He Who Gets Slapped
Victor Sjostrom (Seastrom in the U.S.), the old man of Ingmar Bergman's Wild Strawberries, was, of course, one of the great film directors of the silent period, in Sweden and in this country. Among his Swedish masterworks, he is probably better known to American audiences for his Swedish film, Phantom Chariot and his Lillian Gish classics The Scarlet Letter and The Wind, than for He Who Gets Slapped, yet in this film we find Lon Chaney in one of his finest performances, without the accustomed bizarre make-up or astounding physical stunts. Chaney is a clown in a French travelling circus who achieves a spectacular revenge against the man who cheated him from a brilliant career as a scientist. Sjostrom's remarkable stylistic facility is everywhere in evidence, with the circus scenes bordering on the expressionistic, in contrast to the naturalism of the exposition elsewhere. The film is dazzling in its white-on-white techniques, and very close to the spirit of Bergman's Naked Night in its tale of humiliation in a circus setting, and by virtue of the subtlety and sensitivity of Chaney's acting.