Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Last Warning (Paul Leni) ***

Director: Paul Leni

Cast: Laura La Plante, Montagu Love, Roy D'Arcy, Margaret Livingston, John Boles

Background: Paul Leni was known for directing horror films such as Waxworks and The Cat and the Canary. His most recent effort was an attempt to helm a more serious (but still dark) film, The Man Who Laughs.

Story: An actor is mysteriously murdered during a play, and the killer is never found. Five years later, a new producer tries to reopen the theater and bring the same cast back to perform the play.

Thougts: This is a return to form for Leni and owes alot to Leni's earlier horror film, The Cat and the Canary. Once again, we get a story filled with crazy plot twists and moments designed to make you jump out of your seat. There's plenty of fun to be had here. Leni has always been terrific at creating tension with a stirring atmosphere and inventive use of sound effects. The final 15 minutes are especially fun. The only thing that detracts from this is the lack of strong characters. Laura La Plante made for a strong heroine in Cat and the Canary, but her character is not very sympathetic here and given very little to do. There is also no performance that approaches the wonderful Martha Mattox's creepy turn as the maid in that earlier film. With better characters, this could've been one of Leni's best films.

Postscript: Sadly, this would be the last film Paul Leni ever made as he succumbed to blood poisoning in September of 1929. It's a shame because he seems like a director that was primed to take full use of the new sound era.

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