Kino on Video presents
"The broad road or the narrow way?"- Intertitle text in Hypocrites
Stars: Courteney Foote, Myrtle Stedman, Adele Farrington, Margaret Edwards
Director: Lois Weber
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for nudity, violence
Run Time: 00h:49m:03s
Release Date: 2008-04-22
DVD ReviewKino's ongoing silent film releases turn this month to a collection of woman directors, highlighting a generally ignored side of silent cinema. The disc under review here collects two films, Lois Weber's Hypocrites (1915) and the short Eleanor's Catch (1916), directed by Cleo Madison (who also starred). At only 65 minutes combined, the slightness of the program may put some off, but Hypocrites may prove worth your time.
Lois Weber's Hypocrites takes up the titular theme via a dual narrative, centering around Courtney Foote's modern day preacher and his medieval analogue. Both rail against the hypocrisy that surrounds them, and both are laid low by it, unable to withstand the hatred of the mob for exposing plainly-evident foibles. Weber used the novel idea of having a nude woman as the personification of the "naked Truth," which no doubt enraged and excited in equal measure. The nudity is very tame, with the naked Margaret Edwards often seen only from the side, with an arm across her breasts most of the time (shouldn't the "Truth" be proudly exhibiting full frontal?). The film remains a quaint, if cynical postcard from a bygone age; some of the hypocrisies illustrated by Weber look ridiculous today, such as the reaction to the preacher's possession of a newspaper in the church, but judging this on the basis of modern mores obviously misses the point. Weber does seem to make an argument for a heightened role for women in correcting these societal wrongs; both holy men disdain the women who come to them, rather than seeking to engage them in the crusade against hypocrisy. Both men are also largely impotent in their crusading, suggesting perhaps that women must take a more active role in correcting society. All in all though, the film is more interesting for Weber's assured technique and visual sense than her moralizing, which was tiresome even in a film as short as this one.
The slight Eleanor's Catch (00h:14m:51s) is the story of down-at-heel Eleanor (Cleo Madison), whose poverty-stricken existence is suddenly invigorated by the arrival of "Flash" Dacy (William Mong), a smooth operator who tries to draw Eleanor into a life of crime, before a way out of left field ending asserts the capabilities of women and sets things right. The ending is so unexpected as to be laughable, leaving so many questions of logic open that it's pointless to even raise them, but it's short enough that one can't complain too much.
Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: C+
|Aspect Ratio||1.33:1 - Full Frame|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: Both of the films here suffer from some fairly extreme decomposition at times, with Hypocrites faring the worse of the two. Damaged areas aside, the films are watchable and free of other major mishaps.
Image Transfer Grade: B
|DS 2.0||music only||no|
Audio Transfer Review: Basic 2.0 stereo here, which highlights the piano scores well.
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 6 cues and remote access
Packaging: unmarked keepcase
Extras Review: None.
Extras Grade: F
Final CommentsLois Weber displays a confident directorial eye in her short feature Hypocrites, even if the preaching quickly leaves you bored. She's a silent filmmaker I'd like to see more of. Kino's disc is bare bones, but despite the films both having some heavy damage, this is a perfectly fine disc.
Jeff Wilson 2008-04-21