The Saturday Intertitle: Fight to the Finish

LORNA DOONE, continued.

And it was all going so well. Having saved the royal baby, John Ridd commits the cardinal sin of DANDLING it. Which one simply does not do, however much the sprog enjoys it. The King is appalled. He’s lavished all of fifteen seconds on a… a booby! And not in a good way.

Lovely shot of John skulking off. So it looks from this image as if they definitely came to Britain to shoot this, or else they had huge standing sets. But the climate and scenery also seems British. I should ask his biographer.

Humiliated, John goes back to Devonshire to mope in a manly sort of way. Maurice Tourneur lavishes a beautiful longshot on this activity (top). The mist is descending like soft rain, as if they’d devised some means of spraying moisture into the atmosphere, or as if they were just really lucky and filmed some actual mizzle.

Then, the film continues setting up what I’d feared — John’s jilted ex, Ruth (Norris Johnson), feels slighted that even in her absence, Lorna is occupying all John’s thoughts. When Lorna returns to Devonshire — the life at court means less to her than her strong, silent suitor — Ruth resolves to throw a spanner in the romantic works…

John and Lorna are to be wed — but Ruth rides dramatically over to the Doone stockade and lets the evil Carver know about the impending nuptials. On the wedding day, he positions himself at a window at the back of the church — an impossible shot, with a musket — and shoots Lorna.

Rather surprising he didn’t choose John for a target, but then it was a tricky shot. Lorna dies. She’s definitely dead. No way she’s not dead. That’s made quite clear. Remember that fact. And it’s quite moving.

John gallups over to the Doone place and challenges Carver to man-to-man combat. Carver takes potshots at him from the safety of the stockage. Some great shots here.

This latest outrage rouses the countryside to finally deal with the Doones. Lots of farmers come to John’s aid, and he leads a batch of them round by the waterfall to infiltrate the enemy base. Mayhem ensues.

Tourneur’s sadistic side comes into play when John and Carver fight to the death. Carver has a dagger, and it seems for a moment that John’s reputation as strongest man in Devonshire may be badly overinflated. But then he retrieves the situation by grabbing hold of Carver’s bicep and tearing it loose. Or at least, that’s what the intertitle claims. The dagger is flung into a nearby quicksand and sinks in an improbably but photogenic manner. Carver is then flung in after it and sinks in a more conventional way.

John returns to his farm, where he finds Lorna alive and recovering. This is nice, of course, but completely impossible. If there had been a shadow of doubt that she was dead, John’s friends wouldn’t have let him ride off to attack Carver, and he wouldn’t have wanted to go just yet.

Still, the film is merciful: not only is our heroine spared, Ruth goes unpunished. She’s now apparently happy to tend Lorna’s wounds and help the course of true love. Unless she’s planning to murder the heroine herself. The movie doesn’t give her a closeup to let us read her intentions, but I think we’re meant to think of this as a happy

You can see the film for yourselves here thanks to America’s wacky public domain laws:

3 Responses to “The Saturday Intertitle: Fight to the Finish”

  1. Are we unstuck in time?

  2. Chuck V, I fixed it. My week is all messed up because I am attending the Edinburgh Film Festival tonight.

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