THE HOPE DIAMOND MYSTERY (1921)
Article 4702 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Stuart Payton
Featuring Grace Darmond, Harry Carter, George Chesebro
What it is: Serial thriller
A criminal mastermind has his eye on stealing the famous Hope Diamond, which is also believed to be cursed so that it brings ill fortune on all of those who possess it.
This serial has two particular points of interest. Firstly, it is one of the very few silent serials that exists in its entirety, with no episodes or reels missing. Secondly, it features Boris Karloff in one of his earliest films, and his parts are significant and pivotal; he appears in every episode of the serial. As you will notice, I wrote “parts” instead of “part”; that’s because most of the major players in the serial had dual roles. The serial starts out in the present, then switches to four hundred years prior for several episodes (hence the dual roles), and then returns to the present.
Unfortunately, I’m not particularly impressed with the serial. The acting isn’t at fault (and Karloff does a good job); it’s unfortunately cursed with a muddled script and terrible editing. At times it feels like several writers were working on it at once without communicating to each other; it’s hard to fathom what the characters are trying to do half the time. For example, it takes great pains to establish that the villain has a hypnotic hold over the heroine of the story, and then uses that power in the most pointless way possible until the final episode of the story. New characters pop up awkwardly and are sometimes poorly integrated into the story. In fact, only the episodes that take place in the past appear to be designed to tell a coherent story; the rest feels like it’s just marking time until the final episode. I suspect Karloff completists will appreciate this one best; however, the serial is poorly done.