Film Review and Rating / Synopsis

(Please note the films reviewed on this site contain plot summaries and may contain SPOILERS.)
  • The Show (1927) - Plot Summary - Silent thriller starring John Gilbert as "Cock Robin - The Ballyhoo man at the Palace of Illusions", a handsome "ladies man" seriously lacking in scruples ("he knows how to get the ladies .... and the money"). He works putting on magic tricks at a Budapest carnival to lead crowds into "The Show", where "freaks" including Zela the half lady, Arachnida the human spider, and Neptuna, the queen of the mermaids are displayed all leading up to the showstopper - a dance by Salome "in all her oriental splendor" followed by Robin appearing in a fake beheading made to look quite real via some clever trickery. Two young ladies struggle to win his unwinnable heart - Lena, daughter of a local sheep merchant, unfortunately smitten with Cock "meet me tonight and I'll let you pay for my supper again" Robin, and lovestruck Salome (Renee Adoree), who admires him during their performance, receiving warnings that her attentions to Robin could make "The Greek" (Lionel Barrymore) mighty jealous. Cut to The Greek, currently busy murdering that sheep merchant so he can steal a large wad of cash the man received from a big sheep sale. What he doesn't know is that Lena is holding the money for her Poppa (and that has also kept her from showing up for dinner with Robin making him mighty annoyed 'cause he had to pay for his own - oh dear, he calls her a "Butter Ball from the country"). When Lena turns up at his place, upset by the murder of her father, Robin sees the wad of money, finds out there's still hills full of sheep to sell, and decides to marry the poor girl! But when Salome arrives and tries to convince Lena to leave, he hits Salome and Lena heads for the hills (and meanwhile, The Greek has been informed by his henchman that Salome is at Robin's flat and he comes up with a really gruesome plan to get even with Robin!). Soon enough though, the police are after Robin for taking Lena's money and possibly killing her father! Despite the fact that he was pretty close to beating Salome with a stick/fireplace poker earlier, she ends up hiding him in the attic above her rooms - and soon her devotion to an eldery blind man in her building begins to bring Cock Robin into a whole new mindset.

    Review - Interesting film, directed by Tod Browning - - nicely atmospheric with an odd lot of sordid characters and well done performances by John Gilbert, playing smarmy cad to the hilt as he looks women up and down with a roving eye, Lionel Barrymore, creepily sinister as the villian, and Renee Adoree, her eyes filled with patience towards the man she loves who just keeps on doing wrong. The film includes some bizarre carnival imagery, typical of that seen in Tod Browning films, particularly the three fake side show "freaks" (the lady spider is particularly memorable/strange!). This film builds to an emotional, heartwrenching climax in which the character of Cock Robin suddenly takes a turn and becomes a man - the ending scenes of this film are riveting to watch, really elevating the whole film. This film, as screened on TCM, featured a very, very good-looking, clear black and white print and nicely done original orchestral score by Darrell Raby that is a good match to the storyline. Rating - * 8.5/10 stars *

    Director: Tod Browning
    Film Genre: Suspense Melodrama
    Film Runtime: 76 minutes

Links / Resources

film review The Show starring John Gilbert


10 = Absolutely Fabulous/Superb
9 = Really Good/Excellent
8 = Good
7 = Fairly Good/Decent
6 = So-so, some flaws
5 = Mediocre
4 = Not that good, many flaws
3 = Poor
2 = Very Poor/Stinker
1 = One of the worst BOMBS ever filmed

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