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.


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).


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