Sunday, July 27, 2014

Silent Sundays: The Headless Horseman (1922)


“I know not why I am here. I have no knowledge of witchcraft.”

I remember as a kid one of my favorite things to watch was Ichabod and Mr. Toad. I do not think I ever really watched Mr. Toad but I always watched Ichabod. I think I may have always known it was The Legend of Sleepy Hollow because I did not even know the whole thing was called Ichabod and Mr. Toad until a few years ago. Anyway, I remember loving the story and getting tense at the end when Ichabod has to cross the bridge. I can still remember the Horseman’s evil laugh as he chased Ichabod. I can even still hear Bing Crosby narrating and singing all the songs.
I do also watch the show Sleepy Hollow. I like the combination of the actual story by Washington Irving with some US history along with some mythology. The show started off good and then just got really, really weird. At this moment I am still debating on whether or not to continue watching it. I think I am going to give it a few episodes more see how the second season plays out.
I discovered that there had been a silent version of Sleepy Hollow called The Headless Horseman from 1922. I was not expecting the film to be anything like Ichabod or the TV show which are two very different extremes of the story. I was interested to see how the silent film differed from the other takes. Unfortunately it fell very flat.         
Ichabod Crane (Will Rogers) is the new school master in the Dutch town of Sleepy Hollow in 1790. The townspeople are not sure about him because he is not from the area nor is he Dutch. He has come from a place in Connecticut. The town of Sleepy Hollow is famous for its story of the Headless Horseman. It is believed the Horseman is the ghost of a Hessian soldier searching for his missing head he had lost in battle. Ichabod has heard about the tale and believes it to be true.
The town beauty Katrina Van Tassel has many suitors. Her main suitor is the local mischief maker Brom Bones. She and Brom are out riding one day past the school where Ichabod is teaching. Ichabod sees Katrina and is immediately taken with her. One of the boys in his class tells the teacher that Katrina is the town coquette. Ichabod is furious with the student for saying such a thing like that about Katrina and smacks him with a stick repeatedly. The boy goes home and tells his mother what has happened. The mother wants Ichabod dismissed but the father says the boy probably did something to deserve it.
To earn extra money Ichabod teaching singing classes for the church. Katrina is in his class. Brom Bones was but he got mad that Ichabod had showed up so late and stormed out. After class Katrina invites Ichabod to her house the following night for dinner. Brom Bones walks in to take Katrina home and he is immediately jealous that she is flirting with someone else. The next night at Katrina’s Ichabod sees how wealthy her family is. Now all he can think about is how to win her affection. After dinner he and Katrina go for a walk. She asks him if it is true that he has read a book on the history of witchcraft. He has and he is very well versed in it. Brom Bones overhears this conversation and gathers up some of his gang. He and his gang go to the school and flip all the desks and furniture around making it appear that ghosts were the culprits. When they are done with their heinous deed they tear through the town on their horses. Ichabod hears the hoof beats and frantically jumps into his bed believing them to be from the Headless Horseman.
After church one morning Ichabod and Kartina walk through the graveyard. Brom Bones finds the Headless Horseman’s grave and wants them to come take a look. Ichabod turns in a frightened hurry back towards the church.
The mother of the son Ichabod hit thinks he is in line with the Devil after his schoolroom was found tossed and hearing that he has read a book on witchcraft. Soon gossip spreads and the whole town begins to suspect and accuse him of witchcrafts. One boy goes to his mother and says that Ichabod has poisoned him by witchcraft. The town was just about to tar and feather Ichabod when a slave tells Mr. Van Tassel that he saw Brom Bones and his gang tear the schoolroom apart. Mr. Van Tassel gets the “poisoned” boy to confess that Brom Bones made him lie and gets to where the town is keeping Ichabod just in time to stop him from being tarred.
Mr. Van Tassel invites Ichabod to a party some time later. The party is being held at night. Ichabod arrives at the party very much on cloud nine and completely in love. During the party local men begin recalling tales of their encounters with the Headless Horseman. All these stories make Ichabod extremely nervous and panicky. Before he leaves to go home Ichabod asks Katrina to marry him. She says no in a certain way that breaks Ichabod’s heart.
            Now that he does not have any happy thoughts in his mind on the dark ride home thoughts of the Headless Horseman creep into his mind. Now Ichabod is even more panicked and afraid. He comes upon what appears to be the Headless Horseman. He is chased all the way down the road until he is knocked off his own horse by the Horseman. With Ichabod all the way in the distance, Brom Bones takes off his costume.
            Ichabod Crane does not show up to teach school for several days. His disappearance is a sign to some of the townspeople that he was taken away by the Headless Horseman. Whatever the case that drove Ichabod Crane from Sleepy Hollow it allowed Brom Bones and Katrina Van Tassel to get married. Years later someone from the town would report seeing Ichabod Crane alive in Nieu Yorke (as they spelled it) and he was now a justice in a court system. But to several people in Sleepy Hollow they will always believe that the Headless Horseman took Ichabod Crane away.

            As I mentioned at the beginning of the review The Headless Horseman fell flat. There were some scenes that were good and some scenes that just dragged. At the beginning of the film there was a scene with the actual ghost of the Headless Horseman but that was all for the entire film. I guess the Headless Horseman at the end could be seen as ambiguous because it could have been Brom Bones but then it could have been the real Headless Horseman. I do not strongly recommend watching this version of The Headless Horseman or Sleepy Hollow but if you like the story as told in either the cartoon version or the TV version, give the silent version a try.