blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

The Perils of Pauline (1914) ch01 – Trial by Fire, the European version

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.

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