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This Film Is More Than 100 Years Old

A Woman Undressing (1896)

A Woman Undressing is apparently the oldest known piece of British film erotica. Filmed in 1896 by Esmé Collings, it is almost exactly a minute of a woman undressing, although, such was the clothing style at the time, that’s still not enough time for the woman to actually get undressed.

I very much like the matryoshka element of the display, dresses under skirts under dresses, some sort of Hadean nightmare where no matter how many layers you remove you’re never any closer to getting ready for bed.

So wonder she sits down and sighs at the end. She’s probably got another fifteen slips to remove before she can leave.
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Notes

1. I watched this on the BFI site as usual.

2. I was somewhat afraid to google for alternate links

3. But it turns out it was okay

4. Although the youtube version I found has the world’s worst musical accompaniment.

5. When obviously it should have been this

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Film Information

Title: A Woman Undressing
Director: Esmé Collings
Year: 1896
Duration: 1 minute
Watch: BFI Player; youtube

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 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 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

Categories
This Film Is More Than 100 Years Old

Me And My Two Friends (1898)

Me And My Two Friends (1898) is the best four seconds of film ever filmed. It is 122 years old.

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Notes

1. I watched this on the BFI Player

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Film Information

Title: Me And My Two Friends
Director: William Kennedy Laurie Dickson
Year: 1898
Duration: 4 seconds
Watch: BFI Player

Categories
This Film Is More Than 100 Years Old

The Allotment Holder’s Enemies (1918)

The Allotment Holder’s Enemies (1918) is a short film made to advertise The Smallholder, a magazine for allotment owners, providing exciting instruction on how to rid your garden of pests. It was made by Charles Urban, some of whose films I’ve looked at here before.

Alongside slightly strident title cards like the one above, The Allotment Holder’s Enemies contains five minutes of surprisingly lovely and vivid footage of various kinds of fairly benign British garden wildlife, all of which are probably far less benign if they’re about to eat the last cabbage in the country. But it’s still quite amusing to see such ferocious disgust at, well, sparrows.

Poor sparrows.

(Incidentally, that reminds me of this beautiful old bestiary description of bees, which is, and shall always be, one of my very favourite things.)

Anyway, these most destructive birds are then presented to the viewer with some footage (see image immediately below) that doesn’t exactly do much to illustrate the dire biblical plague that obviously at the time they represented.

Just terrifying.

So to calm you down, here are some lovely pictures of snails, caterpillars, grubs.

Although even caterpillars can be quite ferocious.

“Especially to ladies.”

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Notes

1. I watched this on the BFI Player

2. And gleaned, as usual, most of my information from there.

3. A sequel/companion to this, The Allotment Holder’s Friends, was made at the same time.

4. But unfortunately, except for mention of its title in various online catalogues, can find no evidence of its existence.

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Film Information

Title: The Allotment Holder’s Enemies
Director: Charles Urban
Year: 1918
Duration: 5 minutes
Watch: BFI Player

Categories
This Film Is More Than 100 Years Old

Views Of Tokyo (1913-1915)

Views Of Tokyo (1913-1915) is two minutes of footage from 1910s Tokyo, as the name suggests, with lots of lovely shots of people being intensely interested in the camera, as they walk past, or more often just stop and stand there and stare and stare.

Although my favourite part isn’t the people but the wonderful automata about 40 seconds in, which we see for a few seconds, but which I wish I could watch for hours (or a few minutes, at least), just disappear into it for a while and think of nothing else but it’s movements.

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Notes

1. I watched this on youtube

2. But with the sound off, so I didn’t listen to the added sounds.

3. I also found a colourised, upscaled version, which is here if you’re interested.

4. And which is twice as long.

5. It’s just a shame colourisation is so distracting.

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Film Information

Title: Views Of Tokyo (1913-1915)
Years: 1913; 1915
Duration: 2 minutes
Watch: youtube (black and white); youtube (colour)

Categories
This Film Is More Than 100 Years Old

These Adverts Are More Than 100 Years Old (1898-1918)

This week I have been watching all the old adverts I could find.

Vinolia Soap (1898) / Good Night (1898)

These are two of the oldest British film adverts known to still exist, and both were made by Charles Goodwin Norton, who ran a stationary shop in King’s Cross, while also making his own films (as a hobby I think, rather than as a business).

The first of these is an advert for Vinolia Soap, which presumably doesn’t exist any more, but might well do for all I know, because I’m afraid I’m not an expert on soap.

The advert itself consists of some people packing the soap into boxes on a table, while round them troop a swarm of women holding the packages up to the camera, all of them trapped in a continuous loop of movement, unable to escape, even while the wind whips up the sheets of wrapping paper and swirls them all around in a vortex around their feet.

According to the internet, Vinolia Soap was the exclusive soap available to passengers on the Titanic, so maybe this wasn’t an advert at all, but instead some sort of unholy incantation, inscribing it with an infernal curse.

The second of these films, Good Night, isn’t anywhere near as ominous, and isn’t even really an advert. But it is quite charming, so I’m going to include it here anyway.

Outside Charles Goodwin Norton’s stationary shop, a group of children stare at the camera, while others hold up signs thanking the viewer for attending whatever one of his film screenings it was they’d just attended.

Although, now that I think about it, maybe this is the first ever post-credits short, and therefore entirely to blame for the abject horror that afflicts all superhero films to this very day, and so is actually even more of an accursed product than Vinolia Soap ever was.

Three Linotype Machines (1900)

Three Linotype Machines is a single minute-long shot of three linotype machines in operation.

There’s no title cards or other information to explain anything about the machines, so I couldn’t tell you if these are the sort of linotype machines I would be inclined to buy, but I’m not sure I mind, as I just find it hypnotic to watch them, and could do so for much long than a single minute at a time.

(This also reminded me of this short film of a printing press in action, that I posted about here before.)

The Spirit Of His Forefathers (1900) / Britain’s Best Bicycle (1902)

The Spirit Of His Forefathers is a 30 second advert for some whisky, based around a pun on spirit, and the punchline of which I have spoiled in the picture below.

I have no regrets.

Britain’s Best Bicycle is another 30 second advert, this time for Rudge-Whitworth Bicycles (later bought by Raleigh, it says there, making me wish I’d had a Rudge-Whitworth Chopper all those years ago now).

In this advert, a man rides a bike, which isn’t as good as Rudge-Whitworth bike. He gets laughed at for his crimes.

Now, these two adverts are more recognisable as adverts, really, to my modern eyes, than any of the earlier ones above (although technically the whisky one is earlier than any of them, as its a remake of a 1897 version of the same ad). And while the bike one is a bit rubbish, the whisky one you could pretty much imagine being an advert right now, although the kilt man would probably be one of the forefathers now, I suppose.

And it’d be for porage oats.

Ruining the pun forever.

J. White And Sons Ltd, The Furniture Specialists, Chesterfield (1905)

J. White And Sons Ltd… is a fifteen minute long advertorial tour of the J. White and Sons furniture shop in Chesterfield, in 1905, where we get to see the exterior of the shop from the High Street, the inside of the shop, the workshops, and more (especially concerning pianos).

It’s quite interesting (but probably not very exciting), and I liked the way that, even if furniture shops don’t make 15 minutes adverts for themselves any more, they at least still look basically the same inside. I bet everything even then was too expensive to ever buy, too.

Also, the street scenes at the start are particularly wonderful, not least because of the preponderance of hats, with even the children wearing flat caps.

Even the babies are wearing flat caps.

The Smallest Car In The Largest City In The World (1913)

The Smallest Car In The Largest City In The World, might not actually be an advert for a Cadillac (it purports to be a news item showing the miniature car being give as a gift to the King of Norway), but I’m pretty sure it’s an advert for a Cadillac.

This film is pretty wonderful, regardless of its actual designation, not just for its long sequences of the miniature car travelling through central London, huge crowds of excited wellwishers following behind, but also for the second half of the film, where somehow they get 3 children in the car, and also they get arrested, and then there’s a dog there too for some reason I don’t know why but it’s wonderful you should watch it

Shine, Sir? (1916)

Shine, Sir? is an almost supernaturally boring, 7 minute long advert for some Australian brand of shoe shine, patriotically called Kiwi, that was originally from 1916, but here comes with a strangely reverent introduction from someone in the far future year of 1965, marvelling at how advanced the advertising methods of first world war Britain were.

At the end, though, an animated kiwi vomits out the word KIWI a bunch of times, and suddenly the whole enterprise is redeemed.

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Notes

1. I watched all these on the BFI Player again

2. At the links in the information bit below.

3. I could probably have posted this all as several separate entries, rather than a single long one

4. But I did not

5. And now never shall.

6. I watched the furniture shop advert while listening to the Kicking A Couple Around EP by Smog

7. Which didn’t really fit very well at all, I must say.

8. But then I watched the littlest car in the world one while listening to 14 Floating Infinity by Aphex Twin

9. And it synced almost perfectly

10. To the first half at least

11. As it ran out before the end.

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Film Information

Title: Vinolia Soap
Director: Charles Goodwin Norton
Year: 1898
Duration: 1 minute
Watch: BFI Player

Title: Good Night
Director: Charles Goodwin Norton
Year: 1898
Duration: 1 minute
Watch: BFI Player

Title: Three Linotype Machines
Year: 1900
Duration: 1 minute
Watch: BFI Player

Title: The Spirit Of His Forefathers
Year: 1900
Duration: 1 minute
Watch: BFI Player

Title: Britain’s Best Bicycle
Year: 1902
Duration: 1 minute
Watch: BFI Player

Title: J. White And Sons Ltd, The Furniture Specialists, Chesterfield
Year: 1905
Duration: 14 minutes
Watch: BFI Player

Title: The Smallest Car In The Largest City In The World
Director: F.S. Bennett
Year: 1913
Duration: 6 minutes
Watch: BFI Player

Title: Shine, Sir?
Year: 1916, 1965
Duration: 7 minutes
Watch: BFI Player

Categories
This Film Is More Than 100 Years Old

Dr. Wise On Influenza (1919)

Dr. Wise On Influenza is a public information film, commissioned by the Ministry Of Health in 1919, to help make the population of Britain realise how dangerous the Spanish Flu was, and how important it was for everyone to try and minimise their chances of spreading it to others.

And so Dr. Wise (above) delivers a lecture, intercut with dramatised events, showing how you (yes, YOU!) can help save the lives of others, much of which now seems horrifyingly relevant now (although I’m pretty sure no-one really needs to follow the bit about gargling some vast array of chemicals).

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Notes

1. I watched this on the BFI Player

2. And have posted this review of it now for fairly obvious reasons

3. Which I am sure are readily apparent

4. (Please everyone do not die)

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Film Information

Title: Dr. Wise On Influenza
Year: 1919
Duration: 20 minutes
Watch: BFI Player

Categories
This Film Is More Than 100 Years Old

The Wooden Athelete (1912)

The Wooden Athelete is a stop motion animation from 1912, depicting various acrobatic events in a small puppet circus, and I found this five-minute long cartoon, directed by Arthur Melbourne Cooper, almost entirely delightful.

Though the puppets are fairly simplistic, and the sets almost non-existent, there’s a real joy in every scene of this, and some pretty good jokes, too. I loved it.

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Notes

1. I watched this on the BFI player once again.

2. The whole thing is strangely risque, too, as the presence of clothing on some of the audience members at the beginning suggest this entire circus perform their routines 100% nude.

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Film Information

Title: The Wooden Athelete
Director: Arthur Melbourne Cooper
Year: 1912
Duration: 5 minutes
Watch: BFI player; youtube