Saturday, October 03, 2015


(? - NO?, c. 1910). D: ?; DCP, 4'57", col. (pochoir/stencil-colouring); no titles.
    Le Giornate del Cinema Muto (GCM), Pordenone.
    Viewed at Teatro Verdi (restored early colour films from Norway), grand piano: John Sweeney, 3 Oct 2015

Tina Anckarman (GCM catalog and website): "Six segments of a “big cat” taming act, performed in a large cage outdoors. At the end of each segment of his act, the tamer lifts his hat and bows to an unseen audience off-camera. Heinrich Lühr Heinrichsen, whom originally came from the Danish part of Schleswig-Holstein, was a Norwegian animal tamer known professionally as Tiger Henriksen. He was born in in 1880 and started pursuing a career as an animal tamer as a 12-year-old. His aim was always to become an experienced wild-animal tamer; he started by training white mice and rats to do tricks. As a young adult he travelled in Europe and Russia, with ponies, dogs, and polar bears. He tried to mix different wild animals, but finding it impossible to get them to perform together, he ended up specializing in training tigers. In literature about circus history one can read about his most famous tiger, Caesar, an enormous beast who killed several male tigers and scared many tamers before the fearless Henriksen was asked to train him. But Henriksen was never fully in charge: every performance was a hard fight for power, and on several occasions Henriksen had to get medical treatment after a show. There are many stories about Henriksen’s escapades. According to one from Marseille, he is supposed to have helped the police to kill a ferocious tiger on the loose who had killed a couple of citizens. For this Henriksen was rewarded by the President of France and given the French gallantry medal."

"Henriksen has been compared to world-famous animal tamers like Clyde Beatty, Richard Sawade, and Alfred Court. In the 1920s he married a Norwegian woman, became a Norwegian citizen, and lived a quiet family life just outside Oslo, until his death in 1953. It is said that after his retirement his death was reported many times, and that he would not object, wanting to live a peaceful life." (Tina Anckarman)

AA: A wonderful straight record of the feats of the wild animal tamer. It is all photographed from an unchanging camera position in a long shot covering the entire large cage with Tiger Henriksen facing some ten tigers and lions. The movie is based on long takes but there are cuts between the six different numbers. Alone against the beasts Henriksen manages to uphold discipline with great effort. There are show numbers on a swinging board and jumping through a round rack. Henriksen uses whips and spears to keep the beasts at bay.

The original pochoir colour has been preserved (the pink shirt and the green pants of Henriksen).

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