighan, Leatrice Joy, Lois Wilson
Other Stars: Jack Mower, Casson Ferguson, John Miltern, Lois Wilson, Jack Dean
Director: Cecil B. DeMille

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (violence, sadism)
Run Time: 02h:38m:55s
Release Date: April 02, 2002
UPC: 738329024420
Genre: drama


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ B-C-A- D-

DVD Review

Long before he became known as a director of spectacles, Cecil B. DeMille was a noted director in the silents, specializing in Women in Trouble. Two of his features are presented on this disc. In Manslaughter (1922), Lydia Thorne (Leatrice Joy) is an unprincipled young heiress addicted to the fast life. Whenever she gets herself into trouble, she just dangles a bauble in front of the law and goes her merry way. She attracts many admirers, though only one of them, District Attorney Dan O'Bannon (Thomas Meighan), really disapproves of her lifestyle. When Lydia tries to outrun a police motorcyclist, she causes a crash that leads to his death. O'Bannon feels duty-bound to prosecute her, despite his own feelings, and Lydia learns some valuable life lessons in the process.In some ways, this is a less accomplished film than the much earlier The Cheat. The story drips of melodrama and improbabilities (O'Bannon has an obvious conflict of interest here, and couldn't possibly be permitted to prosecute Lydia) and more melodrama. Yet in a proletarian way, it is highly entertaining to see Lydia get hers; when she runs into Evans (Lois Wilson), Lydia's former maid whom she had previously sent to jail, there is a delicious comeuppance. On the positive side, O'Bannon is not really lilywhite either; somewhat blinded by love, he attends bootlegging parties without raising a finger or much of an objection at all, so at least he's not completely stereotypical.Spectacle is not far in the offing for DeMille. On a couple of occasions, he dissolves between the modern story and bacchanalia of ancient Rome. The first of these is rather obvious, but a later one, depicting the aftermath of the party, shown during O'Bannon's summation at the trial, is highly effective. The original decorative intertitles are presented and they're quite attractive and ingenious.The Cheat (1915) was previously released on DVD by Image, and this is the same transfer used there (with the same musical accompaniment). Those who don't have that disc, however, are in for a real treat, because this is quite a modern little tale. Sessue Hayakawa plays Haka Arakau, a Burmese ivory importer. He is friends with society woman Edith Hadley (Fannie Ward), whose husband Richard (Jack Dean) is rather a pennypincher. To raise some money for her extravagances, Edith secretly invests the Red Cross treasury in United Copper, a stock that promises to double the investor's money. Of course, it goes bankrupt and to avoid ruin and prison, she borrows the $10,000 from Arakau. So far, it reads like a dismal episode of I Love Lucy, but things change in a hurry. When Edith comes into some money, she attempts to pay Arakau off. But he is not willing to be cheated; he intends to brand her and take her as his concubine! Attempted rape, gunplay and a courtroom riot ensue, making for a rousing 58m:51s of running time.DeMille makes extraordinary use of dramatic lighting here, particularly in the opening shots as Hayakawa brands his ivory figures, foreshadowing Edith's fate. Dramatic lighting and silhouettes play an important part, making this a quite astonishing little picture for 1915. In many ways, its eroticism and violent and decadent themes make it seem like a picture that might show up on late night cable today.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Rationo
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: Both pictures are presented full frame. While Manslaughter appears to use the entire frame, The Cheat is clearly cropped at bottom and sides (and probably the top as well), apparently to remove the light thin stripe usually found on prints from a certain Russian film archive. Frankly, I'd have preferred to see the entire picture with the thin stripe (seen on Image's version of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari). The picture on The Cheat is windowboxed so as to minimize additional loss of picture to overscan, but often characters are cut in half on the edge of the frame. Manslaughter is overly contrasty, with details blown out. The Cheat is far more detailed and generally looks quite attractive, though fairly soft. The latter may have been intentional, since Fannie Ward was years too old to be playing Edith.

Image Transfer Grade: C-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0(music only)no


Audio Transfer Review: The music accompaniment tracks are quite different in character. Manslaughter's track is by The Alloy Orchestra, heavy on percussion and synthesizers. While some find their silent film accompaniments grating, they're often quite appropriate, as was the case for The Lost World. Here, their score is reminiscent of a 1960s Eurospy television series, but somehow it perfectly backs this tale of the Jazz Age gone mad. This has rocketed to the top of my list of favorite silent film scores. Backing The Cheat is a more traditional setting for small orchestra and piano by noted accompanist Robert Israel. Solid and workmanlike, it gets the job done well. Both sound first rate, with good separation in the front; there's little if any surround activity, which isn't surprising in a silent release. There's virtually no hiss or noise.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 18 cues and remote access
Packaging: unknown keepcase
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 16m:18s on Manslaughter

Extras Review: Nothing whatsoever. There is a layer change on a dissolve to black early on in Manslaughter, which is pretty unobtrusive. Chaptering is a shade thin for a release of this length.

Extras Grade: D-

 

Final Comments

A pair of DeMille's Women in Trouble make for slightly melodramatic but intriguing viewing. Picture quality is generally good, and the Alloy Orchestra's acompaniment for Manslaughter is a real gem. Not an extra to be seen, though.

 


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