Before he became a superstar monster, Lon Chaney played monsters of another kind: ruthless gangsters. We get to see him play such a role in Outside the Law.
As always, thanks to Kino for the review copy.
This region 1/A release will be available on DVD and Bluray on October 20, 2020. (I earn a small commission from sales made through affiliate links.)
Please note that this is a review of the restoration and release, not the film itself. This was a Priscilla Dean vehicle when it was first in theaters. Dean was Universal’s resident tough dame and she made quite a few pictures in which she played gangsters, prostitutes and molls. In addition to Outside the Law, she also made The Wicked Darling with Lon Chaney as the villain and Tod Browning directing.
Outside the Law is a gangster film with a Chinatown setting and Lon Chaney plays dual roles as a white gangster and a kindly Chinese man, just so you get an idea of the film’s content.
This one is beautiful. You can see the threads in the table runner and the texture of the wood. In other words, the 4K restoration is as good as advertised, which is fortunate because it’s an attractive, visually rich picture that benefits from the upgrade.
I have been most impressed by the scores included in the recent crop of Universal silents and this one is no exception. Anton Sanko’s music is dark, moody and resembles the kind of score that would accompany a particularly dramatic mid-century detective film. I dug it.
There’s a commentary by Anthony Slide, an alternate ending and a footage comparison.
This release is a significant upgrade from the previous Image DVD version, which was very good but is now twenty years old. If you are a Lon Chaney fan and you have the Image release, this edition will be a major improvement in quality.
If you’ve never seen it before, the film contains stereotypes but it is a rare chance to see Priscilla Dean in her prime and Tod Browning and Lon Chaney on the cusp on their major breakthrough. This new edition showcases it beautifully.
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