Somewhere in the nineties I was switching channels and came across a silent serial on Arte. The title was A Woman in Grey and each fifteen minutes long episode revealed more secrets about the mysterious Ruth Hope. And, at the end of every episode, Ruth found herself in mortal peril.
I had missed the first episode(s) and hoped that someday the series would be repeated. Sadly, that never happened. The only way to get A Woman in Grey in your home collection was on VHS copies of questionable quality.
Now the wait is finally over: Grapevine Video has released A Woman in Grey on DVD. Now you can finally discover the mysteries of the Amory house for yourself.
Years ago a murder happened at the Amory house. Whether the right person was jailed for the murder was never sure and with the convict having died in prison, the mystery may never be solved.
Enter Ruth Hope, author of the book A Woman in Grey about the Amory house and herself often clad in grey. She is found browsing through the Amory house, but she is not alone: J. Havilland Hunter is also snooping around. This mysterious man is obviously up to no good, but what we do not know is why he is so interested in the Amory house. Or why Ruth Hope often tries to hide one of her hands. Lots of mysteries and no answers, it seems…
Alongside The Perils of Pauline, A Woman in Grey is undoubtedly one of the best “damsel in distress” serials. However, this wonderful 1920 production never seemed to get the glory it deserved. A shame, as there’s good direction, lots of action, high-quality editing and a more than able cast. Grapevine Video praised its release with these words: “There is a hint of Griffith’s influence with experimental lighting and camera angles occurring throughout the film. The extraordinary rhythmic momentum of the film is never lost despite the films complex plot turns. This is the best of the surviving serials from the silent era. ” Generally, it’s the sort of blurb one can expect from a production company, but in this case it is not a lie. Why else can one explain my frantic search to get this serial into my own collection? (And yes, every now and then I pestered Grapevine Video with a request to release this on DVD. Finally, this has come through.)
Spread over two discs, the 15 chapters are the only thing you’ll find on this release, but – and this is definitely much more important for such an old series – this means the quality is kept as high as possible.
Of course, the material is old and not every episode was in good state to begin with, but the results are great. Sadly the first episode is one of those that look a bit more scarred, so don’t feel too disappointed when you start watching it: the quality will improve.
Unless you have a genuine distaste for silent serials, this is a release you should own if you call yourself a movie buff. It’s ideal to watch one episode per day just before bed time: two weeks of joy are ensured.
To end this review, a bit of eye candy: I found one of the cliffhanger endings on YouTube. Here are 20 seconds of mortal peril for poor Ruth Hope…