He Who Gets Slapped - Warner Bros Archive Collection - DVD
Written by Jay Creepy   
Tuesday, 04 July 2017
Severed Cinema review of He Who Gets Slapped on DVD from Warner Bros Archive Collection http://severed-cinema.com/images/dvd_review.jpg


AKA: El que recibe las bofetadas, Der Mann, denman ohrfeight, Ironia da Sorte, Han som faar Lussingerne, Han joka saa korvapuustit, Larmes de clown, Akit arcul csaptak, O Palhaco.

Directed by: Victor Sjöström
Written by: Carey Wilson, Victor Sjöström, Leonid Andreyev
Produced by: Victor Sjöström, Irving Thalberg
Cinematography by: Milton Moore
Editing by: Hugh Wynn
Music by: Alloy Orchestra
Cast: Lon Chaney, Norma Shearer, Ruth King, John Gilbert, Mac McDermott, Ford Sterling
Year: 1924
Country: USA
Color: B/W
Language: Silent
Runtime: 1h 12min

Distribution: Warner Brothers

For as long back as I can remember, I have watched films from the silent era of cinema. Comedies such as Harold Lloyd and Buster Keaton sandwiched between cartoons and science fiction as a child, right up to and beyond my birth into the horror world aged seven. Naturally I made the switch to classics such as Nosferatu and such. Talkies starring Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi and Tod Slaughter took over in my dosage of black ‘n whites, but now and then I'd drift back to the drama and facial expressions of the silence.

Like many people, one person truly stands out in early cinema shockers, and that person is Lon Chaney. Call him the Man of a Thousand Faces, or whoever, he was -- and still is -- one of the greatest of all time. Being a true G.O.A.T. you have to have a massive CV of classics to back you up. Lon Chaney, a man of a thousand talents in the field of acting has the criminally lost, London After Midnight, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Phantom of the Opera, The Unholy Three (x2) and the list goes on.

I thought I would concentrate on a slightly lesser recalled film of his from 1924, put out on Warner Brother's Archive Collection some years ago in a decently cleaned (if slightly wobbly here and there) print. He Who Gets Slapped isn't a horror, it's a melodrama, it's a tragic love story, it's.... moving and gripping all the same. It shows Lon Chaney in one of his best roles where he uses his body and face to truly make you feel his character.

In the grim comedy of life, it has been wisely said that the last laugh is the best....” thus states the introduction. No truer statement in this film. Opening with a laughing clown spinning a globe, the screen melts to Lon Chaney as bearded Paul Beaumont, a scientist, happily in love with his wife, but frantically working on his theories of the origins of mankind. He has a close friend, however, who supplies his money for his research, Baron Regnard, played with glee by Marc McDermott, a bloke who had a career playing Barons and Counts it seems, before passing away too soon. It's not a spoiler to say you know he's a villain by the twinkle in his eye and the neat cut moustache. Plus the way he is with Paul's wife.

Sure enough, they are both in on the act of stealing Paul's secrets. No sooner has she put her husband to bed, that she has stolen the key to his safe and all notes. Paul had achieved his dream “I will be famous, and it will all be for you Marie.” he had said that night. Instead, the Baron is seen presenting the findings to an audience at the Academy of Science. Confronting his once friend, Paul is slapped by the Baron and the gathering laugh at him. A loop of laughter and scorn circles in his mind. He is giddy. Returning home he cries to his wife, “He slapped me, Marie! I would have killed him, but they laughed -- laughed as if I were a clown!

All is revealed to the broken man as the Baron enters the room. “Hard faced bitch!” snapped my Horror Soulmate as Marie glares at him without apology. “What have you given me that I should love you?” she scoffs, “You, with your silly face, and stupid books!” Paul is slowly breaking into pieces. He sits in his study, hearing laughter in his mind. He starts to laugh to himself. “Fool! Clown!” he says to himself. The globe falls to the floor.

Years pass by and Paul has vanished. He is now a clown attached to a circus which tours Europe. His new identity is quite simply, He. His act is, He, who gets slapped. He is much loved by his fellow performers which, for his act, consists of fifty or so clowns. This performance has made him one of the greatest travelling clowns and he revels in the meaty slaps he is delivered each and every night. His performance is a delivery of that dreadful night, five years ago. He makes statements such as “The earth is round!” and receives a slap. “The earth is flat!” slap! At the end a pretend heart is torn from his body.

The comedy hustle and bustle of the acts getting ready is a wonder in this film. It's a window to a long lost world. We meet, Bezano, our young dashing romantic hero. He's a daredevil rider on horseback. We meet him preventing the whipping of a child performer as circles of clowns run around. Thus into their world arrives the young and beautiful, Consuelo, (played by wide-eyed pretty thing, Norma Shearer of The Wolf Man and Tower of Lies) daughter of the powerful, Count Manchini. He wishes her to join Bezano as a bareback horse rider. Bezano is thinking of a bareback something else judging by the smile he has -- in a gentleman's way, naturally. She seems to like him to.

How stupid people are. To laugh at a clown who lets himself be slapped.” laughs Marie as the circus is in town. The Baron has arrived. He sits in the audience and is seen by He. Of course, the Baron does not recognise his old friend, but He is stunned, and all his hatred rises into his grimace. The performance is nearly ruined but he sees it through. He is there to entertain -- especially the fat man who almost chokes on his apple. Afterwards, He knocks the Baron's hat off and laughs at him, unrecognised. Small satisfaction, but fun to him. “I hate clowns!” snarls the Baron. “I hate Barons!He chuckles. Our clown develops feelings for Consuelo, emotions he had forgotten about. She helps him daily stitch the fake heart to his costume, and he in turn joins their horse act as a fool.

In traditional melodrama, the girl has no choices in life but to follow her Father's rule. Count Manchini offers his daughter to the Baron in exchange for favours. The Baron resists at first, but is tempted in the end. He walks out on a devastated Marie. Meanwhile, our two young lovers grow ever closer and decide to get married. She frowns, needing her Father's favour.

As He finds out about what her Father has done, he grows bitter and enraged at the two men. His final revenge on the Baron and the Count is indeed the last laugh as he himself lays slowly dying.

At one point, Lon Chaney perfects the lonely sadness of a clown. He proclaims his true love for Consuelo when she says he needs to find somebody in life. She laughs, but not as an act of aggression, she thinks he is kidding. She loves his friendship. He laughs along saying he is never serious, but his eyes betray the depth of his misery. It's from then on that He is armed with the mission to keep her safe, no matter what.

Do you think I'll let you -- of all men -- marry her?He snarls. When the great reveal dawns on the Baron, the power of silent cinema is shown. It's all about the facial muscles and the eyes. Their conflict is brief but almighty.

It is known that Lon Chaney worked hard and suffered for his art form. He was paid a lot of money but did not waver from his ability to grasp cinema in his hands. What was lost in the advent of talkies was one thing: the way to see into the person’s soul as they plunged themselves into a role which had to take them over. It was easier to be a dashing hero, or a swooning girl, but to be the heartbroken man, or monster, which the latter filled pages and pages of Lon's career, took some more hardships. Like a comedian in the Keystone factory, hard work paid off and the adoration of the public must have been wonderful.

Lon Chaney is one of the Big Boys of Horror Cinema. He Who Gets Slapped, as I said, does get overlooked along with others like The Penalty, however, it is so worth a discovery because there's not many films out there like it. Little touches and visuals such as the repeat of the spinning globe until the ending, plus a moment when the lights switch off for the night and He is alone, his painted face only visible. Incredible. Top marks to Swedish director, Victor Sjöström!

Warner Bros have put it out as a basic DVD in full frame. The music score never irritates and the words throughout are very clear.




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 Aspect Ratio: 1:33.1 Full Frame
 Region: NTSC R0
 Audio: Dolby Digital Mono

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Last Updated ( Tuesday, 04 July 2017 )