Released 8/13/27 by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer; Director: Benjamin Christensen; Screenplay: Bradley King, from a story by Benjamin Christensen; Cinematography: Merritt B. Gerstad; Film Editor: John W. English; Settings: Cedric Gibbons and Alexander Toluboff; Wardrobe: Gilbert Clark; Titles: Joe Farnham; 7 reels (5956'); Print Source: Warner Brothers Classics
CAST: Lon Chaney (Sergei), Ricardo Cortez (Dimitri), Barbara Bedford (Tatiana), Mack Swain (Mr. Gaidaroff), Emily Fitzroy (Mrs. Gaidaroff), Charles Puffy (Ivan), Kai Schmidt (Butler)
SYNOPSIS: In war-torn Siberia, Sergei, a simple-minded peasant, comes across Tatiana, a young woman who offers him food and water if he will help her get to Novokursk. Posing as man and wife, the two sneak through the forest, dodging soldiers at every turn. They stop at a deserted cabin to rest, but are discovered by Cossacks, and not believing the fair woman to be married to such an oaf, they whip Sergei to get at the truth. When troops approach the cossacks flee, and Tatiana reveals herself to be the Countess Alexandrova, carrying important information to headquarters. Tatiana and Sergei recover in the local hospital, where Dimitri, a young Captain, thinking her a peasant girl, flirts with her until she reveals her identity. Tatiana becomes a guest at the home of the Mr. Gaidaroff, a newly rich war profiteer. Sergei is taken to Ivan, the gatekeeper of the house, who fills Sergei with stories of how Tatiana will shun him, but that soon the day of the workers will come. Sergei begins to believe this when he sees Dimitri kissing Tatiana, and he gradually becomes embittered with his poor existence. The troops leave the town to defend Vladisk, and the servants find new courage with the Gaidaroffs left unprotected. Ivan and Sergei get drunk, and when Mrs. Gaidaroff rings for the servants, Sergei goes upstairs and taunts her. Ivan tells Sergei that he plans to have Tatiana first, and Sergei, enraged, locks Ivan and his friends in the cellar. Sergei returns upstairs where he chases Tatiana through the house. Troops break into the house and Dimitri rescues her just in time. Sergei is captured and is to be shot, but when Tatiana sees his scars, she is reminded of how he saved her life. She lies, saying that Sergei remained loyal, and he is released. Ivan and his friends escape from the cellar and attack the guards. Sergei battles them until Dimitri returns to save them. Sergei is injured, and Tatiana tells him that he will stay with them always.
"Like its central character, the narrative of MOCKERY, the latest production featuring the estimable Lon Chaney, is lumbering, dull-witted and, on the whole, unconvincing...Mr. Chaney's individual efforts throughout this film are strikingly painstaking, and he undoubtedly looks the part of the greasy, long-haired rural derelict with a hare-lip." --- The New York Times
"Lon Chaney is running rapidly through the list of human ailments and tribulations. In MOCKERY he plays a slow thinking Russian peasant with a harelip...This star is the only film luminary who can play dumb gents minus sex appeal and ring the gong at the boxoffice." --- Photoplay
"Lon Chaney is put through a routine of pug-ugly mugging, but even this flops, as somehow he hardly achieves the ferocious power of facial characterization he has often managed to convey in other productions...It lowers the star's batting average considerably." ---Variety
"Given a new character and a story with infinite possibilities, Lon Chaney achieves but a moderate success because the author-director has fallen short in both capacities. He adds another fine study to his album of make-up, but he does not add another triumph to his list because he is so hopelessly encumbered by the amateurishness of the plot development and handling." ---Moving Picture World
NOTES: The working title of the film was "Terror," which describes the response MOCKERY received from the critics at the time of release. Seen today, one can understand the poor response. MOCKERY is one of Chaney's weakest MGM entries, a dreary melodrama in which he does little more than lumber about the set. Much of the blame for the film rests with Christensen, a Danish director brought to the U.S. by MGM. Christensen's Danish pictures are brilliant, but his productions at MGM were misfires. Far more concerned with style than story, the film is beautifully shot, but falls completely flat. Chaney would bounce back with several hits after this dud.
Despite the mediocre reviews, the film still made a tidy profit for MGM. Shot in 33 days for only $187,000, the film earned profits of $318,000. This is further evidence that a loyal following would turn out for Chaney's films, regardless of subject matter or pans by the critics.
Also, check out lobby card #1, lobby card #2, lobby card #3 and poster in my Poster Gallery.
© 2000,2008 Jon C. Mirsalis
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