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Manslaughter/Cheat [Import]

Fannie Ward , Sessue Hayakawa , Cecil B. DeMille    NR (Not Rated)   DVD
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Product Description

From the Back Cover

In the silent era, Cecil B. DeMille stood at the forefront of Hollywood directors, a visual stylist who created fashionable fables of women caught in tempests of temptation. Accompanied by a lively score by the Alloy Orchestra, Manslaughter stars Leatrice Joy as a pampered debutante who is forced to confront her irresponsible lifestyle when she causes the death of a traffic cop. To emphasize the debauchery of the Jazz Age elite, DeMille interwove scenes of champagne-soaked parties and Roman orgies, a device that served as a stern warning (while providing a titillating spectacle) to the wayward youth of America.
Mixed messages also abound in The Cheat, in which a society woman (Fannie Ward) allows a wealthy Burmese trader (Sessue Haykawa) to settle a debt for her, not realizing that in exchange he intends to brand her flesh as his own. Highly influential for its dramatic low-key lighting and its frank depiction of extra-marital intrigue, The Cheat tapped into a vein of post-Victorian female masochism, eroticism and Orientalism of the day, exploring the taboo desire to be forcefully seduced and possessed by a man of another (as in Rudolph Valentino's Sheik films several years later).
Manslaughter
From the novel by Alice Duer Miller Photographed by Alvin Wyckoff and Guy Wildy with Whomas Meighan, Leatice Joy, Lois Wilson. Music by The Alloy Orchestra.
The Cheat
Screenplay by Gector Turnball and Jeanie Macpherson. Director of Photography: Alvin Wyckoff. Art Director: Wilfred Buckland with Fannie War, Sessue Hayakawa. Music compiled and directed by Robert Israel. Produced for Video by David Shepard.

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply Brilliant! June 11 2004
Format:DVD
I was very impressed and completely enthralled by both features on this DVD and highly recommend it for anyone who values a quality silent drama. Both films are powerful dramas with outstanding acting, great suspense and in "Manslaughter" some deep and meaningful messages. Not everyone might get the same out of this movie, by the sounds of it, but I for one found it exceptionally good. You can take three sides: for spoilt brat Lydia, her desperate maid with a sick boy, or O'Bannon the District Attorney who is torn between love for justice and love for Lydia. There is a theme of soul-searching and finding yourself, getting your priorities right, and the uselessness of a debauched life of parties and booze. There are various things to take away from this great movie, so take your pick!
For me, the musical score by the Alloy Orchestra was superb and perfectly suited, esp. the fast, lively Jazz for the party scenes and fast cars. I also found it a very interesting and nice change from the usual standard piano or organ score that faithfully plods along to most silent films, so it might not sound like 'an orchestra falling down the stairs' to everyone!
The Cheat is a shorter and even more suspenseful film in some ways, and its picture quality is better than Manslaughter, but I feel they complement each other well on this DVD. Both of them highlight women living a dangerous lifestyle on the edge and its consequences - no different back then than today, no doubt, but despite the age of these movies, still as stark and powerful as if they were new. Definitely rivetting viewing!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Pictures of the period Feb. 10 2003
Format:DVD
Two examples of why Cecil DeMille was a success. The Cheat is a fine film full of subtle touches. The lighting and composition are breathtaking, and it's fascinating to see Sessue Hayakawa far far before his "Bridge on the River Kwai" role.
Manhunter is a different item, but no less fascinating. It's a totally commercial film and even shows an artictic and commercial decline from the earlier work. There is hardly a subtle moment in it, it's over the top all the way with the throttle wide open. Leatrice Joy and Lois Wilson, both unjustly forgotten stars, give fine performances and manage to win the audience's hearts.
I'm giving this edition only 4 out of 5 stars because of the soundtrack to Manslaughter. The Alloy Orchestra tries hard, but they are more annoying than supporting here. Their sound (it's like a percussion section falling downstairs with a singing saw accompaniment) is well suited to stylized films like Metropolis and Strike, but in my opinion it is a detraction here.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  10 reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pictures of the period Feb. 10 2003
By Eric Stott - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
Two examples of why Cecil DeMille was a success. The Cheat is a fine film full of subtle touches. The lighting and composition are breathtaking, and it's fascinating to see a youthful Sessue Hayakawa far far before his "Bridge on the River Kwai" role.
Manhunter is a different item, but no less fascinating. It's a totally commercial film and even shows an artistic and commercial decline from the earlier work. There is hardly a subtle moment in it, it's over the top all the way with the throttle wide open. Leatrice Joy and Lois Wilson, both unjustly forgotten stars, give fine performances and manage to win the audience's hearts.
I'm giving this edition only 4 out of 5 stars because of the soundtrack to Manslaughter. The Alloy Orchestra tries hard, but they are more annoying than supporting here. Their sound (it's like a percussion section falling downstairs with a singing saw accompaniment) is well suited to stylized films like Metropolis and Strike, but in my opinion it is a detraction here.
12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Decline of Cecil B. De Mille Feb. 1 2005
By JackShadow - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
These two films are a very interesting pairing. In the years between the first film: The Cheat from 1915, and the second: Manslaughter from 1922, De Mille went from being a director of quality films to a director of commercial films.

Manslaughter is the film that people who have never seen a silent film are expecting to see: a melodrama without subtlety. This is the Cecil B. De Mille who - although derided by his peers and critics - became a great commercial director for the remainder of his career.

The Cheat is De Mille at his artistic peak. This is the film that is of interest to silent film fans and students, filmed with attention to detail: lighting, framing, acting, camera movement. A film of lasting quality.

Watch the two films and you will see the change in De MIlle. You will also see a De Mille you might not have known.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply Brilliant! June 11 2004
By Barbara (Burkowsky) Underwood - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
I was very impressed and completely enthralled by both features on this DVD and highly recommend it for anyone who values a quality silent drama. Both films are powerful dramas with outstanding acting, great suspense and in "Manslaughter" some deep and meaningful messages. Not everyone might get the same out of this movie, by the sounds of it, but I for one found it exceptionally good. You can take three sides: for spoilt brat Lydia, her desperate maid with a sick boy, or O'Bannon the District Attorney who is torn between love for justice and love for Lydia. There is a theme of soul-searching and finding yourself, getting your priorities right, and the uselessness of a debauched life of parties and booze. There are various things to take away from this great movie, so take your pick!
For me, the musical score by the Alloy Orchestra was superb and perfectly suited, esp. the fast, lively Jazz for the party scenes and fast cars. I also found it a very interesting and nice change from the usual standard piano or organ score that faithfully plods along to most silent films, so it might not sound like 'an orchestra falling down the stairs' to everyone!
The Cheat is a shorter and even more suspenseful film in some ways, and its picture quality is better than Manslaughter, but I feel they complement each other well on this DVD. Both of them highlight women living a dangerous lifestyle on the edge and its consequences - no different back then than today, no doubt, but despite the age of these movies, still as stark and powerful as if they were new. Definitely rivetting viewing!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gotta Love DeMille Aug. 29 2009
By njpaddy - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
He's no Lang or Murnau, but he knew how to give an audience what they want. Preachy and melodramatic, with some tintalating Roman orgy scenes thrown in, MANSLAUGHTER isn't one of the best silent films, but it's still entertaining thanks to DeMille.

I have to agree with others on the score. It was hit or miss. Alloy Orchestra recycled some of their (musical saw) score to THE LOST WORLD for this one. While it was perfectly suited to THE LOST WORLD, it didn't work here. I kept waiting for the dinosaurs to appear. Alloy should have put away the musical saw for this one or there should have been a second score to choose from. It's still not the worse silent score from a major release. That honor goes to the score from PICCADILLY. I had to mute that one. A great film ruined by a bad score.

Also on this disc is THE CHEAT which should have had top billing. It's a classic. Great film and great Robert Israel score. The branding and ending scenes are a must see. As far as I can tell it's the same version shown on TCM, which is the 1918 re-release changing the intertitles to make the Sessue Hayakawa character Burmese rather than Japanese as in the original 1915 release. Political correctness was around even then.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Best And Worst Of Early DeMille. April 2 2002
By Chip Kaufmann - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
Cecil B. DeMille was one of the most successful filmmakers of all time. He was also one of the most critically reviled. Almost 50 years after his death (he died in 1959), his name is still well known to the public. What a tribute to the staying power of his many films. His career spanned over 40 years from THE SQUAW MAN in 1913 to THE TEN COMMANDMENTS in 1956. DeMille was the P.T. Barnum of the movies. He knew all the tricks of the trade and how to use them for the greatest effect. He also knew what his public wanted to see and gave it to them. His skills as a director were such that his films continue to entertain and fascinate us today long after his many negative reviews have been forgotten. While there is much to criticize, there is even more to enjoy. Most of his sound films are well known and are frequently shown on TV but not his silent films which have been unavailable until recently.

This DVD collects 2 films from the silent era which represent the best and worst of early DeMille. MANSLAUGHTER (1922) is making its home video debut. This was the sort of potboiler that DeMille regularly cranked out between his large scale projects such as the first version of THE TEN COMMANDMENTS (1923). It features Leatrice Joy (John Gilbert's wife and DeMille's replacemnt for Gloria Swanson) as a good time party girl who almost comes to a bad end only to be redeemed at the end. At this stage of his career DeMille loved to throw in historic flashbacks to contrast and compare to contemporary life. This time around it's Ancient Rome and its decadence. The pompous moralizing of the Thomas Meighan character was only natural in the wake of the Fatty Arbuckle and William Desmond Taylor scandals (both at DeMille's home studio of Paramount) but neither DeMille nor most of his audience took it seriously. The print used for MANSLAUGHTER which was taken from the Killiam Collection is OK for the most part and is probably the best there is. After all this is certainly no masterpiece but it remains an interesting social document of the time.

THE CHEAT has already been on DVD coupled with DeMille's CARMEN. Here is a totally different DeMille. Using cutting, lighting, and settings to great effect for such an early film (1915), he manages to turn a routine melodrama of the time into a film which is still gripping today thanks in no small part to the charismatic presence of Sessue Hayakawa who many years later would portray the Camp Commander in BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI. This is the same excellent transfer by Film Preservation Associates used for the earlier DVD. A must for the silent film buff and for anyone interested in the early career of one of America's best known film directors. This is part of Kino International's VAMPS, VIXENS, & VIRGINS series, a title old C.B. would have loved.
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