Universal Pictures premiered the restored 1929 silent film classic The Last Warning June 4 at the Castro Theater as part of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. Directed by Paul Leni and starring Laura La Plante, The Last Warning is a dramatic horror centered on an unsolved murder during a theatrical performance and the revival production meant to solve the mystery. This restored version is a part of Universal's silent restoration initiative announced last year.
"The Last Warning is significant in Universal's history as it was Paul Leni's last film and a key role for Universal's leading lady of the 1920s, Laura La Plante," said Michael Daruty, senior vice president, NBCUniversal Global Media Operations. "Through the silent film initiative, our two goals are to preserve the films for the future and share them with audiences."
Beginning in March 2015, Universal's team of restoration experts conducted a worldwide search for The Last Warning's available elements. After extensive exploration, a 35mm nitrate dupe negative was located at the Cinémathèque française, and was loaned to the Studio. This French negative became the base element. However because of its origin, the negative contained French title cards. In order to obtain the English title cards, Universal turned to a 16mm English print from the Packard Humanities Institute Collection in the UCLA Film & Television Archive. Universal's restoration team then replaced the French title cards with the English.
La Plante, a prominent Universal contract player, was known for her celebrated roles in Skinner's Dress Suit (1926), The Cat and the Canary (1927), Show Boat (1929), and King of Jazz (1930). In this horror film, a producer reopens a theatre production, where one of his former actors had been murdered during a performance. The producer proceeds to stage the show exactly as it was with the exception of the murdered actor. The film was adapted from the 1922 Broadway play by the same name written by Thomas F. Fallon based on the story The House of Fear by Wadsworth Camp, the father of the writer Madeleine L'Engle.
The Last Warning first premiered in 1929 and was popular with audiences of the time.
Other silent film titles being restored by Universal include Outside the Law, Sensation Seekers, and Oh, Doctor!
The Universal Pictures silent film restoration initiative builds on the company's ongoing restoration commitment. Since the program was first announced in 2012, nearly 50 titles have been restored and 25 more titles are expected to be restored by 2017. Fully restored titles to date include All Quiet on the Western Front, The Birds, Buck Privates, Dracula (1931), Dracula Spanish (1931), Frankenstein, Jaws, Schindler's List, Out of Africa, Pillow Talk, Bride of Frankenstein, The Sting, To Kill a Mockingbird, Touch of Evil, Double Indemnity, High Plains Drifter, Holiday Inn, Spartacus, King of Jazz, and One-Eyed Jacks.