Friday, October 10, 2008


The Holdup of the Rocky Mountain Express: From Leadville to Aspen
[a different title on print]. US 1906. PC: Biograph. D: ?. DP: G.W. Bitzer; orig. l: 569 ft. Print: MoMA, 223 ft /16 fps/ 10 min. No intertitles.
Eileen Bowser: "Biograph produced The Holdup of the Rocky Mountain Express for the short-lived Hale’s Tours, then in its peak summer. Produced in April and released in June, the film’s life in Hale’s Tours would be brief but the film continued to be popular in the nickelodeons. It is an exercise for the imagination, however, as one watches this film, to think what it might have been like to enter a theater built to imitate a railway car, pay a dime to the “conductor”, and hear the sounds and feel the vibrations of a train journey, as the experience unfolds. In addition to The Great Train Robbery and similar crime films, The Holdup of the Rocky Mountain Express draws on the popular phantom rides of an earlier period, in which the camera is mounted on the front of the train without the train being visible, the “unseen energy” of the film and the source of kinesthetic effects. There is an electric moment at the beginning when a man is running toward the camera to board the unseen train and the whole image slowly starts to move in the opposite direction, and, belatedly, we spectators realize we are on the train. Similarly, there is an unexpected shock when the train engineers, seen from a high angle, emerge from below the frame. The film also delights with some comic episodes, some unintentional, as when the fainting lady manages to preserve her hat." Eileen Bowser. - A mix of location footage and cardboard sets. Exciting parallel chase. Unpleasant racist element, as a black waiter is beaten.
The Silver Wedding
US 1906. PC: Biograph. D: ?. DP: F.A. Dobson. orig. l: 680 ft. Print: BFINA 478 ft /16 fps/ 8 min. No intertitles. Eileen Bowser: "(...)might have been inspired by Kaiser Wilhelm’s silver wedding anniversary celebrations in February 1906 and the gifts presented by heads of state on that occasion. Descriptions of silver wedding celebrations of the rich and famous appeared on the society pages and no doubt were studied by burglars. The crooks depicted (...) are con men who gain admittance to the party by dressing as an upper-class guest and a delivery man. When they are alone with the silver display, the shot is interrupted by a cut-in to a closer view of the burglars lifting the gifts from the table, and then returns to the long shot after a title. As far as we know from existing films, a close view inserted into the middle of a long shot, while rare, is more accepted in the Brighton period than it would be a few years later on, but we think it is used with a different purpose than in later cinema: the close view usually repeats the action of the long shot, or part of it, with the intent of lingering over the spectacle. [Here] the action seems to continue over the cut, but then slows while the burglars admire the silver and hold it up to view, at a time when one might expect them to be in a hurry. The climactic scene takes place in a sewer, with a dramatic fight between cops and robbers splashing about in the water, the participants moving from front to the rear in deep focus." Eileen Bowser. - A high contrast print. The excitement climaxes in the sewers. "Tengoku to jigoku!"

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