In an attempt to brand himself as a serious actor, the smiling swashbuckler Douglas Fairbanks starred in THE HALF-BREED (1916), a Western melodrama written by Anita Loos and directed with flair by Allan Dwan. Fairbanks stars as Lo Dorman, who has been ostracized from society because of this mixed ethnicity – his Native American mother was abandoned by his white father. When Lo catches the eye of the rich white debutante Nellie (Jewel Carmen), he becomes a target for the racist Sheriff Dunn (Sam De Grasse), who wants to break them up and take Nelli for his own. This love triangle becomes a quadrangle with the arrival of Teresa (Alma Rubens), who is on the run from the law. Through fire and fury Lo must decide who and what he truly loves.
Luther compresses nearly two decades into a provocative character study that parallels Martin Luther’s deepening religious dilemmas with the irresolvable earthly anxieties that shaped his beliefs and his rebellious search for truth. We’re introduced to Luther as a young monk in 1506, as he defends his vows to his jealous and disapproving father (Patrick McGee). But as Luther’s religious commitment deepens, his faith in an increasingly commercialized, politicized, and spiritually empty Papacy atrophies until, having preached against the medieval Catholic Church’s hypocrisy, he is called to account by the very bishops he must denounce.
Keach’s Luther is backed by a powerful supporting cast, including Kubrick stalwart Leonard Rossiter, and Dame Judi Dench (Shakespeare in Love, Chocolat) as the nun Luther takes for his wife. In Luther, Martin Luther’s condemnation of the Catholic Church and incitement fo the Protestant reformation become the last desperate acts of a brilliant but deeply troubled man of conscience who has run out of options.