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Thwarted by his despotic uncle from continuing his love affair, a young man turns to thoughts of murder. Experiencing a series of visions, he sees murder as a normal course of events in life and kills his uncle. Tortured by his conscience, his future sanity is uncertain as he is assailed by nightmarish visions of what he has done. Written by
Doug Sederberg <email@example.com>
Early horror effort not great Griffith, but ambitious
Henry Walthall plays a man whose love for a young girl, played by Blache Sweet, drives him to murder his doting and overprotective uncle. His guilt drives him insane, and in the climactic scene where the detective pushes him to confession, Walthall is so overcome with visions of demons driving him to hell he is on the verge of an apoplectic fit. The most notable things in The Avenging Conscience, in addition to the obvious horrific tableaux and weird scenes of Pan with nymphs at the end, is the way Griffith draws characters in different places together through intercutting and use of props and gestures, i.e. books, pictures, prayer and other things. Perhaps he already had Intolerance in the back of his head while making this oddball adaptation of several Poe works. Also the film appears to have had some influence on other filmmakers; Chaplin's Sunnyside for example, owes something to the bit with Pan at the conclusion. My copy, projected a bit fast, runs only 56 minutes, and clearly there are missing scenes which makes for a choppy continuity. There is a still from The Avenging Conscience in Iris Barry's 1940 bio of Griffith that is from a scene which is no longer in the film. A different still once thought to be from The Avenging Conscience of Griffith directing Walthall holding a pistol to his head was actually taken on the set of Griffith's lost 1914 effort The Escape. The set dressing in The Escape is basically the same as that for the Uncle's home in The Avenging Conscience with a few things switched around, which suggests the two films were shot very closely together, or even simultaneously.
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