Synopsis by Hal Erickson
At once entertaining and enlightening, The Silent Enemy is a story of life among the Ojibway Indians, centuries before the arrival of Christopher Columbus. Though filmed silent, the picture opens with a sound prologue delivered by Ojibway chief Yellow Robe, who eloquently states that the old customs and tradition of his people are rapidly fading, but that, thanks to the magic of the motion picture camera, a goodly portion of these customs and traditions will be preserved for all time. "Now you will know us as we really are," Yellow Robe intones proudly, noting that everything in the film -- from birch-bark canoes to buckskin clothes -- is authentic. The film proper is an episodic account of how the Ojibways struggled together to fight the common "silent enemy": Hunger. The scenes range from fascinating glimpses of tribal hunting and fishing to the poignant vignette in which Chief Chetoga (played by Yellow Robe), in sign language, passes on the heritage of the Ojibway to his young son Cheeka. While watching the film, one cannot help but be reminded of Kevin Costner's Dances With Wolves, leading one to suspect that Costner himself carefully studied the 1930 film before embarking upon his Oscar-winning 1990 epic. Coming as it did two years into the talkie era, The Silent Enemy was a box-office failure; its original nine-reel version was unavailable for decades, replaced by a truncated and "dumbed down" version prepared for schoolroom use. Fortunately, it has since been restored to its full-length, and excellent prints are available from several sources.
competition, leader, Native-American, Ojibwa, rival, sacrifice