Thursday, July 05, 2007

"The Great Train Robbery" (1903)

At twelve minutes this is a short movie. It was somewhat of a benchmark at the time as it used techniques like cross-cutting, camera movement, on location shooting and double exposure composite ending. Sounds technical right?

Cross-cutting is an editing technique where the camera cuts away from one action to another. It helps to weave two scenes together. It's also known as intercutting. Camera movement and on location shooting is pretty self-explanatory.

A double exposure composite ending is, well that one eluded me. But a double exposure is overlaying two images on the same piece of film though I don't think that's what I saw at the end of the movie. If there's anyone who can help me out with this it would be much appreciated.

As you might guess from the title this film is about a Train Robbery. While it may seem short and silly to us, this was filmed over 100 years ago. Whenever I watch old movies I try to see them in the spirit of the times they were created in.

The Good: This film is known for its ending, which was sometimes placed at the beginning of the film. Personally I think the piece works better at the end. Apparently, when it was first shown various people screamed and fainted. Why these people couldn't remember they were watching a film I don't know. But you'll have to watch it to see what I'm talking about.

The Bad: It's hard to know what's going on at times because this is a silent movie. I actually had to look up a summary for this movie to understand the beginning. Most likly though, the movie would have had live accompaniment with an organ or piano played by a theatre employee.

The Ugly The wild flailing actions of the actors is hilarious. I understand the exaggeration was to communicate to the audience but honestly, watching the messenger and the man who breaks away from the crowd was like wathing a five year old play Hamlet with extreme gusto. And why would you have the train car's door open when you're trying to protect a safe? Most likely it was to show the audience that this scene was taking place on a train but come on, stop being lazy and cut a darn window for us to see that.

There was an actual Great Train Robbery that took place in 1963 where 2.6 million pounds were stolen. There was also a movie "The First Great Train Robbery" made in 1979 with Sean Connery and directed by Michael Crichton. I haven't seen it so I can't do a comparison.

But as for the 1903 version, it's an okay movie and for silent films I personally like adding my own dialogue to spice things up. I'd recommend watching it just for the laughs and the end scene.

Rating: 2/5

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