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Thursday, November 3, 2016


Theda Bara was a vamping sensation in this cautionary tale, stealing happy husbands from hearth & home; sucking them dry; moving on to the next victim. And Fox Films knew what they had, sticking Bara into ten more films that year, with legit directors like Herbert Brenon & Raoul Walsh, all now lost. Only FOOL, from little known helmer Frank Powell, survives, but it’s probably enough; when you've seen one disdainful look from Bara, you've seen them all. (Even if Powell’s aversion to anything but medium-full shots keeps them from having a proper effect.) It’s really rather an odd little film, skipping from shipboard meeting to Italian debauch without stopping for dancing, dinner or courtship. Instead, we get occasional title cards to remind us that it’s ‘Six Months Later;’ or ‘One Week Later.’ We only see the illicit couple having a perfectly lousy time of it; whatever was the attraction? The best moments show up early, as when Bara’s spurned lover suicides on an ocean liner she’s taking solely to follow her latest target. She even insists on positioning her deck chair directing on top of the blood-stained wood to be near her new mark. Quite the ghoulish touch. At least the film avoids a late moral awakening/redemption for the philandering husband to reunite with his family. An uncompromising touch that probably helped make this one stick.

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: Greta Garbo’s early Hollywood films perfected this man-devouring character. FLESH AND THE DEVIL/’27 is the best known, but try the deliriously sinful THE TEMPTRESS/’26, with normally staid megger Fred Niblo brought to a boil. (And in excellent shape on a TCM-Archives DVD collection of Garbo Silents.)

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