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With: Laura La Plante, Montagu Love, Roy D'Arcy, Margaret Livingston, John Boles, Burr McIntosh, Mack Swain, Bert Roach, Carrie Daumery, Slim Summerville, Francisco Maran, Bud Phelps, Torben Meyer, Charles K. French, D'Arcy Corrigan, Harry Northrup
Written by: Alfred A. Cohn, J.G. Hawks, Robert F. Hill, Tom Reed, based on a novel by Wadsworth Camp, and on a play by Thomas F. Fallon
Directed by: Paul Leni
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 78
Date: 06/04/1929

The Last Warning (1929)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Dead Curtain

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Based on a novel by Wadsworth Camp and on a play by Thomas F. Fallon, the wonderfully entertaining The Last Warning is the final film by the unsung director Paul Leni. Leni was part of the school of German Expressionism, and directed one of the all-time greatest horror anthologies, Waxworks (1924), before heading to America in 1927. He made four films at Universal Studios, starting with the smash hit The Cat and the Canary (1927) and the influential The Man Who Laughs; a third, The Chinese Parrot (1927), is considered lost today, and Leni died (of an infected tooth!) at age 44 just after The Last Warning was released. Like The Cat and the Canary, The Last Warning is a spirited, vibrant mystery with comedy and horror elements. It's set in a theater, where the star actor dies on stage, and his body disappears. Later, it is decided to stage the play again in an effort to solve the mystery, but strange things begin happening, including ghosts, secret tunnels, spiders, and scribbled warnings. Laura La Plante, from The Cat and the Canary, stars as leading lady Doris Terry, and Mack Swain (from Chaplin's The Gold Rush plays a beefy sugar daddy). Leni's Expressionist touches are everywhere, from his innovative use of shadows and light — all the corners of the theater are used to maximum effect — as well as superimpositions other filmic effects. Flicker Alley released a spectacular 2019 restoration on a two-disc Blu-ray and DVD set, which includes a clever, playful new score by Arthur Barrow. It also comes with a visual essay, a still gallery, a thick liner notes booklet, and a reversible sleeve.

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