Raoul Walsh – Regeneration (1915)

Raoul Walsh had just come off The Birth of a Nation both as one of Griffith’s assistant directors and as an actor (most prominently as John Wilkes Booth), when he made this film. In his autobiography, Walsh credits Griffith with “teaching” him not only about much of the art of fiction filmmaking, but also about production management technics that aided him in taking full advantage of many of New York City’s most pictorial exterior locations. The locations play an important role in adding to the naturalism of an otherwise highly melodramatic plot with the high society young woman turned heroine social worker (much overplayed by a major star of the 1910s, Anna Q Nilsson) and the regeneration of the one-time Lower Manhatan gang leader. The wonder of this film is the performance of the male “star”, Rockliffe Fellowes, who played in over a dozen nearly unremembered films until he died in 1950. His performance is so subtly varied and electrically alive that one is reminded of Brando in his early 1950s films.(from John Bragin, imdb.com)

A great thing about Regeneration is its use of dolly shots – that is, moving the camera in or out, towards or away from the action. This wasn’t an innovation as such, the dolly having been invented by Giovanni Pastrone for his 1914 epic Cabiria, but the dolly shots in that picture are largely uninspired, at best creating smooth transitions between different length shots. Walsh however really explores the possibilities of the technique. First he uses it to home in on the young Owen in the scene where his adoptive parents argue over the dinner table. Again this is a move which draws us into the character’s world, as if we are being pulled forward and forced to look. Much later, in the scene where Anna Q. Nilsson bursts into the gangster’s den, the camera itself rushes forward, reaching the centre of the shot at the same pace she does. In effect, the camera movement mimics hers and gives the audience a little taste of her sense of urgency.
(from nora_nettlerash, imdb.com)

People who think that all silents are sticky with Victorian melodrama will be surprised by the sustained pace, the bracing realism, and the soft-pedaling of the sentimental elements of this startlingly fresh film. The 28-year old Raoul Walsh had already written and produced a dozen films when he directed this. Although the narrative rambles a bit, Walsh’s dynamic use of film grammar – closeups, dollies in and out, cross-cutting between scenes, sharp editing – makes REGENERATION look more modern than many silent films made ten years later. Walsh shows his creativity when he uses the circling movements of dancers to foreshadow public panic in an impressively staged sequence of a fire [although it has little plot function]. Titles are used sparingly throughout, and even they are terse and direct. The performances are also surprisingly natural, from square-jawed Rockcliffe Fellowes [who looks something like Robert Stack] to Anna Q. Nilsson, who gives a delicate, sympathetic performance as the good girl/settlement worker. Within the outline of a traditional melodrama, Walsh forthrightly portrays the underside of contemporary society, keeps the sentiment light, and provides an ending that is not without surprises either.
(Robert Keser, imdb.com)

3.26GB | 1h 13mn | 960×720 | mkv


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