Monday, June 7, 2021

Captain Salvation

It's been a couple of weeks since I've blogged about a silent movie, so I decided to sit down with one the other night, Captain Salvation.

Lars Hanson plays Anson Campbell, a young man in 1840 New England. He's left his small town to go off to seminary, and now he's returned, with the expectation of everybody in town that he's going to marry his long-time love Mary Phillips (Marceline Day) and settle down as the town's minister. Some, however, do wonde about his having returned by boat.

But that's not the biggest of Anson's problems. Some time later a storm blows through, and it's had an effect on some of the shipping. Since this is the nearest town, one of the boats sends off an injured passenger, Bess Morgan (Pauline Starke). Rumor has it that she's a woman of ill repute. Anson, being a good Christian, tends to the sick and the sinners just like the Gospels in the New Testatment say that Jesus did.

That, however, is no excuse for the prodush people of a small seaside New England town of that era. They continue to gossip to the point that it's clear they're not going to accept Anson as their minister, just because their such nasty blankety-blanks. In their eyes, anybody who is kind to Bess isn't good enough for them.

Since Anson can see the writing on the wall, he realizes that the only thing he can do is to get himself and Bess out of town. He hears of a ship, the Panther, that's heading down to Rio, with a captain played by Ernest Torrence. Anson gets himself and Bess on that ship.

However, Anson has gotten some misinformation along the way. The Panther isn't heading to Rio, but is in fact a ship transporting prisoners to who-knows-where. Anson and Bess are trapped on the ship, with Anson being left to the wolves and the captain trying to get Bess for himself.

Technically, I found Captain Salvation to be a fine example of silent filmmaking from near the end of the silent era. Some of the acting will seem overdone to people not used to silent pictures, while the photography is qutie good. The story is for the most part an interesting one, although I felt it started to break down a bit once the true nature of the ship Anson and Bess were on was revealed.

Apparently, Captain Salvation was a rarity for many years, until TCM commissioned a new score for it in what I'm assuming was one of the incarnations of the Young Composers Competition. That, and some of the intertitles are clearly modern-day reproductions. Still, having been distributed by MGM, the movie has received a DVD release courtesy of the Warner Archive.

Captain Salvation isn't the sort of movie I'd recommend to people who don't know much about silents as one of their first; I've always said that I'd start with the comedies. But for fans of silents who might not have seen it, I'd definitely recommend Captain Salvation.

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