This week, our resident aficionado of all things film, Jeremy Morrison, takes a look at a long lost classic — Michael Curtiz‘s “The Undesirable”. First, let’s take a walk down memory lane with a quick synopsis:
Betty (Lili Berky, Duel For Nothing), a young woman living in the country, is told by her dying father that he is really her uncle and raised her as his own when her mother was sent to prison for killing her husband. Alone and not knowing her mother’s fate, Betty travels to the city in search of work. There she finds employment as a maid in the house of a wealthy couple and their dashing son, Nick (Victor Varconi, For Whom The Bell Tolls), with whom she falls in love. When Betty is fired from her position after being unjustly accused of theft and escorted from the village, an ironic twist of fate propels the story forward with the sudden appearance of her mother Sarah (Mari Jászai, Bánk Bán) – presumed dead but recently released from prison – on a quest of her own to find her daughter.
REVIEW: I’ll be honesty, I have no idea how to review this film. I’ve never given myself the task of reviewing a silent era movie, but here goes.
“The Undesirable” was thought to have been lost was recently discovered in the basement of the Hungarian House Cultural Center in New York. It was then shipped back to Hungary for restoration work, Olive Films has since released it for our viewing pleasure. The disc is barebones, which isn’t abnormal for the company, but I honestly would have loved to have seen some sort of supplemental about the process of finding the film, it’s restoration, etc. But let’s focus on what we do have, shall we?
‘The Undesirable’ features a wonderful new score by Academy Award nominee Attila Pacsay, which is performed by Pannonia Symphony Orchestra, and conducted by Peter Illenyi. I loved it! Pacsay’s notes mesmerize and guide you from scene-to-scene effortlessly while simultaneously taking a back seat during all the right moments allowing the viewer to take in the entirety of the picture and title cards.
The film itself is a beautiful piece of cinematic history. A classic “star crossed lovers” type relationship is a fitting model for our leads between the main arc of Lili Berky’s Betty in search of her Mother.
‘The Undesirable’ was Michael Curtiz’s 11th film. ‘Casablanca’ was his 133rd. These were the days when a filmmaker would make three or four pictures a year, folks. And Curtiz worked! Actually, Curtiz took it easy in 1915, as ‘The Undesirable’ was his second, and last, film released that year. He had five films come out in 1914. Seven in 1916. Of the fourteen films released in that stretch, ‘The Undesirable’ is the only one I’ve seen. Looks like I have some work ahead of me. — Jeremy Morrison
Bottom line: Check it out!
Check out this film and a plethora of other amazing releases from Olive Films via their official website — www.olivefilms.com.