This tale of the American Revolutionary War, written by Frances Marion, focuses on Nathan Hale, patriot.
Nathan Hale (Robert Warwick) is a schoolmaster in love with student Alice Adams (Gail Kane). When the fist of British rule tightens, led locally by Colonel Guy Fitzroy (George MacQuarrie), Hale leads the formation of the Sons of Liberty militia. Love, hardships and subterfuge lead to Hale’s ultimate capture as a spy.
The direction by Emile Chautard often strays to the melodramatic, and Gail Kane’s eye-popping and heavy-breathing performance may raise giggles in a modern audience, but it is the performances of Robert Warwick and Alec B. Francis that anchor this production. Clifford Gray as Tom Adams reminds us more than a little of Eddie Izzard.
Shot at World Film’s Peerless studio in Fort Lee, New Jersey, and on locations (some of them probably lost to progress in the ensuing years) that well represent colonial New England, this production captures the feeling of the historical era depicted far better than any southern California production of 1916 could have. — Carl Bennett
Grapevine Video, no catalog number, UPC 8-42614-10353-7.
Full-frame 4:3 NTSC, one single-sided, single-layered DVD-R disc, Region 0, 5 Mbps average video bit rate, 384 kbps audio bit rate, Dolby Digital 2.0 mono sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, 15 chapter stops, standard DVD keepcase, $14.95.
Release date: 19 June 2009.
Country of origin: USA
This edition has been mastered from a color-tinted 16mm reduction print. The full-frame, natural-speed video transfer is improved over typical Grapevine product of even the mid-2000s. The source print’s wide range of greytones and reasonable image detail are well reproduced, despite the high video compression artifacts that are seen in still frames. Only the deepest of shadows and the brightest of highlights start to lose detail, with exceptions in the fourth and fifth reels where some transitory exposure fluctuations in the source print compromise the tonal range. There is a noticeable amount of dust in the print, with some speckling, thin vertical scratches, rough splices and minor print damage, but overall the viewing experience is enjoyable.
The film is presented with a score of preexisting recordings from a variety of orchestral music sources that have been edited together to accompany the film’s action. Serviceable, but a little out of context at times.