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The Voice Of The City (1929) DVD

Ohjaus Willard Mack

Robert Ames ja Sylvia Field

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Well, there are certain "transition" films - those made in 1928 and released either that year or the next when 'silent' became 'sound' - that just don't quite make the grade today, no matter how hard one may try to appreciate them. I watched "Voice of the City" (1929), one of four "transition" films released last week by Warner Archive Collection, a film made in the latter part of 1928 and released in early 1929. Directed by and starring Willard Mack, the main star is Robert Ames, an actor almost totally forgotten today because he died of acute alcoholism only two years later in 1931. Also appearing with these two are Sylvia Field, Jim Farley, John Miljan, and others.

The opening is exquisite. The camera shots and the marvelous editing are fluid, genuinely dynamic. Then the story begins with one of the most stagnant scenes I've ever witnessed on screen, made worse because the microphone is menacingly visible throughout the entire scene! And the players play to the microphone by their stagnant - unendingly stationary - placement before it - the blocking looking much like a very amateur play done in high school. What's worse, one of the female characters is so awful as to be embarrassing to watch! Indeed, the opening expositionary scene is so stagy that I felt as if I were in a small theater with only ten seats in it for the audience. Really bad. It gets better, but, honestly, not by much. After such a good two minutes of opening...

This is a crime story - and a pretty good one at that. But by the end I was happy it was over. John Miljan has the best part, even better than Robert Ames, but he's not in the show enough, and he always needs great direction to give a good performance. Here he's adequate. Frankly, the best actor in the group is the director, Willard Mack. He ought to be decent: he'd been in films since 1913! He was a writer, director, actor, and producer, and even a dialogue coach on a couple of films. He could do it all, but not necessarily well enough when left all on his own...

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