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  • 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.
  • This was a pretty boring silent film short, one which the simple story moved slowly. It's hard to imagine a 15-18 minute movie dragging on, but that was the case here.

    It's a story of a "weakling" brother, as described in the title cards, who thinks he killed his big brother. As he leaves the room in a mild panic state, a burglar comes into the house and the weakling hides. Soon, he locks the crook in the room and races to get the police, blaming the supposed death of his brother on him!

    In the end, however, justice prevails and the sappy brothers is rehabilitated by his brother's forgiveness.

    I appreciate the nice story of forgiveness, but the ridiculous part of the story is that the brother - along with four cops later on - doesn't know the man is alive? He takes his pulse and listens to his heart...and still thinks he's dead?? The cops, too?? Come on! Surely, one of the five could hear a heartbeat or hear the man breathing.

    Lionel Barrymore plays the older brother (the forgiving one) and Henry B. Walthall is the "weakling." It's always kind of neat to see a younger Barrymore but overall, this D.W. Griffith picture was a bit of a disappointment.
  • Entertaining early film, directed by D.W. Griffith; "Representing the manipulation of the third degree - the fallacy of circumstantial evidence"! Herein, the third degree is issued to young burglar Robert Harron, who protests so loudly "I didn't do it!" you can almost hear him shout.

    The set-up is terrific: Weak brother Henry B. Walthall lives with older and stronger Lionel Barrymore. Meanwhile, burglar Harron is goaded by older crook Harry Carey to go out and rob somebody. He will go to rob Barrymore. BUT, before he gets there, a drunken Walthall has had enough of brother Barrymore, and pops him one. When Harron arrives to rob the place, Walthall decides to frame Harron for the murder of his brother. To wit, Walthall leaves Harron locked in the house, and runs for the police.

    So, Griffith sets out to prove what he calls, "The fallacy of circumstantial evidence." The film is a lot of fun - especially in the performances of Harron, Walthall, and Barrymore. The Gish sisters have a cameo. Note how Griffith sets up a parallel between the two sets of men. "The Burglar's Dilemma" ends a little too quickly, and gives away too much, but it's still excellent.

    ******** The Burglar's Dilemma (12/16/12) D.W. Griffith ~ Robert Harron, Henry B. Walthall, Lionel Barrymore
  • "The Burglar's Dilemma" is more preachy and contrived than a lot of Griffith's shorts, but it still shows many of his careful touches that make an otherwise implausible story worth watching. There is a lot of action and suspense, and a very good cast.

    Lionel Barrymore and Henry B. Walthall head up the cast, playing two brothers who have some tensions in their relationship. The story then sets up a very dramatic but equally improbable situation, in order to comment on their relationship and, by extension, to make some general points about the ways that human beings treat each other.

    This is one of a fair number of Griffith features in which he uses some strange or unlikely developments to make points that are, in themselves, perfectly good. It always seems a little odd, when watching such features, that he could not have thought of a more plausible way of making the same points - but, some of his ideas do make for interesting viewing.

    Overall, this film probably has just enough to be worth a look; it's just that it's a bit too heavy-handed to be considered as one of the era's or the director's better features.
  • If this picture is a story about a burglar, it isn't built in the best way; for it brings and keeps another character to the fore from the first. It labors under a poor title which is certainly a defect, for a name at the beginning of a picture directs the attention, it might almost be said, prepares the space in the mind which the picture is to fill. And if the offering fails to fill that space, there is almost sure to be a feeling of dissatisfaction. In this case, where the situation is neither very likely nor significant, the shortcoming is the more noticeable. It's a story of a man who was stunned and thought to be dead. His brother who had knocked him down, discovers a burglar in the house and contrives to have him caught and suspected of murder. This was the burglar's bad fix; it wasn't a true dilemma which is a choice between two bad fixes. The unconscious man comes to. It isn't up to the best Biograph pictures. - The Moving Picture World, December 28, 1912
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I always like seeing stars when they were younger and this film features a relatively young Lionel Barrymore as a nice guy who is hated by his jealous brother. The brother conks Lionel over the head and he appears to be dead. Fortunately for the bad brother, a robber climbs into the house just after this. The brother runs to get the cops--assuming he can blame the robber for the assault and get away with it! And, it sure looks like the hapless burglar is going to get in very serious trouble indeed--until Barrymore wakes up and tells the cops the burglar DIDN'T hurt him. Then, magnanimously, he forgives his crappy brother and they all live happily ever after. I would have loved it if then they would have had the brother try AGAIN to kill him, but that wouldn't have sat well with the audiences of the day.

    By the way, like in some other American Biograph shorts, this one his their "AB" logo on the wall of the home. Who would use this as part of their decorating scheme?!