Red Saunders’ Sacrifice (1912)
There’s surprisingly little gunplay in this Western short from Lubin. We do, however, get three-way cross-cutting and melodramatic romance story worthy of D.W. Griffith. Mary, played by Clara Williams (who we’ve seen in “The Italian” and who went on to star in “Hell’s Hinges”), meets a charming and very clean-shaven “outlaw” near her frontier home. The “outlaw” in question is the eponymous Red Saunders, played by Edgar Jones, who made quite a few Westerns at Lubin, most of which are now lost. To me, he looks more like a Mountie than an outlaw. When Mary’s house catches fire, he takes her and her aging mother in at his mountain hideaway, but then mom falls sick and he must go fetch a doctor. At first reluctant, knowing that he’s a wanted man and will be spotted in town, his inner decency gets the better of him and he goes for the doctor. He makes the mistake of asking the local deputy where he can find a doctor, and the deputy interrupts the sheriff, who’s busy reminiscing about a lost love, to tell him there’s an outlaw in town. The doctor tries to capture Red for the bounty, but Red disarms him and forces him to return to the cabin. The doctor quickly ascertains that the woman has been dead for hours and there was no reason to get a doctor in the first place. Red gives him back his gun and sends him on his way while Mary grieves. Now the sheriff and the deputy ride up, having tracked the doctor to the mountains. The sheriff bushwhacks Red and handcuffs him, but he does stop long enough to hear Mary’s story. When he goes into the death room, he recognizes the corpse – it’s the woman he was pining over in the earlier scene. Mary is his daughter! The three talk things out and the sheriff takes off the handcuffs and gives Red back his gun on his word of honor that he’ll turn himself in. Red serves his time and returns to marry Mary.
On the whole, I found this a pretty typical Western for its day, well-made, but nothing really special. Clara Williams is the best actor in the piece, although the doctor and the deputy are both satisfyingly oily and untrustworthy. The whole bit with the sheriff mooning over his memorabilia makes no sense until we get to the denouement. Edgar Jones, as I’ve mentioned above, just doesn’t come across as a desperado or a fugitive, although he’s a handsome enough side of beef for a Western hero. Tinting was used for the scene with the burning cabin, and we get an interesting close-up on the deputy and the wanted poster to make sure we know it’s Red they’re after – never mind the improbability of reproducing photographs of a random outlaw on posters in the 1860s. The cross-cutting I mentioned gives us Mary fretting over her dead mother while Red gets the doctor and the deputy and sheriff pursue. It’s not a tense sequence (we already know mom’s dead), but it is effective in terms of moving the story forward. There is some lush countryside footage, presumably taken near Lubin’s Philadelphia headquarters, but all made up to be passably Western.
One final note: I saw this movie screened with a live audience at the Cinecon film festival in Los Angeles. I mention this because my readers might be interested in Cinecon (I’ll do a more complete writeup of the festival when it’s over) and also because it has affected my review process. Normally, I’ll watch a short at least twice before writing it up, features I go back to key scenes for. Since this was a live screening, it means I had no such opportunities, so any errors that took place can be chalked up to a failing memory.
Director: Francis J. Grandon
Starring: Edgar Jones, Clara Williams
Run Time: 10 Min
I cannot find this to watch for free on the Internet. If you find it, please let me know in the comments.