In the documentary UNIVERSAL HORRORS, a friend of James Whale talks about one of the last Universal silent horror films THE LAST WARNING then says he believes the film to be lost. Nope! Rocket Video has it. A woman once saw it on the shelf and excitedly exclaimed, “This film is supposed to be lost!” I personally searched for years for a copy of this film—and it’s only on VHS.
Directed by German émigré Paul Leni, THE LAST WARNING (1929) was based on a novel and a play of the same name. Leni, who also directed CAT AND THE CANARY, THE MAN WHO LAUGHS and WAXWORKS, peppers his film with examples of German expressionism while equally balancing comedy and scares. The film stars Laura La Plante, Montagu Love and Slim Summerville and was shot on the sets from THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA.
In the film, actor John Woodford is killed during the performance of a play. His dead body disappears and his ghost supposedly haunts the theater forcing it to close down. The police are baffled. Years later, a savvy producer re-opens the theater, reuinites the original cast and crew and produces a new version of the play. Murder and mayhem ensue.
There are many striking scenes in the picture (I love the brief moment when an actor jumps under a lowering curtain and the camera follows him under the curtain) and the atmosphere is perfect. It’s the perfect picture to watch during a thunderstorm.
THE LAST WARNING can be found in Rocket Video’s silent film section. It was remade by Universal in 1939 as HOUSE OF FEAR starring William Gargan and El Brendel. This is also a great flick and has never been released on VHS or DVD…though, between you and me, there’s a VHS copy for rent in the FREE section and I will most likely discuss it in a future installment of this column.
This is your last warning…see THE LAST WARNING!