A Serial Romance of Preparedness
(Wharton 1917)
IRENE CASTLE as Patria Channing
MILTON SILLS as Donald Parr
WARNER OLAND as Baron Huroki

PATRIA (pronounced “PAY-tree-ya,” sounds like “patriot”) was a “preparedness serial” (aka propaganda epic!) filmed in Ithaca, New York and featured well-known celebrity Irene Castle and actor Warner ("Charlie Chan") Oland.

Paranoid media mogul William Randolph Hearst financed this unusual "what if?" serial which featured a Japanese spy, Baron Huroki (Warner Oland) attempting to steal an heiress's fortune and take over her munitions factories to help Japan take over the United States, beginning in New York. Hearst's story idea was 23 years too early and the content of the serial considered too inflammatory by Woodrow Wilson, who complained about it and requested changes. Subsequently almost the entire cast traveled to California to film chapters 11-15, for which new footage was shot to include new Mexican villains. Huroki's name was also retconned to "Manuel Morales" in title cards which created the incongruous visual of a kimono-clad villain going by a Spanish name. The Baron's original name and other hastily-cut or altered content has been restored in this edition of the serial, which approximates the original presentation, not its revised form, and features an all-out battle between Huroki's army and the militarized Channing soldiers in Episode 10, which wraps up the Japanese-attack-New-York "story arc." And yes, Rudolph Valentino does appear as an extra in the dance hall scene in Episode 4 (is that important?). Anyway this is a rare example of Warner Oland in his early villainous-role days and of pre-Hollywood filmmaking in Ithaca, New York. Restored from a European print transferred to 1" video, with many intertitles, letters, etc. missing from the original print replaced according to content from the original novel. The DVD includes:

Includes a photo-summary of Episode 1: "LAST OF THE FIGHTING CHANNINGS"
and the existing footage, restored, newly scored and with lost title cards replaced for:
Episode 2: "TREASURE"18:40: in which Baron Huroki and his men sack the Channing estate in search of Patria’s secret defense fund and are willing to burn the place down if necessary to get it
Episode 3: "WINGED MILLIONS" 16:13, in which Patria is caught in a death-trap (with added photo-finale)
Episode 4: "DOUBLE-CROSSED" 13:14; in which Huroki schemes to replace Patria with a double, a dancer named Elaine, whose jealous manager has other plans
Episode 10: "WAR AT THE DOORYARD" 20:29; the all-out battle with a great train stunt; Baron Huroki’s army stages an all-out attack on New York and Captain Parr of the Secret Service assists Patria Channing’s men from the munitions factory, now trained as soldiers, in opposing them
Added Bonus: 6 1/2 minute PHOTO GALLERY of Ads & over 75 Stills & Behind the Scenes Shots (All the existing episodes include appearances by Warner Oland.)

The serial originally featured a Japanese spy ring, headed by Oland, after gold and munitions and the heiress Patria Channing, portrayed by Irene Castle. When then-President Woodrow Wilson learned about this story he asked the producers, the Wharton brothers, who were filming the serial in Ithaca with funding from William Randolph Hearst, to remove propagandistic Japanese references from it, which wasn't easy, considering that was the nationality of the main villains. New footage was then shot to suggest that the bad guys had hired Mexican  mercenaries to do their dirty work, and their own Japanese names were replaced by Mexican ones. It's been said that then a new villain portrayed by Wallace Beery was added to the story as the shooting location of the final chapters was moved to California and last few episodes directed by Jacques Jaccard, but we haven't turned up any evidence of Beery's involvement.

The story is a spy/sabotage thriller in which Oland's character, Baron Huroki, is out to plunder and destroy  munitions factory heiress and political activist Patria Channing and the Secret Service agent protecting her from the acts of sabotage on land and sea he initiates, with his not-too-small army of invaders. The action is fairly large-scale for a serial, chapter 10 being an out and out war between Huroki's army and the Channing factory workers,  and includes innovative miniature work by the Whartons' special effects team, predating the Lydecker brothers by many years, and a fantastic train trestle stunt!

Milton Sills is the hero of the story, playing a US Secret Service agent. The serial also features Mike Rale, who played the sinister Master of the Black Order in the MYSTERIES OF MYRA serial, as Huroki’s assistant Kato.

Screen action takes place around Cayuga Lake and other recognizable Ithaca locations of historical interest.
Interestingly, a very young Rudolph Valentino can be glimpsed in a group of dancers in a few shots in one episode which was filmed in a club where he was employed at a dance teacher at the time. It appears to be his earliest existing onscreen film footage.

Sorry no photonovel but the pledge drive didn’t provide funds necessary to develop one! :(

1 DVD; tinted & with new musical score, chapter markers; about 75 minutes

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