D.W. Griffith indulged his lifelong fascination with Edgar Allan Poe in this ambitious amalgam of the writer's poetry and prose: "Annabel Lee" and "The Tell-Tale Heart," flavored with shades of "The Pit and the Pendulum," "The Black Cat," and "The Conqueror Worm."
Poe's tales are interwoven in one tragedy-laden narrative of a young man (Henry B. Walthall) who yearns to escape from his overbearing, one-eyed uncle (Spottiswoode Aitken). After the nephew murders the ogre, he and his lover (Blanche Sweet) are wracked by guilt and tormented by nightmares, ghosts, and demonic entities that drive them to even more horrifying extremes.
Just as Poe cloaked his horrors in artful poetry and prose, so does Griffith filter the story's macabre elements through a Victorian lens, gilding it with quaint symbolism without diminishing its impact.
When asked, in 1925, to rank the cinema's greatest achievements, critic Gilbert Seldes called special attention to this film. "The picture was projected in a palpable atmosphere," he wrote in his book The Seven Lively Arts, "After ten years I recall dark masses and ghostly rays of light."
Nightmarish visions of ghouls and devils highlight this D.W. Griffith silent feature based around Edgar Allen Poe's "The Telltale Heart" and "Annabelle Lee." A young man (Henry B. Walthall) finds himself prevented from wooing the girl he loves (Blanche Sweet) due to the tyrannical edicts of his mean old uncle (Spottiswoode Aitken). The poor lad becomes haunted by a series of visions that convince him to murder this interfering relative. After the murder has been planned and executed, the man finds himself haunted by still more visions, this time of the fire and brimstone variety. An inquiring detective (Ralph Lewis) adds to the ever-mounting paranoia. Title cards flash verses from the Poe poem "Annabelle Lee." It's a very interesting and very early attempt at experimental narrative and horror from the great director, who is ably assisted by his famed cadre of players, including Mae Marsh and Robert Harron. Donald Crisp and Dorothy Gish also appear in bit parts.
Murder comes back to haunt the perpetrator in director D.W. Griffith's silent melodrama based loosely on Edgar Allen Poe's "The Telltale Heart," combined with elements of "The Pit and the Pendulum" and "Annabel Lee."