The Lonely Villa (D.W. Griffith, 1909, USA)

The Lonely Villa is an early Biograph short from director D.W. Griffith. Before Griffith went onto fame and infamy, he was just another director working for Thomas Edison in New Jersey. There is much debate over the originality of cinematic techniques during this time, as plagiarism was rampant and directors were constantly copying each other. The Lonely Villa was based on a French stage play. Griffith's film is notable for its dynamic use of cross-cutting between the action. Cross-cutting had been used before, but there are some very exceptional moments in The Lonely Villa that make it stand out. Also notable for this short film is the level of talent involved. The script is attributed to Mack Sennett, the silent film pioneer who invented the Keystone Cops. And in the role of the daughter of the family, we have a young Mary Pickford. Pickford starred in over 50 films with Biograph in 1909, making her known as the "Biograph Girl." She would go on to become perhaps the most popular silent film star of the 1910s.

The Lonely Villa is the first home invasion thriller. A group of burglars watch a rich man leave his house, leaving his wife and daughters. The burglars break-in and the wife tries to block them from entering while calling her husband. Her husband gets the call and manages to run back to the house with a gang and stop the invasion. While the "damsel in distress" trope has not aged particularly well, the execution is done well. The film is notable for its editing, in particular the moment where Griffith cuts between the wife on the phone, the husband on the phone, and the robbers cutting the phone line. Overall, The Lonely Villa is worth a watch for fans of silent cinema, and those who want to see how cinema developed.



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