The Sealed Room (1909)

Article 4281 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 8-4-2013
Directed by D.W. Griffith
Featuring Arthur V. Johnson, Marion Leonard, Henry B. Walthall
Country: USA
What it is: Melodrama

A king builds a special room with only one entrance for his lover. When he discovers that she is unfaithful to him with a minstrel, he exacts a revenge.

Whatever you can say about D.W. Griffith, he was one of the first directors to really grasp some of the subtleties involved in making the medium work. My favorite moment in this short is a good example; the lover gives a sidelong glance to the minstrel at one point before turning her attentions to the king. Up to that point I hadn’t even noticed the minstrel, but I knew immediately what was going on behind the king’s back. I also knew exactly how the whole story was going to pan out, but then, I had a strong idea to begin with it; after all, the partial attribution of the story to Edgar Allan Poe combined with the fact that we had a room with a single entrance immediately had me on the alert for a variation on “A Cask of Amontillado”. However, Griffith wasn’t perfect, and I did find one goof in the story, and you’ll spot it too if you keep track of the location of the minstrel’s musical instrument. There are other story problems as well; I find it hard to believe that the lovers would be unaware that a wall was being built only ten feet away with only a curtain separating them, especially with actor Arthur V. Stevens chewing the scenery on the other side as well, but then, that’s what suspension of disbelief is for.


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