A Fool There Was
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Widely regarded as the screen's first true sex symbol - a leading actress whose charm was built not upon quaint innocence but carnal desire - Theda Bara revolutionized the adolescent art of cinematic sensuality. One of the very few Bara films that exist today, A Fool There Was catapulted the actress to stardom in 1915 and introduced the term "vamp" (both as a noun and a verb) to the American pop culture vocabulary. Bara plays the "Vampire," a cunning woman who uses her irresistible charms to seduce and abandon a series of influential men. When one lover commits suicide on the deck of a luxury liner, she merely turns her gaze to another passenger, John Schuyler (Edward Jose), and leads him down a path to moral degradation and public scorn. Schuyler's wife (Mabel Frenyear) never gives up hope for her husband's redemption but has severely underestimated the hypnotic power the Vampire has upon her victims. One of the most remarkable aspects of A Fool There Was is its uncompromising ending. Rather than offering a syrupy resolution of eleventh-hour moral enlightenment, the film allows its characters to follow their downward trajectories toward less edifying fates.
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I had bought the Kino release of "A Fool There Was" the past last year, hoping to find out what was all the fuss about. Needless to say that I ended up becoming a huge fan of Theda Bara's charm and screen presence...
No, she wasn't conventionally beautiful nor even slender, and I'm sure these days many won't remotely understand why was she considered a sex-symbol. Sometimes even I wonder the same myself. But I guess it's something like an "acquired taste", or either you "get" it or you don't. In my case, I've only become a fan after watching her on screen, since the still always kept my wondering. Those intriguing looks she gave may look kind of funny today, pretty much like anything silent to the regular viewer; but after a while into silents, you really learn to respect and appreciate those primitive works of the true pioneers.
This release by Grapevine Video is a cause for celebration to me. I used to think that only one movie of Theda Bara had survived, but now I'm so glad to realize I was wrong! Since I'm no expert (far from it), I'm not sure if the version of "The Unchastened Movie" is featured here in its entirety, since it runs less than 50 minutes, which was kind of short by 1925 standards. But, it doesn't seem to lack any relevant scene and the plot makes sense, without major gaps.
The story is quite simple and predictable, nothing special nor particularly memorable; however, at least to me, its historical value alone is worth 5 stars. Besides, it gives a slightly different Theda from her most famous movie made 10 years prior to this. She was 40 year-old at the time, and still looking great and very sexy in a "healthy" way. She still plays 'The Vamp' in some scenes, and of course that's what we expect from her, but here you can also see a more human side, and you can't help being on her side. Her face, especially those big, gorgeous eyes, was amazing, and still conveyed many feelings by the mid-'20s.
I have to be honest: I'm afraid I can only recommend this to the die-hard fan of Theda Bara. If you are one of them, you'll most likely already own "A Fool There Was" on your collection, that's why I'm not talking about it. (Honestly, I've only seen a few minutes of this Grapevine Edition, and I noticed it's beautifully tinted and with a nice print quality). My main reason to buy this was, of course, "The Unchastened Woman", since this is the only way to get it (that I know) and I'm not disappointed at all; quite on the contrary: the print quality is excellent, much better than I was expecting, rather clear and sharp most of the time.
I've read somewhere that the movie was supposed to be tinted, but I'm not sure about that. However, it looks beautiful in B&W all the same, and it doesn't take a bit off its charm. I honestly don't think you'll enjoy this if you're a casual fan of silent film (well, I hope I'm wrong!), or if you only enjoy big-budget productions. You won't find anything too fancy here, "only" the legendary and incomparable Theda Bara in her second surviving film... Certainly, a more than valid reason to me.
The extras were disapointing, I was hoping for my photos of Theda Bara or a biography.
It is so interesting to see who they made movies at this time!
Most recent customer reviews
I'm glad this one still exists.