Lon Chaney is among the most-popular of silent era stars, largely for the lasting appeal of his wide-range of character roles. This documentary by the respected author and filmmaker Kevin Brownlow is on par with his other first-class productions on silent era films and people.
Chaney’s private life and public career is examined through still photos, clips from films, and interviews with family members, coworkers, and Chaney fans who saw his films in their original runs. Among the people interviewed are Patsy Ruth Miller (costar), Jackie Coogan (costar), Willard Sheldon (assistant director), Ron Chaney (great-grandson), Sara Karloff (Boris’ daughter), Michael F. Blake (biographer), Ray Bradbury (modern author) and Forrest J. Ackerman (publisher).
While no feature-length documentary can impart as much information as a book-length biography, we think that this production does a fine job of introducing Lon Chaney to silent film neophytes and of reviewing Chaney’s career for enthusiasts. — Carl Bennett
2003 DVD edition
Lon Chaney Collection (1921-2000), black & white and color, 329 minutes total, not rated,
including Lon Chaney: A Thousand Faces (2000), black & white and color, 85 minutes, not rated.
Warner Home Video, 65791, UPC 0-12569-57912-5.
Two single-sided, dual-layered, Region 1NTSC DVD discs, 1.33:1 aspect ratio image in full-frame 4:3 (720 x 480 pixels) interlaced scan MPEG-2 format, 5 Mbps average video bit rate, 192 kbps audio bit rate, Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound, English language intertitles, French and Spanish language subtitles, 24 chapter stops; two-disc digipak in cardboard slipcase, $39.98.
Release date: 28 October 2003.
Country of origin: USA
Among the revelations in the documentary are the first-hand accounts of the actual mundane quality of the most sought after of Chaney’s lost films, London After Midnight (1927). Thought by many to be a vampire film, it is instead a detective film that was played tongue-in-cheek.
We love each documentary that Kevin Brownlow produces, and this Chaney piece is no exception. We are very pleased that it has been included in this DVD collection and recommend it highly.
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