Judith of Bethulia (1913) was D. W. Griffith’s first feature-length film. Griffith devoted extraordinary energy and attention to its making. Indeed, he broke irrevocably with the Biograph management, for whom he had directed over five hundred short films, by his refusal to shorten it or to release it as two separate two-reelers. The last film of Griffith’s long and productive association with Biograph, it remained, in his own estimation, one of his very best films.
Everything points to the conclusion that Judith of Bethulia is a key film in Griffith’s career. Indeed, it is a film of considerable compositional complexity, thematic directness, and cinematic artistry. In addition, it highlights a fundamental strain in Griffith’s filmmaking, perhaps carrying it to the furthest extreme of any of his films. Thus, Judith of Bethulia helps provide a perspective on Griffith’s work as a whole. Yet the film has received virtually no critical attention. (William Rothman)