Review for The Last Warning
The Last Warning is a silent film from 1928 and the last made by Paul Leni who also made The Man Who Laughs and is regarded as one of Germany’s greatest filmmakers. It is based on a Broadway play itself adapted from House of Fear by Wadsworth Camp.
During a live Broadway performance one of the actors dies and when the body goes missing the death remains unsolved. Following this, the theatre is abandoned until many years later when a new Producer comes to open it back up and decides to restage the same play with the original stage and crew.
The ghost of the dead actor sends them warnings about doing this, which the Producer ignores, but maybe this will lead to the true killer being revealed.
This film is a masterclass in visual and editing effects and I hate to say that this is all the film can really offer. I found the plot very basic and the twist (if I can call it that) was so obvious and also bizarre that I felt a little annoyed by it. As a film from nearly 100 years ago I can appreciate what Leni was trying to achieve and the film has its moments, but I really wanted to enjoy it more.
As I say, the visuals of the film are fantastic and how he was able to create some of the editing and effects at that time is astounding. I do wish the documentary had gone more into that as there was obviously only basic techniques available to them at the time, but they looked very sophisticated. It is not surprising that the sets look amazing, being reused from the 1925 Phantom of the Opera and everything else about the film and the new soundtrack is perfect.
Unfortunately, the film felt a little basic and almost like I was watching an episode of Scooby Doo by the end. It is not unwatchable by any means, but certainly not a film I would watch again.
There are very few extras which is a shame. A video essay Paul Leni and The Last Warning is fine, but nothing special unless you wanted to learn more about Leni and his work. The stills gallery is again fine, but nothing special. The commentary by Stephen Jones and Kim Newman is good with Newman always interesting. I found my issue with this is they seemed to drift off topic too much and so if you were wanting specific details about this film it may not give them. This may have been better as just a filmed discussion of ‘Films’ in general between the two as they were entertaining to listen to.
I really wanted to enjoy this film. After watching The Man Who Laughs I had huge hopes that this was going to be another classic and though I understand why it is revered so much it has not aged well. If you are a fan of silent films and especially if you are a fan of visual and editing effects then you will love what Leni was able to achieve in 1928, but if you are here for an incredible murder mystery then this might be the last warning I can give that this isn’t it.