Plot: The stage production of a murder mystery takes an unexpected turn when the performance is interrupted, as one of the cast members alerts the crowd that one of the actors has been killed. In the wake of the death, the police investigate, the cast is stunned, and the production is closed down, despite the show being an always popular attraction. Years later, a producer decides to exorcise the past and reopen the theater, to put the production back on the stage. Not only will the same play be presented, but the producer plans to assemble the surviving cast members and once for all, put the tragic events behind the production. But as they cast and crew soon discover, the past hasn’t left the theater and as the production pushes on, all manner of strange, inexplicable events unfold.
Entertainment Value: This is a masterful motion picture, one that delivers thrills, chills, and even some laughs, not to mention a gorgeous visual design that makes each scene a pleasure to experience. The narrative is an interesting one, blending horror, mystery, and comedy elements, but it does so with great skill and the movie always feels cohesive, which couldn’t have been a simple task. The horror/mystery slant makes up most of the movie and it is effective, with an eerie atmosphere in most scenes and the visuals are perfect to bolster that. I love the visuals in The Last Warning, such stark, stylish images that capture the imagination. This ranges from the skilled lighting choices to the camera work, which is creative and memorable to the set design touches, which again, are just masterfully executed. I have a soft spot for old, dark house movies and this doesn’t fall in line with that in all respects, the visuals call that genre to mind and the spooky texture does as well. As good as the eerie side of the movie is, it also has some downright odd moments as well, not to mention the bursts of humor. Laughs in a horror movie can be a tough sell, but The Last Warning nails the mixture and to me, the comedic touches are a prime selling point here. I can’t praise this one enough, for classic cinema or fans of horror or murder mysteries, The Last Warning is highly recommended.
The cast tends to over overshadowed by Paul Leni’s masterful direction and some of the production design elements, but there are some good performances here and a fun ensemble of talent on hand. Laura La Plante is an early scream queen and is fun to watch in this one, though she tends to be called on to be menaced or frightened more than push her acting skills. Which is fine, as this kind of movie benefits from a lead that can convey fear and unease, which La Plante does with ease. Margaret Livingston tends to steal the show at times, dialing up her performance and commanding the screen. I found her effort in The Last Warning to again be a fun one, as she worked well no matter where the tone happened to shift toward. I was also pleased to Mack Swain involved, as I love the work he did with visionary Charlie Chaplin. In the end, the performances in this aren’t likely to leave a huge impression, but they’re capable and help bolster the story, which allows Leni’s direction to take center stage. The cast also includes Montagu Love, Carrie Daumery, and John Boles.
The Disc: Flicker Alley’s Blu-ray release boasts a new 4k restoration that looks excellent, the kind of treatment fans have likely dreamed of for years. Of course, some age related woes and source issues remain, but the movie looks fantastic and retains the natural texture, which is crucial. I think it is better to have some minor issues, rather than an image that was hit with a heavy restoration hand that leads to loss of inherent texture or depth. This was the result of a comprehensive search for the best elements and a skilled restoration, with superb results. The extras include a ten minute visual essay, a generous selection of still photos & promotional materials, and a physical booklet with a couple of essays on the movie.