(director/writer: Michael Curtiz; screenwriter: story by Darryl F. Zanuck/De Leon Anthony/Anthony Coldeway; cinematographers: Hal Mohr/Barney McGill; editor: Harold McCord; music: Louis Silvers; cast: Dolores Costello (Mary/Miriam), George O’Brien (Travis/Japheth), Noah Beery (Nickoloff/King Nephiliu), Louise Fazenda (Hilda/Tavern maid), Guinn ‘Big Boy’ Williams (Al/Ham) (as Gwynn Williams), Paul McAllister (Minister/Noah), Myrna Loy (Dancer/Slave Girl), Nigel De Brulier (soldier/high priest); Runtime: 100; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Darryl F. Zanuck; Warner Bros.; 1928)
“A hokey World War I tragic romantic melodrama about man’s inhumanity that runs parallel with the biblical story of Noah’s Ark.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A hokey World War I tragic romantic melodrama about man’s inhumanity that runs parallel with the biblical story of Noah’s Ark. The leading actors have roles in each period presentation. A young Michael Curtiz (“Captain Blood”/”Kid Galahad”/”Adventures of Robin Hood”) makes his American directorial debut with this ambitious epic, an attempt at another Intolerance that fails, but the studio likes that he brings the pic home on schedule and on budget. The part-talkie film was restored in 1989 and reduced from 135 minutes to 100 minutes. After hearing its silent star Dolores Costello’s squeaky voice, I would have cut her talkie part out and saved her some embarrassment with the new medium. Though its story is naive, to say the least, it at least pleases with its visual splendor, immense mob scenes, a scary deluge scene (where crew members were supposedly killed or injured), some sparkling war scenes in the trenches and a great train wreck. Warner Bros. got a bang for the $1.5 million it spent on its budget.
It opens in 1914, when a train from Constantinople to Paris derails and two carefree vacationing American young travelers, Travis (George O’Brien) and Al (Guinn Williams), rescue an Alsatian girl named Mary (Dolores Costello) who is pinned under the train debris. The survivors find shelter at an inn near the French frontier and soon learn war has been declared. The innkeeper helps the trio escape a cavalry raid. In Paris, Travis falls in love with Mary, but is swept away with patriotism and both Travis and Al enlist in the army leaving Mary on her own. Mary searches for Travis while working as a canteen dancer in France. When she rejects the sexual advances of a Russian (Noah Beery), he reports her as a German spy. On the eve of her execution, Travis appears and makes all good. Meanwhile the pic runs parallel to the World War I story the biblical account of the flood, where we view such things at theFestival of Jaghutas a human sacrifice. We also observe that on the outskirts of town, the holy man Noah (Paul McAllister) and his small following live a simple life. We learn that the beautiful Miriam (Dolores Costello) is set to wed the youngest of Noah’s three sons, Japheth (George O’Brien), when the king’s soldiers take her captive and the king (Noah Beery) has her prepared for the sacrifice to his false gods. Noah is tuned into the true God and under his orders builds an Ark, and before the pagan high priest (Nigel De Brulier) can execute Miriam he’s killed by a lightning bolt and a second bolt takes care of the idol. The temple is flooded and all kinds of miracles take place, as the true believers are rescued in the Ark. In the modern-day story, we observe the good deeds of the Red Cross workers administering to the wounded and then the Armistice brings on a celebration for peace. Both tales tell of how evil is expunged by the forces of good.
If the viewer can get past how naive the story is, which would take a miracle, this is a wonderfully idiotic campy Hollywood spectacle film whose appeal is to those who can’t look away from a train wreck to enjoy gaudy spectacle.
The pic was a box office flop.
REVIEWED ON 9/17/2013 GRADE: C+