A potentially violent patient in an insane asylum is calmed when he hears a nurse playing the piano. But shortly afterwards he breaks free, eludes his pursuers, and acquires a gun. He soon ... See full summary »



Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

Comedy | Short
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.2/10 X  

Virtuous Mabel rejects the improper advances of a villainous cad. The furious villain and his henchmen then seize Mabel and chain her to a railroad track. Mabel's anxious boyfriend turns ... See full summary »

Director: Mack Sennett
Stars: Mabel Normand, Mack Sennett, Ford Sterling
Short | Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.2/10 X  

Two business partners pursue the same woman. She accepts the marriage proposal of the irresponsible partner, much to her later regret. He squanders money on gambling, as his interest in her... See full summary »

Director: D.W. Griffith
Stars: Blanche Sweet, Henry B. Walthall, Walter Miller
Short | Action | Western
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  
Director: D.W. Griffith
Stars: Mae Marsh, Leslie Loveridge, Alfred Paget
Crime | Short | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

The physician's death orphans his two adolescent daughters. Their older brother is able to convert some of the doctor's small estate to cash. But it is late in the day, and with the banks ... See full summary »

Director: D.W. Griffith
Stars: Lillian Gish, Dorothy Gish, Elmer Booth
Short | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.6/10 X  

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.

Director: D.W. Griffith
Stars: Blanche Sweet, Edwin August, Mae Marsh
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.1/10 X  

A young man visiting a house that turns out to be haunted is terrorized by the ghost of a man who had been murdered there years before.

Director: Oswald Mitchell
Stars: Laurence Harvey, Lesley Brook, John Stuart
Short | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  

At a tramcar in Copenhagen the piano teacher Magda Vang meets the young man Knud Svane, who falls in love with her. She is invited to spend the summer with him and his parents at the ... See full summary »

Director: Urban Gad
Stars: Asta Nielsen, Robert Dinesen, Poul Reumert
Short | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  

When Mrs. Harding dies, she leaves a mysterious letter to her pastor. The note tells how her cold, miserly husband worked her to death. She asks the pastor to administer a small trust which... See full summary »

Director: D.W. Griffith
Stars: Mary Pickford, Charles Hill Mailes, Kate Bruce
Short | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  

A young couple struggle to get ahead, the wife always assuaging the troubles of her melancholy husband. As he climbs the ladder of success, he abandons the homely values and takes up with ... See full summary »

Director: D.W. Griffith
Stars: Walter Miller, Lillian Gish, Kate Bruce
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.1/10 X  
Director: Georges Méliès
Short | Comedy | Fantasy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.1/10 X  

An old proprietor is startled by the sudden appearance of a skull. Just as he draws back from the uncanny object, the doors of a mediaeval wardrobe fly back and a hand prods him with a ... See full summary »

Director: Walter R. Booth
Drama | Short | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.8/10 X  

During the American Revolution, a young soldier carrying a crucial message to General Washington is spotted and pursued by a group of enemy soldiers. He takes refuge with a civilian family,... See full summary »

Director: D.W. Griffith
Stars: Owen Moore, Linda Arvidson, Kate Bruce


Cast overview:
The Doctor
The Doctor's Wife
Charles Hill Mailes ...
The Lunatic aka The 'Unfortunate' Patient
The Nurse
Christy Cabanne ...
Attack Victim (as W. Christy Cabanne)
Asylum Guard
William Elmer ...
Asylum Guard (as Billy Elmer)


A potentially violent patient in an insane asylum is calmed when he hears a nurse playing the piano. But shortly afterwards he breaks free, eludes his pursuers, and acquires a gun. He soon comes to a house where a young wife is home alone, and there is a tense confrontation. Written by Snow Leopard

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Short | Drama





Release Date:

10 May 1913 (USA)  »

Filming Locations:

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Featured in Kingdom of Shadows (1998) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

An interesting and unusual movie milestone
4 August 2006 | by (Westchester County, NY) – See all my reviews

At the time this film was made insanity was widely regarded as something fearful, shameful, and possibly even a divine punishment for sinfulness, while people afflicted with mental illness (of whatever kind) were perhaps to be pitied but certainly removed from the rest of society, locked away in some safe place and shunned. Considering the attitudes of the day D. W. Griffith's short drama THE HOUSE OF DARKNESS is quite progressive in treating the mentally ill as unfortunate victims of their conditions who, in some instances, may respond to therapy and even make full recoveries. The fictional case history presented here may look simplistic to latter-day viewers, especially in its resolution, but taken in context the movie marks an impressive step forward in treating this topic in a sensitive and humane fashion.

The story set at an asylum for persons with "disordered minds." The opening scenes briefly depict two of the inmates of the home in earlier days when they were functioning in the world outside the grounds, thus demonstrating that average folks, i.e. perhaps even folks like you the viewer, or someone you know, might some day end up like this. But then on a lighter note a title card reminds us that "Even Here Love Cannot Be Shut Out," and we observe a romantic interlude between one of the nurses (Claire McDowell) and a doctor (35 year-old Lionel Barrymore), who become engaged and marry. For those of us familiar with Barrymore's later character roles as a crusty old man it's strange and poignant to see him here, so young and dapper, playing a newlywed. Our focus switches to a particular inmate on the grounds of the asylum, a disheveled-looking older man played by actor Charles Hill Mailes, perhaps best remembered by Biograph buffs as Mary Pickford's cold-hearted father in THE NEW YORK HAT. Here Mailes plays a pathetic man who initially seems dazed and quiet, but who turns violent and must be restrained by orderlies. Coincidentally, a nearby nurse (Lillian Gish) happens to be playing piano, and the music has an immediate soothing effect on the patient. Soon after, however, back on the grounds after the music has stopped, the patient goes berserk and escapes, then attacks two men in a nearby park and manages to take a pistol from one of them. Pursued by a number of orderlies, guards, and lawmen, the man (now called a "lunatic" in a title card for the first time) breaks into the home of the recently married nurse, who, terrified, manages to subdue him by playing a tune at the piano.

In the climactic scenes which follow it's suggested that steady sessions of "musical therapy" ultimately bring this patient back to full mental health. We may scoff at the naiveté of this conclusion, since it's implied that music --and music alone-- brings about the man's recovery, but the story is presented with disarming earnestness, and again, considering the general attitudes of the era it's striking that the very possibility of curative therapy is suggested at all, however simplistically. THE HOUSE OF DARKNESS stands as an interesting early milestone in the cinema's depiction of mental illness and its potential methods of treatment.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Discuss The House of Darkness (1913) on the IMDb message boards »

Contribute to This Page

Create a character page for: