Categories
This Film Is More Than 100 Years Old

Preston Egg Rolling (1901)

Preston Egg Rolling is a short snippet of documentary film by Mitchell and Kenyon, recording an Easter egg rolling fair, in Avenham Park in Preston, in 1901.

It doesn’t actually contain much egg rolling action (there’s a brief egg roll at about a minute in), everyone being much more interested in the film camera than the sheer mundanity of rolling an egg down the very slightest of hills.

It does contain some pretty brilliant children and babies, however, including the group photo below, and an excellently stubborn baby in a pram who resolutely refuses to hold up her egg for the camera. That child is my hero.

And that was Easter, in Preston, in 1901.

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Notes

1. I watched this on the BFI site again

2. Which is where all my information has been gleaned from too

3. I have very little else to add

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Film Information

Title: Preston Egg Rolling
Directors: Sagar Mitchell; James Kenyon
Year: 1901
Duration: 3 minutes
Watch: BFI Player; youtube

Categories
This Film Is 100 Years Old

Elsie And The Brown Bunny (1921)

Elsie And The Brown Bunny is an 8-minute advert for Cadbury from 1921, which slightly surprisingly combines two of my favourite things – Alice In Wonderland and documentary footage of industrial processes.

The first half of this is an Alice In Wonderland parody, with Elsie eating chocolates and daydreaming of bunny rabbits. She chases the slightly terrifying brown bunny down a hole. In thanks, he ferries her across the river to the industrial wonderland of a chocolate factory (which I like to think is perhaps an allusion to Orpheus’s descent into hell. Don’t look back, Elsie!).

Inside, Elsie gets a tour of the factory, looking at everything with the same baffling joy that presumably I exhibit while watching all this footage of conveyor belts and production lines and warehouses full of boxes neatly piled in endless rows.

At the end, things take a dystopian turn. The brown bunny shows Elsie the men’s and the women’s recreational areas. The men are all playing cricket and tennis in startling factory fresh whites, all smiles and laughter; the women are dressed in black, dancing and marching in unison in a tiny walled square, trapped in glorious worship to the great god of chocolate himself (a humanoid bunny rabbit).

Elsie, having looked back, wakes to a bunnyless world.

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Notes

1. I watched this over at the BFI site again.

2. It was only now, while watching this, that I realised Bournville was spelt Bournville and not Bourneville

3. Although as they probably haven’t included a Bournville chocolate in anything for 20 years now I can forgive myself this mistake.

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Film Information

Title: Elsie And The Brown Bunny
Year: 1921
Duration: 8 minutes
Watch: BFI Player; youtube

Categories
This Film Is 100 Years Old

Tai-ani: The West Gate (1921) / Foo-chow, China (1921) / River Scenery China (1921)

Tai-ani: The West Gate, Foo-chow, China, and River Scenery China are all hundred year old, one minute long, slices of real life from various places in China. Tai-ani: The West Gate and Foo-chow, China are both street scenes, while River Scenery China is footage from a busy river front somewhere. There’s not a lot of information to go with these, unfortunately, with the locations of the first and last one seemingly unknown, although the second one is, as the title suggest, from Fuzhou, but they’re still captivating (to my eye, at least).

It’s nice having the two different camera angles in the two street scenes, as each one provides a nicely different perspective on the events (or non-events) shown. The elevated perspective in the Foo-chow footage, especially, makes it feel like I’m idly watching this out my window while drinking tea/smoking/waiting for a delivery to arrive (delete as appropriate for current procrastination scenarios).

Both of those also feature the near universal constant in these sorts of films of various bystanders unapologetically and unselfconsciously watching the camera, which is another thing I always really like. (Nowadays all you get is studied indifference or reflexive performance).

This camera watching is mostly absent in the river scene, sadly, although there’s a bit of it halfway through. Maybe they’re too busy working to stare.

Or maybe they’re just watching the boats, because they’re beautiful.

I could look at them all day.

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Notes

1. I watched all these on the BFI Player, as usual: Tai-ani: The West Gate; Foo-chow, China; River Scenery China.

2. As I’ve said, I really like minute long shots of anything, pretty much.

3. Somehow, I doubt anyone will be watching any of mine a hundred years from now, though.

4. Unless for some reason my account on youtube is the only surviving artefact of our mysteriously lost civilisation.

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Film Information

Title: Tai-ani: The West Gate
Year: 1921
Duration: 1 minute
Watch: BFI Player

Title:
Year: 1921
Duration: 1
Watch: BFI Player

Title: River Scenery, China
Year: 1921
Duration: 1 minute
Watch: BFI Player

Categories
This Film Is 100 Years Old

Der Fliegende Koffer (1921)

Der Fliegende Koffer (The Flying Suitcase) is another lovely Lotte Reiniger papercut animation, telling the fairy tale story of a princess imprisoned by her father in a tower to prevent a prophesied curse, only for her imprisonment to be the cause of that curse (this is why time travel is bad).

Anyway, the moral of the story is never imprison your daughter in a tower.

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Notes

1. I watched this on Blu-ray (it’s an extra on the Adventures Of Prince Ahmed video).

2. But got the images from this version on youtube.

3. The disc version is music-less, if that makes any difference.

4. But I think I preferred it that way.

5. Another Lotte Reiniger film, Das Ornament des verliebten Herzens, was the very first thing I ever reviewed on here.

6. Which is nice.

7. I would have reviewed more if I could find any trace of the ones she’s supposed to have made in 1920

8. But I couldn’t, unfortunately.

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Film Information

Title: Der Fliegende Koffer/The Flying Coffer/The Flying Suitcase
Director: Lotte Reiniger
Year: 1921
Duration: 8 minutes
Watch: youtube

Categories
This Christmas Is 100 Years Old

Christmas Day Sports at Rhyl (1920)

Here’s two minutes of a Christmas Day hockey match, from exactly 100 years ago, in Wales.

I like the hats, and the general easy cheerfulness of everyone involved, and the air guitar using hockey sticks, and everyone smoking, even while playing sports, which has always been one of my favourite things

And the idea that human contact was once allowed is surprisingly moving these days after all.

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Notes

1. I watched this on the BFI Player

2. (Note how there’s NO SNOW)

3. Or even seemingly any winter coats.

4. Also this is the second 100 year old film from Rhyl I’ve watched this year (see also the terrifying Mr. And Mrs. Jones Visit To Bracing Sunny Rhyl, North Wales, somewhere down that page.)

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Film Information

Title: Christmas Day Sports at Rhyl, 1920
Year: 1920
Runtime: 2 minutes
Watch: BFI Player

Categories
This Christmas Is 100 Years Old

Bataille De Neige (1897) / Boys Playing In Snow (1900)

Let’s watch some 19th century snowball fights for Christmas (as I continue to collude with the erroneous narrative that snow somehow has anything to do with Christmas at all).

The first is Bataille De Neige, directed by Louis Lumiere, and shot in 1897 in France. The second is Boys Playing In Snow, directed by I don’t actually know, and filmed in 1900 in Britain somewhere.

Now, I don’t know if France is a more genteel country than here, but the playful snowball fight in Bataille De Neige seems to lack the absolute vindictive spite of a good old fashioned British snowball fight, as captured perfectly/horrifyingly in Boys Playing In Snow, where one person is mercilessly targeted until they are dead.

And now I’ve remembered how glad I am that I’m not a child anymore, and also that it never ever snows.

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Notes

1. I watched Bataille De Neige on youtube (many other versions, including pointlessly colourised ones, are available).

2. And I watched Boys Playing In The Snow on the BFI Player.

3. Merry Christmas, I suppose.

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Film Information

Title: Bataille De Neige
Director: Louis Lumiere
Runtime: 1 minute
Year: 1897
Watch: youtube

Title: Boys Playing In Snow
Runtime: 1 minute
Year: 1900
Watch: BFI Player

Categories
This Film Is 100 Years Old

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920)

For some reason, 1920 seems to have been the unofficial year of Jekyll and Hyde, with this film, directed by John S. Robertson, and starring John Barrymore in the title role, one of four separate versions released over the course of the year (although there had been seven versions released prior to 1920, too, so maybe every year was the year of Jekyll and Hyde, to some extent, back then).

In this version, Dr. Jekyll is almost impossibly beautiful, his every expression one of such open kindness that, as he gets slowly sadder and more melancholy as the film progresses, his innocence slowly corrupted by his counterpart’s actions, it feels genuinely heartbreaking. Mr. Hyde, meanwhile, is a figure of leering menace and absolute malevolence, and the contrast between them is so great its almost impossible to remember, at times, that they’re both played by the same person.

And although John Barrymore’s portrayal of Hyde relies increasingly on his physical degeneracy into some sort of malign barely human goblin, the most impressive scene of the film is the initial transformation, where, through the simple power of acting (ACTING!), Jekyll’s beatific face contorts into Hyde’s malignant sneer.

The whole film, in fact, is stuffed full of classic horror images, though whether this film is the source of their the origin, or merely an early collation of such effective imagery, I don’t have the depth of knowledge to tell you. But I can at least show you a selection of stills, which should more than make up for my ignorance as a whole.

And though the film itself is slow at times (especially in the beginning), it is completely confident in its own direction, and also at times feels startlingly modern, such as in a flashback scene shown in sepia tinted hues, to indicate its age, in a black and white film, in 1920; or the unsettling surreality of a late nightmare, where a ghostly lobster (or possibly one of the microscopic mites Dr. Jekyll views under his microscope at the start, now grown to some monstrous size) climbs up onto the sleeping Jekyll’s bed and attacks him while he sleeps.

So yes, this is good. You should watch it.

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Notes

1. I watched this today on youtube.

2. Although I first saw it about 4 years ago at the Colchester Arts Centre, with a live soundtrack by Jason Frederick

3. Which can be bought here

4. If you’re so inclined.

5. (It’s worth it, because it’s great)

6. This doesn’t really have anything to do with anything, I suppose, but early on in this there’s this amazing interjection of unbroken cockney into the narrative, which left me wondering, once again, whether this addition of extra H’s, to make up for all the ones we drop, ever existed in actual spoken cockney, or was just a fabrication of the upper classes trying to mimic their speech (the 1950s book The Snow Goose is absolutely chock full of that sort of nonsense too, and that was definitely beyond the point where such a thing could ever have occurred, in so far as none of my relatives ever did such a thing, and they’d have been long alive by then).

7. The other three versions of Jekyll and Hyde from 1920 are: A satirical parody of this one, starring one of the Keystone Cops, and is now entirely lost; a version directed by J. Charles Haydon and starring Sheldon Lewis, that was released soon after this John Barrymore version, and was a huge failure (and although this version doesn’t appear to be actually lost, I failed to find a version online to watch for this article); and Der Janus-Kopf, a German adaptation directed by FW Murnau, starring Conrad Veidt (as both Jekyll and Hyde) and Bela Lugosi (as neither Jekyll nor Hyde).

8. That version is also entirely lost, which is heartbreaking, because presumably it was utterly perfect in every way.

9. I mean, just look at the poster

10. And then weep.
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Film Information

Title: Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde
Director: John S. Robertson
Year: 1920
Duration: 80 minutes
Watch: youtube

Categories
This Film Is More Than 100 Years Old

Falling Leaves (1912) / La Fee Aux Choux (1896/1900/1902)

Falling Leaves is a short drama about a woman dying from TB, and her younger sister’s determination to save her. It was directed in 1912 by Alice Guy-Blache, the pioneering French filmmaker, who was, it seems, the first person who ever thought to actually make scripted narratives (the faintly terrifying La Fee Aux Choux), rather than using cameras purely for capturing documentary footage.

The centrepiece of Falling Leaves is the wonderful scene where the ailing woman’s young sister over hears the doctor saying that she’ll be dead by the time the leaves have fallen from the tree, and so decides to try and tie the leaves to the branches, so that her sister can live on (and she does!)

Sorry, that was a spoiler.

Now, like I said, La Fee Aux Choux is thought to be the first scripted narrative on film. The original is lost, unfortunately, but Alice Guy-Blache remade it twice (in 1900 and 1902), and it’s that 1900 version that I watched here (although the youtube versions all label it as the 1896 version). The film’s only a minute long, and features a fairy plucking new born babies from the cabbages they grew in.

Anyway, it’s terrifying. It really is.

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Notes

1. I watched Falling Leaves on blu-ray, as part of this excellent BFI box set.

2. But as I don’t have a blu-ray player in my laptop, the screenshots came from youtube.

3. The disc version had a really great soundtrack (by Serge Bromberg).

4. Which the youtube version sadly lacks.

5. I watched La Fee Aux Choux on youtube though.

6. In super blur o vision, unfortunately.

7. You might be able to find better quality versions out there somewhere

8. But I could not.

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Film Information

Title: Falling Leaves
Director: Alice Guy-Blache
Year: 1912
Duration: 12 minutes
Watch: youtube; Internet Archive

Title: La Fee Aux Choux
Director: Alice Guy-Blache
Year: 1896/1900/1902
Duration: 1 minute
Watch: youtube

Categories
This Film Is 100 Years Old

Nude Woman By Waterfall (1920)

Nude Woman By Waterfall is a short film from 1920, directed by Claude Friese-Greene, featuring a nude woman by a waterfall, and the same woman, not so nude, upon a cliff top. I reviewed it earlier in the year (well, “reviewed” it), and really loved it. It’s beautiful, beguiling, mysterious, odd, sad. All the best things in film, really.

Anyway, I rewatched it again today, because the always excellent Haiku Salut (who previously released/toured a live soundtrack to Buster Keaton’s The General) have released a new soundtrack for it, called Portrait In Dust.

Recorded as part of a project to re-score two films for the BFI (the other was 4 And 20 Fit Girls, from 1940, which they paired with Pattern Thinker), Portrait In Dust is a lovely piece of minimalist melancholy, which perfectly underscores the slightly unsettling ethereality of the film.

Anyway, it’s brilliant and I love it.

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Notes

1. I watched this on the BFI Player, while simultaneously listening to Haiku Salut on bandcamp

2. Earlier in the year I made a re-edit of this film, using the track Messy Hearts by Moon Ate The Dark as accompaniment.

3. In which I used all of Nude Woman By Waterfall except the shots of the nude woman by the waterfall.

4. I had hoped to show it somewhere

5. Sometime

6. But I fear that now the chance has gone

7. For a variety of reasons

8. Not least because Haiku Salut’s soundtrack is perfect.

9. And also everywhere is closed.

10. And always now shall be.

11. Maybe I should just project it out into the night

12. Onto the bamboo at the end of the garden

13. As they rustle in the wind

14. And weep in the rain.

15. Anyway I’ve added it to youtube here if you want a watch, but have no idea who long it will stay there, if their copyright robots allow it to live.

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Film Information

Title: Nude Woman By Waterfall
Director: Claude Friese-Greene
Year: 1920
Duration: 12 minutes
Watch: BFI; youtube (extract only)

Categories
This Film Is More Than 100 Years Old

The Flying Train (1902)

The Flying Train is two minutes of documentary footage from the newly opened elevated train system in Wuppertal, Germany, in 1902. It’s just breathtakingly beautiful, and weirdly, impossibly, futuristic, even though it’s 118 years old. And a train.

There’s always something soothing and alluring about watching old footage of city streets recorded from trains, trams and buses or whatever, presumably the lovely unhurried emptiness of the streets, with pedestrians allowed to amble wherever they please, but this footage, I think, might be my favourite ever from that particular genre.

There’s a nice comparison video here, showing this film and some footage filmed from the same track in 2015. You don’t get chickens wandering aimlessly around in the middle of the road in 2015, but apart from that it’s pleasingly similar. But there’s very little that’s soothing about it, due to the cloying claustrophobia of cars.

Also, I don’t know if they have trains like this everywhere in Germany (I’ve never been), but I first saw these in the background of one of the dance scenes in Wim Wenders’ documentary, Pina, a few years ago, and thought even then they looked like something from some unattainable future. I just didn’t know that future was 120 years old.

Who knew Metropolis was a documentary.

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Notes

1. I watched this on youtube here.

2. And I also watched the wonderful comparison video on youtube too.

3. And Although I didn’t watched Pina on youtube, I did find the clip I captured a still from above on there.

4. So hooray for youtube, I suppose.

5. There’s a nice article about The Flying Train film (and some others) here too: This 1902 Footage of a Flying Train Is the Film of the Summer.

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Film Information

Title: The Flying Train
Year: 1902
Watch: youtube
Further Information: This 1902 Footage of a Flying Train Is the Film of the Summer (article; Wuppertal Schwebebahn 1902 & 2015 side by side comparison video