Cinema Lumiere - Sala Officinema/Mastroianni > 10:15


Reginald Barker
Piano accompaniment by

Neil Brand




Triangle Motion Picture Company, con- sisting of the three independent production units Kay-Bee, Fine Arts and Key- stone, was formed in 1915 by Thomas H. Ince, David W. Griffith and Mack Sennett. Ince at that point was already one of the most powerful figures in the US film business, and maybe the first great producer; he employed talented and profitable actors and directors, among them William S. Hart, Frank Borzage and Reginald Barker, and kept more than a fair share of the profit and credit for himself. The result was that Reginald Barker, who in 1915 directed such films as The Italian, The Despoiler and The Coward, never got the reputation he deserves.
The Despoiler, a visually brilliant and well-acted film starring Enid Markey and Frank Keenan, is flawed by the same paranoid racism as the two canonical US productions of the same year, Birth of a Nation and The Cheat. It was considered lost until a print of the French release version from 1917, titled Châti- ment, was found and restored in 2010 by the Cinémathèque française. Accord- ing to the restoration report by Clarissa Brochti and Loïc Arteaga, supervised by restorer Camille Blot-Wellens, the French release version was slightly shorter than the original (1405 metres as compared to 1738), and the content had been changed, profoundly, by means of rewrit- ten intertitles. Thus the setting, original- ly in a vague kingdom named Balkania, has become, as we read in the first title card, “the border region of Turkey and Armenia”. The French officer named Damien who sends hordes of Orientals to attack a town called Tournaisse has been rebaptized Von Werfel and appears now to be a German officer setting his Kurdish allies against the Armenian town of Kerouassi. There is no doubt about the purpose of this transformation – to link the film to the massacres of Armenians, Assyrians and Greeks in Turkey, and to make anti-German propaganda. Marc Vernet points out that the 1915 version might have already been anti-German, metaphorically depicting the ‘Rape of Belgium’ (with Damien, Tournai-sse as hints) in the first months of the War; in addition, the 1917 version was probably produced in the US, not France, as a re-release preparing audiences for entry into the conflict.

Mariann Lewinsky


Friday 03/07/2015


Original version with simultaneous translation through headphones


Cast and Credits

Prod.: Kay-Bee · 35mm. L.: 1246 m. (incompleto, l. orig.: 1738 m). D.: 60’ a 18 f/s. Col.


Year: 1915
Country: Francia
Running time: 10'
Film Version

French intertitles