'Midnight Madness' Movie Lacks 'Midnight' & 'Madness'

Midnight Madness movie Clive BrookClive Brook and Jacqueline Logan in Midnight Madness.

'Midnight Madness' movie lacks both 'midnight' & 'madness'

Screened at the 2014 San Francisco Silent Film Festival, Midnight Madness has a very curious title: there is no “midnight” or “madness” to be found in the film. The story's original name, The Lion Trap, from a play by Daniel Nathan Rubin, would have been a much more appropriate title.

Norma (Jacqueline Logan, best known as Mary Magdalene in Cecil B. DeMille's The King of Kings) lives in a squalid apartment behind a shooting gallery, with her good-for-nothing father (James Bradbury). She goes to work each day as a secretary at a Diamond Broker Company, looking forward to romantic trysts with her boss, Childers (Walter McGrail). Norma takes the relationship seriously, but Childers is a schemer. When wealthy client Richard Bream (Clive Brook, best known for the Best Picture Academy Award winner Cavalcade) shows a romantic interest in Norma, Childers convinces her to marry him and take advantage of his fortune by revealing the location of Bream's diamond mine in Africa.

Bream is smitten with the working-class girl and proposes marriage, even after he overhears her admitting she is only after his money. However, Bream plans a counter scheme. After they are married, he takes Norma in a steerage-class steamer to Africa, and in a rickety old jeep to a shack in the jungle known for its ferocious lion attacks. In her despair, Norma wires Childers to come and save her.

Predictably, Norma repels Bream's romantic advances and recoils against the squalid conditions that are just as bad as her former tenement life. When Childers arrives with a drunken overseer, the drama crescendos with Bream getting tied to a chair and the appearance of a very hungry lion.

What happens next, I shall not reveal. I'll only recall that Norma was raised behind a rifle range!

'Midnight Madness' movie: Hour-long 'bit of fluff'

Midnight Madness was a bit of fluff, clocking in at 61 minutes. It contained some good performances and kept my attention, but the story needed more detail between scenes. The action happens much too quickly, when it needed to take its time to unfold.

The screening of Midnight Madness was accompanied by a short series of “orphan films,” which I quite enjoyed. “Travelogues of Italy” gave a charming glimpse into sites such as the Etruscan Gate and St. Peter's Square – some of which in stenciled color. Also quite interesting was a funny 1928 clip of “Josephine Baker Visits Volendam.” Baker dances in wooden clogs, and tries to joke around with the locals, always clowning before the camera.

Note: Midnight Madness was produced by Cecil B. DeMille's short-lived independent company DeMille Pictures Corporation. Jetta Goudal was initially slated to star in the role that eventually went to Jacqueline Logan.

Midnight Madness (1928). Dir.: F. Harmon Weight. Scr.: Richard N. Lee, with titles by Edwin Justus Mayer; from Daniel Nathan Rubin's play The Lion Trap. Cast: Clive Brook, Jacqueline Logan, James Bradbury, Walter McGrail, Oscar Smith, Vadim Uraneff, Louis Natheaux, Virginia Sale.

Clive Brook and Jacqueline Logan Midnight Madness movie photo via the San Francisco Silent Film Festival website.

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