Movie Review: The Great Train Robbery


I first saw this short in an early Film as Art class as we covered the early days of cinema. This included some of the Lumiere Brothers shorts and A Trip to the Moon, albeit pixelated. I had a better view a few weeks ago when TCM started their huge celebration of film that will last until almost the end of the year and showed this and some other pieces.

We start off with two people holding a man at gunpoint in a train depot before being tied up. The robbers then hijack the train outside the station. People are killed as the robbers loot and plunder. The passengers are taken outside and reach for the sky. The bandits take what they can from the passengers and steam off on the train before stopping to travel on foot through the woods.

Meanwhile a girl, red-hooded in hand-colored prints, finds the poor man in the depot. A dance party is going on with actual dancing instead of whatever kids call it these days. The lawmen go off into the woods to find the stolen goods and an old-fashioned shootout takes place. Then, from the image above, we are then put in the crossfire as the film ends.

While A Trip to the Moon dealt with a fantasy narrative, this is more reality-based. The camera is still stationary as it tries to capture every moment in one take; it works when it shows the large amount of passengers that are robbed. While the ending with the gunman firing at the crowd seems tame today (or unsettling, given recent events involving theaters and such), it must have been terrifying to be in the theater when that came on, the same way people saw the train arriving in the station in a Lumiere Brothers short.

It’s only twelve minutes or so and an easy one to watch.


1001 MYMSBYD selection


One thought on “Movie Review: The Great Train Robbery

  1. Nice review.
    Yes, when the Lumiere Brothers film ‘The Train Arrives’ was shown in 1895, it being the first moving picture, people weren’t just terrified, but there was a stampede. (you most probably knew that) But that was because this was the first time they saw a moving picture, and they saw train coming towards them. So it was an obvious reaction. But I don’t think they would have been shocked by violence on screen. People have read violent books, news, and seen images of violence through art and photographs at the time (if not for real).
    I actually think people are more easily shocked today, at the slightest thing, than ever before.

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