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Film / Suspense

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Suspense is a 1913 short film (ten minutes) directed by Lois Weber and Phillips Smalley.

As with most early short films the story is simple. There's a wife (Lois Weber), a baby, and a maid at home, while the husband (Phillips Smalley) is off in an office somewhere. The maid, not liking her position, quits immediately, without notice. As soon as the maid leaves, a scary-looking tramp arrives. The maid, on the way out, left the key under the front mat. He lets himself in, while the terrified wife calls her husband. The husband steals a car parked out front of his business, and goes off on a high-speed chase back home, the police following him for grand theft auto. Meanwhile, the hobo picks up a butcher knife in the kitchen and goes after the wife.

Some sources state that Lon Chaney was an extra in this film but that does not appear to be the case.

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Tropes:

  • Barrier-Busting Blow: The wife is cowering in the bedroom, while the hobo is outside trying to get in. How does he get in? He simply punches through the door, his hand wrapped up in a bandana.
  • The Cavalry: The husband, and the cops who were right on his tail chasing him for auto theft, arrive at the house just in the nick of time to save the wife from the hobo.
  • Cut Phone Lines: The wife is on the phone frantically telling her husband about the hobo getting in, when the hobo cuts the phone line.
    "Now he is in the—"
  • Daylight Horror: A tramp invades a woman's home in broad daylight, while she's alone with her baby.
  • Fainting: The wife faints at the climax as the hobo turns and runs, after hearing the sound of gunfire outside.
  • Hobos: A particularly scary one breaks into the wife's home while the husband is away.
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  • No Name Given: It's not quite a Nameless Narrative as the maid signs her note "Mamie". There are no names given for other areas.
  • Split Screen / Split-Screen Phone Call: Both are done in the same shot. This film is best remembered for a shot, used twice, that splits the screen into three triangles. In two of the triangles, the husband and wife are on the phone together as she makes her terrified call. The third triangle, on the right, shows the hobo breaking into the house. (The earliest known instance of Split-Screen Phone Call is 1912 film Canned Harmony.)
  • Take This Job and Shove It: The maid quits with "no notice", because, as she says in the note she leaves on the kitchen table, "No servant will stay in this lonesome place."
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