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Friday, March 20, 2009

REDSKIN (1929)

Of all the features made during the two-strip TechniColor era (1922 to 1932), this is the film that stands out for turning the limitations of the inherently flawed system into something artistically positive. Richard Dix stars as a Native American who gets the chance to go to college in the East (the only part of the film shot in standard b&), but finds that when he returns from the all-White world, he has become a stranger to both cultures. Not, admittedly, the most original storyline, but the familiar contours are amply fleshed out with a tribal feud between Pueblo & Navaho (naturally Dix’s girl is a member of the ‘wrong’ tribe), some irreplaceably beautiful location footage and even a climactic race to register an oil claim for 'his people,' before things wrap up a bit too neatly. And it's all nicely packaged, by Victor Schertzinger, Hollywood’s only director/operetta composer. But what really makes the film stick in your mind is the way the Red/Green TechniColor tints of the combined picture element transmute a good, but unexceptional silent feature into something with the delicate appeal & beauty of a traditional sand painting. What luck to have a decent surviving print!

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