Director Paul Leni must have been emotionally tuckered out after the relentless cryfest of deformities THE MAN WHO LAUGHS, because his next film would mark a return to the "old dark house"-style romping of THE CAT AND THE CANARY. In terms of horror content, THE LAST WARNING is unlikely to alarm anyone who can handle Goosebumps, but it's got enough genre flair and enough fun & games to merit inclusion in our 1920s parade of dignity. SALOME got in, so the door policy can't be too strict.
We open with dipping and swirling cameras, pivoting and clambering like a zombie in a shitty modern horror movie, while superimposed faces and legs pile atop one another like zombies against a big wall. These early scenes are so energetic and inventive that it's inevitable that they won't last. Burn out, we have a plot to get to! And here it is: actor John Woodford dies during a performance. Then his body disappears! Then the theatre is closed for years...but reopens! With Woodford's original company. But! Someone is leaving nasty notes and trying to bully the performers into not performing. Is it the dead or just a jock or something? Hey, look at this scary building!
It's pissed. Maybe it doesn't appreciate horror-comedy, which this is, clearly. It even taps the same fountain of fun animated intertitles that we saw in CAT AND THE CANARY.
Thankfully, the comedy on offer is actually funny, not agonizing and tedious. I especially dug the frequent scenes of an old woman being splattered with spiderwebs (Brazzers!) or inadvertently taking hydraulic rides (I'm sure there's a porn site that covers this scenario too! Don't email me about it!). Please note how incredible this looks! If only she could have been our """monster"""!
The monster that we end up getting looks perfectly fine when shot from afar, as most things do. LAST WARNING keeps him pretty close to the vest for most of the film's running time, which works wonders.
Wonders cease when we get a close-up that looks like a sexually-harassing crash-test dummy, but you can't win them all.
Goofy looks aside, LAST WARNING is lots of fun and doesn't fritter its opportunities on elongated dialogue exchange or overstay its welcome. It's a rad haunted-house ride that functions precisely the way that Scooby-Doo episodes do. Zoinks, Evalynda Hendon, I bet it was Harvey Carleton the whole time! Those names are real, that is what kind of movie we have here. If you enjoyed CAT/CANARY, you have no reason to not like this. No excuses, young man or ma'am! Not a world-changer, but it's not trying to be.
TOP TEN OF THE 1920S:
1. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)
2. Faust (1926)
3. The Golem (1920)
4. The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
5. The Man Who Laughs (1928)
6. The Unknown (1927)
7. Maciste in Hell/Maciste all'Inferno (1925)
8. The Wind (1928)
9. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920)
10. A Page of Madness (1926)