November 4, 2019  (Web Review)

Peter Pan

Kino, 102 min., not rated, DVD: $19.99, Blu-ray: $29.99

Reviewer rating: 3.0/4

Before Disney’s 1953 animated fantasy and 1954’s Broadway hit musical, James M. Barrie’s classic 1904 play Peter Pan was adapted into this delightful 1924 silent feature. The faithful production flies from the London nursery of the Darling family to the thick tangle of the Lost Boys’ forest to a magnificent pirate ship. Tomboyish Betty Bronson plays the eternally adolescent lad with an innocent smile and a mischievous spontaneity while the towering Ernest Torrence is a gleefully flamboyant Captain Hook. Director Herbert Brenon melds Halloween make-believe (nursemaid dog Nana and the famous ticking crocodile are actors in elaborate, articulated costumes) with the magic of cinema special effects (Tinkerbell is a floating ball of fairy light that turns into a lovely, petite girl in a gossamer gown and glowing hair), while also embracing the audience participation of the play as Peter addresses viewers directly: “If you believe in fairies, clap like this.” This lavish silent fantasy captures the fairy-tale magic of flying children, wicked pirates, and a wondrous storybook land where kids never grow up. Mary Brian costars as the smitten Wendy Darling and Anna May Wong plays Princess Tiger Lily. An imaginative film with appeal beyond silent movie fans, Peter Pan is presented in a newly restored 2K edition featuring an orchestral score by Philip C. Carli, along with extras including audio commentary by film historian Kat Ellinger, an archival audio interview with Esther Ralston (Mrs. Darling), and an essay by film historian Frederick C. Szebin. Recommended. (S. Axmaker)