WILD ORANGES (1924)
Article 5442 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by King Vidor
Featuring Frank Mayo, Virginia Valli, Ford Sterling
What it is: Drama
A widower, traumatized by the death of his bride in a freak accident, takes to the sea to forget. He gets tangled up with a woman and her grandfather who are trapped on an island and being terrorized by an unstable and violent criminal.
The Walt Lee guide includes this title due to the fact that the criminal is a “homicidal maniac”, and given those are the identical words that appear on a wanted poster during the movie, it’s rather difficult to argue the point. However, that description is also a bit deceptive; the criminal is such a well-drawn and complex character (he is mentally challenged, and plagued by fear and insecurity) that the phrase “homicidal maniac” is a simplification. In fact, that’s one of the strengths of this movie; the three major characters (the criminal, the girl and the widower) are all complex, and it’s hard not to get caught up in their lives. It’s a fairly rare occurrence for this series to find a movie where characterization is the most interesting thing. Still, as far as fantastic content goes, there are a couple of other touches; one character sees visions of another character at one point (we know it’s not a ghost since the other character is alive), and the climax actually feels a bit like a horror movie at times. This one is very good, if marginal.