As promised, I am going to review each incomplete version of the Mastery Mystery (i.e., The Miracle Factory, Kino, McIlhany and UCLA FTVA) that I have seen and go over what pieces they contain and don’t contain. This post will focus on The Kino International DVD released in 2008.
The 1918 original was slightly longer than 5.5 hours. The back of the Kino DVD case implies “that portions of THE MASTER MYSTERY no longer survive today. The Kino edition runs almost four hours, and bridges the missing passages with explanatory text.”
Below is the explanatory text that appears on the DVD:
The remainder of episode three exists in fragmentary form. Surviving footage of the Baker’s dock sequence suffers severe nitrate deterioration. It is presented here by special arrangement with the George Eastman House.
A second thug, an expert swimmer, hurls himself into the fray to finish the task that cost the other his life.
In episode four, Locke investigates the emissaries by posing as a prison inmate. He intercepts a secret message, but is accidentally locked in the cell. Employing his escapists talents, Locke frees himself and (dressed as one of the emissaries), infiltrates the gang. He is soon unmasked and dangled by his heels over a vat of acid.
In episode five, Locke decides to test a “self-liberating diving suit,” with Eva’s assistance. Beneath the waters of a nearby cove, he is shocked to encounter another diver. The fellow diver draws a long knife and, “There, under the sea, commenced a battle royal.” The underwater assassin severs Locke’s oxygen tube, but Locke manages to escape the water-filled suit.
The ingenious diving suit is reclaimed by a boatman, but when Locke goes to retrieve it, he falls into another of the emissaries’ traps.
After escaping the packing-crate, Locke is apprehended, bound and placed in a tank, which is steadily being filled with water (thus concluding episode five).
Episode six concludes with Lock [Locke] once again a captive of the emissaries, being strapped into the “Chair of Death”.
[End of episode 10] “During the mock wedding ceremony, Locke’s body is hidden inside a couch. The Madagascan stabs the couch, presumably killing the man within. “
“In episode eleven, it is revealed that Locke avoided the blade of the Madagascan’s knife. Locke tracks the criminals to a fisherman’s shack. His efforts to arrest the emissaries are thwarted by an old hags and he is wrapped in a fishing net, while the automation stalks Eva.”
The Kino DVD also has the following disclaimer title cards before it starts:
“THE MASTER MYSTERY was first released
in 1919 as a fifteen-chapter serial.
Portions of the film have been lost.
To compensate for the missing footage,
various distributors condensed and
rearranged the episodes to give the film
the illusion of completeness. “
This edition restores the episodes and
surviving fragments to their proper sequence,
using as a blueprint the published novel and
documents in the archives of the
New York Censor Board.
The Kino Video version was thought to contain chapters 1, 2, 7, 8, 9, 13, 14 and 15 in complete form and fragments from chapters 3, 4, 5, 6, 10 and 11.
Episode 1 is almost complete except for a couple of close-up shots (e.g., note written to Locke and a note written to Brent) that appear in the original.
And episode 2 that was thought to match the original does not.
Episode 2 includes the straitjacket and Houdini tied to the wall with rope, but does not include Houdini escaping from wall and the Baker’s Dock Chain escape until Episode 3 [both appear in Episode 2 in the original]. The Baker’s Dock sequence footage from Harry Ransom Center also suffers severe nitrate damage on the Kino version. A more complete version exists without severe nitrate damage.
Most of episodes 3, 4, 5, and 6 are missing which includes the jail escape, vat of acid escape, diving suit, underwater footage of packing crate escape and water tower escape. Although part of the vat of acid escape appears in “The Censor’s Report” which is part of the Special Features on the DVD.
Episode 7 is complete except for a few missing original title cards throughout.
Episode 8 appears complete.
Episode 9 is complete.
Episode 10 appears to be almost complete except for the end and Episode 11 is completely missing.
Episodes 12, 13, and 14 are complete.
Episode 15 is almost complete except for a close-up shot (i.e., note written to Locke) that appeared in the original.
Next week, we take a closer look at the William H. McIlhany Special Edition Master Mystery Contents.