(1924, US, 786 min original/119 min studio cut, b/w) Dir Hans Bismark. Cast Dabney Leigh, Josie Robin, Pat Basket, Horace Pet.
So in a single film you’ve vaulted to the ranks of the most popular and well regarded directors in the world – what do you do now? Something a little lighter than your last epic feature? A comedy, or perhaps a romance? Or do you take three years to make a thirteen hour pseudo-communist, mysticalist epic about the foundations of civilisation as you see it and the barbarism of modern industry? It’s going to be the latter, isn’t it? Well, you’re not alone – with his skilled but slight debut At Flight! With the Devil’s Wind… buckling all kinds of swash at the box office, Hans Bismark was handed a blank cheque and no provisos. Trouble started quick with his star, Francis de Pascal, dropping out three weeks into production citing a recurrent facial cramp. Then the massive sets of an Arctic paradise that had been erected in Alaska melted. It went downhill from there, a litany of difficulties that culminated in the legendary only screening of The Cogs of the World in its complete state that was regularly interrupted by the loud weeping of its broken director. Royal Brothers Studios eventually released the film in a severely truncated form that, according to contemporary reviews, mangled the story into incomprehensibility and somehow still managed to feel too long. This version flopped and it, along with the original edit, are now lost to film history. Bismark repaired to a sanatorium until 1928 at which point, for the third time in his life, began his career anew.