DW Griffith: Monumental Epics

  |  Buy to Own: 24/06/2002
  |  704 min
Rated TBC by the BBFC
DW Griffith: Monumental Epics Film Poster


Five film box set focusing on the work of legendary pioneer D.W. Griffith. 'The Birth of a Nation' (1915), Griffith's epic account of the American Civil War and its aftermath, is both celebrated as a landmark achievement in the development of film form and reviled for its racist characterisations and affirmation of the Ku Klux Klan. It tells the story of two families, the Stonemans from the North and the Camerons from the South, and the way in which they are both caught up in the turmoil which befalls a sleepy Southern town when Northern Abolitionists threaten to outlaw the slave trade which has existed there for years. Things go from bad to worse when Ben Cameron's little sister dies at the hands of Gus, a black farmhand, and Ben dons a Ku Klux Klan mask both to avenge her death and to come to the rescue of his girlfriend (Lillian Gish), who has been kidnapped by a corrupt mixed-race governor. In 'Intolerance' (1916) Griffith looks at the place of intolerance in human history. Set in four distinct periods - ancient Babylon, Judea at the time of Christ, France during the build up to the St Bartholomew's Day massacre, and early 20th century America - its huge cast and elaborate sets made it one of the most expensive and ambitious films of its time. Highlights include the scenes of the Babylonian festival and Constance Talmadge's madcap luminous performance as the Mountain Girl. The melodrama 'Broken Blossoms' (1919) concerns Cheng Huan, a Chinese shopkeeper living in London's Limehouse, who becomes involved in protecting young Lucy Burrows (Gish again) from her violent and xenophobic father. When Cheng then falls in love with Lucy, and when her father discovers her whereabouts, it quickly leads to tragedy. In 'Way Down East' (1920) poverty-stricken Anna Moore (Gish) goes to the big city to seek help but instead has a fateful meeting with the bounder Lennox Sanderson (Lowell Sherman), who fakes a marriage ceremony, gets her pregnant, and then abandons her. Destitute and unloved, Anna finds work in the home of Squire Bartlett and soon warms to a romance with his handsome son David (Richard Barthelmess). But will this new beginning be ruined when the news of her sordid and unfortunate past catches up with her? Features the celebrated final scene in which David rushes over breaking ice in an attempt to save the helpless Anna as she is drawn ever closer to edge of a huge waterfall. Finally, 'Abraham Lincoln' (1930), one of Griffith's handful of sound films, stars Walter Huston as the famous American President. Chronicling Lincoln's life from his birth and childhood through to his assassination, it places most emphasis on the years of the Civil War. Also starring Una Merkel as Ann Rutledge.