“What a labor of love [The Hope Diamond Mystery] has been and what a treasure it is to have. Thank you so very, very much. It is a beautiful piece of work and I couldn't be more thrilled. I can hardly wait to share it with my family when I see them over the holidays. Thank you again for this masterful undertaking and accomplishment.” -- Sara Karloff
THE AMAZING DUAL-ERA CLIFFHANGER And one of very few silent serials to exist in complete form today
THE HOPE DIAMOND MYSTERY (1921) Kosmik (Kleine Films); 15 Episodes Written by John B. Clymer, Charles W. Goddard and May Yohe Directed by Stuart Paton
Starring Boris Karloff as / Dakar / High Priest of Sita Grace Darmond as Mary Hilton / Bibi George Chesebro as John Gregg / Jean-Baptiste Tavanier Harry Carteras Sidney Atherton / Nang Fu William Marion as James Marcon / Bagi Carmen Phillips as Wanda Atherton / Miza
Supporting Cast: Frank M. Seki, Harry Archer, Arthur Clayton, Ethel Shannon, William Buckley, and May Yohe as Lady Frances Hope (herself)
The story was written by May Yohe, the former "Lady Frances Hope," widow of the last person bearing the name of Hope to possess the famous jewel, which was once part of the crown jewels of France, and is partially based on true incidents. Lady Hope herself appears as the narrator of the serial and is depicted in it as “Lady Hale.”
THE HOPE DIAMOND MYSTERY is a very ambitious serial which included a plot spanning two eras: the 16th century when the legendary jewel was discovered, and the “present-day” 1920s, where descendants or reincarnations of the characters from the past appear again in the present to continue the quest to own it, curse or no curse.
In 1920, Lord Francis Hale, who is interested in buying the Hope Diamond from jewel collector James Marcon. Hale has decided the diamond is just the thing to get him back into his straying wife's good graces. However, his East Indian servant Dakar snatches the diamond before it is sold --or stolen by a high-class crook who schemes to own it. The police and two detectives pursue Dakar in a frantic chase to a river. Captured in a small houseboat, Dakar explains why he snatched the jewel. In 16th century India, a gem from the holy statue of the goddess Sita is stolen by a French adventurer (George Chesebro). The frantic High Priest swears vengeance and puts a curse on the gem until it is returned to its rightful place in the temple. We discover Dakar is descended from the Indian High Priest's family, and his mission is to reurn the diamond to India, where it belongs, safe in the temple. Dakar relates the story of how the diamond was stolen by the Frenchman Tavanier, who falls in love with one of the temple "virgins," the beautiful Bibi. Dakar relates how a curse has followed the diamond ever since, bringing heartbreak and tragedy to all who have temporarily possessed it. John and Mary are sympathetic to Dakar's mission and plan to help him. Unfortunately for them, high-class crook Sydney Atherton, a crazed schemer with mind-control powers, has other plans. In disguise as Asian thief and murderer Nang Fu, Atherton orders his gang to steal the diamond. And many adventures ensue as criminologist John Gregg (also played by Chesebro) tries to prevent him from doing so.
THE HOPE DIAMOND MYSTERY has not been exhibited in 93 years, since its original release.
This serial is one of very very few which still exists today in complete form, not missing any episodes or reels.
It was an expensive serial to shoot and over $100,000 was spent on sets alone. The Indian temple shown in the serial was apparently constructed just for use in it.
May Yohe, who appears as herself in the serial, was the actual Lady Francis Hope and the last owner of the Hope Diamond. The serial is based on the story of the diamond’s discovery in India and the jewel’s “curse” which followed it through the centuries.
This serial was Boris Karloff’s first major film role and represented his transition from bit player to pro.
The existing print is black and white, however, it has been noted that the original presentation was tinted and included special-effect tints on shots of the diamond itself (and probably the intertitles where it is shown in the background) which will be reproduced authentically in this edition.
Boris Karloff, in one of his earliest leading roles, plays a Hindu high priest and the jewel's protector, in both time periods.
Leading lady Grace Darmond also starred in the serials THE SHIELDING SHADOW and A DANGEROUS ADVENTURE.
George Chesebro usually played hero roles in silent serials, as he does here. His other serials included THE LOST CITY (re-released by theatres in feature form, and sold by the Squadron on DVD as A JUNGLE PRINCESS), THE DIAMOND QUEEN, THE SILENT AVENGER, and THE CHINATOWN MYSTERY. He is a familiar face to those who recognize him usually in henchman roles in Mascot, Republic and Universal serials later on, all the way up to ADVENTURES OF FRANK AND JESSE JAMES in the 1950s.
Source material for the DVD: 35mm original reels (3 episodes), and B/W 16mm printdown from the 35mm original. Quality is excellent, in fact, amazing for a 93 year old film, especially in the chapters transferred from 35mm. Some of the episodes from 16mm show some wear and damage from age but for the most part the material is in good condition. Many splices and defects have been digitally eliminated. The entire serial has been stabilized and color tinted as was the original, with occasional special color effects added, mostly in scenes involving the diamond, as were said to have also appeared in the original.
1- THE HOPE DIAMOND MYSTERY
2- THE VANISHING HAND
3- THE FORGED NOTE
4- THE JEWEL OF SITA
5- A VIRGIN'S LOVE
6- THE HOUSE OF TERROR
7- FLAMES OF DESPAIR
8- YELLOW WHISPERINGS
9- THE EVIL EYE
10- IN THE SPIDER'S WEB
11- THE CUP OF FEAR
12- THE RING OF DEATH
13- THE LASH OF HATE
14- PRIMITIVE PASSIONS
15- AN ISLAND OF DESTINY
Approximately 5 hours Black and white with color tints & effects