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One Touch of Nature
R: Ashley Miller. B: Courtenay Ryley Cooper. D: John Sturgeon, Elizabeth Miller, Alan Crolius, Andy Clark. P: Edison Manufacturing Co. USA 1914

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“One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.”
(John Muir: Our National Parks. Boston 1901)

“One touch of nature makes the whole world kin,
That all with one consent praise new-born gawds,
Though they are made and moulded of things past,
And give to dust that is a little gilt
More laud than gilt o’er-dusted.”
William Shakespeare: Troilus and Cressida, III/3


The Avenging Conscience
R und P: David Wark Griffith. D: Henry B. Walthall, Blanche Sweet, Spottiswoode Aitkin, George Siegmann.  P: Majestic Motion Picture Company. USA 1914

The Avenging Conscience: or ‘Thou Shalt Not Kill’  (1914), a pre-Birth of a Nation feature that finds Griffith working in a very different register. A mash-up of several stories and poems by Edgar Allan Poe, Griffith’s fellow tortured Southerner, the film grows more directly from one of the director’s obsessive themes: that of the young couple whose union is prevented by an older authority figure.
In this case the nameless hero (played by Henry B. Walthall) is forbidden to marry his sweetheart (Blanche Sweet) by the uncle (Spottiswoode Aitken) who raised him and wants him to remain at home as his assistant.
Instead of expanding this story into epic form (as he would in The Birth of a Nation), Griffith journeys inward in The Avenging Conscience, giving his hero a series of nightmarish visions that first drive him to strangle the despotic uncle, and then to suffer a nervous breakdown. With superimposed imagery of ghouls and biblical figures, Griffith is working toward an interiorized, psychological sense of character without much precedent in American films of the time. There are moments in The Avenging Conscience that seem to anticipate the stylized imagery of German Expressionism, which would not emerge in the movies until The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari in 1920.”
Dave Kehr, 2008
New York Times

>>> Griffith’s Edgar Allan Poe on this site: How Poe’s Raven Was Born