Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Great Train Robbery (Walker. 1903)

“The Original and Only”

Though A Trip to the Moon is the oldest film on the 1077 Films to see Before You Die (1902), The Great Train Robbery is by far the most important. Why? One major reason is that is that it is the first ever American made feature film.

I do not say that as a prideful American, but as a lover of cinema. This is a film that showed American audiences that films can be made; it was the inspiration that jump started the building of movie theatres all across America. Also, the film served as a major stepping stone for makers of fiction film. Before this, most films had just been the recording people’s actions. The Great Train Robbery actually told a story. With a runtime of less than fifteen minutes, this is not a difficult film to get through. The Great Train Robbery is my next viewed film in the 1077 Films to See Before You Die.

Directed and photographed by a former Edison cameraman, Edison S. Walker, The Great Train Robbery should be looked at as an incredible achievement in early film. I mentioned that one of its merits was the American factor. Well, the other is the fact that the film was the first to represent the great American film genre, the Western. But this does not mean the film should be considered a Western.

When looked at from the viewpoint of a historian, the film is less of a fictional piece of entertainment and more a depiction of everyday life. Remember, this film was released in 1903. So it could have been easily looked at as a warning to bandits or even train passengers. No matter how you look at it, nobody can deny the short-film’s impact on American cinema.

With ridiculously impressive camera work and very memorable imagery, The Great Train Robbery has established itself and cemented its own legacy into the everyday American vernacular. This is one of the easiest films on the list to get through, and I recommend it to everyone. 5 films down with 1072 to go.

The Great Train Robbery: A

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