Wednesday, 10 October 2012

The Great Train Robbery (1903)

The Great Train Robbery by Edwin Porter
Running Time: 11 Minutes (18FPS)
Silent Film
B&W (With Hand Colouring)

The Great Train Robbery is the second film created by Edwin Porter. This work is known to be an expansion of Life of an American Fireman. The film follows two bandits who force an operator to tell the engineer to fill up the train's tank before knocking him unconscious. The bandits force their way onto the train, killing a messenger and opening a box full of valuables (with dynamite). The passengers are forced off the train and their belongings are taken by the bandits and escape - whilst back at the office, the daughter of the operator enters the room and wakes him up. The operator then gathers a group of men who follow the bandits - and when they catch up, have a 'shootout' and kill all the bandits.

For some reason, I didn't really enjoy this film as much as Life of an American Fireman. The film used a range of long shots, minus the end scene, where you see the leader of the bandits (played by Justus D. Barnes) Mid-Shot, Straight Shot, firing a point blank towards the camera. This was placed at the end and I wasn't really sure as to why. I found this film a little confusing in that sense.

I also noticed the use of colour was to demonstrate the shots from the guns, the dynamites and other dangerous objects, but why was the woman's dress yellow? and the other slightly purple? Some of this is left slightly unclear to me, unless it was mainly just experimenting with colour within film.

Even though these were early films, I did notice some mistakes within the work. For example, when the bandits are robbing the train and drive away with the engine, it's on the right rail-track, and when they stop to proceed on horseback, it magically moves to the left:

Overall, I liked the idea of the film, however I did, in my opinion, find it a little boring. The use of colour confused me at times, because, for the explosives I understood what it represented, however I didn't understand the colour of the women's clothes and the banners.

(Also, the not-so-amazing dummy being thrown off the train roof was very easily noticed by myself)

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