THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN (1922)
Article 4729 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Edward D. Venturini
Featuring Will Rogers, Lois Meredith, Ben Hendricks Jr.
What it is: A tale of rival lovers
A superstitious Yankee teacher takes up his profession in a small Dutch village and begins romancing the daughter of a rich landowner, much to the chagrin of another suitor of the daughter. However, tales abound of a ghost known as the Headless Horseman…
If I were to make a movie about the Headless Horseman, I would jettison the Washington Irving story about it and build my own one around it. Why? Because I’ve always had personal problems with the story. The horror fan in me wants the Headless Horseman to be a real supernatural entity, and, if my memory is correct, nothing in the story explicitly states that it isn’t. However, there’s a part of me that wants the tale as told to be a single, unified whole, and if the Horseman is truly a supernatural entity, then that leaves the whole story of Crane’s and Bone’s struggle for the woman’s hand to be so much filler, and that hardly leaves one with the sense of a unified whole. As a result, the story never totally satisfies.
I bring this up because if there’s one thing I will credit this movie for, it’s for making explicit the nature of the Headless Horseman. So perhaps I’m not surprised that the movie has a weak reputation; almost every review on IMDB sees it as a pretty pallid affair in compare to the Disney version from the forties. And, to tell the truth, it is rather pallid. I do find the presence of Will Rogers as Ichabod Crane interesting, but the sad fact of the matter is that Will Rogers’ humor was mostly verbal, and a silent movie gives him little opportunity to display it. Furthermore, another problem with the story is that neither Crane nor Bones are sympathetic characters; you grow to dislike them both, and you find yourself wishing that the woman would opt for neither one. As for the Headless Horseman himself, outside of a short token appearance near the beginning of the movie, he doesn’t pop up until the last four minutes, so I suspect horror fans will be rather disappointed by this one. And though I do have problems with the Disney version, at least that one is consistently entertaining.