Thursday, September 1, 2016
Hangman's House (USA, 1928)
This film, despite its overt melodrama acting, also has some gothic elements, especially in the scenery, which is a type of thing that could be found in films by Ingmar Bergman decades later. The way the main characters express love and grief is through a stationary, stagy acting that was already out of fashion at late silent era.
An army man (Citizen Hogan), who was actually an Irish patriot serving in Algeria, asks for a leave of absence so he can return home in Ireland because he had to kill a man despite the fact he was wanted by the law there due to his patriot activities. The reasons of Hogan’s return were not disclosed at the beginning of the film and would only be known a while later.
In Ireland, a hangman is about to pass away and is having huge crisis of conscience due to the people he sent to death. The flames on the fireplace of his living room can be taken as a symbolism of his life that was about to be over.
His daughter loved a man dearly (Dermot McDermot) and he wanted to marry her. However, her father preferred that she married John D’arcy, a man of dishonest character, but with money and good social position. She detested D’arcy but eventually married him out of respect for her father’s wish. Dermot was devastated when he heard the sad news. Her father died a short time after the marriage. D’arcy started to drink and being completely nasty with his wife and she openly avoided him.
Meanwhile, a mysterious man showed up in town. It was the same army man showed in the beginning of the film and he was looking for John D’arcy. They both had clearly met before, and whenever D’arcy put his eyes on that man he seemed to be really afraid and uneasy. In fact, D’arcy had already been married with the army man’s sister, but D’arcy had left his sister and she died right afterwards. This is why Citizen Hogan wanted revenge.
D’arcy showed more and more signals of mental instability as time passed. Eventually, Citizen Hogan finally managed to confront D’arcy at his own house and it is suggested a duel. A fire started at the mansion and it attracts the attention of the entire neighborhood. Dermot McDermot and Citizen Hogan managed to leave the place on time, but D’arcy got trapped and is killed in the fire.
Hogan returned to the desert right afterwards, after having created a good friendship with Dermot. And both Demont and the hangman’s daughter could finally become together without anyone else’s interference, as she was now a widow.
The psychological profile, as well as reasons behind their attitudes could have been a bit deeper in this film. But this film has a good camera use, good sceneries and acting and a gloomy atmosphere that built up suspense well. The mansion and furniture had some interesting gothic touches, which is not something common to be seen in a dramatic film. Although not a particularly innovative film, it is convincing and well-acted. And it is also noteworthy for having shown John Wayne in his first recognizable role in films. As a uncreadited extra, he was a spectator in the horse racing who was so excited with the race that he ended up hitting the fence in front of him.