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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Thrilling car train chase and race

Author: adt125 from Australia
20 August 2008

The plot is nothing special and the outcome expected. Everything needs to be tightly contained to fit the reels in these very early films so we cant expect the same characteristics of a feature film.

What is interesting about this film is that Mary Pickford mentions it in her writings and interviews and was well pleased with herself because Griffith gave her some praise for her dare-devil driving. In other words he said 'good girl' which Mary said made her feel quite good. (Obviously Griffith was short on compliments).

This was one of the first and is claimed to be the first 'real' car chase and train race. Mary said she got up to 54 miles per hour in the chase and went around the corner quite fast (Griffith wasn't happy until she did it fast - almost too fast) her driving coach was hidden on the floor of the car out of site in this scene. Mary said that her mother Charlotte actually stayed at home prayed for her while she was doing this chase scene. So this was something special in the history of film making. There is also excitement in the car behind Mary also in the chase - they went over a small raise in the dirt road fast and the back seat passengers (open top) were thrown up into the air about a foot. A little faster and you feel they would have been thrown out.

This shows that Griffith was pushing for something than the mundane and, achieved it.

Early in the film you should note that Mary is very comfortable driving the car, a real natural and you get the feeling she had lots of practice. She loved owing and driving cars.

The race with the train is brilliant and you get a real sense of speed and tension and close competition.

This little piece deserves a high rating simply for the car and train race.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Suspenseful, even now

Author: wmorrow59 from Westchester County, NY
17 December 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The opening shots of this Biograph drama might remind comedy buffs of Charlie Chaplin's 1917 short The Adventurer: an escaped convict, in old-style striped prison garb, is being pursued by several guards with rifles. But it's clear almost immediately that the prevailing mood of this film is quite different, and not at all comic. The title character of D.W. Griffith's A Beast at Bay, that aforementioned convict (played by Alfred Paget with frightening intensity), is a dangerous man, and the more we see of him, the more we realize that the film's figurative title is chillingly apt.

While the pursuit continues, we meet a young couple who today would be termed upper-middle class. Because the husband (Edwin August) is going on a trip, his wife (Mary Pickford) drives him to the train station in their spiffy automobile. For modern viewers it may be a little surprising to see the wife take the wheel, considering the time period, but circumstances demand that someone must take the car home after the husband departs. (Plus, it's crucial to the plot that she can drive, and in any case Mary looks quite capable of handling the vehicle.) However, when the husband refuses to respond to a drunken tramp who shouts insults at the pair, Mary is disappointed, and calls her husband a coward. She drops him off at the train station and drives away, still miffed.

Meanwhile, the escaped convict has subdued one of his pursuers, and forced him at gunpoint to switch clothing. Now dressed as a prison guard, the man confronts Mary—who has stopped her car briefly—and forces her to drive him out to a remote area. The husband witnesses this from a distance, and takes after them with the other prison guards, who have just arrived. They follow Mary and the convict in a hastily commandeered train, which races alongside the car, then hop out and give pursuit on foot. By this point, the convict has hustled Mary into an abandoned shack, and is on the verge of assaulting her when her husband intervenes. There is a wild fight, but ultimately the convict is subdued. Mary is reunited with her husband, who has demonstrated his courage in the most direct and irrefutable fashion imaginable.

That, in essence, is the story, and it's a simple one. What makes this film worth watching today, over a century after it was produced, is the way Griffith builds suspense with his skillful editing. The tempo, in the early scenes, is leisurely, but once the convict forces Mary back into her car, and the chase begins, the shots come faster and faster. We get caught up in the action, and it's thrilling. The images of the car racing alongside the speeding train are beautifully done, thanks to Billy Bitzer's camera, which was dutifully racing alongside as well. One need only watch other films of this era, that is, the stodgy ones made by lesser talents, to see how accomplished Griffith and his team had become by this time. Audiences of 1912 must have been beside themselves during the chase. But the success of A Beast at Bay isn't due solely to fast vehicles or rapid editing; both Mary Pickford and Alfred Paget give passionate, heart-felt performances. Their scene together in the shack is alarming, particularly when the convict sneers at Mary's fine clothes, then slowly pulls open her jacket. The implication is obvious, and Mary's subsequent panic looks all too real. In the film's final moments, once the "beast" has been hustled away, Griffith lets us down easy with a gentle touch of humor, as if to assure us that everything is okay now. It comes as a relief. This is one silent drama that still has the power to draw us in, thanks to gifted players and a director who knew exactly what he wanted, and how to achieve it.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

" Mary And The Beast "

Author: PamelaShort from Canada
25 November 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This early Biograph film, directed by D.W. Griffith is the usual standard story of young pretty girl, ( Mary Pickford ) after viewing her boyfriend as a coward she dumps him. Standard bad guy enters as an escaped convict who takes the girl hostage. Of course ex-boyfriend redeems himself by heroically saving her and she rewards him by taking him back with a kiss. Edwin August, Alfred Paget, and Mae Marsh join Pickford in this fast paced tale with the highlight of a automobile chase, most exciting for audiences of 1912. Pickford as always is delightful to watch and she easily portrays a young fickle girl. Mae Marsh has a small part as Pickford's best friend. For the historical value, the early use of a car chase in this film helps to make watching " The Beast at Bay " very interesting.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Mary Pickford and the Beast

Author: wes-connors from Los Angeles
12 November 2007

Mary Pickford is quite taken with Edwin August; in fact, he is her "ideal". But, Mr. August's refusal to get mixed up in a street brawl makes him look like a coward to Ms. Pickford. Meanwhile, convict Alfred Paget has escaped from prison; and, he is "A Beast at Bay". While Pickford and August go for a ride in her nifty 1900s automobile, criminal Paget ambushes one of his guards, taking the man's clothing and gun. Next, Pickford drops off August, still arguing he is a coward, and drives off. Alone, Pickford gets out of her car to retrieve a fallen garment; then, on-the-lam Paget moves in to carjack her. From a distance, August witnesses Pickford being taken at gunpoint - can he save his girl, and prove he's not a coward?

Another D.W. Griffith film with a criminal invading an otherwise unrelated situation; this time, the interest is heightened as August's cowardice does play well against the danger offered by convict Paget. August seems, possibly, a little more reasonable than cowardly, given the circumstance depicted; however, the characterizations are interesting and believable. The "parallel" stories have a structural reason to juxtapose.

The engine pursuit is genuinely thrilling - Griffith and his crew continue to offer great, innovative movie excitement. Mae Marsh is the best of the always fine Biograph supporting troupe; she's Pickford's best girlfriend. Pickford is fine as the demanding damsel; she plays the heroine with a relatively high level of resourcefulness - and, it's nice to see Mary Pickford in the "driver's seat"! Paget steals some acting honors, with his portrayal of the desperate convict. Look for a great scene between Paget and Pickford - at about 11:00 minutes in - Paget will touch Mary Pickford's curls, finger her lapel, and reach down to open her coat, suggesting sexual violation; it's creepily well-played.

******* A Beast at Bay (5/27/12) D.W. Griffith ~ Mary Pickford, Alfred Paget, Edwin August

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Nice shots, silly story

Author: timbeach-03889
27 December 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Unfortunately high quality prints of this don't exist online at the moment, for this is outdoors Griffith, which visually, is always a treat. Even in 1912 he had a recognizable style, opting for odd angles over the typical parallel shots of the time - making everything from roads to hedges look interesting. His typical repetition of locations is also on display here, though not nearly as much usual, as we move from towns to roads to countryside.

The story is pretty silly though. A woman, believing her man to be a coward for avoiding a street fight, ditches him, only to be taken over by an escaped criminal, who her man must then save her from. It didn't make me feel much at any stage, though the action scenes involving a car racing alongside a train were a thrilling sight, and one which he repeat a few years later in his epic 'Intolerance'.

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Mary Drives!!

Author: kidboots from Australia
30 December 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A pretty primitive film. After seeing her boyfriend refuse to get involved with drunken rowdies, Mary brands him a coward and goes off in a huff. Meanwhile a criminal has escaped by changing clothes with a policeman - he then accosts Mary, wanting her to aid in his escape. She tries to stall her car but is threatened by the desperate man who knows her ruse. Meanwhile the boyfriend has seen all this from the train station and in an exciting climax commanders a train for a neck and neck chase!!

Certainly at this stage of her career, Mary Pickford was no Blanche Sweet - the most interesting thing in this short was seeing Mary drive the car. From the time she and boyfriend (Arthur Johnson)jump in the car, she is at the wheel and it is pivotal to the plot - she is the one who has to drive the villain to safety.

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

I don't think I'd save her!

Author: planktonrules from Bradenton, Florida
12 August 2013

In "A Beast at Bay", Mary Pickford plays a woman who seems a bit odd. When some guy insults her boyfriend and wants to have a fight right there in the street, she is mad when this boyfriend (Edwin August) refuses to fight. She sees him as a coward and dumps him.

A bit later, an escaped convict happens upon this lady and takes her hostage. When the now ex-boyfriend sees this, he comes to the rescue like an action hero. And, in the end, she is thrilled to have such a he-man for her own.

Apart from the awful message, this isn't a particularly outstanding D.W. Griffith film. Part of it is that for a high-speed chase, it's amazingly slow and uninteresting. Part of it is because the plot isn't all that great. Watchable but far from his best work. Griffith and Pickford would go on to make far more distinguished work.

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1 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Good Griffith

Author: Michael_Elliott from Louisville, KY
27 February 2008

Beast at Bay, A (1912)

*** (out of 4)

D.W. Griffith film about a woman (Mary Pickford) who dumps the man who loves her because she feels he is a coward. Later, an escaped madman takes her hostage and it's up to the man to try and save her. Once again Griffith shows he knows how to build suspense with a little story. The ending is very well done as Griffith throws every trick (he created) in the book at the screen. Pickford is charming as usual.

You can view this at various online sites like YouTube. The quality isn't the greatest but it'll do until someone official puts it out.

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