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Lydia Yeamans Titus,
If there was ever an example of too much plot in a short-running film then this would be it. Lost for many decades until a print turned up in Russia during the early 70s, this Western is one of the least known features from Griffith. The film has several story lines going at once but the main one deals with a young woman (Carol Dempster) who is told by her dying aunt that she has a mother living in San Francisco. The woman travels out there not knowing that her mother (Eugenie Besserer) is a saloon gal who is about to hang for accidentally killing the woman trying to steal some money she was saving for the kid. The town owner (Walter Long) allows her to meet with her daughter but soon a Mexican bandit (Richard Barthelmess) and another man (Ralph Graves) want to try and make sure the mother and daughter don't have to separate. All of this plot takes place during a 75-minute movie and there's just way too much going on here and not enough detail is given to any of it. There are some great performances scattered throughout the film and that's the main reason to watch this but in the end you have to consider this a major disappointment from the legendary director. Again, the biggest problem is that we've got a story worthy of a three-hour epic yet we have very little time to really dig into it. We never really know why Long and the Sheriff (George Fawcett) are so against the mother. We never really, fully get to know why the mother stayed away from the child. We get Graves' character who has a minor story himself but we never get too much detail to fully understand anything he's doing. Another major problem is Dempster and I'm not one of those who like to kick her around even though it's clear someone like Lillian Gish would have been a lot better in the part. Dempster has way too many moments where it seems like she's just looking around not knowing what to do and this is rather distracting. She really never seems comfortable in the role and this certainly hurts the film. Fawcett, Long, Graves and Besserer all turn in fine performances but the real stand out is Barthelmess who is simply amazing in the role of the Mexican bandit. I've seen plenty of his performances and this here is by far the best work I've seen from here because there's not a single second where I didn't believe him in this part and he had a certain grace and charm that really carried the film. The ending will remind people of the ending to THE BIRTH OF A NATION as we have a group of people taking shelter in a cabin while trying to fight off the bad guys. While there's some nice editing and cinematography here, there's never any real suspense like that 1915 film and in the end the entire movie is pretty disappointing.
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