The Chalice of Sorrow + The Flower of Doom

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The Chalice of Sorrow + The Flower of Doom
Rex Ingram,
USA | Format: 35mm | 70 minutes

Live piano accompaniment by Makia Matsumura.

The Chalice of Sorrow
Rex Ingram, 1916, USA, 35mm; 70m
World-renowned opera star Lorelei juggles two passionate lovers—a powerful Mexican governor and an American artist—in this loose adaptation of Victorien Sardou’s play La Tosca.
 
Following the success of their first full-length movie (Traffic in Souls in 1913), the Universal Film Manufacturing Company soon began feature film production in earnest, resulting in the hiring of an unproven directorial prospect named Rex Ingram in 1916.
 
The plot is loosely based on Victorien Sardou’s dramatic play La Tosca (indeed, at least one European release of this film bore that title), although Ingram relocated the setting from Rome to Mexico City. Lorelei, a world-renowned opera star, is pursued ardently by two men: Francisco De Sarpina, a powerful Mexican provincial governor, and Marion Leslie, an American artist who is her secret fiancé and true love. Infatuated with Lorelei, De Saprina implicates his rival in the escape of a falsely accused murder suspect, and subsequently tortures and imprisons him. With Marion held captive behind bars, De Sarpina presents Lorelei with a most daunting dilemma: either she must acquiesce to his licentious desires or her lover will be executed by firing squad. A deal is ultimately struck—one that has dire consequences for all concerned.
 
For the lead role of Lorelei, Ingram chose Cleo Madison, an actress he admired for her “natural” acting technique (she also starred in Ingram’s Black Orchid). The villain De Sarpina is played by Wedgwood Nowell, who would also appear in four of Ingram’s other Universal films—including this evening’s second feature, The Flower of Doom.
—Steven K. Hill, UCLA Film & Television Archive
 
screening with


The Flower of Doom
Rex Ingram, 1917, USA, 35mm; 70m
Preservation funded by The Packard Humanities Institute.
 
When asked about their influences, some of the greatest directors of the 20th century (such as Erich von Stroheim, David Lean, and Michael Powell) would all name Rex Ingram as a major source of inspiration for their work. In fact, von Stroheim trusted no one else but Ingram to edit his masterpiece Greed when the studio demanded it be shortened (unfortunately, Ingram’s version was never issued and does not survive today). Thanks to the rediscovery and preservation of these early Ingram films, we have the opportunity to behold the director and his work during his development into the iconic pictorialist for which he is chiefly remembered.
 
Although The Flower of Doom was produced as a Universal Red Feather release (the studio’s low-budget imprint), it does demonstrate a perceptible cinematic step forward from the films Ingram had made the previous year. His grasp of composition has matured, and Ingram’s career-long interest in realism lends an air of authenticity to the film. The story itself—a gritty drama set in the shadowy world of gang warfare in Chinatown—allowed Ingram to indulge his lifelong interest in the exotic, a trait that would ultimately color many of his later works. At the center of the plot is newspaperman Harvey Pearson, who is drawn into a sinister web of corruption when his love interest Neva Sacon is kidnapped because she is seen wearing a singular piece of jewelry: the titular Flower of Doom.
—Steven K. Hill, UCLA Film & Television Archive

Series: UCLA Festival of Preservation

Venue: Walter Reade Theater

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