Produced by Universal Pictures
Directed by Tod Browning
Released December 17, 1923
Cast: Priscilla Dean, Matt Moore, Raymond Griffith, and Wallace Beery.
A mystery-melodrama, Sylvia Donovan and Roy Donovan are separated as youngsters when their father is betrayed by a fellow thief. They are brought together years later by a thief, Count Donelli. and form a team of thieves by the use of a mechanical chess machine. They are unaware that they are brother and sister and that Count Donelli is the man who had betrayed their father.
The three cooperate to rob a wealthy home using the chess playing machine, but complications arise after they rob the home and seek refuge in a cabin.
The film received mixed reviews.
Variety, November 22, 1923: "Universal just missed a one-hundred percenter in this production. They have a story packed with action, a high grade production and excellent playing by several members of the cast, notably Wallace Beery, who does the heavy. Heavy, florid titles make the picture drag. The first good point is the well-wrought suspense of the interesting story, a crook drama of highly colored incident, and a well-built and effective finale which carries an especially strong punch."
Harrison's Reports, November 24, 1923: "An unusual picture presenting, in an entertaining manner, the psychological truth that a person with a clear conscience fears nothing and nobody while one with a guilty conscience pays silent toll every hour of the day in the form of fear, distrust of everyone, and a feeling of panic at every unusual sound or happening. Solely from a psychological standpoint, the picture should interest."
Photoplay, February, 1924: "A crook story with plenty of thrills and a conventional ending."
Raymond Griffith, the son of show people, entered films in 1914 with Vitagraph and subsequently appeared in numerous comedies and dramas playing leads and supporting roles. He also collaborated on several scripts and retired from acting after playing his most famous role as the dying French soldier in "All Quiet On The Western Front" (1930). He then turned to producing films, primarily for Fox, and directed his last film, "The Great Profile," in 1940.
Griffith is a greatly neglected actor, and in 1927, after reviewing Buster Keaton's "The General," critic Robert E. Sherwood ventured, "In spite of its pretentious proportions, "The General" is not nearly so good as Raymond Griffith's Civil War comedy, "Hands Up."
Griffith can be seen in a few films on video today including "Open All Night," "The Night Club," "Paths To Paradise," and "Hands Up."
Kentucky-born Tod Browning, a choir boy and director of amateur theatricals in his backyard, became infatuated with a so-called sideshow queen who was the attraction of a travelling show. At the age of sixteen, he ran away with the traveling show that traveled up and down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. He became a barker for a phony Wild Man From Borneo, and at the age of twenty-one, he became "The Hypnotic Living Corpse." For the admission of twenty-five cents, you were able to witness the "burial" (under six feet of dirt) and the resurrection two days later. Nearing his thirty-first birthday, he was introduced to D.W. Griffith who offered him an acting role in a two-reel comedy that he was producing at the Biograph Studio in the Bronx, New York.
Sources: The Film Encyclopedia by Ephraim Katz
Who's Who In Hollywood by David Ragan
Who Was Who On Screen by Evelyn Mack Truitt
The American Film Institute Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-1930
The Monster Show by David J. Skal.
copyright 2003 by John DeBartolo. All rights reserved.
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