The Burglar's Dilemma (1912)

  |  Short, Drama


The Burglar's Dilemma (1912) Poster

In this latter day Cain and Abel story, a jealous brother strikes down his sibling just as a young burglar is about to enter the house. The jealous brother summons police, who then charge ... See full summary »


6.2/10
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Director:

D.W. Griffith

Writer:

Lionel Barrymore

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25 July 2008 | Steffi_P
7
| "The Fallacy of Circumstantial Evidence"
Here is another short from Griffith dealing with crime and a perceived social problem. Like virtually all of Griffith's social protest films the story is a little strange, but by late 1912 the staging and acting is so good you'll barely notice.

Griffith opens economically with a single title card and a shot introducing the two brothers. Notice how he doesn't need to state which brother is the householder and which is the "weak". You get that from the way they act, and also with subtler clues. Lionel Barrymore lounges easily towards the centre of the screen, whereas Henry Walthall seems squashed up against the edge of the frame. Even their respective props are in tune with their characters – a broadsheet for Barrymore and a magazine for Walthall. The paper will reappear later on in a neat little touch where Walthall insists on personally placing it on his supposedly dead brother's face.

The acting throughout is of a high standard in this one – no hammy melodramatics whatsoever. Walthall is exceptional in the lead – particularly in how he conveys his character's guilt while the young burglar is being interrogated. Griffith here isolates him in his own frame in contrast to the busier shot we have just seen. Harry Carey gives fine support as the older crook, and there's also a brief appearance by the sisters Gish.

As with a many of these rather bizarrely plotted pieces lamenting social evils, The Burglar's Dilemma doesn't really work because the story hinges on a massive coincidence. It lacks the necessary "it-could-happen-to-anyone" factor. Still it is at least well made and mildly entertaining even if not absolutely engrossing.

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Short | Drama

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