« Toilers of the Sea »
Although not as widely read as "Les Miserables" and "Notre-Dame", "Toilers of the Sea" is one of the most striking and intelligent of the Hugo novels. But, tending as it does toward the descriptive and analytical, it is not as screenable as the other stories. R. William Neill has performed a moderately capable task considering the limitations and obstacles.
These limitations included the natural failure of the plot to measure up as either a particularly original or absorbing scenario, a cast of newcomers with the only "name" the leading woman, badly miscast, and all the other difficulties attending the launching of a film by a heretofore unknown company. Neill went to Europe and apparently took along four American actors. The rest of the players and all the supers appear to be either Italians or Sicilians.
The original Hugo story is but slightly adhered to, necessary perharps to some extent, but not as much as here. Probably that is why the billing announces "suggested" by the novel. Neill has emphasized the love interest and entirely disregarded certain incidents, readable, but apt to prove ineffective on the screen. He has endeavored faithfully to reproduce the bits of local color and atmosphere, but has not been entirely successful. One reason is because Lucy Fox, who plays the heroine, is more the wholesome robust Yankee matron than the delicate, romantic Helene of the story.
Photography bears a particularly important part in the production. The sea pictures are artistically focused, but not always as clear as they should be. There are some remarkable shots of a live volcano, where two men fight to a finish in a scream of burning lava. These scenes are the highlights of the film. The struggle is waged in the very path of the devouring flame and appears to be realistic.
Holmes E. Herbert, an ideal compound of the film Hercules and Apollo, plays the leading role in a manner that bespeaks a bright future for him in the school of rugged, virile heroes. The heavy, Captain Andre, is a departure from the ordinary as acted by Dell Cawley, who, with glasses and learned expression, is a scholarly sea captain. The Europeans in the cast over-act even more vociferously than in the recent German film importations.
Without the name Hugo "Toilers of the Sea" wouldn't cause much furor around the box offices, but, particularly because of the success of the "Hunchback" film, it should be moderately successful in drawing them, if not in thrilling them.