Midnight Faces (1926) is a silent film set in a southern bayou, an estate enclosed by the swamp, accessible only by boat. The atmospheric old dark house might be haunted. It more certainly has someone living in it, in hidden rooms & corridors.
A hopeful young heir, Lynn Claymore (Frances X. Bushman, Jr.), arrives with his "pussunal" man Trohelius Washington Snapp (Martin Turner), a black butler who says the place "smells of grave yard."
Trohelius is unfortunately filling the cinematic stereotype of Skir't Darkie, but Martin Turner attempts to play him with dignity, & even as a side-character manages to naje Trohelius the most interesting member of the cast.
Others begin to arrive for the reading of the will, in what amounts to the same scenario improved upon in Cat & the Canary (1927) & The Bat (1926).
Although Midnight Faces would appear to predate the films it most resembles, in fact Cat & the Canary had been on Broadway in 1922 & The Bat ran two years on Broadway beginning 1920, & has here been copied, & not well.
The continuity is wonky on the surviving print used for the dvd transfer, & nobody seems to have wanted to repair the out of order scenes before putting it on dvd.
Sam Lund (Charles Belcher) has been in a wheelchair for five years, immediately suggesting a cliche plot element. Otis (Al Hallett), Sam Lund's butler, is menacing. He & Claymore's man Trohelius are immediately at odds for which one gets to carry luggage.
Suie Chang (Edward Peil, Sr.), who is another race stereotype for visual effect but who turns out to be the hero, lurks inscrutibly in the vicinity. We learn the dead uncle spent many years in China & Chang was his friend.
There's also a damsel in distress, flapper Mary (Kathryn McGuire), who arrives in fear of someone unnamed, inferred to be the Chinese guy, though in reality he & she are colluding on some mystery.
An attempt is immediately made upon the life of our hero Claymore. A mysteriously caped man is moving about the building, behind the walls, in attic rooms.
Everyone wanders the old dark house & gets menaced. New characters are introduced, arriving with Chang. It's just so damned boring, more interesting as cinematic history than as a thriller.
[SPOILER ALERT!] The crooked attorney (Jack Perrin) with an evil plan has faked the will, inducing Claymore, a dupe in the matter, to believe he is the estate's heir.
The Chinese guy reveals the wicked plot, & the guys he brought into the story turn out to be police detectives. Chang has come to make sure Mary is safe, but the caped shadow-man has kidnapped her.
Athletic Claymore has an extended smile-inducing action-wrestling match plus fisticuffs with the cornered maniac, then discovers where the uncle, still alive, has been held captive. Thanks to Chang solving the mystery, both the uncle & the damsel are saved. After some foolish last-minute action with multiple villains revealed, all's well that ends well. Dumb duh dumb-dumb.
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