With a fondness for gambling, Jim Saunders is given to neglecting his wife and child. One night during his absence at the saloon, Miguel Gomez, a Mexican outlaw, for whom $1,000 reward is ... See full summary »

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Robert Thornby ...
Miguel Gomez
George Stanley ...
Jim Saunders
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Mrs. Jim Saunders
Charles Bennett ...
The Doctor
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With a fondness for gambling, Jim Saunders is given to neglecting his wife and child. One night during his absence at the saloon, Miguel Gomez, a Mexican outlaw, for whom $1,000 reward is offered, enters Jim's home and demands food of Mrs. Saunders. Her little child, suffering with a severe attack of croup demands her constant attention and she tells Gomez to help himself. The child is taken with a fit of choking, and her mother, alarmed, asks the outlaw to go for a doctor. He consents and starts on a run for the nearest physician, miles away. As he is running through the foothills, he is met by Saunders, who recognizes him and stops him at the point of his pistol. The Mexican, anxious to notify the doctor, grapples with Jim. They struggle to the edge of a cliff over which he hurls Jim, who falls to the bottom stunned. Miguel jumps upon Jim's horse and hastens on to the doctor, whom he tells of the sick child and induces him to go with him to its relief. After a breakneck ride, they ... Written by Moving Picture World synopsis

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Drama | Short

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27 December 1912 (USA)  »

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1.33 : 1
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The Good Samaritan
12 April 2012 | by (New York City) – See all my reviews

The excellence of the films produced by Biograph in this period is well established in the modern mind. They had D.W. Griffith directing for them. Some interesting work from the Edison Company in this period has been made available on DVD. Likewise, French Gaumont has made a good deal of its work in this era available. However, Vitagraph, long the most successful of the Patents Trust companies, still turning out good movies when it was bought by the Warner Brothers in the mid-twenties, lacks exposure. Judging by the ones I've seen -- a few John Bunny comedies, some early women's pictures and this one -- it would be an eye-opener.

First, this is better scripted than a lot of Griffith's works. When you encounter a character in a Griffith piece, he acts pretty much as you expect him to. When there's a message of tolerance, it's that we should let other people alone.

In this one, a Mexican bandit breaks into a house where a woman and her sick child are waiting for her husband. However, the husband is out gambling and the bandit just wants something to eat. When he sees the child is sick, he immediately sets out to fetch a doctor. This sort of topsy-turvy playing with the audience's expectation is something Griffith rarely did. The story plays out in its its expected form, with the husband going after the bandit for the reward. However, the theme of this story is something that would rarely occur to Grffith: it's not who you are that matters, it's what you do. Griffith rarely recognized there could be any distinction between the two.

The editing is just as effective as the best of the era, with good cross-cutting for tension. The acting is subdued and telling. The photography is nothing to write home about; there's one pan shot, but it's all about efficiency and telling the story; there seems little effort at showing the beauty of the landscape this piece was shot in and the formal composition that ends the movie seems to use that composition solely to emphasize a neat end to the work.

Still, it gets the work done. In this obscure work which has barely survived the century since it was shot, we find evidence for the excellence of the rest of Vitagraph's library. If this was a standard piece, it must be a very high standard indeed.


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