The Avenging Conscience (1914)

Article #319 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 1-28-2002
Posting date: 6-14-2002

A boy is raised to manhood by his one-eyed uncle. When the uncle stands in the way of the boy’s romance, the boy kills him and bricks up the body in a fireplace.

This is a very early adaptation of Poe’s “The Telltale Heart” by D. W. Griffith, one of the most important pioneers in cinema history due to his development of cinematic storytelling techniques. Though the movie borrows the events of the Poe story (as well as touches of Poe’s poem “Annabel Lee”), it’s definitely more in the spirit of early melodrama than of horror, though the hellish visions that the murderer sees when he is confronted by a detective are quite interesting. The movie also features an early split-screen sequence (horizontally rather than vertically) and some rather odd visions of Pan in a forest.


A happy ending is had by all. This is thanks to a storytelling trick that is apt to garner the DS Rubber Brick award for endings that make you want to throw something at your TV screen, but this movie is of early enough vintage that the ending wasn’t an overused cliche at that time, so I’ll let it go. Besides, except for some old-time histrionics, I think the movie holds up nicely.

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