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Kamis, 31 Maret 2011

William Nigh - Desert Nights (1929)

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Desert Nights was the last silent film made by MGM's resident heartthrob John Gilbert -- and the last of his truly successful efforts. The melodramatic plot revolves around the robbery of a diamond mine, masterminded by Steve (Ernest Torrence). The criminals have taken Rand (Gilbert), the mine's manager, hostage, spiriting him off to the desert waste. Hopelessly lost, Steve turns to Rand, who knows the territory like the back of his hand, to lead the crooks back to civilization. Rand refuses but relents for the sake of Steve's partner-in-crime Diana (Mary Nolan).
Spoiler:
A spectacular climactic sandstorm effectively eliminates the villain and facilitates a happy ending for Rand and Diana. Likewise spectacular was the precipitous fall from popularity of John Gilbert after it was revealed that his voice, though pleasant enough, did not match his dashing screen image -- but this revelation was still several months in the future when Desert Nights was released.
Spoiler:

By MORDAUNT HALL.
Published: May 6, 1929
It is a queer string of circumstances that is thrown upon the screen in "Desert Knights," John Gilbert's latest production. But incredible though this adventure may be, it happens to be one that holds the interest. It has been carefully produced, with the background of the South African veldt, and Mr. Gilbert and Ernest Torrence are perceived after their harrowing experiences with thick beards.
The heroine of "Desert Nights" is Mary Nolan, who was known on the stage as Imogene Wilson. She is fair to look at and she gives a good performance. Whether any diamond mine manager would welcome a girl to his arms, as Hugh Rand does Diana, when he knows that her initial intentions were to help her partner in crime, Steve (Mr. Torrence), to steal as many diamonds as possible, is hardly probable. The raison d'etre here is that Diana is contrite as well as being attractive. Perhaps Mr. Rand (Mr. Gilbert) decides that the girl will be glad to live honestly and that she will grow even more beautiful.
Coincidences are not lacking here. Mr. Rand receives word that Lord Somebody and his daughter are on their way to see him at the mine. The redoubtable Steve and Diana then enter Rand's office, posing as the expected visitors. Not so very long afterward Steve, Diana and Rand, with black carriers, go forth into the desert and Steve and Diana assert themselves, after the negroes have deserted.
Steve would not have objected to killing Rand, or leaving him bound so that he would die, but it happens that the diamond thief suddenly remembers that he will not be able to find his way out of the desert. Rand and the others have a hard time through scarcity of water. Diana's pluck, following her denunciation of Steve, wins Rand's favor.
Throughout the desert exploits one gains a corking good conception of the heat and also the suffering through parched throats. Will Nigh has directed this silent picture with a good sense of drama during these sequences. He reveals, with a restrained hand, that, while Steve is tortured by thirst, he is still eager to hold on to the diamonds. This rugged specimen of evil humanity sticks by Diana and Rand chiefly because he fears to be alone, but when the time comes and he has quenched his thirst he is only too keen to be off with the water flask, in which he rattles what he thinks to be the precious stones.
Mr. Gilbert gives an earnest showing as Rand, and only rarely does one perceive his wide, artificial smile. Mr. Torrence is capital as Steve.

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