The Despoiler (1915)

Genres - Drama, War  |  
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Movie mogul Thomas H. Ince may well have been the director of The Despoiler as indicated by the credits; but since Ince was known far and wide as a glory-hogger, it's also possible that one of his talented lieutenants wielded the megaphone. A Civil War drama, The Despoiler refuses to take sides, demonstrating that there are heroes and villains in both camps. Capturing a small town, Colonel Charles K. French orders his men to reclaim the funds raised for the enemy by the townsfolk. French's drunken, lacivious second-in-command Frank Keenan intends to extort money from the citizens by threatening the virtue of the town's female population. Enid Markey, the Colonel's daughter, is appalled by the behavior of the soldiers. Enid makes a deal with Keenan; if she'll give herself to him, he'll spare the other women. This done, Enid kills Keenan (shades of the Biblical Judith and Holofernes!) Not knowing the identity of Keenan's murderer, French orders that the girl be shot. Wearing a veil to disguise her identity, Enid bravely faces the firing squad. It seems like heavy, hard-hitting stuff, but remember that Thomas H. Ince's tragic endings were as much a cliché in 1915 as D. W. Griffith's last-minute rescues. Perhaps hoping to avoid a cookie-cutter climax, Ince adds a coda to The Despoiler, indicating that what we've just seen never really happened!




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