Arrival from the Darkness
arrival from the darkness | jan s. kolar | theodor pistek | anny ondra | josef svab-malostransky | silent film | centennial club | fantasy | czechslovakia | czech republic | slovakia | karel lamac | luigi hofman | vladimir majer | alfred bastyr | rudolf myzet
Film: Arrival from the Darkness (Príchozí z temnot)
Director: Jan S. Kolár
Writer: Jan S. Kolár
Starring: Theodor Pistek, Anny Ondra and Josef Sváb-Malostranský
This is a movie that I didn’t know existed until I went through the list of horror films released in 1921. This was me setting up my Centennial Club information and when I found that someone had uploaded this to YouTube, I was pretty excited. On top of that, this is a movie from Czechoslovakia, so it is a culture I’m not overly familiar with. This movie is about the elixir of life and the secret of the Black Tower, a part of a large estate that has been largely unexplored for decades.
We start this movie off with a man by the name of Richard Bor (Vladimír Majer) showing up at the house of Bohdan Drazický (Theodor Pistek) with a rare old book. This bothers Drazický’s wife as she doesn’t like the book and finds it to be evil. Her name is Dagmar (Anny Ondra). It appears that Richard has been in love with her since they first met and he wants her to run away with him. Drazický gets sucked into the book, but discovers the plan and Dagmar refuses to go anyway. Richard isn’t done yet though. It also appears his family was once the wealthy landowners before Drazický’s family took over.
Drazický continues to research the book and comes across a page that is stating the Black Tower of his estate is hiding a secret workshop. He goes down and searches for it, finding a secret entrance. He goes in and accidentally steps on a stone that locks him in. Richard also sees this happen and decides to take advantage. Drazický is gone for sometime, upsetting his wife and staff.
While down there, he discovers the body of a man. We will come to find out this man is Jesek Drazický (Karel Lamac). Bohdan finds a way to revive him and feels this is his only way out. In doing so, he learns that what is needed to wake up this man is the elixir of life. Things aren’t as they seem though, making the decision that much more difficult for Bohdan if he wants to survive.
That is where I’m going to leave my recap for this movie as to be honest; it only runs about an hour. This movie has some really interesting aspects to it for sure. I found the movie to be odd that it kicks off with Richard trying to be sneaky by getting in the good graces of Bohdan only to steal his wife. Dagmar isn’t even interested though. I did like that Bohdan is interested in history so this book that is given to him really draws his attention. It can also be his downfall.
Where I want to go next then would be what we learn as his ancestor Jesek. I really did like the story that he tells to lead him to be ‘dead’ in the workshop and the reason why he was there. I don’t know much about the history of this country. The movie alerts us that it was during the reign of Rudolf II. We never really get what era this film’s present is set either so I’m not going to harp on it too much there. What is interesting is that Jesek was in love with a woman named Alena (also Ondra). She died of the plague though and it sends him into a depression. He also befriended an alchemist of Balthasar Borro (also Majer) who has discovered this elixir through his studies in the Far East. These are just cool elements for me with how things play out in the end.
I do have some gripes despite all of what I liked. Now I get this movie is set in the past where women don’t necessarily have a lot of rights. Dagmar though is married to Bohdan who she loves. She does get annoyed that he gets entranced with what he’s reading, but I don’t like that other men in her life just think because they love her, that they can have her. There is an element here that Bohdan is a wealthy landowner. He doesn’t seem like a horrible guy either. From what I can see, he doesn’t deserve anything bad from what we get about him. Living in the world I do today though, the rich can be problematic. This movie also has a reveal that seemed to be popular for the era that I don’t like. It is early cinema so I can’t hold it against the movie too much, especially when I don’t hold against other movies from the era for doing this.
To move away from the story, I want to go to the acting next. Being this is a silent film, there isn’t a lot that can I go on. Everyone here seems to be stage actors so we do get a bit of overacting, but I think that is necessary for the era. If you can’t convey things with your voice, it has to be done with the body. Pistek is fine as our lead here. Ondra does well with taking on the two roles she has. Can’t give her too much credit, they are both very similar. Lamac is solid along with Majer. Everyone else seemed to fit for what was needed as well.
As for the effects and cinematography, there isn’t much in the way of the former. This is early cinema so there is that. We do get an interesting time lapsed scene with Jesek as he is waking up that I liked. There is also a ghostly effect used that worked as well. The cinematography is also quite stationary. It was hard to see some things though. The print didn’t seem to be in the best shape, but it is impressive we can still see it after 100 years.
Then really the last thing is something that is hard to talk about. I have a feeling from some of the choices; the soundtrack that was synced up with the copy I saw wasn’t what was originally intended. What I will say though is that I really dug what they did here. Not all of the selections fit, but for the most part it really helped to enhance what they did. There were a few times that it made me uncomfortable for sure and I really enjoyed it on the whole.
In conclusion, this movie is one that is rare in that it was created for the film instead of taking it from literature. I like some of the elements that we get with the story. I do feel what they focused on didn’t necessarily work for me. The acting is solid for the era. The effects we get are much of the same and the cinematography is also quite stationary. I can’t hold it against it. The soundtrack I feel isn’t what was originally envisioned, but I dig most it. Overall here I’d say this is movie that is just over average for me, just lacking to go higher.
My Rating: 6.5 out of 10