Released 1/06/21 by Universal/Jewel; Director: Tod Browning; Assistant Director: Tom Gubbins; Screenplay: Lucien Hubbard and Tod Browning, from a story by Tod Browning; Cinematography: William Fildew; Art Director: E. E. Sheeley; Titles: Gardner Bradford; Art Titles: Lewis Lipton and Fred Archer; 8 reels; Print Source: Library of Congress, Film Preservation Associates
CAST: Priscilla Dean (Molly Madden), Ralph Lewis (Silent Madden), Wheeler Oakman (Dapper Bill Ballard), Lon Chaney (Black Mike Silva/Ah Wing), E. A. Warren (Chang Lo), Stanley Goethals ("That Kid"), Melbourne McDowell (Morgan Spencer), Wilton Taylor (Inspector), John George (Gangster)
SYNOPSIS: "Silent" Madden, a gangster in San Francisco's Chinatown, has gradually been reforming through the teachings of the gentle Chang Lo. "Black Mike" Silva hates Madden and concocts a plan to frame him for a shooting he did not commit. Madden is arrested and sent to prison for eight months, and his daughter, Molly, who never believed Chang Lo's honest words, swears herself to a life of crime and vengeance. Silva plans to frame Molly as well, and enlists the aid of "Dapper Bill" Ballard, a gentleman crook. They plan to perform a daring robbery of a necklace, and arrange for Molly to be captured. The plan goes awry when Bill falls in love with Molly, and tells her of the frame-up plot. They steal the necklace, elude the police, then hide out in a secluded part of town. Bill begins to soften under the influence of the cute little boy who lives in the room across the hall. Molly at first hates the boy, then gradually grows to love him too, and the couple decide to return the necklace and go straight. As they leave for the police station, Silva is standing in the doorway, and a fight ensues between Bill and the crook. A police detective arrives, and Molly and Bill sneak out while the cop and Silva are fighting. Madden has been released from prison when Bill and Molly arrive at Chang Lo's. Silva and his men attack the house and a fierce battle follows, during which Ah Wing, on of the servants, shoots and kills Silva. The necklace is returned to the police, who agree to release Molly and Bill.
"There have not been many as well screened crook plays as this one...Priscilla Dean is a convincingly human sort of crook, and she is splendidly assisted by Lon Chaney and Wheeler Oakman." ---Photoplay
Lon Chaney plays the role of the arch-criminal 'Black Mike' Sylva, and also interpolates an interesting Chinese part. The Chinaman shoots 'Black Mike' in a double exposure scene at the close. The subject contains many shooting affairs of a cold-blooded sort and deals almost entirely with criminality. From a technical standpoint, its eight reels are justified, but an artificial story of this type, even when sumptuously mounted, will doubtless prove tiring to many spectators." ---Moving Picture World
"Not much time is lost in this photodrama in getting down to the business of slaughter. Half a dozen lives are blotted out in less time than it takes to write about it, and those who have used their pistols efficiently either smile, continue the story they were telling or go on with the crap game. Mr. Chaney even then proved himself a proficient actor. He is seen as a Chinese and also as 'Black Mike.' Mr. Chaney inculcates viciousness and strength in the latter character, and is remarkably well made up as the faithful yellow man." ---The New York Times (reviewing the 1926 reissue)
NOTES: Minnesota film collector Bob DeFlores received a call in the 1970's from a farmer's wife, Mrs. Ethel Bishman, that she had "some old cans of films in the barn that the kids like to play with," so he made a trip to investigate. A traveling man had left some cans of film with a relative in the 1920's and never returned. Buried under all the chicken feathers was a nitrate print of OUTSIDE THE LAW which he donated to the American Film Institute for preservation. The nitrate print was in excellent condition except for a few short scenes with extensive decomposition. As if that was not amazing enough, a rare Universal Show-At-Home 16mm print was donated to the archive a few years later!
The film was rereleased on 5/9/26 at the Colony Theatre on Broadway. A musical score was prepared by Dr. Edward Kilenyi for the reissue, and an "elaborate atmospheric presentation" of the film was arranged by German director Paul Leni, who would go on to direct such Universal classics as THE CAT AND THE CANARY, THE MAN WHO LAUGHS, and THE LAST WARNING. According to Moving Picture World, the film was also "re-cut" and "re- titled," although the nature of these changes is unknown. The surviving print appears to be from the original release.
Some sources list Leo McCarey as an Assistant Director.
Also, check out Poster #1, Poster #2 and Lobby card in my Poster Gallery
© 1997,1998,2005,2008 Jon C. Mirsalis
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