Sunday, October 06, 2013

31 Days of Halloween - Day 6 - Movie 2

D.W. Griffith's Sorrows of Satan (1926) is essentially the Faust story set in the, then, modern day. Geoffrey and Mavis are two struggling writers in love. When more professional misfortune falls on Geoffrey than he can bear, he curses God and declares he's sell his soul for money to the devil, if there were a devil to buy it. sure enough, Satan in the guise of Prince Lucio de Rimanez, with an alleged inherited fortune for Geoffrey so long as he places his fate entirely in Prince Lucio's hands. Lucio steers Geoffrey away from Mavis and convinces him to marry Princess Olga even though he still loves Mavis. Mavis continues to fall upon hardship after hardship, and Geoffrey soon realizes that with all of his wishes granted he's unhappy without her, and the Prince reveals his true identity to Geoffrey as he seeks redemption.

This is more melodrama than horror, but has its merits. Even though the story is heavy handed it works, much as a Charles Dickens story works. Geoffrey's anguish and conflicted conscience is clear throughout and it's painful to watch him steered further and further away from the live he should be living. Adolphe Menjou as Prince Lucio is a slimy manipulator beneath his thin veneer of charm. Sorrows of Satan is in no way visually as rich or stunning as Faust (see previous post) but the melodrama is bracketed by a spectacular scene of Lucifer and the rebel angels being transformed into demons and cast out of Heaven, and a haunting climax with Geoffrey fleeing from Satan's shadow as he tries to make his way back to Mavis. This may be the best use of shadows in a silent movie outside of Nosferatu.

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