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Reviews of silent film releases on home video.
Copyright © 1999-2014 by Carl Bennett
and the Silent Era Company.
All Rights Reserved.
The Cheat
(1915)
 

The Cheat (1915) was one of Cecil B. DeMille’s early successes and was the star-making vehicle for Sessue Hayakawa, the most successful Japanese actor of the silent era in America. And even this early in his filmmaking career, DeMille began to show signs of the moralistic posturing of his later silent era films.

A Long Island business investor (Jack Dean) is on the verge of success, but can’t keep his extravagant young wife (Fannie Ward) in check. She refuses to give up her high-society friends or social position for the sake of conservative household economics. Arakau (Hayakawa), a rich Burmese ivory trader, agrees to host a charity event in his opulent home. As treasurer of the Red Cross charity fund, she is entrusted with ten-thousand dollars in cash. When an acquaintance of her husband dupes her into investing the fund money in a worthless stock, she must quickly raise the money and appeals to Arakau for help. When her husband’s investment succeeds the next day and she attempts to repay her friend, he refuses. Instead he attempt to exert his dominance over her in his mad and possessive obsession with her. In a claim of ownership, he scars her shoudler with a hot brand. She retaliates by shooting him. Her husband discovers the secret and takes the blame for the shooting. She appeals to Arakau to drop the charges. He refuses, prefering to claim her honor instead. The case goes to trial. When her husband is pronounced guilty, she frantically tells the truth revealing the branding scar. The atmosphere turns to racial hatred and the courtroom erupts. The charges against her husband dropped, the innocent husband and wife leave the courtroom together. The moral is that greed is heinous but the felon can be exonerated by love when you can blame the whole affair on a hated foreigner. — Carl Bennett

2002 Kino on Video DVD edition

Manslaughter (1922), black & white and color-toned black & white, 100 minutes, not rated,
with The Cheat (1915), black & white, 59 minutes, not rated.

Kino International, K244, UPC 0-38329-02442-0.
Full-frame 4:3 NTSC, one single-sided, dual-layered DVD disc, Region 0, 5.5 Mbps average video bit rate, 192 kbps audio bit rate, Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, 8 chapter stops, standard DVD keepcase, $29.95.
DVD release date: 2 April 2002.
Country of origin: USA

Ratings (1-10): video: 7 / audio: 8 / additional content: 7 / overall: 7.

The video transfer of The Cheat has utilized one or two very good to excellent 35mm prints, with light scuffing, scratches and speckling. A couple of instances of print damage pass quickly and are hardly distracting. A small number of shots, some of them intertitles, appear to have come from a very good 16mm reduction print. The transfer is presented full-frame with open framing.

The musical accompaniment is the same stereo music score composed by Robert Israel, performed by an ensemble and piano, that has previously appeared on home video editions of The Cheat on videotape, laserdisc and even on DVD (with Cecil B. DeMille’s Carmen) from Film Preservation Associates. The entire presentation on this DVD is identical to those previous editions. Overall, the presentation of this silent era film is among a handful of the best available on home video.

Despite our opinionated assessments of Cecil B. DeMille’s work in general, we recommend this fine duo of silent film editions as an valuable addition to any home video collection. Of the two films included in this edition, we favor The Cheat for its better content and its better presentation, both in the print quality and the musical accompaniment.

 
USA: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 0 NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.com. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
 
Canada: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 0 NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.ca. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
2001 Image Entertainment DVD edition

Carmen (1915), black & white, 56 minutes, not rated,
with The Cheat (1915), black & white, 59 minutes, not rated.

Film Preservation Associates, distributed by Image Entertainment, ID9227DSDVD, UPC 0-14381-92272-1 .
Full-frame 4:3 NTSC, one single-sided, dual-layered DVD disc, Region 1, ? Mbps average video bit rate, ? kbps audio bit rate, Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, chapter stops, standard DVD keepcase, $29.99.
DVD release date: 6 March 2001.
Country of origin: USA
We have not reviewed this edition of The Cheat, however, we have viewed this edition, produced for home video by David Shepard, on laserdisc. The video transfer and music for this edition is identical to that laserdisc edition and to the Kino DVD edition listed above.

A decision to purchase this edition over the Kino edition above will be based strictly on the additional content, with this edition including DeMille’s version of Carmen (1915) starring Geraldine Farrar, and Charles Chaplin’s spoof of the two other motion picture versions of Carmen from 1915.

 
USA: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 1 NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.com. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
 
Canada: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 1 NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.ca. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
2007 Passport Video DVD edition

The Cecil B. DeMille Classics Collection (1914-1926), black & white, 1622 minutes total, not rated,
including The Cheat (1915), black & white, 59 minutes, not rated.

Passport Video, DVD-5090, UPC 0-25493-50900-0.
Windowboxed 4:3 NTSC, five single-sided, dual-layered DVD discs, Region 0, ? Mbps average video bit rate, ? kbps audio bit rate, Dolby Digital 1.0 mon0 sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, 9 chapter stops, five-disc DVD keepcase, $19.98.
DVD release date: 12 June 2007.
Country of origin: USA

This multidisc budget edition has been mastered from a 16mm reduction print that is grayed out and soft of image detail. The slightly windowboxed, natural speed video transfer is a bit tightly cropped, with a few head tops cut off.

The film is presented with a cobbled-together music score from a variety of preexisting recordings.

While this edition is not horrible, either of the Kino or Image editions noted above will be of far better quality.

 
USA: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 0 NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.com. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
 
Canada: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 0 NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.ca. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
Other silent era CECIL B. DeMILLE films available on home video.

Other silent era SESSUE HAYAKAWA films available on home video.

 
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