Flick Friday: The Death Train 1915

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The Death Train Image
Photo Credit: anthonybalducci.blogspot.com
A Silent Film Rule:
Pies Go Splat But Damsels Never Do

Oh, it has been work looking for a film for today’s date. IMDB had plenty to choose from but, I couldn’t seem to get any further information from the others…Wikipedia, American Film Institute, Turner Classic Movies… Even the Silent Era site and Silent Hollywood were slim pickings and, Silentology had nothing.

Anyway, one hundred, five years ago, today, Episode #17 of The Hazards of Helen, The Death Train, was released. Similar to The Perils of Pauline, The Hazards of Helen was a film serial or series that ran from November 7, 1914 to February 24, 1917.

There were 119 episodes that were 12 minutes long, most of which have been lost. Based upon a novel written by John Russell Corvell and a play written by Denman Thompson, W. Scott Darling adapted the material for the silent screen and Edward T. Matlack wrote The Death Train, specifically. Directors were J. P. McGowan (1-48) and J. Gunnis Davis for the rest. The original actress was Helen Holmes (1-48), followed by Helen Gibson for the remainder of the series, with Anna Nilsson filling in for Holmes for Episode #18.

This episode also starred Rex Downs, M. J. Murchison, Edmund ‘Hoot’ Gibson, Leo D. Maloney and George A. Williams. Helen Holmes did most of her own stunts.

IMDB Summary:

The discovery that detectives are on their trail causes Doyle, Broden and Etzer, counterfeiters, to pack their paraphernalia into a trunk and express it to Lone Point. Upon its arrival at that station, a corner of the trunk is smashed. Helen thus learns of its contents. The telegrapher immediately wires to Savage, a railroad detective. The latter, accompanied by Duncan, a Secret Service detective, hastens to the scene. At their suggestion, Helen arranges a trap for the counterfeiters. When the latter appear, they are set upon by the officers. Etzer is captured but, his pals get away. Doyle eludes pursuit but, Broden later falls into Savage’s hands. Helen, watching the pursuit, ventures on the high trestle which crosses the dry bed of the Loro River. Doyle, who is hiding, sees Helen. Overpowered by a desire for revenge, the man attacks the telegrapher and makes her a prisoner. A rope lies nearby. Binding Helen, Doyle suspends his victim from the trestle and fastens the end of the line around the rails. Duncan sees this from afar. Although he rushes forward, he knows that the Keene local, due any moment, will cut the rope as it crosses the trestle. Meanwhile, Helen, after a tremendous effort, frees her hands. There is one chance for life. The girl commences swinging her body. Each time, she [manages] a wider arc. The train is crossing the trestle when Helen swings toward a beam. The engine wheels sever the rope. Helen flies through the air and reaches the beam. Doyle is captured. Savage and Duncan raise Helen to the tracks and find her uninjured.

Moving Picture World

This is one of the lost pieces so, there isn’t a YouTube clip and I could only find one picture. ~Vic

Additional Reading
Lost Films (European Union/German site)
Silent Era
Silent Hollywood (More on Helen Holmes)

5 thoughts on “Flick Friday: The Death Train 1915

    badfinger20 said:
    March 7, 2020 at 2:39 AM

    A lot of these early silent movies were around trains. I think I’ve seen The Perils of Pauline before. I like many of these silent pioneer films.

      The Hinoeuma responded:
      March 7, 2020 at 2:55 AM

      I was impressed that Helen Holmes did all of her own stunts. And, she wound up married to her director, J. P. McGowan.

      Out of 119 clips, only, like, 15 or 20 survive. You can find some of those on YouTube.

      Silent actors certainly had to rely on facial expressions to get their points across.

        badfinger20 said:
        March 7, 2020 at 3:05 AM

        The were really talented. The best actress of them all..to me as far as getting something across with just her eyes was Clara Bow.

        They worked hard on these things…they lived and breathed these films. A lot of love went into the films as corny as it is to say.

        That is cool that she did so many of her stunts.

    bereavedandbeingasingleparent said:
    March 7, 2020 at 4:37 AM

    This is wonderful. I would love to see how these old movies were made in those days. I bet the health and safety was something to be seen.

      The Hinoeuma responded:
      March 7, 2020 at 12:52 PM

      I doubt they had any health and safety regulations back then. This was three years before the global flu epidemic and sanitation was not the best. And, stunts were probably very dangerous.

      They were pioneers…no doubt.

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