Exceeded my expectations
Anyechka | Rensselaer, NY United States | 01/08/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have numerous issues with D.W. Griffith and so was prepared to have less than an enthusiastic reaction to this set, but I ended up really really liking it. A lot of the issues I have with most of his features were either not present or less overwhelming in these shorts. It also helped that I love films from this early period of the cinema, when all movies were shorts and constantly evolving as an artform. So much happens in these short films (the longest only about a half-hour), packing so much plot into such a limited timeframe. And films from this early era seem to have such a natural charm and magic to them, evoking a long-gone era. There were only a couple of shorts that I didn't really care for (foremost among them the ridiculous 'His Trust,' although at least the racism in it is more of a paternalistic nature instead of the type of racism in BOAN).
The shorts cover such a wide variety of genres, such as Westerns, social justice issues (esp. how the other half lives and how they're treated and exploited by the ruling class), adaptations of poems and plays, crime drama, and melodrama. I definitely prefer Griffith's early shorts over his later grandiose overwrought morality plays. He almost seems like an entirely different director. Perhaps the short form was just more effective for delivering his messages without overdoing it, whereas in his features it often seems like the viewer is getting hit over the head with a preachy moral message and cloying sentimentality. These shorts are also a priceless look at some of the early work of big-name stars like Mary Pickford, Lillian and Dorothy Gish, and Lionel Barrymore, as well as actors in Griffith's stock company who are now largely forgotten by all but silent film buffs, such as Bobby Harron, Blanche Sweet, Henry B. Walthall, and Mae Marsh. Biograph had a lot of really talented people working for it.
I'd definitely recommend this set to anyone interested in American film shorts from the late Aughts and early Teens. They present such a vivid multifaceted picture of not only what the fledgling film industry was like but also what life was like for many people. The only thing that would have made this set even more enjoyable would have been some bonus material, such as background information on Biograph and the people involved with it, commentaries on some of the more interesting shorts, or an introductory overview."
Griffith's Biograph Short Films
Tom Without Pity | A Major Midwestern Metropolis | 05/14/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a review of a DVD titled D.W.GRIFFITH'S BIOGRAPH SHORT MASTERWORKS which was put out by
Kino video in 2002. The is a two disc set consisting of 23 short films made for the
Biograph Company and all but one released before the seminal feature film, THE BIRTH OF A NATION in 1915.
From 1908 until THE BIRTH OF THE NATION in 1915, D.W. Griffith filmed close to five hundred short films. This release by Kino consists of a very few of the highlights of D.W. Griffith's early output.
On Disc One:
THOSE AWFUL HATS, 1909 (3 min). Very funny comedy short with quite an ending about the common problem of bountifully behatted women blocking the vision of fellow nickleodeon patrons.
With Mack Sennett and Flora Finch.
THE SEALED ROOM,1909 (11 min). From a story by Poe about a King who builds a special room for himself and his consort. She uses the room as a love nest for herself and a minstrel until
the King comes up with an airtight solution. With Arthur V. Johnson, Marion Leonard, Henry B.
Walthall and in small parts, Mack Sennet and Mary Pickford.
CORNER IN WHEAT, 1909 (14 min). From Frank Norris's novel "The Pit." A greedy tycoon corners the market in wheat thereby doubling the price of bread and doubling the hardship on the
populace. Griffith shows the contrast between the lives of the rich and poor with innovative
intercutting between the two story narratives. With Frank Powell, Grace Henderson, James
Kirkwood, Linda Avidson and in small roles Mack Sennett and Blanche Sweet.
THE UNCHANGING SEA, 1910 (13 min). A young couple's lives are changed by the sea when the
newlywed husband is thought lost at sea. The consequences and the couple's fate are told
in a beautiful and visually poetic manner in this tragic tale inspired by Charles Kinglesy's poem.
With Arthur V. Johnson, Linda Avidson, Mary Pickford, Charles West, Dell Henderson, Gladys Egan.
HIS TRUST, 1911 (14 min). When a southern plantation owner is called to war it's up to his faithful slave, George, to save his wife and child in the devestation of the Civil War. With Wilfred Lucas, Dell Henderson, Claire Mcdowell, Edith Haldeman.
THE NEW YORK HAT, 1912 (16 mn). In this story by Anita Loos, a teenage girl whose mother had just died receives a fancy gift from her pastor, a very stylish New York hat which she has been admiring in a shop window. Little does she know that it was bought with money her late mother gave the pastor nor does she realize the firestorm of gossip and ill will she faces from the local busybodies. With Mary Pickford. Lionel Barrymore, Charles Hill Mailes, Kate Bruce, Mae Marsh, Lillian Gish.
AN UNSEEN ENEMY, 1912 (15 min). Two recently orphaned sisters face danger when the house is burglarized and their inheritance is about to be stolen. With Lillian and Dorothy Gish, Elmer
Booth, Robert Herron, Harry Carey.
THE MOTHERING HEART, 1913 (23 min). A struggling young man climgs the ladder of suces with the
unstinting support of his wife. When the husband goes for another woman, the wife quietly moves back to her mothers home to have their baby. Eventually the husband gets his come uppance from the worldly woman and crawls back to his family. With Walter Miller, Dorothy Gish, Kate Bruce, Viola Berry, Charles West.
THE ADVENTURES OF DOLLIE, 1908 (12 min). A mother and father take their young daughter Dollie out for a day of fun and relaxation when they run into a couple of dangerous gypsies. This is
the first film directed by D.W. Griffith and already some of his trademark characteristics
are present. With Arthur V. Johnson, Linda Avidson, Gladys Egan, Charles Insley, Madeliene West.
THE USURER,1910 (18 min). A wealthy moneylender clamps down on his debtors and decides to collect all that is owed him just to enhance his bottom line. With Mack Sennett, George Nichols, Grace
Henderson, Edward Dillon, Mary Pickford.
ENOCH ARDEN, 1915 (35 min). dby Christy Cabanne, written by Griffith. A seaman, after a long period marooned on a desert island, returns home only to find his wife has remarried. A terrific movie. With Alfred Paget, Lillian Gish, Wallace Reid,
THE MISER'S HEART, 1911 (16 MIN). A miser at first refuses to open his safe to theives until they threaten the life of a little neighbor girl. With Linda Avidson, Lionel Barrymore, William J. Butler, Donald Crisp, Edward Dillon.
DISC TWO HAS:
THE MUSKETEERS OF PIG ALLEY, 1912 (18 min). A couple living in an NYC tenement becoome involved with a gang led by "The Snapper Kid," and in the gang war that follows. Fascinating early gangster film starring a Cagney- like Booth With Elmer Booth, Lillian Gish, Clara T. Bracy, walter Miller, alfred Paget, Harry Carey.
THE BURGLAR'S DILEMMA, 1912 (15 min). A young burglar takes the fall for a domestic murder commited
by a jealous brother. With Lioonel Barymore, Henry B. Walthall, Adolph Lestina, Harry Carey, The Gish Sisters.
THE SUNBEAM, 1912 (15 min). A bachelor and spinster live their lonely lives across the
boardinghouse hall from each other when a bright little neighbor girl helps them defrost their
cool relationship. With Ynez Seabury, Kate Bruce, Claire McDowell, Dell Henderson, Cristy Cabanne.
THE PAINTED LADY, 1912 (12 min). A lonely young woman strikes up a friendship with a young man, who she finds one night burglarizing her father's office in their home. With Blanche Sweet, Madge Kirby, Charles Hill Mailes, Kate Bruce, Joesph Graybill, Lionel Barrymore, Elmer Booth.
ONE IS BUSINESS, THE OTHER CRIME, 1912 (15 min). Griffith intercuts the stories of two couples to illustrate that each one, rich or poor, has their temptations and downfalls. With Charles West, Dorothy Barnard, Edwin August, Blanche Sweet, Frank Evans.
DEATH'S MARATHON, 1913 (15 min) A woman being courted by two business partners marries (unbeknownst to her) the irresponsible one who squanders the company money on gambling. When he decides to end it all with suicide she sends the responsible partner to try and save him before he pulls the trigger. With Blanche Sweet, Henry B. Walthal, Walter Miller, Lionel Barrymore, Kate Bruce.
THE BATTLE OF ELDERBUSH GULCH, 1913 (29 min). Drunken Indians disturb the peace of a nearby white settelement while searching for dogs to eat. The settlers shoot back, thereby touching off an
embittered war. With Mae Marsh, Leslie Loveridge, Alfred Paget,Robert Heron, Lillian Gish.
THE LAST DROP OF WATER, 1911 (13 min). A western bound wagon train is attacked by Indians and runs out of water. The settlers' fate rests on one man who goes for water. with Blanche Sweet, Robert Harron, Robert West, Dell Henderson., Alfred Paget, W.Chrystie Miller.
FRIENDS, 1912 (13 min). Dandy Jack is a miner who decides that it's time to move to a new claim but he also decides to leave his girlfriend, Dora, behind. Later, a new miner begins to date Dora but she never forgets Dandy Jack. With Mary Pickford, Henry B. Walthall, Lionel Barrymore, Harry Carey, Charles Hill Mailes, Elmer Booth.
THE LESSER EVIL, 1912 (13 min). A young woman stumbles across a boat crew who are smugglers and
they decide to kidnap her. She fights the crew who want to assault her all before
the local fisherman can come to her aid. With Blanche Sweet, Edwin August, Mae Marsh, Alfred Paget.
THE MASSACRE, 1912 (30 min). A romance with the backdrop of the Indian wars. The cavalry brutally attacks an Indian village and the Indians retaliate with a bloody raid on a wagon train. With Wilfred Lucas, Blanche Sweet, Charles West,
Alfred Paget, Lionel Barrymore.
All of these short films have the appropriate musical accompanyment and all of the films are in
top condition. If only other companies marketing older films could issue this kind of quality product there would be very little complaining among silent film buffs. Kudos to Kino.
I rate this two disc , 23 film package D.W. GRIFFITH'S BIOGRAPH SHORT MASTERWORKS an enthusiastic five stars, with pleasure.