The Avenging Conscience or THOU SHALT NOT KILL

The Avenging Conscience or THOU SHALT NOT KILL

The Avenging Conscience was directed by D.W. Griffith in 1914. It is 50 minutes long, a step in Griffith’s progressive move into feature films. His next film was to me his controversial masterpiece, Birth of a Nation. This film is based on writings of Edgar Allen Poe, it is Victorian and sentimental but it is also quite visual. Rather than be a spoiler I will let the story tell itself. I have added music and sound effects, and I may have gone a bit overboard myself as you will see if you watch it. As for the black rectangle at the bottom of the screen, someone had acquired this definitely public domain film and added their own trademark to the print. I covered this over. I hope that disrespect for a piece of film history does not annoy you as much as it annoyed me.

The Avenging Conscience: or “Thou Shalt Not Kill” (1914) is a drama film directed by D. W. Griffith.< name=”silentera”></> The film is based on the Edgar Allan Poe short story “The Tell-Tale Heart” and the poem “Annabel Lee”.


A young man (Henry B. Walthall) falls in love with a beautiful woman (Blanche Sweet), but is prevented by his uncle (Spottiswoode Aitken) from pursuing her. Tormented by vision (spirituality) of death and suffering and deciding that murder is the way of things, the young man kills his uncle and builds a wall to hide the body.
The young man’s torment continues, this time caused by guilt over murdering his uncle, and he becomes sensitive to slight noises, like the tapping of a shoe or the crying of a bird. The ghost of his uncle begins appearing to him and, as he gradually loses his grip on reality, the police figure out what he has done and chase him down. In the ending sequence, we learn that the experience was all a dream and that his uncle is really alive.


File: Blanche Sweet in The Avenging Conscience.jpg

  • Henry B. Walthall as The nephew
  • Blanche Sweet as His sweetheart
  • Spottiswoode Aitken as The uncle
  • George Siegmann as The Italian
  • Ralph Lewis (actor) as The detective
  • Mae Marsh as The maid
  • Robert Harron as The grocery boy
  • George Beranger

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *