Century Film Project

Celebrating the movies our ancestors loved

Tag: William Pike

The Master Mystery (1919)

To wrap up this year’s October review of chilling movies, I’m going to look at this serial starring no less a person than Harry Houdini. Once again, it’s not exactly a horror movie – it’s more of a crime serial ala Louis Feuillade – but it has madness, a robot, and lots of creative death-dealing situations for the hero to get out of, so I’m including it.

Our story begins in the home of Peter Brent (Jack Burns), the President of International Patents, Inc, a company whose nefarious scheme is to buy up the patents for new inventions from lone geniuses and keep them off the market – benefiting those who own existing patents by preventing free competition. Unbeknownst to Brent, one of his employees, Quentin Locke (Houdini) is actually an agent of the Dept. of Justice, investigating on the grounds of the Anti-trust Act, and he has wired Brent’s home for sound (most of the first shots we see of Houdini are his reactions to conversations other characters are having in other rooms, which can be a bit confusing). Locke is of course secretly in love with Brent’s daughter Eva (Marguerite Marsh), and Brent is actually having second thoughts about the whole scheme for her sake. Enter the real villains of the movie, Herbert and Paul Balcom (William Pike and Charles E Graham), a father-and-son team who hope to take over the company (the father) and marry Eva (the son). They also have collaborators in the form of a secretary named Zita Dane (Ruth Stonehouse) who is secretly in love with Locke and a lady-of-leisure with the unlikely moniker of De Luxe Dora (Edna Britton) who “dominates” Paul. Read the rest of this entry »

Salomy Jane (1914)

Salomy Jane-1914

This early Western was shot around the Bay Area and in the Redwood Forest, and makes good use of the landscape as an important feature of its story-telling. It takes place in the town of “Hangtown,” a city with few women, and the kind of saloon where everyone ducks when someone new comes in the door, in case shooting is about to break out. When and old man and his young daughter (Beatriz Michelena, a bit more on her in a moment) move to town, everyone takes an immediate interest – apparently the old man is from a family in Kentucky that had a feud with one of the local families, and the daughter is, well, a not-unattractive woman in a town full of men. Of course, a heroic man rescues her from a villainous one. The movie was meant as a breakout vehicle for Michelena, who had been acting and singing on stage since she was 11 and was married to local car dealer George Middleton, who promoted her as the next big thing. She never was that big, but she does go down in history as the first Latina movie star, and apparently this is the only surviving complete film of hers today. In this movie, they had her wear a large wig that seems to have been borrowed from Mary Pickford, and, to my mind, doesn’t work for her facial features.

Director: William Nigh & Lucius Henderson

Camera: Arthur Caldwell, Arthur Powellson, Hal Mohr

Starring: Beatriz Michelena, House Peters, William Pike

Run Time: 87 Min

I have been unable to find this for free online, please comment if you can find it.