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.

6/10

1001 MYMSBYD selection

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Movie Review: A Trip to the Moon

I had the great privilege of seeing this and The General as part of a series at the Embassy for a class assignment and for free as my teacher gave an introduction before the showing. We even had an organist play the Grande Page organ for the ultimate experience.

Film narratives have to start somewhere. A trip to the moon is planned by a group of scholars. On the moon, they encounter snow, mushrooms, and aliens. They bring back an alien and are praised in the town for their efforts. The particular print that I saw was, according to research, a more complete print that features an unveiling of a statue.

The story is simple. The special effects, while obvious, were fascinating to audiences a century ago. Today, I find it fascinating as a record of the earliest of special effects. Sure, the events on the moon are absolutely laughable but back then, it was anybody’s guess as to what was really there.

When I went to see it back in February, I heard the reactions of the audience. They were mainly ones of awe and laughter, meaning that this short film still has the power to entertain audiences more than one century later. Of course, it’s more accessable on YouTube but if you have the chance to see this on film, GO!

8/10

1001 MYMSBYD selection