Avenging Conscience (1914)
Director: D.W. Griffith
Starring: Henry B. Walthall, Blanche Sweet, Spottiswoode Aitken
I’m up to 1914 now in my project of watching century films, and by this time American cinema is becoming quite sophisticated, and is poised to wrest dominance from the French in terms of production and profitability. Directed by D.W. Griffith (later known for “Intolerance” and “The Birth of a Nation”), this Poe-adaptation claims to be based on “Annabel Lee,” and includes excerpts from that poem in the inter-titles, but it also owes much to “The Tell-Tale Heart.” In it, a young man (Henry B. Walthall, who played Poe in a version of “The Raven” the next year, and was also in the 1914 “Gangsters of New York”) loses his love (Blanche Sweet, whose career includes “A Corner in Wheat” and “Judith of Bethulia”) due to the cruelty of his aged uncle (Spottiswoode Aitken, who was also in “Birth of a Nation” and played Duncan in the 1916 “Macbeth”), and takes revenge into his own hands. The story is told with multiple camera-angles, visual metaphor, taut editing, and other advanced devices, far removed from the simple theatrical performances caught on camera that had been common only a few years earlier. One sequence includes speeded-up nature photography of ants and a spider killing its prey. Quite impressive, for the period, but with a really disappointing ending.
Total Run Time: 84 minutes
I haven’t found a free version of the whole film online (please comment if you have). You can watch a 56-minute version: here.