Lightning Bryce (1919)
Article 5460 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Paul Hurst
Featuring Ann Little, Jack Hoxie, Paul Hurst
What it is: Western serial
Lightning Bryce and Kate Arnold inherit the secret to a fortune in gold from their respective fathers, who died after its discovery. However, there is a despicable villain who also seeks the treasure, as well as a hostile tribe of Indians.
I actually wrote this review before the title popped up on my hunt list; I watched it for another project of mine and realized that there was definite fantastic content here, so I wrote this ahead of time in preparation for when it did enter my hunt list (and so I wouldn’t have to watch the whole thing again). It’s a rarity in that it is one of the few complete silent serials. It’s also a rarity in that it is one of the few western serials that has fantastic content; the Indians in the tribe here have several mystical powers that come into play at one point or another in the proceedings. It is, however, really not very good. Most of the first ten episodes is about a tired and repetitive struggle between the good guys and the bad guys to acquire a piece of string and a knife; the string when rapped around the knife reveals the clue to the location of the treasure. Quite frankly, the plot comes to a standstill during this struggle, as no real new information appears and it’s just a series of kidnapping, escapes, fights, etc. Yes, I know this is what some fans of the genre hanker for, but I find very dull when the action is there just to hold off the plot revelations. Things pick up during the final third, but even then, we have problems in that the villain starts acting villainous and mean even when there’s no good reason to do so; his attempt to fool the heroine into a fake marriage makes no sense. In the end, this one is merely passable.