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Zudora Episode #2: The Mystery of the Sleeping House: Two reels of approximately 2,000 feet, November 30, 1914.
A story teeming with love and the fiery romantic impulsiveness of the East is told in the two-reel drama, the second episode in Thanhouser's production of Dr. Daniel Carson Goodman's serial photoplay.
Print source: Thanhouser Collection/Essex Film Club, 29 minutes 21 seconds.
Directed by Frederick Sullivan. Scenario by Lloyd F. Lonergan, based on a story by Dr. Daniel Carson Goodman. Photographed by Carl Louis Gregory.
Cast: James Cruze (Hassam Ali; later, Jim Baird, a reporter), Marguerite Snow (Zudora, Hassam Ali’s neice), Harry Benham (John Storm), Helen Badgley, Sidney Bracy (Tom Hunt, a detective).
Aka: Zudora in the Twenty Million Dollar Mystery, aka The Twenty Million Dollar Mystery. Episode 2 aka The Sleeping House Mystery, Working title: The Frozen Laugh, Alternate working title: The Mystery of the Frozen Laugh.
Original music composed and performed by Ben Model (silentfilmmusic.com).
The earlier 22-episode The Million Dollar Mystery, released from June through November 1914 (with a 23rd sequel episode in February 1915) was one of the most successful projects in Thanhouser’s history, said to be more popular and more profitable than Pathé’s more famous The Perils of Pauline, also from 1914. In mid-release of The Million Dollar Mystery, Thanhouser was already beginning work on another serial, Zudora. A full 20 two-reel episodes were released between November 1914 and April 1915. This serial was far less successful and many exhibitors canceled their orders in mid-series, despite the general popularity of its stars Marguerite Snow and James Cruze.
A mysterious and exotic secret society conducts elaborate ceremonies in American suburbia with the kidnapped heroine Zudora who they want to marry off to their leader as a substitute for the real princess who was taken by a rival tribe back in India. The sets range from cheap and cheesy (the outside-of-the-window backdrops, painted stone walls), to elaborately and skillfully decorated.
Climactic inter-cutting between three or four simultaneous action scenes is a new technique, and the use of inter-titles shows the transition from old-style (identifying the action in the next scene) to the new style (dialogue).
Because each episode was meant to be a self-contained story, the last-second rescue here eliminates a potential cliff-hanger ending.
This film is available on DVD from Thanhouser Film Company Preservation, Inc. at thanhouser.org