The Last Warning (1928)

  • Year: 1928
  • Released: 25 Dec 1928
  • Country: United States
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  • Available in: 720p, 1080p,
  • Language: English
  • MPA Rating: N/A
  • Genre: Horror, Mystery, Thriller
  • Runtime: 89 min
  • Writer: Wadsworth Camp, Alfred A. Cohn, Thomas F. Fallon
  • Director: Paul Leni
  • Cast: Laura La Plante, Montagu Love, Roy D’Arcy
  • Keywords: based on novel or book, based on play or musical, murder,

The Last Warning Storyline

A producer decides to reopen a theater, that had been closed five years previously when one of the actors was murdered during a performance, by staging a production of the same play with the remaining members of the original cast.

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The Last Warning Movie Reviews

A mystery dressed up as a horror film

Essentially this is part “Cat and the Canary” and part “Phantom of the Opera” – also silent Universal properties. It has some slack parts but the visual atmosphere helps to cover them up, and it has some very inventive title cards where the writing may be initially blurry and come into focus, or the writing may start up clear and then appear to melt down the page, or it may appear to be underwater.

The film is about an actor, John Woodford, in a theatre on Broadway, who dies suddenly when he gets to the part of the play where he is backed into the fireplace by another actor and picks up a candlestick. The lights go out, and when they come back on there is Woodford dead on the floor. The police come to question everybody who was present, then Woodford’s body disappears before the coroner gets there. It is discovered by the police that Woodford and another actor, Richard Quayle (John Boles) were arguing in actress Doris Terry’s (Laura LaPlante’s) dressing room, and both were suitors of hers.

So without a body, the investigation cannot go on, the theatre is closed, and the papers are shown having a field day with the “love triangle” that is insinuated to have something to do with the killing. Several years later, Woodford’s close friend (Montagu Love as Arthur McHugh) decides to reopen the theatre with the same cast as the night of the killing and the same play. Why does the entire cast return? Because to not return would make them look guilty.

But somebody does not want the play to open. Heavy scenery comes crashing down. Smoke bombs go off. Threatening letters are written to members of the cast that they perform at their peril, and some mysterious masked figure is running and jumping about the place and even stealing Doris’ purse and putting her personal possessions in strategic places to make her look like she is in on all of the strange happenings. Is it the ghost of John Woodford trying to avenge himself? Well of course not. But it might be the real John Woodford, having faked his own death, and still mad at Boles and LaPlante for his romantic rejection. Watch and find out what is behind all of this.

The visuals are just great here. The opening scene reminds me somewhat of 1929’s Broadway with all of the pictures of the Broadway nightlife of 1929. Also, the theatre, from the outside, looks like the face of some frightening creature complete with eyes, a nose, and mouth. I just wish better prints were available.

Unseen masterpiece of mystery!

This movie pops up on ebay once in a while and for fans of mystery or horror films, particularly those of Universal, this is a must.

The plot is unimportant – it is about a haunted old theater where an old Broadway play is being brought back despite threats from the ghost of a dead actor.

This film was the last directed by the great Paul Leni. It is really the work of a virtuoso working at his peak. It has everything The Cat and the Canary had and more. The version that seems to be relatively available on video has a good music track too, but unfortunately it seems that the experimental sound sequences the film originally contained have not survived.

Nevertheless, we are lucky that this film has survived as it is such a joyous romp of horror cliches with inventive, wild camera moves and stunning lighting and spooky set design. It foreshadows the great horror classics that were less than two years away for Universal. It is just wonderful filmmaking from a forgotten great director who was at his peak, so if you are into old dark house mysteries or Universal horror movies – FIND IT! – It is one of the best!

8/10 – even better than The Cat and the Canary.

You will never get through the opening performance!

Astute producer Carl Laemmle invited talented German director Paul Leni to join Universal. This proved to be a masterstroke. Before his untimely death in 1929 Leni directed four films one of which, ‘The Chinese Parrot’ is considered ‘lost’, the other three of which are superb. From its astonishing opening sequence ‘The Last Warning’ is a brilliantly inventive and imaginative piece that holds our attention throughout. A great deal of credit must surely go to cinematographer Hal Mohr who, although American born, had assimilated European film techniques during a brief sojourn in Paris. His greatest achievement is the ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ of Max Reinhardt. The specially composed score although a little over-orchestrated, is far superior to the usual incongruous, excruciating, tacked on scores with which so many restored silent films are cursed. Such a sadness to lose a director of Leni’s gifts but his influence on Universal’s classic horrors of the 1930’s is there for all to see.