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Video Topics:  The Roaring Road


The New York Times
14 April 1919

“The Roaring Road,” at the Strand this week, comes to an exciting finish with a race between an automobile and a train. It is exciting, as the involuntary exclamations and applause of the spectators yesterday afternoon testified. The spectators seemed to feel themselves on the train when the passengers were seen scampering from one side of the car to the other or crowding eagerly at windows to watch the tearing automobile. The people in the theatre seats shared their sensations. And a noticable feeling of pleasant relief after high tension calmed the house when the race was over, with the automobile a winner.

Frank Urson is reported to have directed the reproduction of the race. To him, therefore, must go credit for a masterpiece of picture-making. He knew just when and where and how to use the camera, when to show a flash of the car, when to cut in with the train, when to give a glimpse of the excited passengers, where to throw headlights, and how to use darkness to intensify the suspense. Just jumping from the train to the automobile and back would never have made the race real. But by showing now a glint of the smooth tracks ahead of the train, now the beam of the automobile's headlight, now the expressions on the faces of the passengers, now the engineer and fireman at work in their cab, first one almost instantaneous picture and then another, the director succeeded in giving the spectators such a comprehensive view of all the action that they felt themselves a part of all of it. The race is one of the distinct triumphs of the moving picture.

But, although the plot of the photoplay is nothing important, there is more to “The Roaring Road” than the final race. The story moves at racing speed most of the time and the final climax comes consistently enough. Wallace Reid has the featured role, and is satisfactory, but the major acting is done by Theodore Roberts and notably well done. Reid is an automobile salesman who has two objects in life, to break speed records and marry Roberts's daughter, played by Ann Little. He does both.

The whole production was under the direction of James Cruze, who handled it capably. He caught the spirit of the photoplay and put that in the pictures rather than the star or any of the other players. He, or some one else, however, permitted the use of too many subtitles. The story should never slow up, and it never does except when the action is interrupted by text.

“Up in the Air after Alligators” is a novel and interesting Outing-Chester picture on the Strand program, and “Stunts and Thrills” is one of the best of the analysis-of-motion series.

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