WAGON TRACKS (1919, Dir. Lambert Hillyard)

Olive Films Blu-ray $29.95, DVD $19.95
69 min. / B&W / 1.33:1 / Silent with Musical Score

Silent screen legend William S. Hart stars in a desert epic of the Old West, which wasn’t that old when it was made nearly 100 years ago.

 Hart’s brother was murdered by an unscrupulous gambler and his henchman, and the crime pinned as an “accident” on the gambler’s lovely sister. Hart, leading the troupe down the Santa Fe Trail, uncovers the true story – and embarks on a mission that’s not so much revenge as it is justice.

Wagon Tracks comes to us in beautiful shape from an original, tinted 35mm nitrate print, preserved by the Library of Congress. Robert McKim (the original Mark of Zorro) and Lloyd Bacon (who’d go on to a distinguished career as a director, including 42nd Street and Knute Rockne, All American) are the villains, and pretty Jane Novak is quite good as the sad-eyed leading lady. Hart, as always, looks as though he’d been chiseled out of granite. Director Lambert (Batman; Dracula’s Daughter) keeps things moving, and although we prefer full orchestration with our silent films here in the Balcony, we have to admit that the piano score by Andrew Earle Simpson is both appropriate and lovely.

Highly recommended and a can’t-miss buy for silent movie fans.