Victory

Victory ★★★★

I came to this 1919 silent movie via the novel I'm currently reading, set in the late thirties, in which two of the characters discuss having seen it as children, with one asserting that Lewis Stone plays Mr Jones (he doesn’t), and both lamenting the film's imposition of a happy ending on Conrad's tragic tale ("they always do that with films. It's a shame.")

I certainly agree about the ending, but the rest of this picture holds up rather well and captures quite a bit of the novel's atmosphere. The volcano smolders ominously before a climactic eruption, shade and shadow are used very cleverly, and overall the "trouble in paradise" theme comes across loud and clear.

There's a cute scene right at the start with a cat. And I noticed that Heyst's Chinese manservant, introduced early on, inexplicably disappears from the rest of the story, poor guy.

What really stands out for me though are the performances. Lon Chaney steals the show as the vicious, crafty desperado Ricardo, flashing his knife and his twisted leer at every opportunity. Strongman Bull Montana is perfect as the simian Pedro, dapper Jack Holt elicits sympathy as the tragic idealist Heyst who only wants the world to leave him alone until his pity for a girl invites the world into his Eden, and Ben Deeley with his pallor and dark glasses nails the insidious adventurer known only as Mr Jones. Altogether a thoroughly menacing trio. Seena Owen's Alma, object of Heyst’s pity, is winsome, soft and innocent - until she's not.

Silent movies aren't my thing at all so I was surprised how much I enjoyed watching this. Bravo, Monsieur Tourneur.

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