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The Sealed Room (1909)

A king exacts vengeance upon his faithless mistress and her lover.

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Cast

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The Count
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The Countess
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The Minstrel
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Storyline

In this movie suggested by Poe's "A Cask of Amontillado", The king constructs a cozy, windowless love-nest for himself and his concubine. However, she is not faithful to her sovereign, but consorts with the court troubadour. In fact, they use the king's new play chamber for their own lovecraft. When the king discovers this, he sends for his masons. With the faithless duo still inside, the masons use stone and mortar to quietly seal the only door to the vault... Written by Thomas McWilliams <tgm@netcom.com>

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2 September 1909 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Det forseglede Værelse  »

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1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Released as a split reel along with the comedy The Little Darling (1909). See more »

Goofs

Early in the film, the lovers cannot hear the king raving with jealousy, even though a single curtain separates the king from the lovers. Yet later, he can hear them perfectly through the newly constructed brick wall. See more »

Connections

Featured in Flicker Flashbacks No. 2, Series 5 (1947) See more »

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User Reviews

 
An early lesson in claustrophobic cinema
30 May 2008 | by (Ruritania) – See all my reviews

This period melodrama is one of Griffith's earliest claustrophobic films. Characters trapped within a room are prevalent throughout his work and, as time went by, he would become increasingly adept at portraying their helplessness and involving the audience in their terror. In the bluntly titled Sealed Room there is one major difference to the normal plot line, in that there truly is no escape.

Griffith achieves the claustrophobic effect here in two ways. First is his use of space. While the typical Biograph short might utilise a dozen or more sets, The Sealed Room features only two adjoining rooms – the king's court and the dove cote that becomes the eponymous tomb. The set design in these shorts is rarely referenced, but here it is crucial. The court is a large interior, with a backdrop hinting at greater depth and showing us a window and a staircase. Actors enter and leave from various directions, suggesting the room is not only spacious but also free and open. By contrast the dove cote's back wall is very close to the camera, and the angles in it suggesting a hexagonal or octagonal shape make it seem even more confined.

The second technique on display here is the cross-cutting. Anyone with an interest in Griffith's work will probably know about his heavy use and development of cross-cutting to build excitement or tension. Many will also know that strictly speaking it wasn't his invention. However what makes Griffith's cross-cuts so effective is the way he paces the opposing images so they complement each other. The Sealed Room contains a good example of what I mean. The shots of the masons shifting the heavy bricks have a slow, step-by-step pace to them, with tension building as the wall gets higher. This movement is matched by the shots of the blissfully unaware lovers, in which Marion Leonard tears off flower petals one-by-one. As the couple realise their predicament, their rising panic is complemented by the opposing shot of the king madly thrashing his sword against the wall.

At this point, Griffith was yet to realise that the action could be heightened further by introducing a third strand to the cross-cut. The dramatic "ride-to-the-rescue", here absent, was later to become a standard climax to Griffith's pictures.


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