Thursday, April 7, 2011

On Screen -- Daughter of the Night (1920)



Lugosi and Parry
 
Oh boy ...  A supposedly lost Bela Lugosi silent film known in Europe as "Dance on the Volcano" is available on DVD.  "Daughter of the Night" had potential, a spy drama about a French aristocrat "Andrew Fleurot" that gets involved with a Russian cabaret singer "Die Grafin Kaminska" who also happens to be associated with the underground revolutionary movement. 

Again this film seems to have continuity issues perhaps due to lost or damaged footage or just poor editing, and the transfer seems to have come from a well viewed VHS tape.  The awful contrast and loss of detail is even more evident when viewed on a larger screen.  There seems to have been more attention paid to the piano score for the film which comes through very nicely. 

The over exaggerated gestures usually seen in the early silent films are even more prevalent here.  Bela Lugosi does a nice job though as the aristocrat drawn into the revolution, Violetta Napierska as the spy and Lee Parry as "Tatiana/Marie Dorouska".  And I guarantee, if you're like me, you'll constantly be distracted by the "Marge Simpson" hairdos. 

Remember this was filmed more than a decade before Lugosi's portrayal of Dracula in 1931 so he's definitely not as refined in his acting skills as he is in his future attempts.  The best part of the film is when the peasants storm the castle,  unfortunately you have to sit through the entire film to get to it.  The only saving grace is that the actual running time of the film is less than an hour long. 

I would have to say that this would be another film for die hard Lugosi fans only, otherwise skip it.  Save yourself an hour and just watch the bonus feature on the Alpha Video release of Bela Lugosi’s July 27th 1953 appearance on the "You Asked for It" television show. It's about 8 minutes long and more interesting than the feature itself.

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