The Last Performance (1929)

Article #1367 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-11-2004
Posting Date: 5-10-2005
Directed by Pal Fejos
Featuring Conrad Veidt, Mary Philbin, Leslie Fenton

A magician discovers that his female assistant is not in love with him, but rather with one of his assistants, a thief that he took pity on and took into his employment.

Fantastic content: It’s marginal. The magician and his tricks give it that touch of fantasy, and the gruesome death gives it a touch of horror.

The story is pretty familiar; I’m pretty sure I’ve seen the same plot used in several other movies, though their titles do not come to mind immediately. I had a strong idea of where the story was going to go the minute he took the thief into his employment at the urging of his female assistant, and the movie doesn’t have any real surprises. It is, however, very efficient (my print ran only forty-eight minutes), and it is anchored by an excellent performance from Conrad Veidt, whose character must remain polite and understanding in public while hiding his true feelings. It’s the type of movie I’d expect from Tod Browning with Lon Chaney in the main role, though it doesn’t quite have the grotesquerie we would expect from that combination.

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