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The White Caps (1905)

 -  Drama | Short  -  September 1905 (USA)
5.8
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Ratings: 5.8/10 from 68 users  
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Two members of a vigilante group known as 'The White Caps' post a warning sign on a man's home. When the man comes home, he tears down the sign, and then proceeds to abuse his wife both ... See full summary »

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Title: The White Caps (1905)

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Cast

Credited cast:
Kate Toncray
John R. Cumpson
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Arthur V. Johnson ...
(as Arthur Johnson)
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Storyline

Two members of a vigilante group known as 'The White Caps' post a warning sign on a man's home. When the man comes home, he tears down the sign, and then proceeds to abuse his wife both verbally and physically. As soon as she can get away from him, the wife leaves home with her child to find a place of refuge. When the vigilantes find out about this, they arm themselves with rifles and immediately go to confront the abusive husband. Written by Snow Leopard

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Plot Keywords:

abused wife | vigilantism | chase

Genres:

Drama | Short

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September 1905 (USA)  »

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1.33 : 1
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User Reviews

An Effective & Rather Frightening Depiction of Vigilante Activity
20 June 2005 | by (Ohio) – See all my reviews

It's difficult to tell what the original motivation and perspective were behind the short drama "The White Caps" - that is, just from watching it, you cannot quite tell for certain whether it was made to approve of the activities of the "White Caps", to condemn or at least to warn about groups like them, or simply to portray them and allow viewers to make up their own minds. What is sure is that it is an effective and frightening depiction of vigilante action, and it is a drama that would likely leave many present-day viewers with profoundly mixed feelings.

The first sight of the vigilantes in their costumes is unsettling, and it immediately calls to mind the notorious racially-motivated groups that used similar methods. And yet, you immediately find out that here their target is not at all a member of any minority group, but rather is an abusive, brutish lout of a husband who has repeatedly beaten his wife and traumatized his child. The wife and child themselves are completely sympathetic characters.

The confrontation that follows between the vigilantes and the abusive husband provokes a lot of mixed emotions. The man deserves no sympathy for what he has done, and yet it is frightening to see how little concern the vigilantes have for legality or due process. Their enthusiasm for punishment also makes you wonder what their own motivation was. The movie was filmed with good technique for 1905, and thus the tension and turmoil are rather convincing through all of this.

One thing that this short drama does is to remind us of how widespread this kind of incident used to be. At the time, vigilante groups of various kinds seem to have been much more common than they are now, and this depicts the particular type that once arose largely in protest to the legal authorities' apparent inability to handle certain crimes such as domestic abuse.

From today's perspective, it is interesting that, an entire century ago, these vigilantes target an offense that only recently is finally beginning to get the official attention that it warrants. This is, honestly, an unpleasant film to watch (despite having been made with some skill), yet perhaps it can serve a purpose if it makes some of its viewers think about some of the troubling moral and legal questions that it raises.


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