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The Lesser Evil (1912)

A young woman's peaceful existence is shattered when she is abducted by the crew of a boat of smugglers, who then also turn against their captain.




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Credited cast:
The Young Woman
The Young Woman's Sweetheart
The Young Woman's Companion
The Leader of the Smugglers
The Revenue Officer / Policeman
Charles West ...
The Go-Between
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
William A. Carroll ...
In Smuggler Band
Charles Gorman ...
In Smuggler Band
In Smuggler Band
Harry Hyde ...
J. Jiquel Lanoe ...
In Smuggler Band
Frank Opperman ...
In Smuggler Band
W.C. Robinson ...
In Smuggler Band


As per appointment, the girl goes to meet her sweetheart outside an old shack. This spot is selected as being the most sequestered. Unknown to anyone, this shack is used by a gang of smugglers for the reception of contraband goods for shipment. This gang is just preparing to take away a cargo when the girl arrives. Not finding her sweetheart there, and hearing voices, she imagines he is inside the shack, and enters. The gang becomes panic-stricken at the entrance of an outsider. It is not long before they realize the importance of the situation, and as she has discovered their secret, they dare not leave her behind. Carrying her aboard their ship they sail away, just as the girl's sweetheart, who was late on account of the stopping of his watch, arrives at the place of meeting, and helplessly witnesses their departure. The young man rushing off, gets the Harbor Officers to attempt a rescue. In the meantime, the girl is in great peril on the ship, as the captain, who has locked her in ... Written by Moving Picture World synopsis

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Short | Drama





Release Date:

29 April 1912 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

El mal menor  »

Filming Locations:

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Edited into Spisok korabley (2008) See more »

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User Reviews

Tense But Unfinished-Looking Short Drama
30 January 2006 | by (Ohio) – See all my reviews

This one-reel drama by D.W. Griffith has plenty of tension in it, but it also has a somewhat unfinished look, primarily because the story as it stands does not flow as smoothly as it could have. One possible explanation is that some of the inter-titles that might explain things further could be missing. But it also could be the case that Griffith, still in the earlier stages of his career, may have gotten preoccupied with the key scene(s) and did not devote enough attention to setting them up carefully.

The story has Blanche Sweet as a contented young woman living near the sea, who finds herself in sudden peril at the hands of a crew of a gang of seagoing ruffians. The first part shows her happening on them in the midst of their smuggling activities, and being abducted; the last part shows her in increasing danger aboard their ship. The concept of "The Lesser Evil" comes into play in this last portion, when it begins to look as if all hope of rescue is gone.

The movie is weakened by the first part not fitting together all that well. It takes longer than it should to make clear what the unsavory sailors are up to, and why Sweet's character will be in their way. It makes for an unnecessary distraction at the point when the suspense ought to be increasing steadily. This is where a simple inter-title (which may once have existed) would save a lot of trouble.

Once the climactic situation is set up, it is clear enough what the dangers are, although Griffith's personal perspective on them is emphasized rather strongly. It ends in an interesting and somewhat thoughtful fashion that helps out noticeably in making up for the somewhat simplistic tone of the rest of the movie.

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