Saturday, September 30, 2017

Tonight's Movies: The Texas Streak (1926) and Captain Blood (1924) at Cinecon

Time for my last post wrapping up coverage of my visit to the Cinecon Festival earlier this month!

I saw two feature-length silent films at Cinecon, along with several silent shorts. The features were THE TEXAS STREAK (1926), a comedic Western, and the first film version of Rafael Sabatini's CAPTAIN BLOOD (1924). CAPTAIN BLOOD, of course, was more famously filmed in 1935, starring Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland.

THE TEXAS STREAK was the premiere screening of a new preservation from a Kodascope print. This Universal Pictures film originally ran 70 minutes but here was about 52; despite the missing footage, the story flowed smoothly and it was not apparent to this viewer that it was a shortened version.

After accidentally starting to run the film mid-movie due to a mislabeled reel, it was restarted from the beginning and all was well! The movie, starring Hoot Gibson, was shown with live musical accompaniment by Scott Lasky. It's a charming film which was a great introduction to Gibson.

Gibson plays Chad Pennington, a movie extra working in Arizona. When production wraps and the company leaves town, Chad and his pals (Slim Summerville and Jack Curtis) are accidentally left behind. Hard up for cash, Chad heads for the nearest town, where there's a battle over water rights. Although he only has a prop gun with blanks, Chad manages to restore some order and lands a job protecting surveyors.

Chad has a "meet cute" with rancher's daughter Molly Hollis (Blanche Mehaffey), when he brings an orphaned calf to her ranch and inquires if she has a "calf-eteria."

There are numerous clever visual gags in this action-packed film, and I also enjoyed the mashup of a Western with a film about making movies. The delightful ending finds Chad receiving word from Hollywood that he's going to be promoted from extra to Western movie star!

THE TEXAS STREAK was written and directed by Lynn Reynolds, with photography by Edward Newman.

I've read a couple reviews indicating a DVD from Grapevine is in good shape; I'll probably pick it up at some point so I can enjoy this title again. I think the Western fans in my life will enjoy it too!

Sunday morning I saw a Library of Congress preservation of Vitagraph's CAPTAIN BLOOD (1924), with superb digital musical accompaniment by Jon Mirsalis.

CAPTAIN BLOOD was originally 110 minutes; this 89-minute print is the longest-known existing version. Periodically there were brief "blips" of black because the studio excised footage from the original negative to use as stock footage! Despite the shorter running time, the continuity seemed perfect to me.

Captain Peter Blood was played by J. Warren Kerrigan. At first glance Kerrigan didn't strike me as handsome or young enough; he was about 44 when this was filmed but at times looked older. However, I quickly became absorbed in his performance as the doctor arrested for treason and sentenced to slavery in the Caribbean, and I thought his performance was excellent.

Eventually Blood and other slaves escape and capture a Spanish galleon; meanwhile, Peter loves sweet Arabella Bishop (Jean Paige) from afar. Kerrigan and Bishop have a touching chemistry.

I had zero expectations of the movie when it began, and I found myself completely riveted; two different moments where a flag was raised, signaling a victory by Captain Blood, gave me goosebumps. You can't ask for more than that from an adventure film! It was an exciting and romantic movie, with terrific live music to match, a real festival highlight for me.

CAPTAIN BLOOD was directed by David and Albert E. Smith; Albert was married to leading lady Paige for 37 years, until his passing in 1958. The movie was filmed by W. Steve Smith Jr.

I had a wonderful time at Cinecon and enjoyed seeing some true rarities. I hope to return next year!

For now, though, it's on to the Lone Pine Film Festival in a few days!


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