Louis J. Gasnier

The Perils of Pauline (1914, Louis J. Gasnier and Donald MacKenzie), the European version, Chapter 9: The Floating Coffin

The Floating Coffin starts as most Perils of Pauline chapters start. Villain Paul Panzer is loitering around lovebirds Pearl White and Crane Wilbur, trying to figure out a way to off White. This time they’re yachting and White wants to go off on her own in a motorboat. Unlike every other chapter of Pauline, she asks Wilbur for his permission. Maybe because it’s his motorboat? White also has a dog. She’s never had a dog before.

Panzer sees his chance and opens the drain on the boat, filling it with a towel. Somehow the motorboat doesn’t sink overnight, and indeed lasts a whole hour into White’s solo voyage. As she begins taking on water, she goes to the nearest refuge–what turns out to be a floating target platform for the Navy.

Once White’s on the platform, Coffin just starts piling on logic hole after logic hole. First she can’t see the ships shooting at the target, even though they haven’t moved. She just wasn’t looking in the right spot. Also, on board the firing vessels, someone’s watching the target with binoculars. They apparently can see the target platform but not White (and her dog). Until a little later, when they can. Basically everyone’s incompetent.

Except the yacht captain, who figures out–after ten plus attempts–it’s Panzer who’s causing all of White’s Perils. An exceptionally lackluster finish to the serial ensues.

Even though White doesn’t do much except watch the water rise, the interiors on the platform as it fills with seawater are cool. The dog seems to be having a good time.

It’s also not clear how White knows she’s on a target platform (to send a distress message) after getting on the platform and apparently having no idea what it’s doing on the water.

White does probably get the most to do since the first chapter, but none of it’s special. In fact, it’s less special than almost every other thing she’s done–with far less screen time–in the rest of the serial.

CREDITS

Directed by Louis J. Gasnier and Donald MacKenzie; screenplay by Charles W. Goddard and Basil Dickey, based on the novel by Goddard; director of photography, Arthur C. Miller; released by the Eclectic Film Company.

Starring Pearl White (Pauline), Crane Wilbur (Harry), and Paul Panzer (Koerner).


The Perils of Pauline (1914, Louis J. Gasnier and Donald MacKenzie), the European version, Chapter 6: The Shattered Plane

The Shattered Plane title to this chapter kind of gives things away. Is there going to be a shattering of a plane? Has it already shattered?

Villain Paul Panzer talks his ward, Pearl White, into going out to the airfield and trying to get aboard a plane. There’s going to be a race. White loves the idea, though her beau Crane Wilbur disapproves.

When Panzer and White get to the airfield, Panzer tries to bribe the pilot, who refuses. The pilot cannot, however, refuse White’s charms and agrees to let her ride along.

So then Panzer sabotages the plane (that night), presumably to kill both pilot and passenger. Panzer not having a plan when he goes out to the airfield in the first place is kind of sketchy, along with him not knowing how to sabotage a plane until he overhears the pilot talking about maintenance.

Wilbur still wants to keep White from flying; he sabotages both the household’s cars. One he just lets the gas drain as they drive, which White doesn’t seem to notice when she’s walking around the back of the car. Luckily (or unluckily), Panzer manages to find a car to go pick White up.

There are some great aerial shots from the flying planes, but it turns out to be a lackluster Pauline, even taking the serial’s tropes into account.

And when White has to call the maid to go get her a coat? It’s pretty obnoxious. Panzer shouldn’t be poorly plotting to kill her, but White seems to be an awfully snobby blue blood.

CREDITS

Directed by Louis J. Gasnier and Donald MacKenzie; screenplay by Charles W. Goddard and Basil Dickey, based on the novel by Goddard; director of photography, Arthur C. Miller; released by the Eclectic Film Company.

Starring Pearl White (Pauline), Crane Wilbur (Harry), Paul Panzer (Koerner), and Francis Carlyle (Hicks).


The Perils of Pauline (1914, Louis J. Gasnier and Donald MacKenzie), the European version, Chapter 5: A Watery Doom

A Watery Doom opens with scheming villain Paul Panzer hiring a “gypsy” (honestly, calling them Romani in this context seems inappropriate), played by Clifford Bruce, to drown his ward, Pearl White. But Panzer’s worried her fiancé Crane Wilbur will come along and save her at the last minute. So at least Panzer’s learned the structure of Perils of Pauline chapters, even if he hasn’t learned anything from his mistakes.

They’re going to lock her in a basement below river level and drown her. Bruce and his band of gypsies (see, you don’t want to call them a band of Romani here) pose as firemen and burn down one of Wilbur’s factories. Apparently there are women and children in danger at this factory, but it’s immaterial. The false firemen kidnap Wilbur and White and lock them in the opening scene’s basement, then blow a hole to let the river in.

White’s more worried about the rats in the basement, who then swim (in the chapter’s most amusing shots), than she is about drowning. And why should she worry? Even though Panzer and Bruce had a plan to incapacitate Wilbur, it apparently didn’t work at all. He’s able to get his bindings off by rubbing them against a broken chimney base, which Panzer and Bruce apparently didn’t notice when surveying the basement.

Panzer’s got a subplot about firing the house staff because he’s sure he’s finally killed White and now has her riches. It goes unresolved. As bad at Panzer is at devising these murder plots (the gypsies have guns, why not just shoot the couple), at least he’s not Wilbur and White who never seem to figure out he’s always miserable to see them.

The escape from the drowning isn’t great, but the subsequent escape from the gypsy gang is kind of neat. Especially the stunt work.

CREDITS

Directed by Louis J. Gasnier and Donald MacKenzie; screenplay by Charles W. Goddard and Basil Dickey, based on the novel by Goddard; director of photography, Arthur C. Miller; released by the Eclectic Film Company.

Starring Pearl White (Pauline), Crane Wilbur (Harry), Paul Panzer (Koerner), and Clifford Bruce (Gypsy leader).


The Perils of Pauline (1914, Louis J. Gasnier and Donald MacKenzie), the European version, Chapter 4: The Deadly Turning

The Deadly Turning starts with what seems like a lot of corrective potential. Pearl White has signed up for a car race without telling beau Crane Wilbur or guardian Paul Panzer. Once she’s accepted, she tells them at once, setting she and Wilbur on their plot line and Panzer on his.

Wilbur begs White not to race. She refuses. So he says she has to let him drive the car. Even though she’s entered into a car race, she doesn’t seem to know how to drive, which was immediately disappointing. That conflict is pretty much all of White and Wilbur’s plot line.

Meanwhile, Panzer sees another opportunity to kill White and get her money. Turns out he’s got a bunch of other henchmen who he can force to do his bidding. Panzer’s come a long way from the mostly reformed secretary in the first chapter. Now he’s got a league of thugs.

Stupid thugs as it turns out, though Panzer’s plan to cause White to crash is pretty bad on its own. Worse is when how he plans it so the culprit will be in full view of everyone.

Fortunately, it’s a short chapter. There’s not enough time before it’s over to get fully disappointed in how much White is again wasted. The serial often seems less like The Perils of Pauline than Buffoons Can’t Murder.

CREDITS

Directed by Louis J. Gasnier and Donald MacKenzie; screenplay by Charles W. Goddard and Basil Dickey, based on the novel by Goddard; director of photography, Arthur C. Miller; released by the Eclectic Film Company.

Starring Pearl White (Pauline), Crane Wilbur (Harry), and Paul Panzer (Koerner).


The Perils of Pauline (1914, Louis J. Gasnier and Donald MacKenzie), the European version, Chapter 3: The Pirate Treasure

The Pirate Treasure doesn’t give Pearl White anything more to do than usual in Pauline, despite her playing Pauline, but it’s one heck of an amusing chapter. Villains Paul Panzer and Francis Carlyle (who really ought to be top-billed since they have the most to do every chapter–so far) are walking along trying to figure out how to kill White and happen across a destitute old sailor (Donald MacKenzie). They like the look him and it turns out MacKenzie isn’t above some accessory to murder, so long as he gets paid.

Panzer’s scheme has MacKenzie telling White he’s got buried treasure on an island. Presumably because Panzer knows White won’t be able to resist helping MacKenzie get the buried treasure?

At first, MacKenzie terrifies White and her would-be beau, Crane Wilbur, rushes to her rescue. Wilbur’s intrusion convinces White she should listen to MacKenzie’s tale, regardless of him being a terrifying old sailor. So she boots Wilbur out, listens to the tale, and agrees to help him.

When Wilbur wants to know what she’s up to on her boating expedition, she refuses to tell him, which kicks off his subplot. He gets a buddy and hires a boat to follow her.

Except the skipper they hire is in Carlyle’s pay and dumps them on an empty island. They build a raft, which sinks, but then swim to shore on a different island. By that time, White and her party have gotten to that island, where they’re stopping over to go to the treasure island.

That extra time gives Wilbur time to put on black face and pretend to be a cook so he can go with them. It’s a fairly complex disguise–including a hairpiece; so the staging island must have had a costume shop.

The plot holes–Wilbur’s disappearing friend, White’s erratic behavior, Wilbur not–you know–wanting to wait for White’s ship to depart before following it–makes Treasure rather amusing.

Technically the best part is MacKenzie’s flashback to childhood–he’s a cabin boy who has to kill the entire crew of a ship to defend himself from being thrown overboard. It’s a great gunfight turned knife fight turned brawl. Whoever plays young MacKenzie does well.

MacKenzie’s makeup is awesome as well.

The chapter only has one Peril, which is fine, especially since it gives Panzer and Carlyle their best moment of villainy in the whole thing.

CREDITS

Directed by Louis J. Gasnier and Donald MacKenzie; screenplay by Charles W. Goddard and Basil Dickey, based on the novel by Goddard; director of photography, Arthur C. Miller; released by the Eclectic Film Company.

Starring Pearl White (Pauline), Crane Wilbur (Harry), Paul Panzer (Koerner), Francis Carlyle (Hicks), and Donald MacKenzie (Blinky Bill, the pirate).


The Perils of Pauline (1914, Louis J. Gasnier and Donald MacKenzie), the European version, Chapter 2: The Goddess of the Far West

Tired of being in the public eye–presumably since she escaped a terrible fate in the previous chapter–Pearl White decides to go visit some friends out west. Suitor and pal Crane Wilbur can’t go with her (which is initially a blessing); unfortunately, villain Paul Panzer discovers her plans and schemes to once again kill her for her fortune.

Panzer’s thug, Francis Carlyle, hires a band of evil cowboys to help him kidnap White. They do, with ease, and lock her in a cave. While the villains get away, a group of Native Americans are fox hunting nearby. Seeing the fox in the cave, White realizes its not entirely sealed and works her way out.

Not clear why she didn’t explore the cave before seeing the fox. Not clear at all.

She escapes her makeshift prison with the help of a Native American who takes her back to the tribe. The elders decide they’re going to kill her in some ritual manner. Even though her rescuer tries to get her free, it’s too late. They push White down a hill and send boulders after her.

There’s at least one cool shot of White (or a stuntperson) running from a boulder.

In the meantime, Wilbur’s back to save the day. Even though a sheriff’s posse was ostensibly looking for White, they had no luck. Only Wilbur can find her.

The finale has the posse killing a bunch of the bloodthirsty Natives, though everyone decides White’s Native rescuer is an all right guy.

Goddess is a long twenty or so minutes. The first “peril” at least fits into the bigger plot, but the second one is seemingly just there because the first doesn’t have any big set pieces. And it only doesn’t have big set pieces because directors Gasnier and MacKenzie rush the kidnapping.

It’d be nice if White got something to do most of the time instead of at most a quarter of it.

CREDITS

Directed by Louis J. Gasnier and Donald MacKenzie; screenplay by Charles W. Goddard and Basil Dickey, based on the novel by Goddard; director of photography, Arthur C. Miller; released by the Eclectic Film Company.

Starring Pearl White (Pauline), Crane Wilbur (Harry), Paul Panzer (Koerner), and Francis Carlyle (Hicks).


The Perils of Pauline (1914, Louis J. Gasnier and Donald MacKenzie), the European version, Chapter 1: Trial by Fire

Trial by Fire takes a while to get to its first Peril for (sort of) lead Pauline (Pearl White). She’s a young heiress who wants to live a life of adventure–at least for a year–before she marries her guardian’s son. That son, Crane Wilbur, doesn’t really want Pauline to take this year off, but he agrees. Little do they know the guardian is about to be deathly ill. They completely don’t know the guardian’s secretary is actually an escaped con.

Paul Panzer plays the secretary. Just as the guardian falls ill, an old criminal acquaintance comes looking for money. Francis Carlyle plays the crook. Once the guardian dies, it’s Carlyle who talks Panzer into killing White for her money. Panzer’s now her guardian and her fortune could be theirs!

Panzer and Carlyle aren’t exactly criminal masterminds; their first attempt on White’s life involves a hot air balloon accident. Little do they realize White isn’t a complete idiot, so she’s able to save herself. At that point, however, Trial by Fire gets a little strange.

After her first self-rescue, White becomes unable to fend for herself. She climbs down from a hot air balloon on its anchor line, only to get a fear of heights at the cliff. Thank goodness Wilbur has arrived to save her. There’s some dering-do from him (or his stuntman) but the bad guys are waiting for him.

It’s reasonably exciting after the long setup, though Wilbur’s greatest ability seems to be able to just buy whatever he wants whenever he needs it. White gets little to do after the hot air balloon; before it she’s just telling Wilbur she doesn’t want to marry him yet, much to his chagrin.

The chapter doesn’t end on a cliffhanger. Well, not a hard one, anyway. Panzer and Carlyle’s first two attempts on White’s life may have failed but they’re ready to scheme for more.

There are some great stunts, solid direction from Gasnier and MacKenzie; presumably once they trim the setup fat, Perils will be smooth sailing. And hopefully White won’t end up a damsel more than fifty percent of the time.

CREDITS

Directed by Louis J. Gasnier and Donald MacKenzie; screenplay by Charles W. Goddard and Basil Dickey, based on the novel by Goddard; director of photography, Arthur C. Miller; released by the Eclectic Film Company.

Starring Pearl White (Pauline), Crane Wilbur (Harry), Paul Panzer (Koerner), Francis Carlyle (Hicks), and Edward José (Sanford Marvin).


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