The Headless Horseman (1922)
the headless horseman | edward d. venturini | carl stearns clancy | will rogers | lois meredith | ben hendricks jr. | remake | based on | novella | washington irving | sleepy hollow | comedy | drama | silent film | charles e. graham | mary foy | bernard a. reinold
Film: The Headless Horseman
Director: Edward D. Venturini
Writer: Carl Stearns Clancy
Starring: Will Rogers, Lois Meredith and Ben Hendricks Jr.
This was a movie that I originally picked up after seeing and enjoying Sleepy Hollow. I was familiar enough with the source material, having read it when I was in junior high. It isn’t necessarily on the level of H.P. Lovecraft or Edgar Allan Poe when it comes to the classics, but most everyone knows of the story of the Headless Horseman and Ichabod Crane. For this version, our synopsis is the village of Sleepy Hollow is getting ready to greet the new schoolteacher, Ichabod Crane (Will Rogers), who is coming from New York. As he tries to get ingrained in his new village, not everyone likes the new teacher.
Much like the synopsis states, we start this movie with the village of Sleepy Hollow preparing to greet Ichabod. He is a man of science, but he also has knowledge of ghosts and other supernatural things. This makes him quite familiar with the legend of the Headless Horseman. Upon arriving, he is greeted by a welcome committee. It is most of the higher ups of this village, which includes Baltus Van Tassel (Bernard A. Reinold). He is the richest farmer in the area. His daughter is also the most desirable bachelorette. Her name is Katrina (Lois Meredith) Abraham Van Brunt, who is also known as Brom Bones (Ben Hendricks Jr.), has his eyes set on her and is jealous when she seems interested in Ichabod.
He goes about teaching the children, but he upsets Dame Martling (Mary Foy). Her son is Jethro (James Sheridan) and he’s a troublemaker in school. To get back at Ichabod, she tries to find ways to punish him and get him run out of town. Brom Bones helps here as him and his friends tear up the school. Ichabod believes it to be witches. Jethro relays what happens and she sees a way to get the elders of the village to turn on him.
Before ending this fleshing out of the story, Katrina is interested in Ichabod. He must work up the courage to share his feelings. He also won’t be easily run out of town. Part of this is having no money, but there is also his pride. An encounter with the Headless Horseman could change things though.
Now I’ll be honest, the version of this I watched ran about 75 minutes or so. There isn’t a lot to this story if I’m honest. It has been so long since I’ve read the source material that I’m not sure about the characters outside of Ichabod and the Headless Horseman. I’m inclined to think that the Van Tassels, Van Brunts, Van Rippers and Martlings are all there. This is in the era of filmmaking where you’d take an established story and adapt it to the screen. This movie does well in presenting the characters and even a bit of the mythology here.
This last bit is what makes this story interesting, the mythology. The Headless Horseman is an intriguing character. It is thought to be believed that he was a soldier, who lost his head and at night searches for it. There are stories shared from different townsfolk about the entity. Some claiming that the Headless Horseman wanted to race them. We get a character one night that wakes up thinking she hears the horseman. Her husband quiets her fears informing her that it is just Brom Bones and his crew. We get a cool ghostly effect to see the horseman early in the movie. The problem is that we don’t see him again until the end. What I wanted was more of this like we get in the movie Sleepy Hollow. This isn’t that type of movie and I also don’t think they had resources to show it more. I like the effect that is used that first time. I’m not a fan of the reveal at the end of the movie though. Since this movie is part comedy, I think we’re trying to play it for laughs.
That will take me over to an issue I have here, this movie is boring despite its low runtime. I think its due to what they focus on. Rogers is good as Ichabod and I even like the arrogance he plays the role with. Meredith works Katrina. We don’t flesh her out all that much, but we can tell she has a crush on Ichabod. She is in a tough position with Brom Bones interested in her. I even think Hendricks is solid as that character. The problem is that we focus too much on them when we don’t need it. The movie bogs down because of it. I also wanted to give credit to Foy, Sheridan and the rest of the acting as it all works. It is over the top being that this is a silent film so they needed to play it that way.
There’s not much else that I can talk about with this movie. I think that the cinematography is good for the era. We are early into cinema, so it is static and we don’t get much in the way of cuts. I like what they did with the introduction to the Headless Horseman. The costumes do make it feel of the era it is set. The only other aspect would be the soundtrack. This can get dicey as I’m entirely sure what should be synced up. What we get though is good. It adds atmosphere to the movie. We get the same songs played over and over, but it doesn’t ruin it.
In conclusion then, this is decent take on the source material for early cinema. This is an era where they would base many movies off established works. I like Ichabod and Rogers does well in portraying the character. The lore of the Headless Horseman is good, but I wanted more there. This movie has a tinge of comedy that didn’t necessarily work for me. I would say that the acting worked and how this was shot was in line with the era. There are movies from the same period that did more there and even with the effects. Other than that, I’d say the soundtrack my version had fit and helped with the atmosphere. I believe this is above average. It is just lacking some parts to go higher for me.
My Rating: 6.5 out of 10