This collection of short Biograph dramas (and a comedy) directed by D.W. Griffith features selected films that were released from June through September 1910.
Muggsy’s First Sweetheart (1910) tests the resolve of a young suitor (Billy Quirk) for the hand of Mabel Brown (Mary Pickford). A mischievous father panics Billy with his prank, who in turn scandalizes the Uplift Committee.
A Flash of Light (1910) follows the plight of a young chemist (Charles West) who is abandoned by his wife after an accident damages his eyesight and hearing. Her older sister, who secretly loves the invalid husband, steadfastly cares for him.
An Arcadian Maid (1910) is Priscilla (Mary Pickford), a wandering girl who picks up farmhouse work. A smarmy peddlar (Mack Sennett), in debt from gambling losses, convinces Priscilla to steal the farmer’s money to run away together and be married.
The Usurer (1910) features George O. Nicholls as a heartless moneylender and landlord who has indebted tenants evicted while he lives the high life. An accident brings unexpected comeuppance. Intercutting of parallel storylines increases the irony of the tale.
The Sorrows of the Unfaithful (1910) casts Mary Pickford as a young fishing village sweetheart who is torn between childhood beau Henry B. Walthall and a new infatuation, with tragic results.
Wilful Peggy (1910) features Mary Pickford in a historical comedy-drama as a bipolar peasant spitfire who marries a rich lord, and causes trouble in society and for her impetuous nephew.
The Modern Prodigal (1910) is the story of an escaped convict who rescues a drowning boy but cannot save his own freedom. Guy Hedlund, George O. Nicholls and Jack Pickford star.
In Life’s Cycle (1910) features George O. Nicholls as a widower whose son and daughter go their separate ways, his son into the seminary and his daughter away with a beau stranger.
As can be witnessed from the films in this collection, by mid-1910 D.W. Griffith was nearly in full stride as a film director. While some films suffered in the one-reel format, with restrictive plotting and illogical continuity, others show signs of an emerging master at work, with psychological character motivation and parallel story crosscutting for dramatic effect. — Carl Bennett
Grapevine Video, no catalog number, UPC 8-42614-10350-6.
Full-frame 4:3 NTSC, one single-sided, single-layered DVD-R disc, Region 0, 3 Mbps average video bit rate, 384 kbps audio bit rate, Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, 9 chapter stops, standard DVD keepcase, $14.95
DVD release date: 18 June 2009.
Country of origin: USA
This compilation of D.W. Griffith short Biograph films has been mastered from 16mm reduction print materials that are generally good to very-good in quality.
Muggsy’s First Sweetheart (1910) has been mastered from a good 16mm reduction print that may have originated from the Library of Congress paper print collection. The source print is contrasty in some places and is soft in image detail throughout. The film is presented with a compiled music score performed on digital piano.
A Flash of Light (1910) has been mastered from a very-good 16mm reduction print that is quite jittery. This film is accompanied by a music score performed on electric organ.
An Arcadian Maid (1910) has been mastered from a very-good 16mm reduction print that features a broad range of greytones and comparatively sharp image details. One of the best-looking films in the collection, which is presented with a score performed on digital piano.
The House with Closed Shutters (1910) has been transferred at slightly faster-than-natural-speed from a very-good 16mm reduction print, that features a fairly balanced greyscale range but a few times loses picture details in highlights, leaving faces almost featurelessly white. The film is presented with an abruptly compiled music score performed on MIDI-based digital piano.
The Usurer (1910) is presented from a good 16mm reduction print that is contrasty and soft in image detail. The full-frame video transfer is cropped a little tighter than other home video editions. The film is accompanied by a compiled score of theater organ recordings.
The Sorrows of the Unfaithful (1910) has been mastered from a good 16mm reduction print that is contrasty and shows some signs of decomposition in the original source print. The film is presented with a score performed on digital piano.
Wilful Peggy (1910) is presented from a very-good 16mm reduction print that is a little jittery. The film is presented with a score performed on digital piano.
The Modern Prodigal (1910) has been mastered from a 16mm reduction print that is soft in image detail throughout. The framing is cropped so tight that Kate Bruce disappears off the right side of the picture in a crucial scene late in the film. The film is presented with a score performed on digital piano.
In Life’s Cycle (1910) is presented from a good 16mm reduction print that is dark in places, with fluctuating frame exposures, and is persistently jittery. The film is presented with a score performed on digital piano.
The MIDI-based digital piano scores prevalent in this collection are a far cry better than the audio conflations of preexisting recordings of varying quality that were previously presented in Grapevine home video products. The higher audio quality makes the music augment the film’s action rather than letting an inconsistent audio track distract the viewer.
While the source prints are generally not great, the video transfers are improved over previous home video editions of some of these films. The films could have looked even better if not for the coarse video compression necessary to fit a nearly two-hour program onto a single-layered DVD-R. The collection is recommended until better editions of those films that are only available on home video here are released elsewhere.