Volume II: Filmography


Episode 2






Working title: THE FROZEN LAUGH

Alternate working title: THE MYSTERY OF THE FROZEN LAUGH

November 30, 1914 (Monday)

Length: 2 reels (Reels 3 and 4)

Scenario: Lloyd F. Lonergan, from a story by Daniel Carson Goodman

Note: Prints of 55 selected scenes from this episode were deposited with the Copyright Office by the Thanhouser Syndicate Corporation. The author was named as Daniel Carson Goodman. The copyright was recorded on November 19, 1914. A copyright for 43 prints of selected scenes under the title of The Mystery of the Frozen Laugh was recorded on November 4, 1914.


ARTICLE, The Moving Picture World, November 7, 1914:

"Laboratory appurtenances valued at $18,000 were used in one scene of The Mystery of the Frozen Laugh, the second episode of Zudora, Thanhouser's big serial, which has its first release on November 23. The scenario, created by Dr. Daniel Carson Goodman, demanded a complete equipment. It was necessary to lay an entirely new floor in the west studio of the Thanhouser New Rochelle group to permit the installation of heavy tanks of liquid air."


SYNOPSIS, Reel Life, November 21, 1914:

"A story teeming with love and the fiery romantic impulsiveness of the East is told on the screen in the two-reel drama, The Mystery of the Sleeping House, the second episode in Thanhouser's production of Dr. Daniel Carson Goodman's serial photoplay, Zudora.

"While enjoyment of this installment is complete, even if one has not seen the first episode, readers of Reel Life will remember that Hassam Ali, mystic detective, is scheming to deprive his niece and ward Zudora of the $20,000,000 mine which she inherits on her eighteenth birthday. He plans to get her and her lover, John Storm, out of the way, and, in accordance with this idea, he tells Zudora that if she succeeds in solving the next twenty cases brought to him she and Storm can have his permission to marry.

"The small American town near New York where the mystic and his ward live, strangely enough, has become the scene of an Indian tribal feud. Worshippers of the elephant-headed god, Ganesha, have seized in a battle, shown interestingly and with realistic fidelity on the screen, the princess of the tribe that worships the brass ape, Hanuman, because their leader wishes her in marriage, and because the lady and her cohorts dislike him this seems the easiest way to gratify his desires. Taking their elephant-headed idol with them they journey to America and establish themselves in a large house.

"Once there they find that their rites, ceremonies, and practices are being seriously interfered with by a tendency to collapse into a state of temporary coma, to fall into involuntary sleep. The marriage ceremony is no more begun than all concerned, including the unwilling bride, fall to the floor with heavy-lidded eyes. Perplexed and frightened, with their leader as spokesman, a delegation from the tribe wrapped in black and white striped blankets call on Hassam Ali, the mystic detective, to seek his advice.

"From an upstairs window Zudora sees them come and she rushes down and joins in the discussion. She claims the right to solve the case, and her demand is finally granted by her uncle, so the tribesmen blindfold Hassam Ali and Zudora and take them to the mysterious sleeping house. Once in the house they witness a wonderful ceremonial procession, the beginning of another attempt to consummate the marriage service. Just as the reluctant princess and the villainous chieftain who holds her prisoner come to a halt before the priest, the whole company is seen to be struggling to keep their eyes open. All soon fall asleep, Hassam Ali alone struggling to a window and breathing in enough fresh air to keep awake.

"Meanwhile John Storm, Zudora's sweetheart, has sent a message to the ward of Hassam Ali by a carrier pigeon. He and Zudora have become accustomed to exchanging messages this way daily, and when he gets no answer he becomes alarmed. Rushing to her house, he inquires for her of Hassam Ali's Hindu servant. Well knowing where she is, the Oriental takes John Storm to the house of the tribesmen. His entrance arouses them from their stupor, and they seize him and fling him into a cell.

"The next day he is tried, and found guilty of working the spell that causes them all to fall asleep. He is condemned to die in a cell which steadily grows smaller until its occupant is crushed. The screen shows a man outside relentlessly turning the crank. Inside, Storm is seen watching, at first with surprise, then with alarm, the wall as it creeps gradually towards him. He knows that very soon it will crush his life out. At three-minute intervals this is repictured on the screen. Soon Storm tries to force the wall back, fails, prays for help, and despairs. Slowly the wall closes in on him.

"Missing him, John Storm's old housekeeper goes to Hassam's house to inquire for him. 'He was last seen on his way here,' she says. From the Hindu servant Zudora learns where he has gone. Rushing back to the secret house, she manages to discover in the subterranean passages beneath the mysterious house a den of the tribesmen, who worship the brass ape, among them the lover of the captured princess.

"At first when she intrudes on their sanctum they are determined to kill her, but she makes them understand that she wants to help them. She leads them upstairs, where they are set upon by their reawakened enemies, and once more she rushes below. There the one tribesman left on guard she persuades to distill a potion of the famous lotus leaf brew which has caused the strange, mysterious sleep. Like steam it pours into the great halls above, and all fall asleep. Rushing upstairs, Zudora wakes the brass ape tribesmen only and leads them to where the slave is turning the wheel that is contracting the wall on John Storm, and just in time she flings the door open and her exhausted lover falls into her arms."



REVIEW, The Morning Telegraph, November 22, 1914:

"Worshippers of the elephant-headed god, Ganesha, have seized in battle the princess of the tribe that worships the brass ape, Hanuman, because their leader wishes her in marriage, and because the lady and her cohorts dislike him this seems the easiest way to gratify his desires.... [here follows a verbatim continuation of the official plot synopsis]."

Note: It is not at all apparent that the reviewer saw the preceding episode, for nothing is said of it apart from synopsis material.


REVIEW, The Moving Picture World, December 5, 1914:

"This is Episode 2 of the Zudora series. It carries with it an air of Oriental mystery. Zudora saves her lover from certain death in the contracting cell. The use of fumes from the lotus flower to put the Hindu band to sleep was a novel feature. This pays particular attention to settings and costumings and proves an attractive offering throughout. Zudora gives a good account of herself in working out this problem, and the series promise as well for the future."

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Copyright © 1995 Q. David Bowers. All Rights Reserved.