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Devil's Island (1926)

Devil's Island (1926) Chadwick Pictures. Director: Frank O'Connor. Story-Scenario: Leah Baird. Camera: Andre Barlatier. Cast: Pauline Frederick, Marion Nixon, George Lewis, Richard Tucker, William Dunn, Leo White, John Miljan, Harry Northrup.

A Copy of this film is held by UCLA (16mm.), beginning deterioration noted and film is warped, (playing time 60 min. at 24 fps). 8 mm collector copies also exist, and the film is available on video.

Devil's Island lobby card Thanks to Derek Boothroyd for this still.
A couple of clippings about the film (one also has a short notice on Josselyn's Wife)Clippings
Picture from Photoplay A picture that was mistakenly paired with the Photoplay review of Her Honor the Governor
1Lobby Card Two full page ads for the film. One wishes they had spent as much money making the film as advertising it 1Lobby Card
1Lobby Card A lobby card with Marion Nixon. Thanks to Derek Boothroyd for this

Photoplay review on Silents are Golden

Review from Variety
Video Review

Review from Variety, August 4, 1926


Chadwick Pictures Corporation production. Released through regional exchanges. Story and scenario by Leah Baird. Directed by Frank O'Connor. Pauline Frederick starred with George Lewis and Marian Nixon features. Titles by Mark Edmund Jones. At the Colony, New York, week Aug. 1. Running time, 65 min.

Jeannette Picot Pauline Frederick
Jean Valyon Richard Tucker
Guillot William Dunn
Chico Leo White
Andre LeFevier Jean Miljan
Leon Valyon George Lewis
The Commandant Harry Northrup
Rose-Marie Marian Nixon

In so far as the production is concerned this is an elaborate effort for an independent producer, but the story with its heavy drama is pretty old stuff and the burden of its sincere interpretation is almost entirely on Pauline Frederick and Marian Nixon, the latter as nice a little ingenue as the screen has had in a long time. George Lewis is features, but his contribution is pretty colorless, either his fault or the fault of the director.

Story concerns a French surgeon sentenced to the penal colony of Devil's Island, off the coast of South America. After seven years he is released on parole to French Guiana and at Cayenne, capital of that small territory, he finds his old sweetheart awaiting him. As a convict he must remain there all his life and the woman who married a convict must do the same. The same penalty applies to any children born to them.

When their son arrives he has his father's aptitude for surgery. As he matures and after the father's death he becomes famous for his operations, which the titles tell us are so marvelous that they are unknown in Europe.

His mother plots for his escape, so that he can go to Paris and there receive the training which would develop a prodigy into a genius. But the boy falls in love with a dancer. Although he has a spat with her, the love sticks and the film winds up by a court of justice decreeing that the father should never have been sent to the Penal Colony in the first place and that France as a nation would attempt to rectify that by freeing his wife and son.

With their freedom they put in a request to free the girl, who is at the moment being roughly handled by the commandant of the land. The order for her release is broadcast by radio, and as the official is struggling with her the maneuver toward his radio set. Just as she is too weak to do anything else her release order comes through clear and strong, proving that justice did triumph and that static in the tropics isn't half as bad as in this temperate zone during warm weather.

Miss Frederick's work as the mother takes her from a young woman to an old woman with gray hair, and she turns in many effective moments. Ditto Miss Nixon and Richard Tucker, the father. He isn't often seen around here, but in "Devil's Island " his work is marked by a sincerity which commends it. George Lewis seems to be an automaton, while Harry Northrup as the villainous Commandant worked strictly along the lines laid down by other villains.

"Devil's Island" isn't a wallop, neither is it a dud. It stands half way between the two classifications and in atonement for its too familiar situations allows Miss Frederick some excellent scenes. Moderate entertainment.


Video review

It is unfortunate that this is the only other Frederick film on video, since after Smouldering Fires it is quite a comedown. Pedestrian direction, an inept and unappealing leading man, and an absurdly contrived denouement mar the film. Frederick is professional, as always, but uninspired in the role that doesn't give her much of interest to do. In her sequences as the younger woman she does look quite lovely, but her scenes as the older mother are more interesting. Marian Nixon makes a good impression; as in some of her other roles, she has a strength and toughness unusual in what would ordinarily be a pert ingenue role. The titles are occasionally overly florid. The whole thing feels rather pointless.

This film is available from Video Specialists International, from Sunrise Silents (DVD-R), PicPal, and other public domain video distributors. Sunrise Silent's website also has a film clip. The DVD is of decent quality, but is slighly letterboxed for some mysterious reason, cropping a little of the top and bottom. The score is played by an annoying-sounding electonic keyboard. But it is light years beter than the VSI VHS version, which is a very bad transfer, all streaks and wiggly lines, and rather washed out (the latter may have been a problem with the source print). It is said to be tinted but in reality has an occasional aqua or amber streak across the picture. The score starts out as orchestral but quickly switches to organ, but is adequate. According to my VCR timer, it ran 75 minutes. I am told that the PicPal version is clear and crisp, though not perfect. According to the label it runs 73 min.

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Last revised, November 24, 2012