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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>
D.W. Griffith takes Edgar Allen Poe classics "Annabel Lee" and "The Tell-Tale Heart"; and, with some good and bad additions, creates a near-classic. Mr. Griffith creates a melancholy mood, right from the start, as the young protagonist gets an unfortunate start in life, after his mother dies; even as a baby, he looks forlorn. Quickly, the child grows up to be Henry B. Walthall; he is raised by his uncle, Spottiswoode Aitken. All goes well until Walthall begins to see "common woman" Blanche Sweet. Uncle Aitken does not approve; and, he orders Mr. Walthall to stop seeing Ms. Sweet. Desperate, Walthall considers murdering Aitken.
The performances are terrific. Walthall is very impressive, in one of his best pre-"Birth" roles. Sweet and Aitken are outstanding. All rise significantly above the uneven material. The Griffith production company's supporting cast is, as usual, extraordinary. Robert Harron and Mae Marsh provide perfect contrast as a grocery boy and maid; and, you should note, their romance provides Aitken with a change-of-heart missed by Walthall's character. Eventually, the film loses direction; as Griffith tries to merge Poe with well, see for yourself.
Appropriately subtitled "Thou Shalt Not Kill".
******* The Avenging Conscience (8/2/14) D.W. Griffith ~ Henry B. Walthall, Blanche Sweet, Spottiswoode Aitken, George Siegmann
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