THE BLASPHEMER (1921)
Article 4041 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by O.E. Goebel
Featuring George Howard, Augusta Anderson, Irving Cummings
What it is: Christian morality tale
A stock market tycoon, intoxicated by his financial success, rejects God and claims that he himself is the agent of his own fate. However, he soon finds out that he is not quite as much the master of his fate as he thought…
I went into this Christian movie (produced by the Catholic Art Association) under the assumption that the fantastic content would involve some overt Christian miracles, but, as it turns out, the hand of God here mostly seems to work in the realm of melodramatic and unlikely plot twists; it would have been possible to tell the same basic story with all of overt Christianity removed, and it would have fit just fine into the “fall and reformation of a scoundrel” genre. The movie might have moved along quicker as well; the copy on Amazon Instant Video runs an hour and 48 minutes, and at least part of the reason it gets boring on occasion is that it will bring the action to a screeching halt so that it can deliver some messages. Hardly anything happens during the first half of the movie, and the flat, dull direction does little to hold the interest. However, the worst problem I had with the copy I saw wasn’t the fault of the original filmmakers at all; the musical soundtrack is one of those that feels as if it was carelessly slapped on without care or appropriateness, so you end up (for example) with sprightly happy music during a scene where a woman is being kidnapped by an Oriental white slavery racket. Even a weak silent movie deserves better care than that.
Still, since the movie lacks the overt miracles I was expecting, the question becomes whether it really qualifies for this project in terms of its fantastic content. It depends somewhat on how you interpret one scene; the tycoon-turned-derelict sees the martyrdom of a saint reenacted in a painting that comes to life. Is he imagining it or actually seeing it? The movie isn’t quite clear in that regard, so I suspect that this movie is at best only marginally fantastic. It’s probably best classified as a drama.