The Sealed Room is an eleven-minute American film released in 1909. Directed by D.W. Griffith, the film’s cast included Arthur V. Johnson, Marion Leonard, Henry B. Walthall, Mary Pickford, and Mack Sennett.
The film was also known as The Sealed Door. The plot, by screenwriter Frank E. Woods, is based on the works of Edgar Allen Poe and Honoré de Balzac.
Sticking to a template largely nicked from Poe’s tale The Cask of Amontillado (as well as de Balzac’s La Grande Bretèche), we find a 16th Century castle in which a rather foppish King (he could possibly be a Count but either way he’s played by Arthur V. Johnson, wearing a wig and eye makeup) and his court gathered to the unveiling of a dovecote he has made for him and his beloved to spend private moments… doing private things.
The lady in question (played by Marion Leonard), unbeknown to the King, has a wandering eye and has the hots for court minstrel (Henry B. Walthall, later to appear in the lost classic London After Midnight), who is happy to reciprocate.
With the king’s back turned, the dodgy duo takes no time at all to get cosy in the love nest, sadly making too much noise to remain undetected. The maddened king quickly decides that such a wicked deed requires an appropriate punishment and instructs his men to seal the lovers in the room, undetected.
When the canoodling ends, the pair soon learns they are trapped and after a quick round of ‘this is all your fault!’ die through lack of oxygen, whilst the king laughs on the other side of the wall.
With a static camera for the scenes showing the various members of the castle’s staff residents, it’s fun to see twenty people frantically trying to squeeze themselves into the shot. Those afraid of overly melodramatic acting should take medication well in advance of watching, there is more hanky-waving and flouncing here to fell a hippo.
Beyond the makeup and outfits, there really aren’t many laughs here, the ending being rather alarmingly downbeat, though you can’t argue that the masons did a terrific job sealing the room in such a short time. Johnson steals the show, by turns hilarious and sinister.
Also along for the ride as background characters are Mary Pickford who enjoyed a terrifically long career as an actress and was one of the biggest stars of the silent era. She later went on to form the production company United Artists, along with Griffith, Charlie Chaplin, and Douglas Fairbanks.
Daz Lawrence, MOVIES and MANIA