The Vultures of the Coast; a Sweeping Swedish Silent Swashbuckler!

Vultures of the Coast The Moving Picture World December 26 1914


The Vultures of the Coast (original title: Havsgamar), 1915, was a Swedish production by Svenska Biografteatern AB, with the United States distribution facilitated by the Apex Film Company. Vultures was three-reels, and came in at 3,000 feet; about thirty-three minutes.[1] The Swedish release did not occur until January of 1916, it was a three-reel film, but it came in just a little longer than the American presentation, at 3,228 feet, almost thirty-six minutes.[2] On a casual internet search, the seeker will find differing lengths from as much as fifty-one minutes, forty-five minutes, and forty-eight minutes and every running time that does not match the actual footage.

The film saw numerous titles, including: Sea Eagle, Predators of the Sea, Seaside Secret, Mystery of Open Seas, and Sea Vultures. The script title was Smuggler’s Daughter or a Drama at Sea, based upon the 1842, novel, Rosen på Tistelön:  Berättelse från skärgården (The Rose of Tistelon: a Tale of the Swedish Coast) by Emilie Flygare-Carlén, adapted for the screen by Fritz Magnussen. Famed director-actor Victor Sjöström, directed this thriller. Nils Elffors not only had a part (Anton) in the production but acted as the film’s unit-manager[3] and according to the Internet Movie Data Base provided the special-effects, as well.

The exterior filming was done on location in Sweden at Lidingö and Landsort.[4] Landsort, is on the island Öja, and a primary feature is a lighthouse. Lidingö is an island in the inner Stockholm archipelago and is situated just east of Stockholm.

The film saw its release in early January of 1915; unfortunately little or no advertising was afforded at the local level. Announcements typically were one line, no display ads, could I find. The critical reception in the States and in Sweden, was cool, of course the scenery was unanimously touted as beautiful (Henrik Jaenzon, was the cinematographer). According to the Washington Times, dated November 29, 2006, The Vultures of the Coast survives and was shown at the National Gallery of Art, Washington D. C., on December 30, 2006, at 2:00 PM.


The Vultures of the Coast, Synopsis:

The Vultures of the Coast – Apex – (Three Reels). – Robert Green, son of a poor fisherman, loves Eleanor, daughter of the owner of the ship Vennus, and the father, desiring to marry his daughter to another, persuades Robert to sign for a six months’ cruise aboard the Vennus. Some weeks later news is brought that the vessel has been lost with all hands, and at the same time Mr. Johnstone, pressing a bill for $10,000 against Eleanor’s father, offers to cancel the debt if Eleanor will marry his son. Believing Robert dead, she consents. Meanwhile, Robert, the only survivor of the Vennus, is discovered by some smugglers and taken to their cave on a desolate island. One day when the yacht of a millionaire visits the place, and his child is kidnapped by the smugglers, Robert rescues the child and receives a reward of $10,000. He arrives at home the day Eleanor is to be married, and at the sight of him the girl refuses to proceed with the wedding. Robert produces his check for $10,000, which he gives to Eleanor’s father, thereby enabling the latter to cancel his indebtedness to Johnstone, when Robert and Eleanor are happily married.[5]

As we can see from below, the Swedish synopsis is quite a bit different…

Our story begins in a village on the west coast of Sweden, there we find Mr. Hornung, a merchant, who is not above smuggling to fill his coffers; the merchant has three children, Birger, Anton and Gabriele. He and his eldest son, Birger, offer ₤50,000 to smuggle precious cargo on the vessel: Vennus. His youngest son Anton overhears the deal and asks to go along; his father denies him. But Anton hides aboard the ship, defying the order of his father, Hornung.

Meanwhile Lieutenant Tullöjtnant Arnold (he has a son named Arvid), the areas’ Customs Chief, becomes aware that something is not right on the ship, and investigates the strange goings-on. Arnold confronts Hornung and his son Birger when they return to port; with gun loaded, Arnold enters the Vennus, but is overcome by the two Hornungs, with Arnold going overboard, dead!  Anton Hornung, from his secretive vantage point witnesses the murder, of which he will be haunted for years to come. The two men gather up Arnold’s gun, so as not to leave any evidence.

Flash forward fifteen years and Mrs. Arnold and her son Arvid return from her childhood home, where they sought solace and peace after the loss of husband-father, Tullöjtnant Arnold. Mr. Hornung, Birger and Anton are all marked by the murder, in their own particular ways; Hornung’s daughter is now a beautiful young woman. Upon returning the Arnolds send a letter to Mr. Hornung, warning him that Arvid is seeking revenge for his father’s death.

One day while at the harbor Arvid Arnold and the merchant Hornung and his daughter, meet-up and the smuggler-murderer, faints straight away. Arvid and Gabriele tend to the old man; it seems to be love at first sight for Arvid and Gabriele. Later, while Hornung is recovering he sees the ghost of Tullöjtnant Arnold. Anton is also disturbed, for Arvid’s presence prods the memories of that horrible day for Anton.

Old man Hornung and Birger Hornung are disgusted by Arvid being involved with Gabriele, clearly, the couple wants to marry. But Hornung has other plans, he wants Gabriele to wed their accomplice (Johnstone in the American version; un-named in the Swedish) in the smuggling venture, the man who arranges the missions.

One evening while Gabriele visited Arvid and Mrs. Arnold, Anton overhears his father and brother planning a new mission for contraband. Anton sneaks to the Arnold home to warn Arvid not to follow Hornung and Birger. But the warning falls on deaf ears and Arvid and Gabriele go aboard the ship. Arvid discovers the two men hiding smuggled goods on an island, yet, Arvid has no evidence; it is his word against theirs. Hornung and Birger force Gabriele to go home with them. Once Anton, understands what has happened, he decides to help his sister. In the Hornung attic, Anton locates Tullöjtnant Arnold’s gun, and writes a letter to the sheriff alerting the officials that they will find the weapon in the Hornung family loft.

The police and Arvid begin the search for the smuggler-murders, and they follow the trail back to the island. Hornung intends to burn the illegal goods, but first rolls a stone to cover the entrance to cave and conceal their doings. This in turn retains the smoke, and suffocates the two criminals. Gabriele not to be left out of the confrontation rows a dingy to the island, she, coming to the knowledge that her father and oldest brother are dead falls weeping on to Arvid’s shoulders. He takes her in his arms, caressing her; the screen darkens… the end.[6]


The Cast and the Characters:

Richard Lund (appearing in two roles) (Lieutenant Tullöjtnant Arnold, the Customs Chief and Arvid Arnold/Robert Green, his son)

Rasmus Rasmussen (Hornung/Johns, a merchant)

Greta Almroth (Gabriele/Eleanor Hornung, the merchant’s daughter)

John Ekman (Birger, the merchant’s son)

Nils Elffors (Anton/ younger son of the merchant Hornung)

Jenny Tschernichin-Larsson (Mrs. Arnold/Mrs. Green mother of Robert Arnold/ Robert Green)

The following performers were uncredited:

Thure Holm (Sherriff)

Erland Colliander (Deputy Sherriff)[7]



By C. S. Williams



[1] Motography, January 2, 1915

[2] The Swedish Film Institute

[3] The Swedish Film Institute

[4] The Swedish Film Institute

[5] Motography, March 13, 1915

[6] Synopsis from the Swedish Film Institute, translated by Google Translate Web;

edited and interpreted by C. S.

[7] The Swedish Film Institute


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