The Lonely Villa (1909)
Director: D. W. Griffith
Cast: David Miles, Marion Leonard, Mary Pickford
Synopsis: A gang of thieves lure a man out of his home so that they can rob it and threaten his wife and children.
As with many of Griffith’s films from this period, The Lonely Villa spends very little time establishing a time and location. We see an idealised version of the American family – mother, father and four daughters – bidding goodnight to their maid and butler (who’ve obviously got a little thing going on there) before the father receives a message delivered by one of a gang of ne’er-do-wells lurking outside the house. The message is fake, designed to lure him away from the house so that they can get their hands on the family valuables, and a thrilling race against time ensues as father rushes back with the police to apprehend the villains.
Like the majority of suspense films, this one plays on the audience’s fears by inviting it to place itself in the position of the besieged family. Griffith’s films were immensely popular, and it’s easy to see a turn-of-the-century audience being swept up in what is a rather simple scenario by today’s standards. One of the daughters in peril is a young Mary Pickford, while one of the villains is played by Owen Moore, who would soon become her husband.
(Reviewed 10th January 2010)