No Man's Law (1927): a Hal Roach feature reconstructed

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Nico Cartenstadt
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Joined: Wed Apr 16, 2014 1:56 pm

No Man's Law (1927): a Hal Roach feature reconstructed

Postby Nico Cartenstadt » Sat Apr 19, 2014 2:06 pm

Hi everyone,

I'm proud and happy to inform you that not long ago I finally completed a film project I've been working on for over a year: I've reconstructed the 1927 Hal Roach feature 'No Man's Law' to its original length (or as close as possible) of a whopping 76 minutes! As some of you may know, most versions of the film only run for about 52-57 minutes, depending on the frame rate. This means the new version has over 20 minutes (!) of footage reinstated. Comparing and combining several prints, the best looking footage has been included, and not a frame was wasted. Let me assure you it runs at a natural speed, and has not been artificially slowed down to increase the running time. No! The film has finally been turned back into the 7-reeler (almost 8-reeler) as it was shown back in 1927.

A few observations about this film: it's a starring vehicle for Rex the Wonder Horse, but fortunately the focus is on the human cast most of the time. And what a cast it is: Barbara Kent as a maiden in distress, the inimitable James Finlayson as her decrepit father, and two outlaws on the run played by Theodore von Eltz and the one and only Oliver Hardy, about to gain international fame when he teamed up with Stan Laurel not long after making this film.

What makes this a most unusual Hal Roach production is the fact that it's not a comedy at all, but a dramatic film with a rather grim story. However, there are occasional funny touches to lighten the mood.

A few of the films' strong points:

- 'Babe' and 'Fin' together in a western made 10 years before 'Way Out West', with the roles reversed: Fin is the good guy here, and Oliver the thug, and far nastier than Fin was in 'WOW'.

- Fin provides most of the comic relief, but watch out for one particularly poignant moment as he struggles to save his daughter from being assaulted.

- It contains Barbara Kent's daring 'nude' swimming scene. Actually, she's wearing a bodysuit... most of the time anyway! But she's not the only one to go 'the full monty' in this film!

- Compared to the standard, much shorter cut of the film, the complete version adds not just footage of Rex and his animal friends, but there's also a good deal more of Finlayson and Hardy in it. One of the film's highlights is an amazing checkers duel, which is at the same time funny and thrilling, as the suspense slowly builds. In the common short version of the film, you only get the beginning and ending of this scene, so the suspense is completely killed. Now is your chance to experience the full scene, which predates similar scenes from 'Brats', 'Me and My Pal', and 'The Live Ghost' by several years, and actually beats all of these.

The reasons why I decided to reconstruct/restore the film are simple: I have been fascinated by it ever since I first saw it, and it simply contains one of Oliver Hardy's best acting performances ever, you have to see it to believe it. In spite of him sporting a derby, this is not the Ollie from the L&H films, nor the comic heavy he played alongside Larry Semon or Billy West. Instead, he plays a most realistic and threatening villain who puts the other characters in mortal danger. I'm not going to tell you how the film ends, but it doesn't end very well for him. No wonder Oliver singled out this film in the 1954 interview conducted by John McCabe as reproduced in his 'Mr. Laurel and Mr. Hardy' book.

I've created a new trailer to give you a taste of what to expect: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=663322733730137

More info plus screenshots from both available versions can be found here:
https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.663737793688631.1073741830.100001572484529&type=1&l=5fd9630d32

The new edition has been a true labour of love for me, and was born out of frustration because a complete version of the film simply was not available... until now!The film has so much going for it, I've always found it a shame it' was previously available in butchered and sometimes plain horrible prints.

The reconstruction is available in two versions: a black & white one, and a 'historically informed' tinted/toned version, adding sepia, blue and red hues reflecting the scene moods. The soundtrack is composed of vintage orchestral recordings, and is tailored to the scenes. Sound effects have been added where appropriate, and a soundtrack without effects is also included, as is a photo gallery containing many rare images.

It gives me great pleasure to bring this film back to the attention of silent film fans everywhere in the longest form and best quality currently possible.

For more info, you can reply here, or send an e-mail to nomanslaw@yahoo.com

Bruce Calvert
Associate
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Joined: Sun Jun 07, 2009 10:26 pm
Location: Plano, TX USA
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Re: No Man's Law (1927): a Hal Roach feature reconstructed

Postby Bruce Calvert » Mon Apr 21, 2014 1:32 pm

Was this the version screened at the Cinema Museum in London and introduced by author Glenn Mitchell last month? There was a large crowd there to see it. It was great to see Babe in a role so different from his normal character. Of course it was great to see a lot of Barbara Kent in this film too...

Nico Cartenstadt
Posts: 6
Joined: Wed Apr 16, 2014 1:56 pm

Re: No Man's Law (1927): a Hal Roach feature reconstructed

Postby Nico Cartenstadt » Tue Apr 22, 2014 2:46 pm

Hi Bruce,
Yes, it is indeed the new version as presented by Glenn Mitchell last month. He told me the screening went well, and I'm glad to hear you enjoyed it. I personally think it's one of Babe's greatest solo efforts, maybe even THE best one, and it really shows what a fine versatile actor he was. Fin is Fin as usual, always fun to watch. Barbara Kent shows a lot of... skill too, as does Teddy von Eltz. It's a film that has a little bit of everything for everyone: comedy, suspense, drama,...


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