The thread of fantasy in the theme is well planted by the director and the acting of Lon Chaney goes a long way toward making it bearable, but the theme itself is ponderous and advanced largely by means of subtitles. The fault with the whole thing is that it isn’t a movie story by any stretch of the imagination.
The locale is apparently some Scandinavian country. Jan, a rough farmer, finds love playing an important part in his life when a baby daughter is born. She grows to be his pride but when the nephew of their former landlord gets bad over back rents, the girl goes to the city to make money.
Primarily, the fault with the story itself [from Selma Lagerlof’s novel The Emperor of Portugallia] is its illogical explanation of how the girl went wrong. That a woman, well bred, with parental love always about her, would turn prostitute for purely pecuniary reasons is silly. Furthermore, if she had gone into the business for that purpose she would have stopped immediately she had raised enough dough to raise the mortgage on the old homestead.
The acting is aces and the direction masterful. But with all this, Tower of Lies can never be anything more than a soggy picture made bearable by the leavening forces of director Victor Seastrom, Chaney and Norma Shearer.