The House of Darkness is rather unsung as far as Griffith’s short films go. It’s about the soothing effect of music upon a mentally deranged man, one which becomes a major boon when he breaks into the home of a former nurse. While the video above cites Lionel Barrymore and Lillian Gish as the stars, it is Claire McDowell as the nurse and Charles Hill Mailes as the mentally ill patient who are the real stars of the show, beautifully underplaying parts which could have easily turned hammy.
Also am I the only one who thinks the shot set-up at 9 minutes and 56 seconds in looks a lot like the famous scene from James Whale’s Frankenstein where Karloff breaks into the bride’s chamber? The use of suspense there, with the woman unaware of the potential danger behind her, is very similar between the two movies.
The modern day movie goer is plagued by rude people who bring in their cell phones and noisy children. Heck, just the other day when some friends and I went to see Disney’s Zootopia at the theater, this woman walks in late, drags her son in, and shouts to everyone present, “IS THIS AN AD? NO? OH SO IT’S THE MOVIE? YEAH? DID IT JUST START? YEAH? OH AND IT’S ZOOTOPIA, RIGHT? YEAH?” Of course, then I get a case of the nostalgia and start wondering if the theater going experience was better long ago in the days of early cinema.
If this short film is anything to go by, then that answer is a strong “hell no.” Even back in 1909, movie lovers had to deal with people walking in late and, what’s worse, wearing the most obnoxious head wear. I’m not sure if any theater employed such creative methods to relieve the problem as in here, however. All in all, this is a cute little movie, a rare D.W. Griffith comedy that works one hundred percent. Enjoy my friends!