Graeme Stephen's The Penalty at The Queen’s Hall Edinburgh tonight combined imaginative and unique talents separated by nearly 100 years in time being brought together for something a little different, and a little special - Graeme Stephen (guitar), Pete Harvey (cello) and Lon Chaney (actor).
Earlier this year (March 2018), leading Scottish composer Graeme Stephen’s brand-new score for guitar (Stephen) and cello (Pete Harvey) for Lon Chaney’s silent film The Penalty premiered at The Hippodrome Silent Film Festival. The Hippodrome in Bo’ness near Falkirk is thought to be the oldest surviving purpose-built cinema in Scotland (built 1912), so the venue was perfect for this production. I missed this event, so the production coming to The Queen’s Hall with its wonderful natural acoustics was an opportunity not to be missed for me.
The original film released in 1920 features Lon Chaney as an embittered underworld crime boss known as “Blizzard” who wants two main goals in his life – revenge on the surgeon who needlessly amputated both his legs above his knees as a child, and to bring carnage to the city of San Francisco whilst looting it at will in the process. This dark and disturbing film is famous for Lon Chaney refusing to use any trick photography to give the appearance of his character being an amputee, and instead he endured great physical pain in his performance using special strapping that allowed him to work for only very short periods of time due to the pain it caused him. The only time we see Lon Chaney standing tall on his own two legs in this film is in a fantasy “looting” sequence. The running time of this silent film is 90 minutes, and that itself re-sets some pre-conceived ideas that many people might have of silent films, they were not all “shorts” and, as this film clearly shows, the film industry had developed and matured rapidly in a very short period of time.
This review has to mention “The Penalty”, but the real review here is of outstanding work that Graeme Stephen has created here in giving a new... read the rest of the review here.