Shorts! I have discs and discs of shorts and rarely watch them. I’m awfully excited about the new blu-ray of avant-garde shorts from Flicker Alley, but how can I justify buying it when I’ve got a hundred shorts collections just sitting around unseen? Let’s watch some, shall we? And what better place to start than with a Kino collection called The Movies Begin?
The Great Train Robbery (1903, Edwin Porter)
Stunts, explosions, color, brutal murders, thievery, daring escapes – and dancing! Bandits rob the train of its lockbox loot and all its passengers of their wallets, then escape on horseback. Local bunch of ruffians is alerted to the crime and rides off to kill the perpetrators. All this in ten minutes – more economical than the Sean Connery remake.
One of the more famous shots (haha “shots”) in cinema:
Fire in a Burlesque Theater (1904)
Either this was ineptly framed or I’m seeing a cropped version, because there aren’t nearly enough burlesque dancers with smoke inhalation on display here.
Airy Fairy Lillian Tries On Her New Corsets (1905)
Hefty Jeffy helps her out… then faints. Was this a comedy?
From Show Girl to Burlesque Queen (1903)
A woman removes her costume – but the good part is done behind a screen. The title was better than the feature, making this the A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence of its time.
Troubles of a Manager of a Burlesque Show (1904)
Troubles because the women are angry at the crappy clothes he expects them to wear, and they flee and throw things when he tries to molest them.
The Whole Dam Family and the Dam Dog (1905, Edwin Porter)
So many lost films in history, and this dam thing survives. Hilarious title for a movie without any jokes in it, making this The Ridiculous Six of its time.
The Golden Beetle (1907, Segundo de Chomón)
Ornate, hand-colored, dangerous-looking Meliesian disappearing act. I think a man tries throwing a golden beetle in the fire, and she torments him with showers of sparks before burning him to death. This is great.
Rough Sea at Dover (1895, Birt Acres)
Two shots of the rough sea. Were any other 1895 movies more than one shot long?
Come Along Do! (1898, RW Paul)
Supposedly the first film to feature action carried over from one shot to the next. But I watched it twice, and it appears to be only one shot. Is there an invisible Birdman-like cut in there somewhere? Or did I get the descriptions of the previous two films mixed up? Anyway, two drinkers on a bench outside some mysterious establishment with an “Art Section” and “Refreshments” opt for the art section.
Extraordinary Cab Accident (1903, RW Paul)
Cabs being horse-drawn at the time, a guy stumbles into the street, is trampled to death, then mysteriously recovers and runs off. I’ve seen guys transformed via editing into scarecrow dummies then thrown off trains in The Great Train Robbery, but this one does a good job transforming the dummy back into a guy.
A Chess Dispute (1903, RW Paul)
There is a violent dispute over a game of chess. Mostly this dispute is waged just under the camera’s view, thrown punches and bottles and clothing flying up into frame.
Buy Your Own Cherries (1904, RW Paul)
Awful brute man causes a drunken scene at a bar, then another at his home, then after a quick visit to church he’s wonderful and generous. Extra long at four minutes. Paul also produced the great The ? Motorist, which I had credited to director Walter Booth.
The Miller and the Sweep (1898, GA Smith)
Just a silly half-minute fight/chase in front of an operating windmill. But it’s a really nice shot of the windmill.
Let Me Dream Again (1900, GA Smith)
Happy couple at a party wake up as grumpy old couple in bed… so the movie’s title is the punchline. Smith invented the pull out-of-focus to indicate shift from dream to reality.
Sick Kitten (1903, GA Smith)
Kino says Smith invented the POV shot, and the idea of breaking a scene down into shots from different angles, which he does here. Kids dressed as grownups feed a kitty from a spoon. As is true today, cat films were incredibly popular back then, so this is a remake of his 1901 cat film which had worn out from overduplication.
The Kiss in the Tunnel (1899, GA Smith)
Train goes into tunnel, GA Smith and wife have a quick smooth, train back out of tunnel.
The Kiss in the Tunnel (1899, Bamforth & Co)
A remake! Two different people kiss in a different tunnel (the train shot from different angles than Smith used), in a cabin with worse production design.
A Daring Daylight Burglary (1903, Frank Mottershaw)
Action thriller with multiple shots and locations, reminiscent of The Great Train Robbery. Kino says some plot action in the silent doesn’t make sense because the showman was supposed to provide benshi narration during the screening.
A Desperate Poaching Affray (1903, William Haggar)
Men with guns chase men with nets. Oh damn wait, the poachers have guns too, and blast at least three of the pursuers. Poaching was deadly serious business. Just a big chase scene, really.
Attack on a China Mission (1901, James Williamson)
A man’s house is attacked, he defends with rifle, then more groups keep arriving and I’m not sure what side they’re on. Kino says it’s a reenactment of the Boxer Uprising, which must have been a confusing uprising. Kino says JW was famous for moving action across multiple shots, mainly during chase films, which sounds like what everyone was famous for in 1901.
An Interesting Story (1905, James Williamson)
Mustache man pours coffee in his hat, injures the maid, wrecks some children’s fun, and keeps running into things because he won’t put down his book (just like kids today with their cellular telephones). Satisfying conclusion as he gets run over by a steamroller, but some passing bicyclists inflate him, using the ol’ dummy-replacement trick last seen in Extraordinary Cab Accident.
Electrocuting an Elephant (1903, Thomas Edison & Edwin S. Porter)
Never forget, no matter what his achievements in human history, Thomas Edison once electrocuted an elephant for fun and profit.