(Part I of THE ADVENTURES OF FRANCOIS VILLON)
Released 8/15/14 by Universal/101 Bison; Director: Charles Giblyn; Screenplay: H.G. Stafford, from a magazine story by George Bronson Howard; Cinematography: Lee O. Bartholomew; 3 Reels; Print Source: The Library of Congress
CAST: Murdock MacQuarrie (Francois Villon), Pauline Bush (Philippa de Annonay), Lon Chaney (Chevalier Bertrand de la Payne), Harry F. Crane (King Louis XI), Chet Withey
SYNOPSIS: Francois Villon, vagabond, poet and philosopher, is on the road to Paris with his friend Collin when they see an elderly couple being evicted from their home. The two men turn over all their money to help the couple, but later, feeling hungry, they steal the purses of two monks. They are caught and arrested, but with Collin's help, Villon escapes. Collin is hanged and Villon is saying farewell to his friend at the gibbet when the Chevalier de Soissons arrives and mocks the dangling corpse. Villon attacks and kills the knight and dons his suit of armor. Philippa de Annonay is held prisoner at an inn by her wicked guardian the Chevalier Bertrand de la Payne. Villon arrives at the inn and, hearing Phillippa call for help, tries to rescue her. De Payne is killed in the ensuing battle with Villon. Phillippa is returned to her castle and Villon continues on to Paris. King Louis XI wishes to test Villon's loyalty so he has the poet arrested then, disguised as a convict, offers to help Villon escape if he will help him to overthrow the king. Villon denounces the man, affirming his support of Louis. The King then reveals himself and Villon is knighted for his loyalty.
"The camera becomes a veritable magic mirror to us in this delightful picture of the days of Francois Villon...It is remarkable how convincing and like real human life these scenes from the long dead past are...We can safely say that there is no obtrusive note of anachronism in the whole first installment. It has been produced in a reasonably scholarly way. Perhaps better than the staging even is the humanity of the characters...To sum up, we find the first installment of this picture a very entertaining romantic story, full of lively and naturally produced action, well-drawn characters, clear photographs and fairly scholarly staging. We commend it highly as a first-class offering and think that it will prove a door, as it were, to better work of this kind than we have had before as a general thing." ---Moving Picture World
NOTES: This early Universal "epic" was considered a lost film until the summer of 1983 when a nitrate print in excellent condition was discovered in Georgia. A couple were rebuilding the steps of their front porch when they uncovered three reels of film, still in their metal cans. The last reel was tinted orange, a common practice in films of that era. Chaney appears only briefly in the second reel and is promptly murdered. He reappeared as a different character in the second installment of the serial, THE HIGHER LAW which, unfortunately, is not known to survive in any archive.
© 1996,2008 Jon C. Mirsalis
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