Abraham Lincoln


Action / Biography / Drama / History / War


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December 21, 2013 at 09:17 AM



Walter Huston as Abraham Lincoln
Jason Robards Sr. as Herndon
Una Merkel as Ann Rutledge
Robert Keith as Union Courier
754.41 MB
23.976 fps
1hr 30 min
P/S 2 / 2

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by mstomaso 4 / 10

"A nightmare of the mind and nerves" indeed, for Griffith and us!

Famous silent film director D. W. Griffiths gave us this plodding straightforward historical biopic of the sixteenth president of the United States. As one of Griffiths' few attempts at 'talkies', Abraham Lincoln is by no means outstanding. Like other films of the period, some of the actors (especially Ian Keith as J.W. Booth and Walter Huston as Lincoln) overact their gestures and facial expressions. While others overcompensate for the new medium and seem to play their roles too subtly (Una Merkel's Ann Rutledge).

The film tells the story of Lincoln's rise from humble roots to become one of the most accomplished American orators of all time, while retaining the plain-spoken character that endeared him to the nation. The film uses an appreciative tone, and does not fairly represent Lincoln's considerable political acumen and the very calculated campaign strategies which put him in office. Instead, Griffiths chose to present Lincoln as the good, but somewhat melancholic president we know him to have been.

The story is told in a series of vignettes depicted in scenes of about equal length - probably a limitation of the film technology available at the time. This mode of presentation does nothing to reduce the boredom factor. Most of the lines are pronounced very clearly with lengthy unnatural pauses between each line. Clearly, Griffiths was a little uncomfortable in the new sound medium and did not wish to experiment a great deal with it. The film picks up a bit as the civil war becomes its main focus. And some of the battle scenes are classic Griffiths' near-silent cinematography. However, even this is somewhat muted by the scenes of the president brooding over the dispatches he receives from his generals describing defeat after defeat.

Recommended for early film buffs and young Lincoln afficionados only

Reviewed by George R. Willeman 8 / 10

D.W. Griffith's last hurrah: a tribute to Abraham Lincoln

This film was to be D.W. Griffith's big comeback production, and it did very well for "the old master." In fact, it was chosen as number two of the Ten Best Pictures of 1930 by The Film Daily, just below "All Quiet On The Western Front!" Sadly, due to the horrible condition of the available prints of this film, no really fair analysis can be made today. As with so many early talkies, Abraham Lincoln is now a sickly shadow of what it was in 1930. To begin with, it's original running time is listed at approximately 96 minutes. The version presented on Laserdisc runs 83 minutes.The film shows signs of wear and duping. The soundtrack is horribly distorted and, in several scenes, seems to be missing totally, replaced by terrible music from a stock library. Even so, if one can look past these things and take the acting style in the context of its time, one can see that Griffith had not lost his flair and would have probably continued directing had the fates (and probably Hollywood) not conspired against him. There are wonderful cinematic moments, reminiscent of some of his earlier triumphs. This is a film that cries out for restoration but, alas, there is most likely little or nothing left to restore. UPDATE: In 2008, KINO International released a DVD version of Abraham Lincoln that is far more complete than the old Laserdisc I reviewed from in 1998. While some soundtrack from the Prologue is still missing, KINO has made up for it by adding subtitles for the missing dialogue. Also, the picture quality is far superior to anything else available. It is evident that much effort went into making this forgotten film much more watchable and available!

Reviewed by zpzjones 5 / 10

Griffith showed a new maturity for sound

This being a presidential election year made me curious about this early talkie. I had seen it before but it's been a while and so I wanted to actually go through a diagnosis of the movie itself. So I dragged out an old A&E VHS made copy. Griffith had tackled the Booth assassination of Lincoln before in the silent Birth of A Nation. Here he did it in sound and Ian Keith is great as John Wilkes Booth: "S-I-C T-E-M-P-E-R T-Y-R-A-N-N-I-S... As he yells after he shoots Lincoln at Ford's theatre and jumps onto the stage. And Walter Huston is much more Lincolnesque than Henry Fonda would be ten years later. Also the scene where Lincoln & U.S. Grant are conversating over cigars was kind of priceless. Una Merkel is compelling in an early film performance as Lincoln's first wife Ann Rutledge.

This was Griffith's first sound film and he shows a somewhat uneasiness with the new medium but what director didn't in 1930. Griffith faired better than most. If you can look past the oldness of the film you'll see that this is pretty much a straight forward & accurate & well made(by 1930 standards) telling of the events of Lincoln's life. The sort of way Masterpiece Theatre would later tell stories episodically over many hours decades later. Griffith shows an aptitude for shooting that had already happened in the late silents of Hollywood. He makes quality use of the moving camera. Roving in and out of some scenes. The shot where the soldiers are fighting in trenches during the Civil War are similar to the same kind of shot Lewis Milestone did in All's Quiet On the Western Front which also came out in 1930. But even both of these films hark back to Griffith's own scene in Birth of A Nation where the South is battling the North and the Colonel jumps out of the trench to stoke a cannon.

This was not Griffith's first experiment with sound. He had shot some experimental dialogue scenes for his 1921 feature Dream Street. A short 1921 intro to Dream Street with Griffith talking up the film still exists as well as a 1930 sitdown interview with Huston promo-ing Abraham Lincoln. But Abraham Lincoln showed a 'newer' Griffith. Moving away from the static camera of which he was famous and adopting a more fluid style which was recently introduced by some German directors. Griffith even this late still liked old fashioned 19th century melodrama stories. Lincoln's life story is certainly a subject he could sink his teeth into. He had done bits and parts of Lincoln's life before particularly the Ford's Theatre scene in BoAN. Abraham Lincoln is Not necessarily a great film nor the best of 1930 but a very interesting foray into sound by a great film pioneer and like mentioned before a lot of the Lincoln life is covered quite surprisingly well.

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