Fall of a Nation (1916)

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Part cautionary "preparedness" fable and part devastating, heavy-handed satire, The Fall of the Nation was the result of an unlikely alliance between Rev. Thomas A. Dixon, author of the book upon which Griffith's The Birth of a Nation was based, and composer Victor Herbert. An attack on muddle-headed pacifists, the film is motivated by the anti-war activities of the Honorable Plato Barker and Reverend A. Cuthbert Pike, thinly disguised caricatures of William Jennings Bryan and Henry Ford. Thanks to the combined efforts of Barker and Pike, America is totally unprepared for the invasion of the "European Confederated Army," headed by the Germans. Attempting to appease the invading army, Barker and Pike are hilariously humiliated, while on a more somber note the invaders begin rounding up and executing such "undesirables" as aged Civil War veterans and innocent children. In one of the more horrific sequences, American women are tortured, and a group of little kiddies have their hands cut off (an atrocity which presumably takes place off-screen). Democracy and the American Way are saved by a courageous pro-war congressman, who in concert with a patriotic suffragette (who'd been a pacifist in the early portions of the film) raises a civilian army to vanquish the usurpers. Decked out with an original Victor Herbert musical score, The Fall of a Nation certainly sounds fascinating, but unfortunately all that remains of the film is a series of tantalizing production stills, many of which were reproduced in the 1957 coffee-table volume The Movies.