Friday, May 05, 2017

The Sealed Room (1909)

DIRECTOR: D.W. Griffith


Frank E. Woods


Arthur V. Johnson
Marion Leonard
Henry B. Walthall
Linda Arvidson


A king exacts vengeance upon his faithless mistress and her lover.

As I ventured into D.W. Griffith's short film, The Sealed Room. I wondered to myself if this would even be eligible to review as part of my dive into the short films that began the horror genre. Listed as a Historical Dreama. The only two pieces of information in which it gave me hope was that it was included on a list of horror short films from the early nineteen hundreds and it was inspired by an Edgar Allen Poe story. I decided to sit down and watch it with my fingers crossed and that lent itself to the horror genre.

Immediately as The Sealed Room had begun, an ominous music starts playing over the silent short. Nothing on screen would indicate that the short film was horrific or macabre, yet the music was genuinely unnerving. We see a Count and his Countess at several gatherings, and we see that the Countess is being unfaithful with a staff of the Counts. This is where things start to build towards what is essentially the first film that I've seen that uses the downbeat ending.

While the ending of The Sealed Room is no Se7en in terms of a gut punch. The short is incredibly gloomy. Until now, I was yet to see a short film besides The Execution Of Mary, Queen Of Scots kill someone on screen. So for a short, that was created in the early nineteen hundreds to build towards this type of ending where a man seeks his revenge on an unfaithful lover and the person she is cheating on him with and have it end in both of their deaths from suffocation. I applaud the bleakness of the short.

The score for The Sealed Room is haunting. I am not sure if this short I watched was intended to have a score, or someone has placed a score over the images, but it did work here. The score from the opening titles, right up until the end of the film creates a sense of dread. We know what's coming, but the score really does help and set the mood for this one. I really dig the effort if someone out there has crafted a score for the short. Well done to whomever it was that created it.

Lastly, we come to the performances. I've said it many times before in my previous short film reviews that I find it hard to praise or review a performance from a silent film. There is no dialogue, and I'm used to being enthralled by performances and the words spoken. If I can say anything, I thought the entire cast did well. I thought that Arthur V. Johnson as the scorned Count was excellent. His final few seconds of gleeful revenge were fantastic.



- Two lovers suffocate to death in a sealed room.

The Sealed Room is a rather unnerving short film. At eleven minutes, the short builds towards a gut punch ending. Made in 1909, I'm sure this would have horrified all the unsuspecting audience members. Never gruesome or bloody, the last few seconds of being sealed in a room without any air to breath and slowly succumbing to death is a pretty wicked thing to watch in a short film from that era. The score only adds to the rising tension. A very well made short film that hits home the point of 'Don't Cheat'.

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