A DVD for superfans!


With Jon Mirsalis’ wonderful accompaniments which underline the action and the quality video presentation, this DVD is worth adding to your collection if you’re a superfan of Lon Chaney, if you are intrigued by historical relics which were very nearly lost forever, or if you are interested in the complexities of how art imitates life (and vice versa).

Polarizing politics? In a 100+ year old film? I thought that was invented a little over a year an a half ago! That’s Lon Chaney on the right, looking like a doctor.

The most fascinating story (to me) on the disc is If My Country Should Call, originally released in 1916 (the year before the United States entered World War One). The story intrigues me: a man’s girlfriend is okay with him going off to war while his mother is willing to go to great lengths to be sure he never does. The context of this sort of polarity can be observed in pop culture of the time: one famous song had mothers declaring, “I Didn’t Raise My Boy to Be a Soldier.”

Interesting material, to be sure. As I watched the film for this review, I scribbled the following: “A self-involved woman marries a man who is the opposite of herself. This manifests as her disdain for war and her husband’s willingness to serve ‘if his country should call.’ Naturally, they have a son who emulates his father’s selflessness (or suicidal tendencies, depending I suppose, on one’s point of view), much to the chagrin (and pride) of the woman.”

Ultimately, this plot gets complicated: more so because of the melodramatic delivery of the material. The film is entertaining, but fragmentary; all of the films on this DVD are found in an abridged form. This particular film was discovered in 1978 under a swimming pool in the Yukon, making this DVD the first release this film has enjoyed since 1916.

All of that to say, it would be fascinating to see the entire film, should that opportunity ever afford itself. Questions of how one’s life ought to be spent should be perpetually asked in artistic ways.

The other two films on the DVD are A Mother’s Atonement and A Place Beyond the Winds. I was and am very excited by the release of this material. So why, you may ask, do I have a qualifier f0r who would ideally own this disc?

DVDs have different audiences. If you’re a Lon Chaney fan, this probably won’t be your first choice to show friends who’ve never seen a silent film. This is an opportunity for folks to see Chaney’s evolution as an actor in ways that 30 years ago were virtually impossible (just about the only film of Chaney’s in general release on VHS then was Phantom of the Opera which, to me, is not his best film). It’s for that reason that I recommend this wholeheartedly to a narrow(er) segment of people.

Verdict: Pick it up and pour a glass of wine…you’re in for a treat!

The images in this review are all courtesy of MoviesSilently.com.