Reviews of silent film releases on home video.
Copyright © 1999-2024 by Carl Bennett
and the Silent Era Company.
All Rights Reserved.
Tom Mix stars in his final silent film, directed by Eugene Forde, with a supporting cast that includes Kathryn McGuire, Frank Beal, Martha Mattox, Ernest Hilliard, Barney Furey and Tony the horse.
George Brooks (Beal) is a business leader who has just purchased the famous Regent diamond for his privileged society daughter Ellen Brooks (McGuire), much to the disapproval of his sister Effie (Mattox). Home with her friend Rodney Stevens (Hilliard), Ellen insists on seeing what is in the enticing gift box and blithely approves of the expensive bauble. You know Stevens is crooked, with his smarmy slick hair and little Menjou moustache, from the moment he inspects the diamond necklace and casts a furtive glance at the Brooks pair.
Arriving on the latest train is Tom Markham (Mix) who is “on his annual visit to the city.” Intending to go to the Brooks home, Tom engages a taxi driven by the inept Barney McGill (Furey) and sees what he thinks is a woman in peril. Speeding in the taxi, Tom pulls Ellen off her horse at full gallop not knowing that she and Rodney are only having a bit of racing fun. Afterwards, Ellen and Stevens are driving in her car and she is caught speeding again, which means a prison sentence after having a judge warn her last time. Speeding away from motorcycle cops, Ellen is stopped by Tom’s taxi car that is now out of gas and she is escorted to court by police. Through her father’s influence Ellen’s jail sentence is waived and she is paroled provided her father’s promise is kept to send her out of town for a contemplative respite.
It is now revealed that Tom is in town to discuss with George Brooks some improvements to his Arizona dude ranch, of which Tom is the manager. Ellen is informed that she and her prim Aunt Effie (Mattox) will be sent to the ranch for her parole term. Conspiring to teach Ellen a lesson, her father directs Tom to show her a tremendous, wild experience intended to curb her impulses.
That evening, burglars enter Ellen’s bedroom to steal the diamond necklace. Tom gives chase to the crooks’ hideout and retrieves the stone but is subdued by the toughs. With the diamond hidden, Tom is grilled for its location. Making a daring escape, Tom is just in time to catch the train to the ranch.
Tom and the ranchhands give Ellen and her Aunt Effie the big show as renegade Indians and with Tom disguised as the desperado Black Bart. (Which begs the question: How is Tom not recognized wearing his white Mickey Mouse gloves?) Stevens arrives on scene and ‘rescues’ Ellen and her party. As is to be expected, Stevens and his flunkies are there to pursue the diamond. Successes and failures ensue. Then, everyone that deserves to be is happy in the end.
Barney Furey provides comic relief as a befuddled taxi driver. Martha Mattox, who made a living of portraying creepy and stern characters, excels here in what she does best — making the other characters fearsome and self-conscious. Tony the horse is present in what amounts to a cameo appearance. Hilliard is an effective villain, McGuire lovely as the heroine, and Tom is . . . well . . .
— Carl Bennett
2023 Blu-ray Disc edition
Sky High (1922), black & white and color-tinted black & white, 58 minutes, not rated,
with The Big Diamond Robbery (1929), black & white and color-tinted black & white, 65 minutes, not rated.
Ratings (1-10): video: 9 / audio: 8 / additional content: 8 / overall: 9.
no catalog number, UPC 7-45808-09983-1.
One single-sided, dual-layered, Regions ABC Blu-ray Disc (BD-R BDMV); 1.33:1 aspect ratio picture in pillarboxed 16:9 (1920 x 1080 pixels) 24 fps progressive scan image encoded in SDR AVC format at ? Mbps average video bit rate; Dolby Digital (AC3) 2.0 stereo sound encoded at 192 Mbps audio bit rate; English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles; 7 chapter stops; standard BD keepcase; $21.99.
Release date: 25 July 2023.
Country of origin: USA
This Blu-ray Disc (BD-R) edition has been mastered in 2K high-resolution from two archival prints: the first being an excellent 35mm print of the French release version of the film with fine image detail held by Lobster Films that provides the bulk of the scan, the second being a very-good 35mm safety duplicate negative that is slightly greyer and softer in image detail with slightly hot highlights and wear damage held by Library of Congress that is used to replace footage missing in the first. The scan has been digitally stabilized and cleaned to remove virtually all traces of dust, speckling, splices and other print flaws. The remaining evidence of the digital clean-up work are the occasional subtle, smooth changes in exposure that the anti-flicker software tried its best to even out. Very brief sections of the source material have presumably been lost from print breaks over the years; no more than a few frames appear to have been lost in each of the breaks. Overall, the resulting picture is excellent and a tremendous pleasure to watch.
The film is accompanied by a music score composed and performed on virtual theatre pipe organ by Ben Model, who delivers another fine, entertaining accompaniment.
Supplemental material is the main attraction of the edition: Tom Mix in Sky High (1922).
A fine example of what high quality can be delivered through digital technology, this is the best home video edition of the film we know of and it is highly recommended. We give this disc a big Wow!
USA: Click the logomark to purchase this Regions ABC Blu-ray Disc (BD-R) edition from Amazon.com. Purchase supports Silent Era.
2023 DVD edition
Sky High (1922), black & white, 58 minutes, not rated,
with The Big Diamond Robbery (1929), black & white, 65 minutes, not rated.
no catalog number, unknown UPC number.
One single-sided, single-layered, Region 0 NTSC DVD-R disc; 1.33:1 aspect ratio picture in full-frame 4:3 (720 x 480 pixels) interlaced scan image encoded in SDR MPEG-2 format at ? Mbps average video bit rate (capable of progressive scan upscaling to ? fps); Dolby Digital (AC3) 2.0 stereo sound encoded at ? Kbps audio bit rate; English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles; chapter stops; standard DVD keepcase; $19.98.
Release date: 11 July 2023.
Country of origin: USA