One Exciting Night (1922)

Article 3636 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-14-2011
Posting Date: 7-29-2011
Directed by D.W. Griffith
Featuring Carol Dempster, Henry Hull, Peter Strong
Country: USA
What it is: Old dark house mystery

Several guests are invited to a party at an old dark house. However, a bootlegger was murdered there a few days ago… and it is rumored he left half a million dollars somewhere in the house. Who will find it, and who will they kill to get it?

I rightly guessed that this would turn out to be an “old dark house” movie, but it’s probably the earliest one I’ve seen for this series. That doesn’t mean that the “old dark house” concept started here; this was reportedly made to cash in on the success of the stage play “The Bat”, which would have a straightforward version made just a few years later. I was curious to see what D.W. Griffith would do with the concept, and he concentrates on the backstories of the various individuals, which are more elaborate than is usual for the form; in fact, the “old dark house” antics don’t really get going until the movie is halfway over. Some of the cliches are already in place, including the cowardly black servant, and having it played by a man in blackface (Porter Strong’s specialty) makes it just that much more painful; at least the other major black character isn’t portrayed as a clown (though he may also be a white actor in blackface). Still, the movie is moderately entertaining throughout, and much more so during a spectacular climax involving a chase during a massive storm. And though I did figure out who the murderer was, it did turn out to fairly satisfying from a story perspective.


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